Garlic Lemon Tuna Pasta

4.99 from 577 votes

Garlic Lemon Tuna Pasta is a 10-minute meal loaded with Mediterranean flavor. You can make it with basic pantry ingredients - a meal the family will love!

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If you’re a fan of quick 10-minute dinners, this Garlic Lemon Tuna Pasta has you covered. It’s full of flavor, but you really only need a handful of ingredients to make it. Including canned tuna, a little lemon and garlic, and, of course, pasta!  I love how tasty it is, practical for weeknights, and overall, Tuna pasta is a pretty cheap meal to feed the family when you don’t have many fresh ingredients on hand.

top down shot of garlic lemon tuna pasta
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This easy canned tuna pasta is one of those meals that actually looks more fancy than it is. You’d be surprised how little effort goes into making the recipe. Feel free to adjust the garlic and lemon juice to your taste. Either way, you’re going to love this tuna pasta recipe, and you’ll never look at canned tuna the same way ever again!

“This was SOOOO good, easy, and filling! Omg. Literally had to stop myself from eating out the pot. 🤣🤣🤣🤣 I tossed in some sun dried tomatoes along w/ the tuna and other base ingredients. 10/10, chefs kiss, will make again. Lol.” – Zephaniah

Recipe at a glance

Cuisine Inspiration: Mediterranean/American
Primary Cooking Method: Stovetop
Dietary Info: Fish based, contains gluten (can be made gluten free), dairy optional.
Key Flavor: Zesty lemon, garlic, tuna
Skill Level: Easy

Summary

  • Quick and Easy: Ready in just 10 minutes, this tuna pasta recipe is perfect for a last-minute or quick meal.
  • Budget Friendly: Utilizes pantry staples like canned tuna and pasta for an affordable yet delicious dinner.
  • Customizable: Easily adaptable with various add-ins like beans, peas, greens, or tomatoes. For a burst of color add thinly sliced peppers.
  • Mediterranean Flair: Offers a burst of Mediterranean flavors with ingredients like Olive oil, garlic, and lemon.

Ingredients you’ll need to make canned tuna pasta

  • Spaghetti/Pasta: Provides a hearty base and soaks up all the flavors of the sauce.
  • Olive Oil: Enhances the Mediterranean flavor and adds richness.
  • Garlic: Offers a strong, aromatic flavor that pairs excellently with tuna and lemon.
  • Tuna in Olive Oil: Higher quality tuna in oil lends a richer, more nuanced flavor compared to water-packed tuna.
  • Lemon Juice and Zest: Adds a fresh, zesty kick that brightens the overall dish.
  • Salt and Pepper: Basic seasonings to enhance all the flavors.
  • Capers: Introduce a tangy, slightly briny taste that contrasts nicely with the lemon and tuna.
  • Fresh Parsley: Brings a fresh, herbaceous element to the dish.
  • Grated Parmesan: Adds a salty, umami flavor that rounds out the dish beautifully when served.
  • Flavor rich add-ins: Sun-dried tomatoes or kalamata olives, both offering a different intense flavor, can bring this dish to another level.
  • Gluten Free pasta: For those with gluten sensitivities, swapping regular pasta with gluten-free varieties maintains the dish’s structure while catering to your dietary needs. 
  • Chicken or Salmon: For a different protein, canned chicken or salmon can be used in place of tuna. The flavors will vary some.
  • Spice: For a very subtle spice, toss in fresh arugula, or for a bolder spice flavor, mix in red pepper flakes or chili oil.

How to make lemon garlic tuna pasta

Heat some olive oil in a large pan, then sauté the garlic until it’s fragrant, making sure not to brown it so it doesn’t get bitter. Next, add the tuna, lemon juice, lemon zest, salt and pepper. Cook those together for a couple minutes just to warm up the tuna and mix in the flavors.

And then you’re ready to add the spaghetti, chopped parsley and capers, which are totally optional. Add some reserved pasta water as well at this point to stop the spaghetti from drying out.

process shots of how to assemble garlic lemon tuna pasta in a bowl

Give the tuna and pasta a stir and serve it immediately. I would definitely recommend adding some parmesan cheese when you serve it. It just brings the flavors together wonderfully!

Watch this video to learn how to make garlic lemon tuna pasta.

