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Tuna Pasta Salad (+Video)

This Tuna Pasta Salad recipe is a classic favorite. Elbow macaroni, canned tuna, peas and a seasoned mayonnaise all combine for a family favorite!

A CLASSIC TUNA PASTA SALAD RECIPE

Tuna Macaroni Salad is a dish that doesn’t get a lot of credit. It’s one of those meals that most of us remember our Mommas making. It is economical and it makes a lot. I absolutely love to dig into a bowl of this stuff. It is one of my favorite comfort foods (besides The Best Potato Salad). This classic pasta salad really is an entire meal in one!

a close up photo of tuna macaroni salad shown in a large white serving bowl.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:

What is Tuna Pasta Salad?

Tuna Pasta Salad is a dish made with macaroni pasta, canned tuna in a creamy, mayonnaise based dressing. It is typically served cold as a refreshing meal or side dish.

Why use a shallot instead of an onion?

Shallot has a very light onion flavor and doesn’t overpower the other flavors. But you certainly can use an onion if you prefer.

Any substitute for vinegar?

Just add a bit of mustard. You won’t taste the actual mustard flavor. It will provide just enough slight tang to balance the other flavors.

Can I use another pasta shape?

Elbow macaroni is a traditional pasta shape to use for this recipe. However, you really could use any pasta shape you enjoy. Cavatappi or shell pasta would work great.

What kind of canned tuna should I use?

I only use canned tuna in water. Canned tuna in oil or any other flavors will change the consistency and texture of the tuna pasta salad.

Is Tuna Pasta Salad healthy?

Tuna Pasta Salad can be a healthy and nutritious meal if made with wholesome ingredients and a balanced dressing. Tuna is a good source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids. However, the amount of mayonnaise or other dressing used will obviously impact the calorie and fat content of the dish.

Can Tuna Pasta Salad be made ahead of time?

Yes, Tuna Pasta Salad can be made ahead of time and stored in the fridge until ready to serve (about 24 hours in advance). In fact, I think that the flavors of the salad improve after a few hours or even overnight in the fridge.

How long does Tuna Pasta Salad last in the fridge?

Tuna Pasta Salad can last for up to four days in the fridge if stored in an airtight container. However, it is important to note that the quality of the salad may start to degrade after a day or two.

The Best Tuna Macaroni Salad recipe from The Country Cook, tuna pasta salad shown close up in a small white bowl.

INGREDIENTS NEEDED: (SEE RECIPE CARD BELOW FOR THE FULL RECIPE)

  • elbow macaroni – you can use any small shaped pasta.
  • canned tuna – I prefer the canned tuna in water – not oil.
  • shallot – you can use an onion but I prefer the light onion flavor of a shallot (it also gives it a touch of garlic flavor).
  • mayonnaise – I like Hellman’s or Duke’s mayonnaise but you could use Miracle Whip if you really love it.
  • sweet pickle relish – don’t like pickle relish? leave it out or substitute with dill relish.
  • celery seed – this adds a light celery flavor, you could substitute with finely diced celery.
  • lemon juice – this brightens the overall flavor of the pasta salad as well as the tuna (you don’t taste it as a separate flavor).
  • frozen peas – pease are frozen at peak ripeness and work perfect here but you could use drained canned peas as well.
elbow macaroni noodles, canned tuna, hardboiled eggs, shallots, mayonnaise, sweet relish, salt, pepper, celery seed.

HOW TO MAKE TUNA PASTA SALAD:

Cook macaroni according to directions on package. While pasta is cooking, drain cans of tuna well. Chop hard boiled eggs and shallot. In a separate bowl, combine mayonnaise, relish, celery seed, lemon juice, salt & pepper. Stir well to combine.

drained canned tuna added to mayonnaise mixture in a large clear bowl.

Stir in tuna.

cooked macaroni, diced shallots, peas, chopped eggs added to tuna mixture.

Once macaroni is cooked, drain well and rinse with cold water until pasta has cooled. Pour drained macaroni into a large bowl. Pour mayonnaise mixture onto pasta.Then add chopped eggs and shallot, followed by thawed peas. Stir well.

Cover with plastic wrap and pop into the fridge for a couple of hours before serving.

The best Tuna Macaroni Salad recipe shown in a large white bowl with a white napkin in the background

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Originally published: October 2018
Updated & republished: March 2020

Tuna Macaroni Salad recipe

Tuna Pasta Salad (+Video)

Tuna Pasta Salad (a.k.a. Tuna Macaroni Salad) is a classic favorite. This recipe that comes out perfect every single time! Just a couple secret ingredients that makes it so good!
4.98 from 311 votes
Print Pin Rate
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 10

Ingredients

  • 16 ounce box elbow macaroni
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • ½ cup sweet pickle relish
  • ½ Tablespoon celery seed (more or less to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 3 (5 ounce) cans tuna packed in water, drained well
  • 3 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
  • 1 shallot, diced
  • 1 cup frozen peas, thawed

Instructions

  • Cook 16 ounce box elbow macaroni according to directions on package.
  • In a separate bowl, combine 1 cup mayonnaise, 1/2 cup sweet pickle relishrelish 1/2 Tablespoon celery seed 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper and 1 Tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice. Stir well to combine.
  • Stir in 3 (5 ounce) cans tuna packed in water, drained well.
  • Once macaroni is cooked, drain well and rinse with cold water until pasta has cooled. Pour drained macaroni into a large bowl.
  • Pour mayonnaise mixture onto pasta.
  • Then add 3 hard-boiled eggs, chopped and 1 shallot, diced, followed by 1 cup frozen peas, thawed. Stir well.
  • Cover bowl with plastic wrap.
  • Put bowl into the fridge for a couple of hours, then serve.

