Olive oil-packed tuna is mixed with orzo, celery, dill, lemon and mayo to make a light and flavorful cold tuna and orzo pasta salad.
I especially love this tuna and orzo pasta salad when the weather gets warm. It's a perfect cold pasta salad to make earlier in the day (or the day before) and then pull out of the refrigerator for an easy dinner.
Olive oil-packed tuna gives this pasta salad a moist texture and savory flavor, without having to add tons of mayo. Crunchy celery, herby dill and lots of lemon add light and bright flavor.
What is Olive Oil-Packed Tuna?
Canned tuna is sold either packed in water or oil. For this recipe, I use olive oil-packed tuna because the tuna is moist and flavorful and the olive oil helps coat the orzo so that not as much mayonnaise is needed.
Cooks Illustrated wrote an article about The Best Tuna Packed in Oil. They recommend higher end brands of tuna, which you can use if you like.
However, I make this recipe with regular grocery store tuna, specifically Trader Joe's Solid Light Yellowfin Tuna in Olive Oil.
Can I Use Water Packed Tuna?
Water packed tuna has a drier texture than olive oil packed and doesn't taste as good in this salad.
If you only have water packed tuna, then drain it well and mix the tuna with olive oil and salt, plus a little mayo, before adding it to the orzo salad.
Can I Use Salmon Instead of Tuna?
Yes, you can flake fresh cooked salmon into the salad or use smoked salmon.
I don't think that canned salmon tastes as good as canned tuna, but that's a personal preference.
Can I Leave out the Mayonnaise?
Mayonnaise gives this orzo salad a texture that is more moist and creamy, but it's not absolutely necessary.
If you're not a mayonnaise fan, then whisk together 3 tablespoons olive oil with 1 tablespoon lemon juice and pour it over the salad. You could also add a teaspoon of mustard and clove of garlic to give the olive oil dressing more flavor.
You might also ask, "Can I Add MORE mayo?" Sure! This recipe only has a small amount of mayonnaise added. If you love the creamy flavor of mayonnaise, then add as much as you like.
Add More Flavor
You can add even more flavor to this tuna salad by adding one or more of the ingredients:
- Cucumber - sliced
- Capers - 2 tablespoons, drained
- Carrot - 1 or 2 grated
- Onion - I usually add green onion, but you can add red or sweet onion
- Fresh herbs - parsley, chives, basil or mint
- Arugula or sprouts - 1 large handful, you can roughly chop the arugula so it blends in easier
More Salad Recipes
Tuna and Orzo Pasta Salad
Olive oil-packed tuna is mixed with orzo, celery, dill, lemon and mayo to make this light and flavorful cold tuna and orzo pasta salad.
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 8
- Total Time: 23 minutes
- Yield: 4 to 6 servings 1x
- Category: Pasta
- Method: boil
- Cuisine: American
- 1 pound (about 2 ½ cups) uncooked orzo
- Two 5-ounce cans tuna packed in olive oil
- ⅓ cup mayonnaise, plus more to taste
- 2 ribs celery, chopped (or more to taste)
- 2 to 4 green onions, sliced
- ¼ cup chopped fresh dill or parsley (or more to taste)
- Zest of 1 small lemon
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice (or more to taste)
- A few grinds black pepper
- Salt, to taste
Optional Additional Ingredients
- Cucumber, sliced
- Capers (about 2 tablespoons)
- Grated carrot
- White or red onion, finely chopped
- More fresh herbs (mint or basil)
- Arugula or sprouts (roughly chopping the arugula makes it easier to eat in the salad)
- Cook the orzo according to package instructions, or use your Instant Pot to make Instant Pot Orzo.
- Let the orzo cool to room temperature while prepping the rest of the ingredients.
- In a large bowl, combine the orzo with the entire cans of tuna (tuna + oil), mayonnaise, celery, green onion, dill, lemon zest and lemon juice. Mix well.
- Add a few grinds of black pepper and a generous amount of salt to taste.
- Taste and adjust the flavor to your liking, adding more mayo and/or lemon juice if needed.
- If this salad has been refrigerated for a day, you'll probably have to adjust the flavors again before serving, most likely adding more lemon and salt.
This tuna salad keeps for 3 to 5 days in the refrigerator
Keywords: orzo salad, pasta salad, tuna salad, orzo and tuna pasta salad
Does this recipe make you hungry?
to the Kitchen Skip newsletter
for helpful tips, easy recipes
& good conversation