“Super good, super easy! I doubled the garlic, free poured the capers, was liberal with parmesan, and cream, and also added a couple of chopped anchovies just for the added umami. It was gobbled up by my whole fam. It’s a keeper for a fast dinner out of the pantry.” – Christi

Tips for making the best tuna pasta

  1. Check out my How to cut garlic post for tips on the easiest way to cut garlic for this recipe.
  2. Use tuna in extra virgin olive oil for best flavor. If using tuna in water, make sure to drain all the water out for best flavor so it doesn’t dilute the pasta. I use the StarKist E.V.O.O.™ Wild-Caught Yellowfin Tuna.
  3. Have all the ingredients prepped next to the stove top. The recipe moves pretty fast and you want to make sure that you’re not burning the garlic or overcooking the tuna. So make sure the pasta is ready along with all the ingredients before heating the oil.
  4. Cook pasta al dente. Since you’ll be adding the pasta to the tuna and mixing it all together under low heat, it’s best not to fully cook it. It will get slightly softer as it warms up again with the other ingredients.
  5. Make it more creamy by swapping pasta water with milk or cream. I love how light and fresh this tuna pasta is with the Mediterranean flavor. The pasta water mixed with the olive oil and lemon juice creates a fresh sauce for the recipe. But you can easily make it more creamy if you’d like.
  6. Make it more hearty by building on to the base tuna pasta recipe. You can add some drained white beans to bulk it up or a handful of spinach or kale that will wilt down with the warm sauce.

What to serve with your tuna pasta

overhead shot of garlic lemon tuna pasta with parmesan

How to store & reheat your tuna pasta

Before storing, allow your tuna pasta to cool to room temperature before transferring it to an airtight container. 

How long will tuna pasta last in the fridge?
Tuna pasta will last about 3 to 4 days in the fridge when stored properly in an airtight container.

Can I freeze tuna pasta?
You can freeze any leftovers, but if you’re doing so, make sure the pasta is cooked al dente because if it’s too soft, it will get even softer when frozen. Toss the pasta with some olive oil before freezing to make sure they don’t clump together. This is one of those dishes though that you can easily double or halve, to accommodate any servings, without worrying about leftovers.

Reheating tuna pasta: To reheat the tuna pasta, gently warm it on the stovetop over low to medium heat, stirring occasionally to ensure even heating. Add a small amount of water or olive oil to the pasta if it seems a bit dry. 

Frequently asked questions

What type of tuna should I use?

I would opt for Yellowfin Tuna or Albacore tuna that comes in the larger thick-cut chunks that’s sustainable and packed in olive oil. It’s higher quality and will lend itself to a better tasting dish overall. For this tuna pasta recipe, I use the packaged tuna that comes in extra virgin olive oil.

Can I use canned tuna in water instead of oil?

Yes, but make sure to drain it thoroughly. Tuna in oil has a lot more flavor, so consider adding an extra drizzle of olive oil to the dish for richness.

How can I prevent my garlic from burning?

Saute garlic on low heat and watch it very closely. If it starts to brown too quickly, lower the heat or add a bit more oil.

For more pasta recipes:

Now when you’re in a pinch at dinner time, just turn to your pantry, grab a box of pasta and can of tuna and get cooking. I love the bursting Mediterranean flavor in this tuna pasta recipe, but also that you can customize it to add beans, greens and even tomatoes. Hope you try it soon for your family!

If you’ve tried this healthy-ish feelgood Garlic Lemon Tuna Pasta recipe or any other recipe on FeelGoodFoodie, then don’t forget to rate the recipe and leave me a comment below! I would love to hear about your experience making it. And if you snapped some shots of it, share it with me on Instagram so I can repost on my stories!

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Garlic Lemon Tuna Pasta

Garlic Lemon Tuna Pasta is a 10-minute meal loaded with Mediterranean flavor. You can make it with basic pantry ingredients – a meal the family will love!
5 from 577 votes
Servings 4 servings
Course Dinner, Entree
Calories 348
Prep Time 1 minute
Cook Time 9 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes
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Video

Ingredients
  

  • 8 ounces spaghetti or other pasta
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves minced
  • 2 pouches 2.6 ounces tuna in olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice plus zest
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons capers
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley chopped divided
  • Grated parmesan for serving

Instructions

  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to package instructions until al dente. Reserve ½ cup pasta cooking water, then drain the pasta. Return to the pot to keep warm.
  • In the wide pan, heat the olive oil at medium heat. Then add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the tuna, lemon juice and zest, salt and pepper, and heat through for 1 minute.
  • Add the pasta, capers and 1 tablespoon chopped parsley, and continue to stir until the spaghetti is well coated. Add as much of the reserved pasta water as needed to thin out the sauce.
  • Garnish with remaining parsley and serve warm.

