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A Simple Tuna Macaroni Salad Recipe

Updated on November 19, 2014
Macaroni and Tuna Salad
Macaroni and Tuna Salad

And An Assortment Of Pasta Salad Add-Ons!

Macaroni Salad is a summertime staple for picnics and backyard barbecues. Inexpensive and easy to make from just a few simple ingredients that you probably already have in the kitchen, make this tasty tuna macaroni salad recipe as a flavorful side dish or dress it up with fresh salad greens for a refreshing summer meal.

The key to a great tasting pasta salad is the dressing: too heavy or add too much, and the dressing smothers the pasta. Too little viscosity, and the dressing won't cling to the pasta. And the dressing needs a "punch" to lift the flavor above a few tablespoons of mayonnaise.

An extra ingredient makes this my favorite macaroni salad recipe: a big dollop of sour cream adds a creamy tang and really accentuates the flavor. Finely chopped bits of celery add texture and a welcome crunch.

Elbow macaroni is a staple for pasta salad. The tubular shape of the little elbows is perfect for taking on a coat of dressing (inside and out), and kids love the little pasta shapes. Just about any pasta shape will work for this salad. Add a bit of color with dusting of chopped parsley and a sprig on the side, or substitute a box of tricolor pasta spirals instead of the basic elbows.

Mix up a batch a head of time, and refrigerate the tuna macaroni salad in a sealed container for a couple of hours to let the flavors to blend together.

Don't like tuna or care for celery? Change the pasta salad recipe around by adding some chopped pickles (or dill pickle relish). Or substitute some chopped hard-boiled egg for the tuna. The variations are only limited by your tastes and imagination.

Photo by the Author

Tuna Macaroni Salad Recipe

Cook Time

Prep Time:

Total Time:



  • 16 oz. box of dry Elbow Macaroni (cooked rinsed and drained)
  • 1 Can of Tuna (rinsed and drained)
  • 1/2 Cup - Celery (diced)
  • 1/4 Cup - Red Onion (finely diced)
  • 1/2 Cup - Mayonnaise
  • 1 Tbsp - Dijon Mustard
  • 3 Tbsp - Sour Cream
  • 1 Tbsp - Cider Vinegar
  • 2 Tsp - Sugar
  • Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper - To Taste


  1. Cook the Elbow Macaroni according to the directions on the box. Rinse the cooked pasta under cool running water, and set aside.
  2. In a mixing bowl, add the mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, sour cream, cider vinegar and sugar. Stir to thoroughly combine the ingredients.
  3. Add the chopped celery and red onion to the mixture, and stir gently to combine. Salt and pepper the mixture to taste.
  4. Move the cooled elbow macaroni to a large mixing bowl. Add the tuna, breaking up the pieces as needed.
  5. Pour the dressing mixture over the macaroni and tuna, and fold to combine until the macaroni and tuna is evenly coated with the dressing.
  6. Cover the tuna macaroni salad and refrigerate until you are ready to serve.
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This Pasta Salad Dressing Tastes Great on Potato Salad Too!

Do You Like Tuna Macaroni Salad?

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Flavorful Additions to Pasta and Macaroni Salad

Tuna and celery too bland for your creative palate? Try adding a few of these extra ingredients to kick up the flavor scale!

  • Smoked Salmon (instead of tuna)
  • Cucumber (seeded and diced)
  • Cherry or Grape Tomatoes
  • Sweet Onion (chopped finely)
  • Diced Red or Green Peppers
  • Diced Jalapeno Peppers
  • Chopped Pickles or Relish
  • Chopped Pineapples
  • Diced Apples
  • Diced Pear
  • Raisins
  • Dried Cranberries
  • Chopped Walnuts or pecans
  • Chopped Tarragon
  • Chopped Dill
  • Cayenne Pepper
  • Diced Ham, Chicken or Turkey (pre-cooked)

Beyond the Bowl

For the true salad lovers and everyone who wants a healthy, flavorful meal. Filled with a collection of inspiring and creative, yet easy-to-make salad recipes including a Ricotta Salata with Green Melon and Cubanelle Peppers. Or try a Potato Salad mixed with Leeks and Blue Cheese. Or how about a Caeser salad made with Red Kale, Smoked Trout and crunchy with Mustard croutons. Yum!

Salads: Beyond the Bowl: Extraordinary Recipes for Everyday Eating
Salads: Beyond the Bowl: Extraordinary Recipes for Everyday Eating

Mixing greens with all sorts with beans, pasta, cheese, fish and meats to create extraordinary salads for brunch, lunch or dinner.


Pasta and Macaroni Salad or Potato Salad?

Which Type of Side Salad Do You Prefer?

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How It's Made: Pasta

Every wonder how they make all of those interesting pasta shapes, and get them into that little blue box? Watch this short video to see how pasta is made.

Make Your Own Pasta -- At Home!

The trick to making fresh pasta at home is a quality pasta machine.

Tell Us About Your Favorite Macaroni Salad Recipes

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    • Pat Goltz profile image

      Pat Goltz 

      5 years ago

      I like the idea of adding sour cream. Thanks! I don't eat macaroni salad anymore, but I like macaroni and cheese with tuna.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Thinking I'll have to put some sour cream on my shopping list. I usually use mayonnaise and I see you get the little tang with the vinegar....a bit of sugar will keep you coming back for more, had never had that in a tuna salad. I'm wondering about that size of can of tuna...guess that's optional. I also like to use the new packets that are out, no need to drain is nice. Yummy....and its salad season! :)


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