Mediterranean Tuna Salad

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This nutritious and flavorful Mediterranean Tuna Salad has tender orzo pasta, olive-oil-packed tuna, crisp cucumbers, smoky red peppers, tangy red onions, fresh herbs, and a lemon-oregano vinaigrette.

We love a great creamy tuna salad as much as the next person, but there’s something incredibly refreshing about a vinaigrette-dressed tuna salad. This salad is light, fresh, and packed with good Mediterranean-inspired ingredients.

A deliciously light and healthy Mediterranean-inspired orzo salad with tuna, veggies, and a lemon-oregano vinaigrette. via chelseasmessyapron.com

Overhead view of Mediterranean Tuna Salad in a large serving bowl.

Mediterranean Tuna Salad

This is one of my favorite salads! It’s incredibly filling, loaded with texture, and packed with good, nutritious ingredients. You may recognize the dressing: it’s very slightly adapted from the dressing on one of the most popular recipes on this site — this Sweet Potato Quinoa Salad.

I had some dressing left over after making that salad and drizzled it on some canned tuna and veggies for a quick lunch one day. Instantly I knew a full recipe needed to be created. I couldn’t be more excited with how this turned out!

QUICK TIP

What is orzo? Although orzo looks a bit like rice, it’s not a grain. Orzo is a type of short-cut pasta that looks like larger grains of rice. It also goes by the names risoni and risi in Italy, but they’re all the same thing: small durum and semolina wheat pasta. In Italian, orzo means barley…and that’s what it looks like, too! Because of its small size, orzo is a kid favorite and goes well in soups and salad. Orzo can be found on the pasta aisle of most grocery stores. My personal favorite brand of Orzo is DeLallo® (not sponsored).

View of the dressing ingredients, before and after being mixed.

Lemon-Oregano Vinaigrette

Dress to preference. I love a generously dressed pasta salad, but I know there are other opinions on that. Add the dressing slowly and to personal preference. You likely won’t want the entirety of the dressing on this Mediterranean Tuna Salad, but then again, you just might want it all! I’d rather you have more than not enough. Leftover dressing stores nicely for up to a week in an airtight container in the fridge. 

Also, if this salad is being served potluck style and sitting out for a bit, it does absorb the dressing rather quickly. You may want to leave the dressing out next to it and occasionally drizzle on an additional tablespoon and toss everything together again to keep this salad tasting fresh and vibrant.

We love using any leftover dressing on roasted vegetables, quick side salads, or over raw garden veggies.

If you have time, make the dressing in advance. This dressing improves if it’s made in advance and chilled; the flavors meld together and intensify; plus, it’s just better chilled!

Process shots: cooked and drained pasta; drained and flaked tuna.

Mediterranean Tuna Salad Tips

  • Don’t use all the pasta. A lot of pasta salads call for an entire box of pasta, so it’s easy to go on autopilot and fix the whole box. However, this recipe calls for only 1 cup, so make sure to measure it out beforehand.
  • Salt the pasta water. Since this tuna salad is eaten cold, the flavors tend to get muted. Make sure the orzo pasta is well-salted as it cooks since salting is the only chance you have to season the actual pasta. Don’t be afraid to add more salt to the finished dish if it needs it. Read about how to properly salt your pasta water here. As a rule of thumb, I add 1 teaspoon fine sea salt to every 4 cups of water.

Process shots: toss pasta with a bit of the dressing; add tuna and remaining ingredients; drizzle on more dressing.

Mediterranean Tuna Ingredient Notes

  • Use canned tuna packed in olive oil for the best flavor. My personal favorite is Genova’s® albacore tuna. Tuna packed in olive oil is richer and has a fresher flavor.
  • I recommend Persian (sometimes labeled as mini cucumbers) or English cucumbers. These cucumbers are nearly seedless and very crisp (instead of watery). They have a sweet, mild flavor and a great crunch.
  • Tame the bite of red onion. If you’re sensitive to the flavor of raw red onion, soak the diced onions in salted ice water for 10 minutes. Drain thoroughly before using in this Mediterranean tuna salad.
  • Make sure to get flat-leaf Italian parsley, as opposed to curly for this recipe. Flat-leaf parsley has a more robust flavor and curly parsley is used more commonly as a garnish.

QUICK TIP

Adjust the ingredients in your finished salad to what you like best. My boys love this salad so long as the olives are picked out of their portions and yet my husband thought the salad needed more olives! 🙂 The nice thing about this salad is how easily customizable it is — feel free to increase or decrease the quantities of certain ingredients. If you’d prefer to completely leave out one of the veggies, simply increase the others slightly.

View of dressing being drizzled on the salad on this Mediterranean Tuna Salad

Storing Mediterranean Tuna Salad 

  • This salad doesn’t sit or store well once dressed. The dressing will soften the veggies, and the orzo bloats.
  • The salad can be made in advance if everything is stored separately and tossed together right before serving. (Be sure to give the dressing another good shake before drizzling it on — see “quick tip” below.)
  • Mediterranean Tuna Salad does not freeze or thaw well.