Video

Notes

  • Please refer to my FAQ’s and ingredient list above for other substitutions or for the answers to the most common questions. 
  • Letting the tuna pasta salad hang out in the fridge for a couple of hours really makes a difference. It helps the flavors to meld and just makes for a better tasting tuna macaroni salad. 
Course: Lunch, Salad
Cuisine: American

Nutrition

Calories: 413kcal | Carbohydrates: 41g | Protein: 17g | Fat: 19g | Sodium: 602mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 6g

Nutritional Disclaimer

“The Country Cook” is not a dietician or nutritionist, and any nutritional information shared is an estimate. If calorie count and other nutritional values are important to you, we recommend running the ingredients through whichever online nutritional calculator you prefer. Calories and other nutritional values can vary quite a bit depending on which brands were used.

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Recipe Rating




130 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    I have always had challenges with preparing tuna. I love your quick and easy recipes and the videos clearly demonstrate how. Ingredients are readily available. Thank you so much for sharing these recipes.

  2. 5 stars
    Quick note: Just put your frozen peas in the strainer that you use to strain your pasta. That’s all the heat that’s needed to defrost the peas quickly. I am one of those old died-in-the-wool Miracle Whip users for tuna salad but have never even thought to add chopped hard boiled eggs or relish; sounds like great additions I will add the next time I make it. I do always add some diced up celery though. Every recipe of yours that I have tried has been excellent so my pre-mature 5 star rating is from all the experiences with your valued recipes!

  3. 5 stars
    I halved the recipe as I’m the only that would be eating it. I used it to meal prep and packed a tsp. of mayo with the lunches to account for drying out. It’s very similar to the one I grew up on and is now a part of my rotation. The only tweak I’ve added (followed too a t the fisrt time and it was phenomenal) is a tsp. of dijon mustard per half recipe, as a personal preference. Thank you!

  4. So good! Will be keeping this in regular rotation especially for summertime. Used shells and just loved it.

  5. 5 stars
    I have never made this before, but have had it at different occasions. My husband asked me to make it and I found this recipe. It was excellent. I wanted a bit of a crunch so I chopped up two ribs of celery and added it and it was perfect. And for those who say “I don’t have a shallot” – well I didn’t either so I finely chopped half of a medium sweet onion (I looked up substitutions and it said 1/2 cup) and it was fine.

  6. 5 stars
    This is the one!!! I’ve been testing different macaroni salad recipes for years trying to duplicate a favorite I had at a restaurant, but they were never quite right. Finally!!! Thank you!!! I’m not fond of sweet pickle relish, but I trusted your recipe. Sure glad I did! It is perfect! The flavors and consistency are spot on! You are my macaroni salad hero! : )

    1. Woo hoo!! Thank you for taking a chance on this recipe! It took me a few years to get this exactly how I wanted it. I took it to a huge work picnic and it was gone in 20 minutes and I couldn’t pass out the recipe fast enough so I knew I had the one LOL

  7. THIS SOUNDS DELICIOUS!
    I anticipate it will be received well by my family. Given the effects of global warming I will be making it today as temperatures are headed to the mid 90s. I have one question. You say it is OK to substitute finely chopped celery for celery seed. Sounds good. How much chopped celery would you use?
    TNX
    Rick

      1. 5 stars
        I made 1/3 the recipe because I’m only feeding myself. I have to say, the lemon juice takes the flavor up a notch and the celery seed & celery salt added such wonderful flavor! It was very delicious! Thanks for the awesome recipe!

  8. 5 stars
    I made this today and used up Large Shells that I had. This is by far the BEST TUNA PASTA SALAD I have ever made! I absolutely loved the flavors together! Just a super salad -YUMMY!!!

  9. 5 stars
    This is my absolute favorite tuna recipe. My wife has been making it for us for years and it’s so easy even this none cook can make it! The Country Cook’s recipe is the one closest to my wife’s and I love it. Of course you can add other veggies and things if you want but this is the one I love. If you like tuna I hope you’ll try it.

  10. 5 stars
    I love this recipe, I make it at least once a month, even the kids will eat it! Thanks for sharing! I eat it over arugula, so good!

  11. 5 stars
    Made this recently and we thought it was excellent. It made a lot, so next time, I’ll cut recipe in half .

  12. 5 stars
    I usually make my own tuna pasta salad but I wanted a different flavour for Thanksgiving. This was AWESOME! I didn’t have celery seed or lemon so I used dill and lime and my God! Superb!