If you need a tasty idea for summer, this Tuna Pasta Salad with Green Olives is always a hit and I’d love this salad for a treat with canned tuna! And if you’re not a fan of green olives see suggestions for turning this into a pasta salad with tuna and dill pickles!

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Tuna Pasta Salad with Green Olives finished salad in serving bowl

Pasta salad. When I say that do any particularly memorable pasta salads come to mind? You’re lucky if they do, because I think pasta salad is always in danger of being a bit boring if you don’t make sure to use strongly flavored and interesting ingredients.

I’m happy to report this Tuna Pasta Salad Green Olives was loaded with flavor due to good quality tuna in olive oil, chopped Spanish green olives, and a generous amount of lemon juice and zest in the dressing. I also added finely chopped baby cucumbers for a little crunch, and I devoured some of this for lunch on the day I made it. If you like these ingredients, give this a try for a memorable pasta salad experience!

What ingredients do you need for this recipe:

  • whole grain pasta
  • Genova Tuna Packed in Olive Oil (affiliate link), or other tuna of your choice
  • large Spanish green olives
  • Persian cucumbers
  • salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • lemon zest and lemon juice from one large lemon (see notes)
  • olive brine (from the jar of olives)
  • mayo
  • olive oil

How can you make Tuna Pasta Salad with fewer carbs?

I realize pasta salad is a pretty serious carb splurge for some people. But if you wanted to make this salad with less pasta and more tuna, that would make it less heavy on the carbs.

What if you don’t like green olives?

There’s a printer-friendly recipe on the site for Tuna and Macaroni Salad with Dill Pickles that will show you how to substitute pickles if you’re not a green olive fan.

Tuna Pasta Salad with Green Olives process shots collage

How to make this recipe:

(Scroll down for complete recipe with nutritional information.)

  1. I’m a huge fan of this Genova Tuna Packed in Olive Oil (affiliate link), but lately I can’t find it at any stores by my house. I can’t go without it, so I buy it by the case from Amazon.com in the small 3 oz. cans. I used 2 cans for this salad, but a 5 oz. can of tuna would also be fine. Or double the tuna and use less pasta if you prefer!
  2. Let the tuna drain while you cook the pasta and prep other ingredients.
  3. Slice the green olives and chop the cucumbers. I used rotini, but penne or macaroni would also work. I cooked the pasta exactly 9 minutes in salted water. Don’t overcook!
  4. Zest most of the peel and squeeze all the juice from one large lemon. (I used about 1 T lemon zest and nearly 3 T lemon juice.)  I like it lemony (!) so if you’re not such a lemon fan you might want to add part of the juice and zest and taste to see if you want more.
  5. Stir together the lemon zest, lemon juice, green olive brine, and mayo and then whisk in the olive oil to make the dressing.
  6. Put the tuna, sliced green olives, and chopped cucumbers in a bowl and mix in about half the dressing.
  7. Then gently stir in the cooled pasta and the rest of the dressing (or enough that the salad is as moist as you’d like it. 
  8. Season to taste with salt and fresh ground black pepper and serve.
  9. The salad can be chilled or served right away, and leftovers will be good in the fridge for a day or two.

More Not-Boring Pasta Salads:

Creamy Pasta Salad from Barefeet in the Kitchen
Shrimp and Macaroni Salad from Kalyn’s Kitchen
Whole Wheat Greek Orzo Salad from Pinch My Salt
Pasta Salad with Italian Sausage from Kalyn’s Kitchen

Tuna Pasta Salad with Green Olives finished salad in serving bowl
Yield: 4 servings

Tuna Pasta Salad with Green Olives

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 9 minutes
Total Time 29 minutes

If you need a tasty idea for a summer pot-luck, try this Tuna Pasta Salad Green Olives and it's kicked up in flavor with lemon and cucumbers as well.


Salad Ingredients:

  • 2 cups whole grain pasta, cooked in boiling salted water and drained well
  • 6 oz. good quality tuna packed in olive oil, drained (see notes)
  • 8 large Spanish green olives, cut into half moon slices
  • 2 small Persian cucumbers, cut into very small dice
  • salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Dressing Ingredients:

  • lemon zest and lemon juice from one large lemon (see notes)
  • 1 tsp. olive brine (from the jar of olives)
  • 3 T mayo 
  • 1 T olive oil


  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, adding a couple of teaspoons of salt.
  2. When the water boils, add the pasta, stir, and let it come back to a boil.
  3. Lower heat a little and cook exactly 9 minutes (time it!) and then drain the pasta and let it cool. (Don’t rinse.)
  4. While the pasta cooks, drain the tuna into a fine strainer and let the oil drain out.
  5. Slice the olives into half-moon slices and finely chop the cucumbers. (If you don’t have small Persian cucumbers, I might scrape out the seeds from the cucumber so the salad doesn’t get watery.)
  6. Zest and juice the lemon.
  7. If you’re not sure how much lemon flavor you want, I would start with 2 T lemon juice and 2 tsp. lemon zest, mix in the olive brine and mayo, whisk in the olive oil, and then taste to see if you want to use the rest of the lemon juice and zest.
  8. When the pasta has cooled, add the tuna, sliced olives, and chopped cucumbers to a bowl that’s big enough to hold all the salad and mix in about half the dressing.
  9. Gently stir in the pasta and as much additional dressing as you need for the salad to be as wet as you’d like it. (I used all the dressing, but I like my salads on the wet side.)
  10. Season salad to taste with salt and fresh ground black pepper and serve.


I made this with two 3 oz. cans of Genova Tuna Packed in Olive Oil (affiliate link), but one 5 oz. can would be fine. Use more tuna and cucumbers and less pasta if you prefer a lower-carb version. I used about 1 T zest and 3 T lemon juice. I used about 2/3 cup sliced green olives.

I served some of this to my nephew Jake when it had been in the fridge overnight and we agreed it was still very good the next day.  If you have leftover dressing, you might want to add a bit more to the salad after it’s been in the fridge.

Recipe created by Kalyn.

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 303Total Fat: 17gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 13gCholesterol: 24mgSodium: 331mgCarbohydrates: 24gFiber: 4gSugar: 2gProtein: 17g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated by the Recipe Plug-In I am using. I am not a nutritionist and cannot guarantee 100% accuracy, since many variables affect those calculations.

Did you make this recipe?

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Low-Carb Diet / Low-Glycemic Diet / South Beach Diet Suggestions: 
Obviously pasta salad is not low in carbs, but if you make this with whole wheat or whole grain pasta, all the low-glycemic ingredients would make this suitable for phase 2 or 3 of the original South Beach Diet. You could make a salad with half the amount of pasta and lots more cucumber and tuna if you want a lower-carb version.

Find More Recipes Like This One:
Use Pasta Recipes or Salads to find more like this one. Use the Recipes by Diet Type photo index pages to find more recipes suitable for a specific eating plan. You might also like to Follow Kalyn’s Kitchen on Pinterest to see all the good recipes I’m sharing there.

Historical Notes for this Recipe:
This salad was first posted in 2012. It was last updated in 2021.

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