Whether you’re looking for a healthy pantry recipe, a dish for your next barbecue, or simply a filling lunch, this Tuna Macaroni Salad Recipe is for you. It’s easy to make, full of protein, and delicious year-round.
One of my favorite comfort foods since I was a little girl, my Mom’s Tuna Macaroni Salad Recipe is easy-to-make, made with almost entirely pantry staples, and is ready in under 30 minutes. It also has twice as much tuna as typical recipes, bringing about 22 grams of protein to each pasta salad serving! Whether you make this for lunch or bring it to a potluck, this tuna pasta salad is sure to satisfy — inside, and out.
I’ve been going more for comfort food and pantry recipes lately. Not only do I not want to make a grocery trip if I can avoid it, but I want to feel like I’m eating well while I stay at home.
So, the other day when I scanned the pantry before lunch, I realized I had all the essentials on hand for my Mom’s Tuna Macaroni Salad Recipe. I had pasta, tuna, mayonnaise, dried dill, and mustard in the cabinet and some hearty veggies in the fridge.
And, in my world, tuna macaroni salad qualifies as the ultimate comfort food. Whether we ate the salad in the car on road trips or whipped it up together for Saturday lunch, growing up it was always a dish that meant safety, comfort, and Mom’s love.
I asked mom how she got into making the easy pasta salad recipe, and she said that her mom made it for them during the summers growing up. Often made with defrosted green peas and served with some toast, it was a dish her mom cared for her family with, too.
And so I started to think about the traditions of care and food that are passed down through generations; how we’re shaped to like similar foods because of similar experiences and how we show others we care based on how we’ve been showed we’re cared for.
Hopefully, my family knows how much I care by making this for them and hopefully, your family will know that about you, too. From my family to yours’,
This Tuna Macaroni Salad Recipe Is…
- Full of protein
- The perfect pantry recipe
- Delicious for leftovers
- Great for picnics and potlucks
This tuna pasta salad recipe is one of my favorites. It’s satisfying, yet easy; comforting yet made with ingredients I almost always have on hand; creamy yet full of protein to keep me fueled for the long haul. I guess there’s a good reason it’s been a staple in my family over the generations.
How do you make tuna macaroni salad from scratch?
Thankfully, it’s pretty easy to make macaroni salad from scratch. First, cook your pasta according to the package’s directions, in heavily salted water. While the pasta cooka, whip up your salad dressing — often a mixture of mayonnaise, vinegar, and seasonings. Next, toss your chopped veggies (I like onions, celery, and sometimes peas and chopped sweet pepper) and drained and flaked tuna into the dressing. Finally, drain the pasta when its done cooking and gently fold that into the dressing mixture as well. Let the pasta cool in a covered container in the refrigerator or serve warm — whichever you prefer!
How do you keep tuna salad moist?
The first way to keep our tuna salad moist is to store it in an airtight container in the fridge. This will help keep any of the moisture from evaporating. The second way is to mix in a teaspoon or two of milk to the tuna salad before serving. This will help to keep the salad nice and creamy.
What type or brand of mayonnaise is best for tuna salad?
The type of mayonnaise you choose to use in tuna salad is totally a matter of personal preference (or maybe what’s even in stock at your local store!), but I prefer to use either a full-fat classic mayonnaise or Best Foods (or Hellman’s) olive oil mayonnaise. The olive oil mayonnaise is a bit lighter on calories — if you’re concerned about that — while still being creamy and full of flavor.
I don’t recommend using a low-fat mayonnaise, as they’re often lacking in flavor and compensate for the lost fat with added sugar.
Other easy and healthy dinner and pantry recipes:
- Roasted Sweet Potato Quinoa Salad
- Cuban Sweet Potato & Black Bean Burgers
- Chicken and Vegetable Stir Fry
- Mediterranean Chickpea & Orzo Salad
- One-Pot Orecchiette with Sausage
- Sweet Potato Souffle
- Vegan Sweet Potato Hashbrown Burgers
- Black Bean Enchiladas
- Pressure Cooker Bean Soup
- Jackfruit Chili
If you make and like this recipe, please rate it by clicking on the 5-star rating on the recipe card. I appreciate it so much! <3
This Tuna Macaroni Salad Recipe is a family favorite recipe passed down to me by my mom. I've made a few personal adaptations to the amounts of particular ingredients in the recipe, but the overall dish is the same. This pasta salad is creamy, satisfying, and has twice the amount of tuna as many other recipes have.
Add in green peas or diced peppers if you have them. See my notes below the recipe for my preferred way to defrost peas for this recipe.
- 16 oz. pasta -- fusilli, farfalle, or macaroni -- cooked according to package directions in heavily salted water
- 3/4 cup mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons white vinegar
- 3/4 teaspoon dried dill weed
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard or spicy brown mustard
- 1 tablespoon granulated white sugar
- 1/2 cup minced white onion
- 1 1/4 cup diced celery
- 1/2 cup diced red or green pepper (optional)
- 2, 7 oz cans tuna, drained and flaked
- 3/4 cup frozen peas, (optional)
- Cook the pasta according to package directions in heavily salted water.
- While the pasta cooks: in a large mixing bowl whisk together the mayonnaise, white vinegar, dill weed, salt, mustard, and white sugar until the mixture is smooth and creamy.
- Add the onion, celery, pepper (if using), and flaked tuna to the bowl and fold in until the veggies are evenly covered with the mayonnaise mixture.
- Drain the pasta when it's done cooking. If using the peas, put them in the bottom of the colander and drain the hot pasta over them to defrost the peas.
- Add the pasta (while still hot) to the mayonnaise mixture and gently fold it in until the pasta is covered with the dressing and the tuna is evenly distributed throughout the salad.
- Cover the pasta and let it cool in the refrigerator for 1.5-2 hours before serving, or serve warm right away.
To skip the cooling time rinse the pasta with cool water after draining it. Keep it in the colander and rinse with cool water, shaking it as you rinse, to cool off all the pasta. Then shake the pasta one final time before adding to the dressing. Pro-tip: I like to add the pasta when it's warm, as it absorbs the dressing better this way.
I didn't have peppers and Chris doesn't like peas, so I didn't use either. Both are delicious in this salad, however!
Use a full-fat mayonnaise or a lighter, olive oil or avocado oil-based mayonnaise, based on whatever you prefer. I used full-fat mayonnaise for this recipe but also sometimes like to use Hellman's (or Best Foods) Olive OIl mayonnaise, too.
This salad keeps covered in the refrigerator in an air-tight container for 2-3 days. Do not freeze it.
If the salad dries out in the refrigerator, just add a tablespoon of milk or two to it and fold it together until the salad gets creamy again.
Amount Per Serving Calories 398Total Fat 17gSaturated Fat 3gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 13gCholesterol 32mgSodium 358mgCarbohydrates 39gFiber 3gSugar 5gProtein 22g