Tuna Macaroni Salad is filled with fresh vegetables, tender pasta, and meaty chunks of tuna in a creamy dressing. A classic salad that’s really a complete meal in itself -- and the perfect side dish for your next picnic or potluck.
If you’re going to a potluck, you might as well be the one to bring the Tuna Macaroni Salad. I mean, someone’s going to do it.
This tuna macaroni salad recipe is a simple salad loaded with red onion, celery, red bell pepper, peas, cubed cheese, canned tuna, and hard-boiled eggs in a creamy dill mayonnaise sour cream dressing.
It has everything you expect in a classic tuna pasta salad recipe and more.
If you’re heading to a big party, go ahead and double the recipe so no one is left out.
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Easy to make — just chop and stir everything together
Rich and creamy macaroni pasta salad
Budget friendly recipe
Lots of fresh flavors and tons of texture
This easy tuna macaroni salad comes together with simple ingredients. Refer to the recipe card for the full list of ingredients.
Elbow macaroni. This tuna mac salad recipe uses 2 cups of dry elbow macaroni, which is half of a 16 ounce box. Any small pasta will work, like shells.
Red onion. Raw red onion adds mild onion flavor.
Celery. Celery brings more crunch and freshness to this salad.
Red bell pepper. Red bell peppers add sweetness.
Green onion. Sliced green onions add another dimension of mild onion flavor. Some go into the salad and some go on top as a garnish, if you prefer. You can also use one of these green onion substitutions.
Sharp cheddar cheese cubes. I used sharp cheddar, but you can use any kind of cheese you like. If you don’t want to take the time to cut the cubes, add shredded cheese.
Tuna. I like to use chunk or solid white albacore tuna because it’s firmer and stays chunky in the salad. But chunk light tuna is also great in this salad.
Peas. Frozen, thawed green peas are sweet, pretty, and, let’s face it — we all expect a tuna macaroni salad with peas.
Mayonnaise. Creamy mayonnaise is the base of the dressing. You can use Miracle Whip if you prefer.
Sour cream. Sour cream makes the dressing even creamier and adds a little tang.
Dill pickle relish. I prefer dill pickle relish over sweet pickle relish, but either works, depending on your preference.
Dijon mustard. Dijon adds even more tanginess to the dressing recipe. If you don’t have Dijon, you can use one of these substitutions.
Fresh lemon juice. A little bit of lemon juice brightens up the dressing.
Dill weed. Dry dill weed adds herbaceousness. You can use fresh dill if you have it.
Boil the pasta in a large pot according to the package directions. I like to go just past al dente for pasta salads. Be sure to generously salt the water.
Drain and rinse the pasta with cold water until the pasta has completely cooled. Drain well.
Read this for more tips on how to boil pasta.
In a small bowl, stir or whisk together the mayonnaise, sour cream, relish, Dijon mustard, lemon juice, dill, salt, and black pepper.
In a large bowl, toss together the pasta, red onion, celery, red bell pepper, 2 sliced green onions, cheese cubes, and peas.
Add the dressing and gently stir everything together.
Add the eggs and tuna. Gently toss to keep big chunks of tuna and eggs in the salad and combine everything together.
Cover with plastic wrap or store in an airtight container and chill for 1-3 hours before serving.
To serve, top with a sprinkle of paprika and one sliced green onion.
If serving the next day, some of the dressing may have been absorbed by the pasta. Add more mayonnaise, as needed, to achieve your desired level of creaminess.
Store leftovers in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.
- Cook the pasta just past al dente for the best texture — not too firm, not soggy.
- Let the tuna macaroni salad chill for at least an hour, but a few hours is best to let it get nice and cold and for the flavors to mingle a bit.
- If you’re making this a day ahead of time, check before serving if it needs a little more mayo. Cold pasta salads can absorb dressing when it sits overnight.
The foodsafety.gov FoodKeeper App, developed by the USDA, recommends storing seafood salads like tuna salad in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.
Yes, rinse the pasta in cold water until the pasta has completely cooled. Drain the pasta well.
Wondering what to serve with macaroni salad? Check out these delicious mains and sides that pair perfectly with this tuna macaroni salad recipe.
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Tuna Macaroni Salad
- 2 cups dry elbow macaroni
- ¼ cup finely diced red onion
- ¼ cup finely diced celery
- ¼ cup finely diced red bell pepper
- 3 sliced green onions (divided)
- ½ cup cheddar cheese cubes
- ½ cup frozen peas, thawed
- 2 cans tuna in water, drained 5 ounces each
- 2 chopped hard-boiled eggs
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- ½ cup sour cream
- 2 tablespoons pickle relish dill or sweet
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon dill weed
- Boil the pasta in a large pot according to the package directions. Generously salt the water. Drain and rinse the pasta under cold water until the pasta is cool. Drain well.
- In a small bowl, stir or whisk together the mayonnaise, sour cream, relish, Dijon mustard, lemon juice, dill, salt, and black pepper.
- In a large bowl, toss together the pasta, red onion, celery, red bell pepper, 2 sliced green onions, cheese cubes, and peas. Add the dressing and gently stir everything together.
- Add the tuna and eggs. Gently toss to keep some big chunks of tuna and eggs in the salad.
- Cover with plastic wrap or store in an airtight container and chill for 1-3 hours before serving. To serve, top with a sprinkle of paprika and 1 sliced green onion, if desired.
- If serving the next day, some of the dressing may have been absorbed by the pasta. Add more mayonnaise, as needed, to achieve your desired level of creaminess.
- Store leftovers in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.