Tuna and Kale Pasta – Budget Friendly One-Dish Meal

This delicious and easy one-dish meal uses canned tuna, pasta, lemon, and kale – all readily available ingredients. Tuna and Kale Pasta is also budget-friendly and on the table in 30 minutes.

July 15, 2020

Tuna Kale Pasta in a wooden bowl

Tuna and Kale Pasta – One-Dish Meal

Who doesn’t love an excellent one-dish meal? No sides are needed, and the sauce is ready when the pasta is draining. Bingo. If I had to eat one dish for the rest of my life, this tuna and kale pasta recipe would be in my top considerations! 

Tuna Kale Pasta in a bowl

Why Tuna and Kale Pasta is a Winning Recipe

  • Fast – on the table in 30 minutes
  • Budget-friendly – Costs about $3/serving
  • Delicious – it will convert any kale skeptic
  • Fantastic leftovers – warms up nicely in the microwave the next day
  • Pantry Meal – easy to keep canned tuna and pasta on hand
Kale growing in the Supper Sanity Garden

Easy to Grow Kale in the Garden

I have altered the original recipe, Tuna Pasta with Arugula and Lemon, by adding kale. This recipe came to me through a bridal shower recipe book. Everyone invited was asked to provide a favorite recipe for the bride. Thank you, Alexa, for submitting this delicious tuna pasta recipe. I also grow kale in my garden, making it a staple in our family. According to Farmer’s Almanac, kale can be seeded or planted six to eight weeks before the first fall.

Massage kale in lemon juice to wilt the leaves and improve texture and aid digestion

Give Kale a Massage – Say What?

A trick to making this dish extra yummy is to massage the kale leaves. This may seem weird that a vegetable needs a massage, but it improves the kale’s texture and digestibility. I’m sure this tuna and kale pasta recipe will win over any kale cynics.

Tuna and Kale Pasta in a white bowl

Ingredient Notes

  • Pasta – I like penne rigate (with ridges) for this recipe because the sauce holds well to the surface area. But other pasta will work – linguini, rigatoni or ziti.
  • Tuna – buy the best that you can afford. The more expensive tunas are wild and sustainably caught. If you buy tuna in oil, read the label for healthy fats. Eat This, Not That! is an excellent resource for choosing canned tuna.
  • Fresh Lemons only – no substitutes because the lemon zest offers so much to the taste of this dish.
  • Red Pepper Flakes – save the little packets that come with your pizza if you do not keep this fantastic spice on hand – no subbing, please, but you can reduce the quantity if heat is an issue.
  • Garlic – jarred garlic in a pinch, but fresh is best
  • Olive oil – no subs
  • Kale – arugula is a great alternative, but you do NOT need to massage the leaves in lemon juice.
  • Kalamata Olives – offer them on the side for picky eaters but try these yummy Greek pearls. Use capers if you are not an olive fan.


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Tuna Kale Pasta in a wooden bowl

Tuna and Kale Pasta – Budget-Friendly One-Dish Meal

  • Author: Karen
  • Total Time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: 5 1x


This is a quick, delicious, and easy one-dish recipe that uses readily available ingredients of canned tuna, pasta, lemon, and kale and it’s ready in 30 minutes.


Units Scale

1 lb. Penne or favorite pasta, regular or gluten-free

4 cups kale, torn into bite-sized pieces

Zest of 1 lemon

Juice of 3 lemons

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/3 cup Olive Oil

46 Garlic Cloves, crushed

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

3 5oz. can good quality tuna in water; tuna in oil can be used but reduce the amount of olive oil above.

1/4 cup black Kalamata olives or 2 tablespoons capers

parmesan cheese, grated, optional *



  1. Cook pasta according to package direction, making sure to add salt to the water. Scoop out one cup of hot boiling pasta water just before draining.
  2. Rinse torn kale in colander or salad spinner and place kale in a large serving bowl along with lemon juice, zest, and salt.
  3. Knead kale for a minute or two to soften the leaves. Allow kale to sit while pasta cooks. The lemon juice, salts, and kneading soften the leaves, improving the kale’s texture and digestibility.
  4. Meanwhile, heat oil in a heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and crushed red pepper. Sauté 30 seconds.
  5. Add tuna; stir to break up the pieces and heat through. Remove from heat.
  6. Scoop out one cup of pasta water in a coffee mug and reserve. Drain the pasta and add it back into the cooking pot.
  7. Add the tuna mixture into the pasta pot.
  8. Fold in wilted kale leaves and mix thoroughly.
  9. Season with salt and pepper.
  10. Scoop the pasta dish into the serving bowl that held the wilting kale, if desired. Sprinkle with optional cheese and garnish with olives.




*Italians do NOT serve Parmesean cheese with this dish, although I find myself using it on any leftovers

You can use tuna in oil if you prefer – it has more flavor, but reduce the amount of olive oil. Also, try this recipe using arugula in place of kale  Tuna Pasta with Arugula and Lemon.

  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 Minutes
  • Category: Fish & Seafood
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Italian


  • Serving Size: 5

Keywords: One-dish pasta, pantry meal, tuna, One-dish meal

Let me know your thoughts on this post!

9 Responses

  1. AMAZING!!! I am not usually a fan of tuna and kale but I decided to give it a try and was I enamored by the outcome ! Definitely would recommend

  2. This recipe has become a staple in our house. A delicious dish you can feel good about eating. Great served fresh, possibly even better cold the next day! Can’t recommend it enough.

  3. I suggest eating this delicious dish with a friend or loved one because you might accidentally eat the whole thing yourself. We double the recipe now since it’s so good leftover (hot or cold).

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