Best Homemade Tuna Macaroni Salad Recipe

Tuna Macaroni Salad is a classic potluck and picnic staple. It’s creamy and satisfying with tuna, macaroni, hard boiled eggs, pickle relish, peas, celery and onions in a creamy, mayonnaise based sauce.

This tuna salad with pasta can easily stand as a meal on its own, or serve as a hearty side dish to compliment your favorite summer dishes.

A large glass bowl filled with runa, macaroni, peas, celery and eggs. Forks and an orange napkin lay next to the bowl.

Comfort foods like this Tuna Macaroni Salad recipe, are great for summer picnic meals served with some Garlic Bread and a Fruit Salad. Or serve it up a side dish for some grilled chicken and grilled vegetables.

Table of Contents
  1. Why We Love Tuna Macaroni Salad
  2. Tuna Macaroni Salad Ingredients
  3. How To Make Tuna Macaroni Salad
  4. FAQs
  5. Make Ahead and Storage
  6. Expert Tips
  7. More Potluck Salad Favorites
  8. Tuna Macaroni Salad Recipe

Why We Love Tuna Macaroni Salad

  • Easy: It has simple ingredients and the only cooking required is boiling the pasta.
  • Customizable: Add veggies like bell peppers, leave out the onions or add extra if you wish. Lighten up the dressing, make it with or without peas or eggs.
  • Versatile: Serve as a hearty side dish for summer BBQs and potlucks, or serve as a main dish for a light and refreshing picnic lunch.
  • Flavorful: If you like tuna salad, you’re going to love this tuna salad with macaroni.

Tuna Macaroni Salad Ingredients

This salad has lots of protein to make it hearty enough to enjoy as a meal, and veggies add a nice crunchy texture.

  • Canned Tuna: I like using albacore because I think it’s got the best flavor. You don’t get that metallic fishy taste that you can get with some kind of canned tuna. I highly recommend using a canned tuna packed in water. Tuna packed in oil will drastically change the flavor of the salad?
  • Macaroni: This is one ingredient that we are kind of snobs on! If you can find it, get Creamette brand macaroni because it cooks the best and has the best flavor.
  • Hard Boiled Eggs: Make your own on the stovetop or buy pre-packaged to save time.
  • Veggies: peas, celery and onions diced finely add crunch and freshness. Frozen peas are a must (don’t use canned as they can be a little mushy for this salad).
  • Sauce: The sauce is made with mayo, pickle relish, mustard, salt and black pepper. You could add a little hot sauce to zest it up, or play around with flavors like adding garlic powder or paprika.
a large glass bowl with ingredients for tuna macaroni salad - chopped hard boiled eggs, peas, celery, tuna and macaroni.

How To Make Tuna Macaroni Salad

Be sure to check the recipe card below for full ingredients & instructions.

  1. Start by cooking your macaroni. Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to boil and cook according to the package directions, then drain when the pasta is al dente. Drain and rinse with cold water – this stops the cooking process and rinses off the starches that can make pasta stick together. Set is aside until your ready to finish making the salad or keep it in the fridge for up to 24 hours.
  2. Make the salad. Drain the canned tuna really well before mixing it with the macaroni, celery, peas, hard boiled eggs and chopped onions in a large bowl. The peas should be thawed and cooked but cooled. Peel and chop the eggs and add them in with the macaroni.
  3. Make the sauce by combining mayonnaise, mustard, pickle relish and salt and pepper. Taste and add more salt and pepper as desired. You can also add hot sauce or flavor with seasonings like garlic powder, dill or paprika. Stir in the sauce, starting with half to make sure you don’t end up with your salad more wet than you like it. Taste and adjust seasoning.

FAQs

How long is Tuna Macaroni Salad good for?

Tuna Macaroni Salad should be stored in an airtight container in the fridge. Do not leave out for more than 2 hours or harmful bacteria can begin to grow. Properly stored, your salad will last 3-5 days in the refrigerator.

How do I keep macaroni from absorbing mayonnaise?

Pasta is made of starch, and starch absorbs liquid, so the mayo is absorbed by the pasta, leaving it dry. The best way to prevent the macaroni from absorbing the mayo is to completely cool the pasta before mixing it with the dressing. If your leftover pasta salad seems a little dry, stir in a couple extra tablespoons of mayo.

Can you freeze it?

The finished salad cannot be preserved by freezing. However, it is possible to freeze the salad and dressing separately and have good results.

What can I mix with canned tuna?

