Creamy Tuna Macaconi Salad is made for summer eating! It’s packed with cheesy pasta, tuna, healthy vegetables, and more. Serve it for a quick lunch or as a BBQ side dish!
Old Fashioned Tuna Pasta Salad
I’m going to be honest with you guys. I don’t like mayo and I don’t like peas, but I do like both when they are put in Tuna Macaroni Salad. It makes absolutely no sense and I have no good explanation for it… except that this pasta salad is delicious and you must all try it immediately.
Maybe I like this old fashioned tuna macaroni salad because it’s such a classic recipe. Backtracking a little, when the weather gets warm, it is obviously pasta salad season. And, if you’re going to make creamy pasta salad, a classic dish, you might as well combine it with another totally classic recipe – tuna salad. Hence tuna pasta salad! Combine tuna, mayonnaise, and pasta, and you’ve got a winning dish that nobody can turn down – not even me.
Tuna macaroni salad is incredibly easy to whip together, and it’s pretty healthy too! Fish is a great source of protein.
Anyhow, in addition to the tuna, it’s got celery, peas, cheese, a little mustard… long story short, these flavors and textures will blow your mind. So, give in and make this easy pasta salad already!
What You’ll Need
Tuna pasta salad is a breeze to whip together, but you’ll need a fair amount of ingredients before this dish is ready for the table. Here’s what you’ll have to round up:
- Pasta: My go-to is elbow macaroni, but you can use shells, or another kind of small pasta.
- Mayonnaise: Feel free to use reduced fat mayo, or regular mayo – whatever sounds best to you!
- Sweet Relish: You don’t have to use sweet relish, something like dill relish would be fine too. Just keep in mind that the flavoring will differ slightly.
- Mustard: I like to use stone ground Dijon mustard for this recipe.
- Lemon Juice: Use fresh lemon for a little tanginess in your pasta salad.
- Seasoning: Grab some celery salt and freshly ground black pepper.
- Tuna: I like to use a can of albacore tuna, drained.
- Sweet Peas: Peas add great texture to a pasta salad!
- Cheese: Shredded cheddar cheese is my favorite way to go, though you could dice it into cubes instead.
- Celery: Chop up some celery stalks before starting the salad (about 3).
- Shallots: Mince ahead of time.
How to Make Tuna Macaroni Salad
Old fashioned tuna pasta salad is a classic because of its status as a staple at barbecues, but it’s also a classic because it’s so darn easy to make! Nobody wants to spend all day in the kitchen on a nice day – and with this pasta salad, you don’t have to.
Cook the Pasta: In a large stock pot, cook elbow macaroni according to package directions.
Prepare the Dressing: While it is cooking, in a large bowl, whisk together mayo, relish, dijon mustard, lemon juice, celery salt and pepper. Add in tuna, peas, cheddar cheese, celery and shallots.
Serve and Enjoy: Once macaroni is cooked, drain it well and stir into the tuna mixture. Mix well. Serve immediately.
Tips for Success
Looking for tips on how to build the best pasta salad? You’re in the right place! Here are a couple of my tuna-macaroni-salad-making tricks:
- How to Make This Salad Creamier: Add a little more mayo! Now, don’t go crazy, but adding ¼ to ½ cup more mayonnaise makes for a super creamy pasta salad.
- If You’re Going to Serve This Salad Cold: Chill it in the fridge for a little bit, probably 30 minutes to an hour. That way the flavors will soak into the noodles, and you’ll get a true cold pasta salad experience.
- Make It Your Own: Add in your favorite pasta salad throw-ins! Chopped bell pepper could be good, maybe some broccoli… you decide!
Serving Suggestions for Tuna Macaroni Salad
I find that the best way to serve this macaroni salad is warm. But, it’s also tasty when served cold the next day. It just might need a little extra dressing of some sort stirred in to refresh it since the noodles like to soak up all the dressing.
There are also some other sides and meals that you could serve with this salad:
- Anything Barbecue: Whether you’re grilling steak, chicken, or pork chops, this tuna macaroni salad is the perfect side.
- Chicken: Pasta salads are the perfect complement to chicken – it could be baked, fried, pan-seared, you name it!
- Corn on the Cob: Now that we’re in the season, time to dig out all of your favorite summer side dish recipes! Grilled corn definitely fits that description.
- More Pasta Salads: You can never have enough pasta salad! These are some of my other go-to recipes: Bacon Ranch Pasta Salad and Pesto Bacon Pasta Salad.
Can I Make This in Advance?
Absolutely! I love to prepare this salad ahead of time, like the night before a barbecue or something. Although, I do recommend keeping the dressing (mayo, relish, mustard, etc.) separate in the fridge from the pasta and the veggies until you’re ready to eat everything. Then, you can put it all together about an hour before you sit down to eat!
How to Store Extras
Tuna macaroni salad should be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to two days. Also, I don’t recommend leaving this meal out on the table if you’re not eating it – you’re going to want to chill it so it doesn’t go bad.
Creamy Tuna Macaroni Salad
- 1 lb 16 oz box elbow macaroni
- 1 cup mayo
- ¼ cup sweet relish
- 1 ½ tablespoons stone ground dijon mustard
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 1 ½ teaspoon celery salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 can, 12 oz albacore tuna, drained
- 1 cup sweet peas
- 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- ½ cup chopped celery, about 3 stalks
- 2 shallots, minced
- In a large stock pot, cook elbow macaroni according to package directions.
- While it is cooking, in a large bowl, whisk together mayo, relish, dijon mustard, lemon juice, celery salt and pepper. Add in tuna, peas, cheddar cheese, celery and shallots.
- Once macaroni is cooked, drain it well and stir into the tuna mixture. Mix well. Serve immediately.
More Classic Potluck Ideas
Looking for more easy potluck recipes to brighten up your summer barbecues? Check out these ones:
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