Simple Tuna Macaroni Salad

Simple tuna macaroni salad recipe

The Spruce

Prep: 20 mins
Cook: 8 mins
Total: 28 mins
Servings: 6 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
284 Calories
22g Fat
11g Carbs
10g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 6
Amount per serving
Calories 284
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 22g 28%
Saturated Fat 4g 18%
Cholesterol 24mg 8%
Sodium 632mg 27%
Total Carbohydrate 11g 4%
Dietary Fiber 2g 7%
Protein 10g
Calcium 15mg 1%
*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.)

While a pasta salad is most often considered a picnic or cookout dish, this tuna macaroni salad can be served with lunch or dinner any time of the year. Enjoy this flavorful dish with sandwiches or along with an everyday family meal. 

A basic macaroni salad like this one is a great starting point. Add vegetables to give it extra color and crunch. Yellow bell peppers, shredded carrots, sliced ripe or green olives, diced cucumber, and diced plum tomatoes are just a few of the possibilities. 

Tuna is the protein in the dish, but diced cooked chicken, turkey, or ham are good choices as well. Or make it with small cooked shrimp, diced lobster, or crab meat. 


  • 8 ounces small shell macaroni (or elbow macaroni) 
  • 1 (6-ounce) can tuna (drained, flaked)
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise (or more, as needed to moisten)
  • 2 tablespoons onion (finely chopped)
  • 1/2 cup celery (chopped)
  • 1/4 cup red bell pepper (or green or a combination, chopped)
  • 1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for tuna macaroni salad
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  2. Cook the macaroni according to package directions for al dente.

    Cook macaroni
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  3. Drain in a colander, rinse with cold water, and transfer to a large bowl.

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  4. Flake the tuna using a fork.

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  5. Then add it to the macaroni along with 3/4 cup of mayonnaise and onion. Stir to combine, and let it stand for 5 to 10 minutes.

    Mix tuna and macaroni
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  6. Add the celery and chopped bell pepper. Add more mayonnaise as needed to moisten.

    Add celery and red peppers
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  7. Taste and add salt and pepper as desired.

    Add salt and pepper
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  8. Cover the bowl and chill until serving time.


  • If the salad will be transported, make sure it is kept cold in a cooler on ice or thoroughly chilled and insulated in a wrapping of newspapers or blankets. Keep in mind that the "danger zone" for food is between the temperatures of 40 F and 140 F. Never let food—cold or hot— stand at room temperature for more than 2 hours; 1 hour if the temperature is 90 F or above. To keep the salad cold for serving, nestle the bowl in a larger bowl or container of ice.
  • Cook pasta to the al dente stage so that it will absorb some of the dressing and stay somewhat firm.
  • If you plan to add soft, fresh vegetables to the salad, such as tomatoes or cucumbers (seeds removed), add them just before serving.
  • No time to cook? Gussy up 4 to 5 cups of a good quality deli macaroni salad with the addition of the tuna and some of the chopped vegetables. Add a little extra mayonnaise, if necessary.

Recipe Variation

  • If you need a vegetarian substitute, add about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of diced grilled tofu to the macaroni salad mixture, or make it with 1 cup of cooked white or black beans. Slivered almonds are a good option, too; they add texture as well as protein.

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