classic tuna macaroni salad

This classic cold pasta salad is a quick and easy summer side dish that can easily be doubled for larger gatherings.


When I think back on summer memories as a kid, I always think about the amazing cookouts that my parents would have. Lots of love and laughter…and lots of food! I was a picky eater but one thing I always look back fondly on was the tuna macaroni salad. It was a part of every gathering.




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The recipe that my mother would make for this macaroni salad had to please everyone: picky and non-picky eaters alike. You won’t find any crunchy anything in this version of tuna macaroni salad – no onions, no celery, no carrots. But that doesn’t mean it is lacking in the taste department. The amazing thing about this recipe is how versatile it is. If you are a fan of all things crunchy – add ’em in there.


There are some easy variations to make this recipe your own. You can go ahead and add that crunch with finely diced raw celery, onions and/or carrots. I like to add in fresh peas on occasion and to top it with sliced hard-boiled eggs. Use chunk light tuna instead of albacore, if you prefer, and feel free to use whole wheat or gluten-free macaroni or something other than elbows. Small shells work great with this salad.


classic macaroni salad with tuna


This salad makes a great side dish for my quick and easy Chicken Bacon Ranch Wrap – just saying!


Tuna Macaroni Salad


This dish comes together quickly. It serves about 8, but can easily be doubled to serve a larger crowd. It travels well so it is great to take with you, and it only required refrigeration before serving. If you are hosting the cookout yourself, you can make it the day before to save yourself some time.


If you do make it ahead of time, give it a good stir before serving and add in another tablespoon or two of mayo if necessary.


ingredients for making a tuna macaroni salad




16 ounces of elbow macaroni (or your favorite small pasta), uncooked
8 ounces tuna fish
1 cup mayo
1 tablespoon yellow mustard
1 teaspoon paprika
salt & pepper


Tools I recommend for this side dish:

Pasta pot
Large bowl
Mixing spoon
Airtight container



Cook the macaroni according to package directions, then drain. While it’s in the colander (this is the most important step in this recipe) be sure to run cold water over the macaroni until it becomes cold to the touch.


Running Elbow Macaroni Under Cold Water


Transfer the pasta to a large bowl and mix in the mayo, tuna, and mustard. Add in the paprika, along with your desired amount of salt and pepper.


macaroni salad with tuna


You can either serve it immediately or put it in an airtight container in the fridge to be served later. Use it within 3 – 5 days for the best quality.


If you like this easy summer salad, you’ll love these:

Antipasto Pasta Salad

Broccoli Bacon Salad

Cucumber and Tomato Salad


I know you’ll enjoy this Tuna Macaroni Salad as much as I do. It’s a quick and easy classic cold summer pasta salad that is a staple at any cookout or backyard party.


Classic Tuna Macaroni Salad


When you make this easy tuna macaroni salad, let me know in the comments below how it turned out!






Happy Eating!


Macaroni Salad with Tuna

Tuna Macaroni Salad

Classic cold elbow macaroni salad with tuna fish.
5 from 2 votes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Course Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine American
Servings 8 servings


  • 16 oz elbow macaroni uncooked
  • 8 oz tuna
  • 1 cup mayo
  • 1 tbsp yellow mustard
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • salt & pepper to taste


  • Cook macaroni according to package directions.
  • Drain tuna and break up flakes.
  • Drain macaroni and run under cold water until chilled, then transer to large bowl.
  • Add tuna, mayo and mustard. Mix well. Stir in paprika and add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to serve.
Keyword cold pasta salad, elbow macaroni, macaroni salad, pasta salad, tuna salad

Classic Tuna Macaroni Salad

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Average rating 5 / 5. Vote count: 1

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3 thoughts on “Tuna Macaroni Salad”

  1. Danielle Fleischmann

    5 stars
    Not as healthy but I always use tuna in oil…. a little more luscious 😉 My favorite summer salad.

  2. 5 stars
    Thank you this was just what I was looking for! It is sitting in the fridge right now. 🙂 I did add red onions and celery though.

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