Tuna Macaroni Salad is a classic potluck and picnic staple. It’s creamy and satisfying with tender macaroni, hard boiled eggs, peas, celery, and onions in a creamy, tangy sauce. This salad can easily stand as a meal on its own or serve as a hearty side dish to compliment your favorite summer dishes.
The Best Tuna Macaroni Salad
Tuna Macaroni Salad has been a staple in my life at church potlucks for as long as I can remember. It’s simple to make and can easily be doubled to feed a crowd. It’s usually one of the first things to go and my family raves about it.
Canned tuna is inexpensive but also packed with protein making it a great option for a healthy lunch.
If you’re wondering how to serve Tuna Macaroni Salad, you can make it a summer picnic meal served with some Garlic Bread and a Fruit Salad. Or serve it up a side dish for some grilled chicken and grilled vegetables.
What’s in Tuna Macaroni Salad?
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.
- 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 pepper. You could add a little hot sauce to zest it up, or play around with flavors like adding garlic powder or paprika.
How to Make Tuna Macaroni Salad
- Start by cooking your macaroni. Boil according to the package directions in heavily salted water, then drain when the pasta is al dente. The most important step is the rinse the macaroni – 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 tuna macaroni salad or keep it in the fridge for up to 24 hours.
- Make the salad. Drain the canned tuna really well before mixing it with the macaroni, celery, peas, hard boiled eggs and chopped onions. The peas should be thawed and cooked but cooled. Peel and chop the eggs and add them in with the macaroni.
- 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.
How do You Keep Pasta Salad from Drying Out?
The mayo is what keeps the salad moist. If you have leftover pasta salad that seems a little dry, stir in a couple tablespoons of mayo. It will taste the best when it’s fresh so try to enjoy within 2 hours of making it.
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.
Can you Freeze Tuna Macaroni Salad?
The finished salad cannot be preserved by freezing. However, it is possible to freeze the salad and dressing separately and have good results.
More Potluck Salad Favorites
If you’re looking for other potluck favorites, try our classic Macaroni Salad, which is the recipe this tuna mac salad was derived from, or a hearty helping of Bacon Ranch Red Potato Salad, Hawaiian Macaroni Salad or lightened up Egg Salad. For a unique spin on classic tuna salad, Tuna Salad Lettuce Wraps are a fun twist and Tuna Pasta Salad is also quite delicious. My friends have some great options too, like Cashew Chicken Pasta Salad and Italian Cucumber Tomato Salad.
Tuna Macaroni Salad
- 1 pound elbow macaroni
- 10-12 ounces tuna packed in water drained
- 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
- 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.