QUICK TIP

Leftover dressing will likely separate and solidify a bit, which is completely normal. Olive oil solidifies at cold temperatures. Simply let the dressing stand at room temperature for about 20 minutes, shake to re-combine, and it’s ready to drizzle over this salad.

Close-up view of the dressed Mediterranean Tuna Salad.

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Mediterranean Tuna Salad

5 from 2 votes
This nutritious and flavorful Mediterranean Tuna Salad has tender orzo pasta, olive-oil-packed tuna, crisp cucumbers, smoky red peppers, tangy red onions, fresh herbs, and a lemon-oregano vinaigrette.
Print Recipe

Mediterranean Tuna Salad

5 from 2 votes
This nutritious and flavorful Mediterranean Tuna Salad has tender orzo pasta, olive-oil-packed tuna, crisp cucumbers, smoky red peppers, tangy red onions, fresh herbs, and a lemon-oregano vinaigrette.
Course lunch, Salad
Cuisine Mediterranean
Keyword Mediterranean Tuna Salad
Prep Time 35 minutes
Cook Time 9 minutes
Total Time 44 minutes
Servings 6 as a side
Calories 441kcal
Author Chelsea
Cost $8.21

Ingredients

Dressing

  • 1/4 cup (54g) red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons (31g) Dijon mustard (do not use regular mustard)
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 clove garlic, minced (1 teaspoon)
  • 1/2 cup (98g) extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons (47g) lemon juice + 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest (1 large lemon)
  • 1 tablespoon (24g) honey
  • Fine sea salt and pepper

Salad

  • 1 cup (155g) orzo pasta (measured when dry)
  • 2 cans (5 oz.; 142g EACH) tuna (preferably packed in olive oil), drained
  • 1 cup (170g) diced (jarred) roasted red bell peppers, (~3-4 peppers) Note 1
  • 1/2 cup (65g) drained and coarsely chopped kalamata olives
  • 1/2 cup (18g) chopped flat leaf Italian parsley
  • 1/2 cup (61g) diced red onion (~1/2 an onion) Note 2
  • 1-1/3 cup (180g) chopped cucumber (~1 english cucumber or 3 Persian/salad cucumbers)
  • 1/2 cup (62g) crumbled feta cheese

Instructions

  • DRESSING: Add all the dressing ingredients to a Mason jar and season (to taste) with fine sea salt and pepper. I add 1/2 teaspoon and 1/4 teaspoon pepper (add to personal preference). Seal the jar and shake vigorously to combine. Store in the fridge while preparing the rest of the salad.
  • ORZO PASTA: Cook 1 cup of dry pasta according to package directions. Don't forget to salt the pasta water (I add 1 teaspoon to every 4 cups of water). Without salting the water, the whole salad will taste underseasoned. Drain pasta, rinse under cold water, let cool, and allow to dry. Transfer to a large bowl and toss with 2-3 tablespoons of the dressing.
  • VEGGIE PREP: Meanwhile, prep the rest of the ingredients: drain the tuna and flake it apart with a fork. Add to the drained pasta. Drain and coarsely dice the roasted bell peppers, coarsely chop the olives, finely chop the parsley, dice the red onion, and chop the cucumber(s). Add all the ingredients to the bowl with the pasta and tuna. Add in the feta cheese.
  • ENJOY: Drizzle on dressing to your desired preference. (We use most of the dressing, but usually have a few tablespoons leftover -- you can use all of it or less depending on how dressed you like your salads. Also, if the salad is sitting out for a bit, it does absorb the dressing fairly quickly and may need to add a bit more occasionally.) Gently toss the salad and enjoy immediately. This salad doesn't store well once dressed.

Video

Recipe Notes

Note 1: Most grocery stores keep roasted red peppers near the pickles, capers, and artichoke hearts. Here's what I use.
Note 2: If you’re sensitive to the flavor of raw red onion, soak the diced onions in salted ice water for 10 minutes. Drain thoroughly before adding into the salad

Nutrition Facts

Calories: 441kcal | Carbohydrates: 39g | Protein: 10g | Fat: 28g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Cholesterol: 18mg | Sodium: 1140mg | Potassium: 336mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 2036IU | Vitamin C: 49mg | Calcium: 174mg | Iron: 3mg

We do our best to provide accurate nutritional analysis for our recipes. Our nutritional data is calculated using a third-party algorithm and may vary, based on individual cooking styles, measurements, and ingredient sizes. Please use this information for comparison purposes and consult a health professional for nutrition guidance as needed.

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4 Comments

  1. This looks so good I need to make it. I’m not a fan of tuna so I would leave that out but everything else sounds amazing!
    Hayley Dawn xo

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