Canned tuna can be used for more than just tuna sandwiches. You can mix in mayo, Miracle Whip, avocado, dijon mustard or even just a little lemon and olive oil, and add veggies like peas, white beans, sun-dried tomatoes or capers. Or use it in recipes like my Tuna Melt Sandwich or Tuna Casserole, too.

What can you mix with tuna instead of mayo?

Instead of mayo you can use Miracle Whip, Greek yogurt, smashed avocado, hummus, or even pesto.

A close up image of tuna macaroni salad with peas, onions and macaroni.

Make Ahead and Storage

How to Prep Ahead: You can this salad up to a day in advance; in fact, it’s recommended to make it at least a few hours ahead. Tighty cover and store in the refrigerator. Just before serving, you can add a little more mayo if it seems dry.

Storage: For leftovers, store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3-5 days. If needed, add a little more mayo to moisten when serving. Do not freeze.

A white bowl with tuna macaroni salad and a fork in the bowl.

Expert Tips

  • Make your salad ahead of time and let it sit in the fridge for a few hours before serving to help the flavors come together.
  • This is a great recipe for picnics and potlucks, because it makes a lot. You can also make it a day ahead of time, or keep it on hand for weekday lunches.

More Potluck Salad Favorites

Pasta Salads: Classic Macaroni Salad, which is the recipe that inspired this tuna mac salad, or a hearty helping of Hawaiian Macaroni Salad.

Potato Salads: Bacon Ranch Red Potato Salad, Southern Potato Salad Recipe.

Tuna and Egg Salads: Tuna Salad Lettuce Wraps are a fun twist on a traditional tuna salad sandwich, Tuna Pasta Salad is also quite delicious and similar to this mac salad.

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A dish is filled with Tuna Macaroni Salad

Tuna Macaroni Salad

The Best Tuna Macaroni Salad recipe is a classic potluck staple. Serve as a hearty side dish or a light yet satisfying main dish.
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 10 mins
Total Time 30 mins
Course Dinner, Side Dish
Cuisine American, American Classic
Servings 10 servings
Calories 501kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 1 pound elbow macaroni
  • 10-12 ounces tuna packed in water drained, feel free to add more if you like
  • 4 tablespoons sweet pickle relish
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 2 tablespoons chopped red onion
  • 1 cup frozen peas cooked and cooled
  • 4 hard cooked eggs chopped
  • 1-2 teaspoons prepared mustard
  • 1 cup mayonnaise or more as needed
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions
 

  • Cook macaroni to al dente following directions on the package. Drain and rinse in a colander and drain well. Cool to at least room temperature, or in the fridge.
  • Meanwhile, in a large bowl combine tuna, celery, onion, eggs and peas. Seasoning with a little salt and pepper. Stir in cooked macaroni.
  • In a small bowl, stir together mustard, mayonnaise and pickle relish. Pour dressing over the macaroni mixture and stir to coat completely. Taste and add salt and pepper as desired.
  • Store in a tightly sealed container for up to 3-5 days. If salad seems dry, add a couple of tablespoons of mayonnaise to moisten.

Notes

Nutritional values are approximate and are based on 10 servings per batch, served as a light meal or hearty side dish.
Feel free to adjust the ingredients as you like, adding more or less of each. 
How to Prep Ahead: You can this salad up to a day in advance; in fact it’s recommended to make it at least a few hours ahead. Tighty cover and store in the refrigerator. Just before serving, you can add a little more mayo if it seems dry.
Storage: For leftovers, store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3-5 days. If needed, add a little more mayo to moisten when serving. Do not freeze.

Nutrition

Calories: 501kcalCarbohydrates: 49gProtein: 19gFat: 25gSaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 118mgSodium: 435mgPotassium: 293mgFiber: 3gSugar: 6gVitamin C: 3mgCalcium: 44mgIron: 2mg
Keyword best tuna macaroni salad, tuna macaroni salad

Kristin Maxwell

Kristin Maxwell is the creator and main recipe developer, writer, and photographer of Yellow Bliss Road. A self-taught cook and self-appointed foodie, she specializes in easy, flavorful and approachable recipes for any home cook.

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Comments

  1. HELLO IAM FIXING TO MAKE THIS DELICIOUS LOOKING SALAD. BUT ON THE TUNA IS THAT 10 cans of 12oz Tuna ❓THAT I USE

  2. One flaw in my opinion. Never never never use sweet pickle relish – it ruins everything it touches. Sugar on tuna, really? Almost as bad as Miracle Whip!! Always use Dill pickle relish on non sweet salads

      1. Your recipe is quick, delicious and great for a summer picnic. Also the peas add a great level of flavor.