Canned Tuna Pasta (Easy 20-Minute Recipe)

This Tuna Spaghetti is an easy way to revamp canned tuna into a flavorful and budget-friendly main course. Made with a can of tuna, the pasta of your choice, and a simple olive oil and garlic sauce, this is a restaurant-quality meal that’s ready in minutes.

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Is there a can of tuna collecting dust in your pantry? Perfect! Believe it or not, there’s more to make with canned tuna than just tuna salad sandwiches and tuna casserole. This quick and easy Tuna Pasta recipe is just what you need to upgrade a can of tuna into a delicacy. 

You’re going to love how simple this pasta dinner is. The simple, yet herbaceous and flavor-packed sauce is made entirely from scratch with fresh ingredients and pantry basics. This pasta recipe is as simple as it gets, but the tangy, briny, and fresh flavors are anything but ordinary. 

Leave the tuna spaghetti as-is or make it your own with a few additions. There’s plenty of room to add crisp or tender vegetables, beans, spices, and cheese. The options are truly endless!

Ingredients needed

  • Pasta – Technically, you can make this dish with any type of pasta, but long thin noodles like bucatini, spaghetti, or linguine are best. 
  • Extra-virgin olive oil – This is used as the base of the pasta sauce.
  • Garlic – Two fresh cloves is a solid amount to start with, but an extra clove or two never hurt anyone. 
  • Red pepper flakes – For subtle heat and spice. Add more or less to your liking. 
  • Anchovies – I know anchovies aren’t for everyone, so add another tablespoon of EVOO if you omit them.
  • Canned tuna – I prefer solid white tuna packed in oil. It’s rich, mellow, tender, and perfect for tuna pasta recipes. If you opt for tuna packed in water instead, be sure to drain it so the excess liquid doesn’t water down your dish. There are a few more canned tuna options to choose from so keep scrolling to learn more.
  • Capers – Capers look like small olives. They have a natural lemony-tang and briny flavor that pairs perfectly with all types of seafood. 
  • Fresh herbs – Such as parsley, dill, or celery leaves.
  • Lemon – Fresh lemon juice brightens up every bite.
Ingredients for tuna pasta on counter.

What kind of canned tuna is best in pasta?

Let’s talk canned tuna. In my opinion, a pantry isn’t fully stocked without it. Canned tuna is an inexpensive source of lean protein and healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Here are some things to keep in mind while stocking up:

  • White tuna or light tuna? White tuna (AKA canned albacore) is firm and mild in flavor. I love using it in canned tuna pasta because it doesn’t overpower the rest of the ingredients. On the other hand, light tuna typically contains a mixture of a few tuna species. It has a distinctive oceanic taste and pleasantly intense seafood flavor.
  • Solid, chunk, or flake? You have a few cuts to choose from, however, the larger pieces in solid and chunk tuna are better in pasta dishes.
  • Packed in water or oil? Nutritionally speaking, tuna packed in water has fewer calories and more omega-3s, but tuna packed in oil is more tender and flavorful. You can use either in this recipe.

How to make it

Start with your pasta. Add the uncooked pasta to a pot of boiling water and cook according to al dente the package instructions. Drain when it’s done, but be sure to reserve a cup of pasta water for the sauce. 

Moving along to the sauce, add the EVOO to a large skillet and heat until it’s hot but not smoking. Add the minced garlic and red pepper flakes and toast until fragrant. Finish by adding the anchovies and cooking until they shrink slightly.

Now it’s time to put it all together. Add the cooked pasta, can of tuna, capers, herbs, and a half cup of pasta water to the skillet. Toss well to coat. If necessary, add more of the pasta water to loosen up the sauce. 

Last but not least, the garnishes. Top the creamy tuna pasta with plenty of fresh herbs and lemon, and that’s it! Enjoy!

Overhead extreme close up of tuna pasta in skillet.

Recipe tips

  • Gluten free tuna spaghetti – Use your favorite gluten free spaghetti or long, thin noodles. For a low carb version, try shirataki noodles or zoodles!
  • Make it creamy – Looking for a creamy tuna pasta recipe? Swap the pasta water for milk or heavy cream to make a rich, creamy sauce. 
  • Storing and reheating leftovers – Keep the leftovers in an airtight container stored in the fridge for 4 to 5 days. To reheat, simply pop the pasta in the microwave for a minute.


Canned tuna pasta is hearty and healthy as-is, but feel free to customize it as you see fit. Stir any of these flavorful options right into your bowl to take the pasta up a notch:

What to serve with it

This recipe is a meal all on its own but is extra delightful when served alongside a fresh salad, crusty bread, and any of these light sides:

Wine pairings for tuna pasta

Small bowl of capers next to bowl of tuna pasta.

More easy pasta recipes

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Have more canned tuna on hand? Check out these 40+ Canned Tuna Recipes!

Overhead extreme close up of tuna pasta in skillet.

Easy Canned Tuna Pasta

This Tuna Spaghetti recipe is an easy way to revamp canned tuna into a flavorful and budget-friendly main course. Made with a can of tuna, the pasta of your choice, and a simple olive oil and garlic sauce, this is a restaurant-quality meal that’s ready in minutes.
5 from 1 vote
Print Pin
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 4 people


  • 12 ounces long thin pasta (bucatini, spaghetti or linguine)
  • 1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 1 pinch red pepper flakes
  • 6 anchovies (optional, if not using add 1 more TBSP olive oil)
  • 1 5-6 oz. can tuna ( drained)
  • 1/4 cup capers (drained and rinsed)
  • 1 cup torn fresh herbs (such as parsley and dill, or celery leaves, plus more for serving (optional))
  • Salt and pepper
  • Lemon wedges (for serving)


  • Cook the pasta in boiling, salted water according to the package instructions, then drain in a colander, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water.
  • Heat olive oil in a large skillet, add garlic and pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add anchovies and cook until anchovies melt, 2-3 minutes longer. Add the cooked pasta, tuna, capers, herbs and ½ cup pasta cooking liquid. Toss well to coat, adding additional pasta cooking liquid if needed.
  • Serve garnished with more fresh herb and lemon wedges.
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Large Skillet


Calories: 360kcal | Carbohydrates: 65g | Protein: 13g | Fat: 5g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 4mg | Sodium: 316mg | Potassium: 224mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 26IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 34mg | Iron: 2mg

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