Notes

Recipe: Inspired by Bon Appetit
Storage: Store any leftovers in an airtight container. They will last about 3-4 days in the fridge.
Substitutes: For best results, follow the recipe as is. However here are some common substitutes that would work well in this recipe.
  • Instead of pasta water, you can use any milk or cream.
  • Instead of olive oil, you can use butter
  • To make it gluten-free, you can also make this with gluten-free pasta.
  • Leave out the capers if you don’t like them.

Nutrition

Calories: 348kcal, Carbohydrates: 44g, Protein: 18g, Fat: 11g, Saturated Fat: 2g, Cholesterol: 6mg, Sodium: 241mg, Potassium: 220mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 2g, Vitamin A: 196IU, Vitamin C: 5mg, Calcium: 23mg, Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information provided is an estimate. It will vary based on cooking method and specific ingredients used.

Course: Dinner, Entree
4.99 from 577 votes (543 ratings without comment)

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Recipe Rating




Comments

  1. Irene says:

    This was so yummy. I made it for myself last week when my husband was out of town. Tomorrow I’m making it for the two of us. It was really delicious. Thanks.

    1. Yumna J. says:

      Aww, so happy you can enjoy it together! Thanks, Irene!

  2. Lauren says:

    Your calorie count is WAY off. Just the 8 oz of spaghetti has at least 300 calories. Two tablespoons olive oil is another 240 calories, plus the oil in the tuna.

    1. Yumna J. says:

      Hi Lauren! The nutrition facts are for 1 serving; this recipe makes 4 servings.

  3. Lindsay says:

    So easy, quick, and delicious! Will be a go-to for fast dinner.

    1. Yumna J. says:

      Yay, I love to hear that! So happy you found it easy and delicious, thank you!!

  4. Linda Ehrlich says:

    Always flop-proof and delicious

    1. Yumna J. says:

      Thanks so much, Linda!

  5. Maritza laboy says:

    Was so so so good will make again and again. 5 starts.

    1. Yumna says:

      Yay, thank you!

  6. Melissa says:

    Wondering if you could substitute frozen peas instead of capers??

    1. Yumna says:

      Sure! It won’t have the same umami kick, but if you don’t like that flavor, feel free to swap in for peas. I would just cook them first before adding them to the pasta.

  7. Krystel says:

    This recipe looks so simple and yummy, looking forward to trying it! Quick question- would it be okay to use canned tuna in water? If so, would you recommend increasing amount of olive oil used? Thanks!

    1. Yumna J. says:

      I have not made this recipe with canned tuna in water, but I think you could! I don’t see why it wouldn’t work. As far as the olive oil, you may need to add 1 to 2 tablespoons extra if the pasta is feels on the dry side. I would taste as you go and gauge that while cooking. You’ll have to let me know how it turns out when you try it!

  8. Hank says:

    This was delicious and you wouldn’t even expect it.

    I used to do a weekly / delivered meal plan and a recipe like this was included.

    Pro tip, add a few dashes of Tapatio and it really kicks it up a notch!

    1. Yumna J. says:

      Love that idea, thanks for sharing Hank!

  9. MArc says:

    Wife and I loved it. Served with baguette and crushed galic+olive oil to dip bread. Nice Portugese vino verde to accompany. Used linguini as pasta+ spinach. Thanks.

    1. Yumna J. says:

      Yum! So happy to hear that you guys enjoyed it!

  10. Don says:

    I just tried it for lunch, yes it easy to make, tastes great, making this a great base using anything with the sauce & pasta. I used vermicelli rice pasta, heat the water up & let sit with element off. Sautee in olive oil & butter the garlic & onions

    1. Yumna J. says:

      Oo love that idea, thanks for sharing, Don!

  11. Zahra says:

    It’s really delicious😍,thank you Yumna🙏

    1. Yumna J. says:

      You’re so welcome! Thank you for making it!

  12. Zephaniah says:

    This was SOOOO good, easy, and filling! Omg. Literally had to stop myself from eating out the pot. 🤣🤣🤣🤣 I tossed in some sun dried tomatoes along w/ the tuna and other base ingredients. 10/10, chefs kiss, will make again. Lol.

    1. Yumna J. says:

      Aw, thank you so much!!! Love sundried tomatoes. That sounds amazing!

