Tuna Macaroni Salad Recipe (2024)

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This family favorite tuna macaroni salad is made with canned tuna, elbow macaroni, bell peppers, mayo, parsley, green onion, and crispy iceberg lettuce. Tuna macaroni salad is a great recipe for any potluck, BBQ, or gathering!


Elise Bauer

Tuna Macaroni Salad Recipe (1)

Elise Bauer

Elise founded Simply Recipes in 2003 and led the site until 2019. She has an MA in Food Research from Stanford University.

Learn about Simply Recipes'Editorial Process

Updated April 13, 2022

13 Ratings

Tuna Macaroni Salad Recipe (2)

Tuna Macaroni Salad Recipe (3)

Growing up, almost every other Friday my mother would serve our family this tuna macaroni salad. (Fish on Fridays, it's a Catholic thing.)

Why This Tuna Macaroni Salad Recipe Is a Favorite

It's such a simple salad, yet even now my heart skips a beat when I stop by my parents' house and find out that's what we're having for dinner. I think it's my favorite macaroni salad, and also my favorite tuna salad, of all time. In the whole world. Period.

Classic Ingredients for Tuna Macaroni Salad

Macaroni pasta with the creamy canned tuna and mayo, along with the crunch of bell peppers, celery, and lettuce?

A little squirt of lemon juice for some tang?

So good!

This salad is also one of my go-to dishes to prepare for a midweek meal. It's easy to make, filling, and budget friendly.

Tuna Macaroni Salad Recipe (4)

The Best Canned Tuna for Tuna Macaroni Salad

Tuna packed in olive oil is more flavorful than tuna packed in water. If you can find it packed in olive oil, use it but don't drain it. If you have tuna packed in water, drain it, and add 2 to 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil.

We like Wild Planet Wild Albacore Tuna packed in extra virgin olive oil and Genova Yellowfin Tuna packed in olive oil.

How to Make Tuna Macaroni Salad Ahead of Time

The saddest thing about this salad is that the lettuce will get wilty and even soggy if stored for more than a few hours in the fridge. (We'll eat up the leftovers anyway, we love it that much.)

So, if you want to make it a day or two ahead, do everything in the recipe except for adding the sliced iceberg lettuce. Add the lettuce when it's time to serve.

Tuna Macaroni Salad Recipe (5)

Here Are 5 More Ways to Love Tuna

  • Best Ever Tuna Salad Sandwich
  • Avocado Tuna Salad
  • Tarragon Tuna Melt
  • English Muffin Tuna Melts
  • Mediterranean Tuna Pasta

Tuna Macaroni Salad

Prep Time10 mins

Cook Time20 mins

Total Time30 mins

Servings4 servings

Tuna packed in olive oil is more flavorful than tuna packed in water. If you can find it packed in oil, use that but don't drain it. If you have tuna packed in water, drain it, and add 2 to 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil.


For the pasta:

  • 1 cup uncooked elbow macaroni

  • 1 quart water

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

For the salad:

  • 1/2 cup chopped green onion, including green onion greens

  • 1 cup chopped red, orange, or yellow bell pepper

  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

  • 2 (5-ounce) cans tuna, packed in olive oil (if it's packed in water, drain and add 2 to 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil)

  • 2 ribs celery, chopped (about 1 cup)

  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise (more to taste)

  • 1/2 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika

  • Freshly ground black pepper

  • 1/4 to 1/3 head lettuce (preferably iceberg lettuce), sliced first and roughly chopped into 2-inch-long strips


  1. Cook the macaroni:

    In a saucepan, add 1 cup of elbow macaroni to 1 quart of boiling water with an added teaspoon of salt. Cook at a rolling boil uncovered for about 10 minutes until the macaroni is just a little more cooked than al dente.

    Remove from heat, drain, and rinse with cold water.

  2. Prep the salad ingredients:

    While the macaroni is cooking, assemble the other ingredients. In a large bowl, mix the green onion, bell pepper, parsley, tuna, celery, and lemon juice.

    Tuna Macaroni Salad Recipe (6)

    Tuna Macaroni Salad Recipe (7)

    Tuna Macaroni Salad Recipe (8)

  3. Combine the salad ingredients:

    Add the cooked and drained macaroni. Fold in the mayonnaise until well mixed. Add the paprika. Add fresh ground pepper to taste. (At this point, you can make ahead and chill.)

    Tuna Macaroni Salad Recipe (9)

  4. Serve:

    Fold in the lettuce gently and serve. The salad does not make good leftovers as the lettuce will eventually get soggy.

    Tuna Macaroni Salad Recipe (10)

    Tuna Macaroni Salad Recipe (11)

  • Easy Lunches
  • Pasta Salads
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  • Macaronis
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
14g Fat
17g Carbs
16g Protein


Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
Amount per serving
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 14g19%
Saturated Fat 2g12%
Cholesterol 13mg4%
Sodium 635mg28%
Total Carbohydrate 17g6%
Dietary Fiber 3g12%
Total Sugars 3g
Protein 16g
Vitamin C 62mg308%
Calcium 70mg5%
Iron 2mg13%
Potassium 466mg10%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.

Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate. In cases where multiple ingredient alternatives are given, the first listed is calculated for nutrition. Garnishes and optional ingredients are not included.

Tuna Macaroni Salad Recipe (2024)


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