Why you’ll love this recipe:
Tuna macaroni salad is the perfect mashup of macaroni salad and tuna salad.
Made with a handful of simple ingredients, it’s budget-friendly, easy to prepare, and a great way to sneak in extra veggies. A Midwestern favorite, it’s a staple side dish at summer BBQs and doubles as a quick lunch.
- Make it ahead – You can make this recipe ahead of time, and store it in an airtight container in the fridge. It’ll be waiting for you when you’re ready to eat!
- Customize the ingredients – Clean out the fridge by including any leftover veggies you have on hand, add extra herbs and spices, sprinkle in cheese, or swap out the pasta to fit your preferences.
- Simple to prepare – This recipe comes together with just 20 minutes of prep time and chills in the fridge so you can prepare the rest of your meal without fuss.
Tuna macaroni salad is a staple in my warm-weather recipe rotation. I highly recommend it for large gatherings! It comes together quickly, can easily be doubled to feed a crowd, and everyone always loves it.
Key Ingredient Notes:
- Elbow pasta – Classic macaroni salad recipes use elbow noodles. So, that’s what we’re using here. Feel free to swap the elbow noodles with fusilli, rotini, or shells. Whatever you choose, be sure to cook them to al-dente according to the package instructions.
- Tuna – We use 3 cans of tuna. It’s a tuna macaroni salad, after all! Just be sure to drain the excess liquid before adding the protein to the rest of the ingredients.
- Eggs – Boil eggs on the stovetop, let them cool, and chop them up for extra protein and fats. Or, if you have an Instant Pot, skip the peeling eggs by hard-cooking eggs in an Instant Pot.
- Mayonnaise – I recommend using full-fat mayonnaise for the creamiest texture and richest flavor.
- Vegetables – Fresh chopped celery, shredded carrots, red onion, and sweet green peas add lots of nutrients and a beautiful rainbow of colors.
How to make the best tuna macaroni salad recipe:
- Cook the pasta: Prepare the elbow noodles (or whatever pasta you’re using) to al-dente according to the package instructions. Be careful not to overcook! Immediately drain and rinse the noodles under cold water. This stops the cooking process, keeping them tender and just slightly chewy. Set them aside while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
- Combine the ingredients: Add all the ingredients except the paprika to a large mixing bowl, and stir until they’re well combined and everything is coated in the mayo and seasonings.
- Chill: Cover the salad with plastic wrap, and transfer it to the fridge to chill for at least 1 hour. This helps the flavors set in!
- Serve: Give the salad a gentle stir, garnish with paprika, if desired, and enjoy it cold.
- Buy pre-chopped vegetables and pre-made boiled eggs.
- Use pouches of tuna instead of cans to eliminate the need to drain the protein.
- Prepare the vegetables, eggs, and elbow noodles 2-3 days in advance, and store them in separate airtight containers in the fridge.
- Store leftover tuna macaroni salad in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days.
- Give it a gentle stir to redistribute the ingredients before serving, adding more dressing as needed if it dries out.
- I do not recommend freezing this recipe as it does not thaw well.
I recommend using canned tuna in water. Tuna in oil will affect the taste and consistency of the salad.
This recipe can be served on its own, with crackers, or in between sandwich bread for a complete meal. You can also enjoy it as a side dish alongside entrees like grilled chicken, grilled steak skewers, or bbq chicken sliders.
To lighten this salad up, replace all or some of the mayonnaise with plain Greek yogurt. You can also incorporate more produce like olives, cherry tomatoes, or bell peppers for added nutrients.
Tuna Macaroni Salad
- 1 small pot
- 1 large mixing bowl
- 16 ounces elbow noodles Note 1
- 3 (5oz) cans tuna, drained
- 3 hard boiled eggs chopped
- 2 cups mayonnaise Note 2
- ¼ cup sweet relish
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ cup chopped celery
- ½ cup shredded carrots
- ½ cup diced red onion
- ½ cup sweet green peas cooked Note 3
- Paprika for garnish
- Cook the elbow noodles according to package instructions until al dente. Drain and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking process. Set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients except the paprika and mix until well combined.
- Cover the salad with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or preferably 2-3 hours, to allow the flavors to meld.
- When ready to serve, give the salad a gentle stir. Garnish with paprika if desired.
- Enjoy the Tuna Macaroni Salad as a side dish or main course!
– Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days.
– Stir before serving, and add more dressing if needed to freshen it back up.
– I don’t recommend freezing this recipe.
* Disclaimer: All nutrition information are estimates only. Read full nutrition disclosure.
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