  13. Coleen Sewright says:

    Excellent! Added spinach and sliced mushrooms. Definitely keeping this recipe! Easy and fast. Make sure to have everything ready to go in… it only takes a few minutes once you’ve started the garlic!

    1. Yumna J. says:

      Yum! That sounds great!

  14. Christi says:

    Super good, super easy! I doubled the garlic, free poured the capers, was liberal with parmesan, and cream, and also added a couple of chopped anchovies just for the added umami. It was gobbled up by my whole fam. It’s a keeper for a fast dinner out of the pantry.

    1. Yumna J. says:

      Oh yum! That all sounds amazing – thank you so much for sharing!

  15. Naqiyah says:

    Could this recipe work with fresh Tuna? I have fresh Tuna caught off a boat that needs to be cooked.

    1. Yumna J. says:

      Absolutely! Just cook the tuna using your preferred method. I’d season it with lemon juice and zest, salt, and pepper to taste and then add it to the pasta.

  16. Sonja says:

    This was sooooo good! Super easy & quick recipe & my kiddos LOVED it!!

    1. Yumna Jawad says:

      Thank you so much! I’m glad the kids enjoyed it as well!

  17. Pat says:

    Yum !
    I made it for lunch today . Yum !
    Thank you very much for the recipe
    I will be making it again !

    1. Yumna Jawad says:

      Thank you! Glad you enjoyed!!

  18. Leigh says:

    I made this tonight for one, using a can of tuna and bow tie pasta(farfalle). No capers so I used some frozen peas and some kalamata olives instead. I added the oil from the can of tuna and a splash of chicken broth as well as the starchy pasta water. It made plenty of sauce. I topped it with toasted panko to which I added some lemon zest. Really good, light pasta meal.

    1. Yumna Jawad says:

      I’m so glad you made it work with those substitutions! Yum!!

  19. Jamie Carter says:

    Absolutely blown away by this simple and delicious recipe, which I just whipped up for a fresh, light weekend lunch. I used diced albacore tuna and orzo pasta and whacked in a courgette/zucchini. I was so impressed that I’ve saved the link to the recipe and will definitely be adding it into my meal rotation. really looking forward to experimenting with the wine and cream suggestions too.

    1. Yumna Jawad says:

      Thank you so much! Sounds perfect. Glad to hear that!

  20. Lisa says:

    This was so easy and delicious! I had all the ingredients already… A cinch to pull together after my workday

    1. Yumna Jawad says:

      Thank you so much! That’s perfect.

  21. Steven says:

    The moment I added the tuna the entire dish began exploding. Also, what is the sauce supposed to be made of with only a tsp of lemon juice and olive oil as liquid (the detritus of liquified tuna exploding all over me)? It didn’t turn out bad, but other commenters suggested adding white wine to make an actual sauce so there’s hope that I may try to make this again.

    1. Yumna Jawad says:

      The pasta water mixed with the olive oil and lemon juice creates a fresh sauce for the recipe. But you can easily make it more creamy if you’d like!

  22. Maureen Walsh says:

    My husband and I both loved this. It is a great easy meal and takes as many changes as you feel like. I added one large diced heirloom tomato and a couple handfuls of fresh spinach near the end of cooking time. I did use the lemon but also used white wine to add liquid to the sauce at the end instead of pasta water. I used sfoglini pasta instead of spaghetti and I think most pastas would work. Also skipped the parmesan because i don’t love fish and dairy together. But I could see how someone would like that taste with this dish! It was very good. Thank you for sharing recipe!

    1. Yumna Jawad says:

      Yay! That all sounds delicious. You’re so welcome!

  23. Phillip Hatton says:

    Absolutely delicous

    1. Yumna Jawad says:

      Thank you!

  24. Sherry Ann Marcano says:

    I tried this for the first time for my husband he loved it. Will make it again.
    Simple and easy. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Yumna J. says:

      Yay! You’re so welcome!

  25. Sherry Ann Marcano says:

    I tried this for the.firat time for my husband he loved it. Will make it again.
    Simple and easy. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Yumna J. says:

      That makes me so happy to hear! You’re welcome!

  26. Emily says:

    Good meal for a quick pantry dinner. I added artichoke hearts because I had them. I also used lentil pasta to up the protein since my husband eats a ton of protein daily. My tuna was in water so I had to drain it and up the olive oil a bit. Husband said he really liked it, but he says that everytime I cook (which is nearly everyday) so I’m not sure I can trust him.

