Creamy Tuna Macaroni Salad

Prep 10 mins
Cook 10 mins
Total 20 mins

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!

Creamy tuna macaroni salad in a bowl.

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!

Ingredients for tuna macaroni salad.

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.

Bowl full of cheese, peas, macaroni, tuna, and more.

Serve and Enjoy: Once macaroni is cooked, drain it well and stir into the tuna mixture. Mix well. Serve immediately.

Tuna pasta salad tossed in mayo and sweet relish.

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!
Tuna pasta salad with peas and macaroni.

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.
Serving spoon in a bowl of tuna macaroni 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.

Bowl of tuna macaroni salad.
Yield: Serves 6

Creamy Tuna Macaroni Salad

Creamy tuna macaroni salad in a bowl.

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!

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 lb (16 oz box) elbow macaroni
  • 1 cup mayo
  • 1/4 cup sweet relish
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons stone ground dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 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
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery (about 3 stalks)
  • 2 shallots, minced

Instructions

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.

Notes

I think the best way to serve this pasta salad is warm. But, it's also tasty when cold the next day, if you have leftovers. 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.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

6

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 428Total Fat: 34gSaturated Fat: 8gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 25gCholesterol: 41mgSodium: 869mgCarbohydrates: 18gFiber: 3gSugar: 6gProtein: 12g

Want to Save This Recipe?

More Classic Potluck Ideas

Looking for more easy potluck recipes to brighten up your summer barbecues? Check out these ones:

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy.

Related Posts

Comments

32 Responses
  1. Design de sobrancelhas

    What a wonderful article! Congratulations! I’ll search more about this article! Thank you very much for passing this valuable information!

  2. Douglas

    Very good for a post workout where the body needs carbohydrates , and tuna in the case it is a great source of protein. I will use !

  3. Natalie @ Paper & Birch

    This looks ah-mazing Jessica. Love tuna pasta salads. Definitely putting this on the menu. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Eileen

    Such a classic salad! I have so many memories of eating this kind of salad out of avocado green tupperware on picnics at the park as a kid. 🙂 So good!

  5. Amanda

    Yay, glad you found a new tuna salad recipe you love! I love tuna salad, gonna try it Kerri-style 🙂

  6. Amanda Mulholland

    I have been looking for a good tuna pasta recipe these past couple of months but so many have something a little funky about them. This sounds perfect and pretty close to what my grandma used to make. I can’t wait to try it!! Jessie to the rescue!!!!

  7. Darr

    Hi!
    I love tuna in any form and love pasta tuna salad.
    Pasta does continue to absorb liquids and i have found over the years to refresh the salad with 1 to 2 tablespoons of water instead of adding more dressing. You can also add a little vegetable oil and it seems to stop or slow down the absorbing process when you first make it. I actually like the salad using Cole Slaw Dressing rather than Mayo. Enjoy!
    DarrAZ

  8. How to Philosophize with Cake

    Looks delicious! I love all kinds of pasta salad, this variation sounds awesome. 🙂

  9. dc

    Tuna pasta salad warm is best, in my house it rarely makes it to the fridge anyway. If it does…it still doesn’t make it to cold. I’m trying this version!

Welcome!

Jessica
I'm a trial & error, self taught, sugar addict who thankfully learned how to survive in the kitchen! I am also a wife, mama of 3.
Novice Chef eCookbooks
Skip to Recipe