This Tuna Macaroni Salad Recipe is easy to make, creamy, full of protein, and delicious year-round.
This post was originally published March 20, 2020. It was updated on June 7, 2022.
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Table of contents
- This tuna salad recipe with pasta Is...
- Recipe mix-ins:
- How to make macaroni salad with tuna:
- Recipe pro-tips:
- Recipe FAQs:
- Serving suggestions:
- Dietary adaptations:
- How long does tuna pasta salad last?
- Tools needed to make this recipe:
- More pasta & tuna recipes:
- For more healthy salads and barbecue side dishes:
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Tuna pasta salad is a no-fail summer recipe you will keep coming back to again and again. With flakes of albacore tuna, al dente pasta, and a creamy, yet light dressing, this is a great recipe for summer lunches, picnics, barbecues, and even road trips!
A combination of tuna salad and pasta, this recipe has been in my family for generations. It's hearty and satisfying, but yet still cooling and not certainly not overwhelming.
It's a favorite summer time comfort food dish the whole family will love. In fact, it's been one of my favorites since I was a little girl!
Save this tuna pasta salad recipe for later on Pinterest:
Why you will love this tuna macaroni salad recipe:
- Quick and easy to make. This is one of my favorite recipes to make on an active summer day. It's ready in less than 30 minutes and gives us the energy to go back to our summer activities.
- Satisfying but light. This macaroni salad with tuna packs a big protein punch without a food coma. It's also dressed in a light-mayonnaise dressing, giving great flavor but not heft. Light and crunchy veggies add nutrition and fiber to the recipe, filling you up but not weighing you down.
- Portable. Packed in a cooler, this pasta salad is great to take on the go. Whether you are camping, going on a road trip, or taking it on a picnic, it's always a welcome and easy-to-bring addition.
- Easy to adapt to a crowd. Looking for a pasta salad to serve at your next barbecue or cookout? This pasta salad is a great option. Easily double the recipe by just multiplying the ingredients and following the directions as listed. Super easy to do and everyone will be satisfied!
Tuna noodle salad ingredients:
- Pasta - macaroni, rotini, shells, or any small pasta are great in this salad.
- Canned Tuna - two, 7 oz. cans of solid white albacore tuna
- Mayonnaise - I used olive oil or avocado mayonnaise to keep the recipe lighter, but traditional mayonnaise works, too
- Distilled white vinegar
- Sweet pickle relish - adds a little zip and light sweetness to the recipe
- Dried dill weed
- Smooth Dijon mustard
- Onion - sweet yellow, white, or red onion are best for this salad
- Sweet pepper - green, red, orange, or yellow peppers all work
- Frozen green peas - follow my tips below to quickly defrost the peas
- Pasta - any small shaped pasta can work in this recipe
- Canned tuna - canned chicken or even canned salmon can substitute for the canned tuna
- Mustard -- if you don't have Dijon mustard, you can substitute classic yellow mustard. It will add a bit more zip to the recipe, but the overall flavor profile will still be similar
Give this recipe your own special touch! There are so many delicious add-ins you can mix into this salad. Here are a few of my favorites:
- Chopped hard-boiled eggs
- Seeded and diced tomatoes
- Seeded and diced cucumbers
- Cubed sharp cheddar cheese
- Sliced blacked olives
- Bacon bits
How to make macaroni salad with tuna:
- Cook your pasta according to the package's directions, in heavily salted water.
- While the pasta cooks, whip up your salad dressing - whisking together the mayonnaise, sweet pickle relish, vinegar, and seasonings and stir in the veggies.
- Flake the tuna and fold it into the dressing.
- Drain the pasta - placing the frozen peas in a colander and pouring the hot pasta water over them to drain.
- If you will be serving the salad immediately, cool the pasta by rinsing the pasta with cool water in the colander. Drain thoroughly.
- Gently fold the pasta into the dressing until coated. If the pasta is still warm, cover and let it cool in the refrigerator until serving. If the pasta is cool, serve!
Pasta salad with tuna recipe pro-tips:
- Cook the pasta in heavily salted water. This makes all the difference in the flavor of the pasta and adds only a negligible amount of extra sodium.
- Use good quality tuna. Solid white albacore tuna packed in water is my top pick. It's meaty and hearty but has a pure and non-fishy flavor. If you can't find albacore, I recommend chunk light tuna packed in water.
- Make the pasta salad ahead of time. For the best flavor, make the macaroni tuna salad ahead of time with warm pasta. That is, don't rinse the pasta with cool water before folding it into the dressing. Once made, chill the pasta covered in the refrigerator until completely chilled. This will help the pasta best absorb the flavors of the dressing, adding extra flavor to the dish.
How to quickly thaw peas:
Here's a super quick pea thawing trick (courtesy of my mom), that thaws the peas to the perfect temperature for your pasta salad.
- Place the peas in the colander.
- Drain the hot pasta water and pasta over the peas.
- Drain the pasta thoroughly and then use the pasta and peas in the recipe as directed.
If the pasta salad isn't as creamy as leftovers, you can rehydrate the dressing by stirring in a few tablespoons of milk. Just drizzle the milk over the pasta and gently fold until incorporated and the salad is creamy again.
Though you can put hard boiled eggs into macaroni salad, this recipe doesn't call for them. If you would like to add them, however, just boil 2 eggs and dice them before mixing into the pasta salad with the dressing.
This macaroni and tuna salad is best served cold though you can also serve it warm (directions below). It is hearty enough to serve on its own, but you can also serve it with the following sides to round out the meal:
- Fruit salad
- Crusty white bread
- A leafy green salad with carrots, tomatoes, croutons, and cucumbers
- Vegetable crudite with hummus
Serving tuna pasta salad warm:
To make warm pasta salad, don't rinse the pasta with cool water before tossing the warm pasta with the dressing. Serve immediately!
- Dairy-free: made according to recipe directions, this mac & tuna salad recipe is naturally dairy-free.
- Gluten-free: To make this recipe gluten-free, just use gluten-free pasta (rice or chickpea are both delicious) in place of the traditional wheat pasta and this recipe.
Tuna pasta salad lasts in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. It does not freeze well.
Tools needed to make this recipe:
More Tuna Recipes
- Italian Tuna Pasta Salad
- Instant Pot Tuna Casserole
- Tuna Stuffed Peppers (Keto + Low-Carb!)
- Cheesy Tuna Rice Casserole
- Tuna Mac & Cheese
- Classic Tuna Noodle Casserole
If you made and liked this recipe, don't forget to rate the recipe and let me know how it went for you in the comments! It always makes my day to hear from you!