    1. Yumna J. says:

      That sounds good! Hope he genuinely enjoyed it too!

  27. Julissa Patricia DantesCastillo says:

    I don’t know how, with so little ingredients, but it was so TASTY and good. Thank you

    1. Yumna Jawad says:

      Yay! That’s the beauty of this recipe!

  28. Ruo says:

    I just made this dish for my sister and I and it was absolutely amazing!! I already had all the ingredients in my pantry it’s so easy and turned out delicious, I will definitely be making this again. Thank you so much for posting this recipe!

    1. Yumna Jawad says:

      So happy you enjoyed it! I love how easy it comes together 🙂

  29. Emme says:

    Excellent pantry dish that can be whipped up without going to the store. Adding the parmesan made it a little creamier without needing to add cream. For kicks, I grabbed some oven mitts and tried the basically tip of putting a heatproof bowl of the tuna “sauce” over the boiling pasta water and it worked pretty beautifully.

    1. Yumna Jawad says:

      So glad you enjoyed it! And that’s a great tip!

  30. Linny says:

    I made this tonight. But instead of canned tuna I had some tuna steaks in the freezer. Sliced them very thin(1/4″) AND TOSSED IN AFTER I TURNED OFF THE HEAT ON THE PAN. Cooked them perfectly. And the recipie is Devine!

    1. Yumna Jawad says:

      Oh wow, that’s next level right there! Love that you used tuna steaks!! Thank you!

  31. Daniela says:

    This is yummy and I love your recipes. I grew up in the north of Italy and this recipe is actually very close to the Italian way of making it (you normally use white wine instead of lemon and add a bit of anchovies for a stronger taste). Have you tried it without parmesan? Cheese and fish don’t really mix well in my experience.

    1. Yumna Jawad says:

      That’s great to hear! I need to try it without parmesan as you recommended. I just love cheese with pasta lol

  32. LR says:

    Didn’t taste good at all. Never again

    1. Yumna Jawad says:

      Aww I’m sorry to hear that? What was it you didn’t like about it?

  33. NeMa says:

    made it last night. not yummy at all. none of us 4 liked it!!

    1. Yumna Jawad says:

      Aww I’m sorry to hear that. Was it just kinda bland or too garlicky or not enough flavor?

      1. Mary says:

        Love it taste just like my nonnas

        1. Yumna Jawad says:

          Awww, happy to hear that!

  34. Sharon says:

    Made it tonight. Turned out very good. We both really liked it. It was quick as it was described in the recipe. I would recommend this recipe.

    1. Yumna Jawad says:

      SO happy you liked it. Thank you so much!

    2. Erika Hanley-Onken says:

      Yum! Quick and easy with pantry staples. A new kids’ favorite.

      1. Yumna Jawad says:

        Yay! So glad to hear it!!

  35. Melissa Hart says:

    Amazing! Such a super easy recipe and so full of flavour! I look forward to making it again. Thanks for the recipe ?

    1. Yumna Jawad says:

      So glad to hear it. Thank you!!

  36. Debbie Kriegh says:

    It was AMAZING!! I swapped dill for flat leaf parsley and it was to die for. It was beautiful as well. Thank you so much.

    1. Yumna Jawad says:

      Yay! I’m so glad you enjoyed it! Thank you!!

    2. Yumna Jawad says:

      Yes! So glad to hear that. Thank you!

  37. Neda says:

    I made this pasta today for my son’s lunch & our Iftar. I have to say I was skeptical at first because I thought it might be too dry in comparison with a tomato or cream sauce but I have to admit it was DELICIOUS ??. My son is 3 and nine months old and he ate it from the pot?. He had half Of it for lunch and the other half for dinner and asked me to make it again?. My share of it was a small plate?. It was so easy to make and more tasteful than I expected. Thanks for the great recipe.Btw, I had to make something else for Iftar cause my son wanted the pasta all to himself from the pot?

    1. Yumna Jawad says:

      So glad to hear you enjoyed it! And that’s so funny that your son loved it that much and took your dinner!! ?

  38. Raeleen Redzuan says:

    Quick, summery and tasty. Practical.

    1. Yumna Jawad says:

      So glad you liked it. Thank you!

  39. Alicia says:

    Very practical. With only a handful of ingredients and in 10 minutes, I got a dish that is filling and full of flavor.
    Thanks for an easy to prepare meal recipe.