This classic Tuna Macaroni Salad recipe is the best cold salad to make for your next spring or summer picnic. It's such an easy side dish to throw together with simple ingredients like tuna, pasta, celery and mayonnaise and is full of fresh and delicious flavor!
Tuna Pasta Salad
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I have been eating this macaroni salad with tuna for as long as I can remember. My mom still makes it various times throughout the summer and now I do as well. I know that each year when she first makes this salad, summer has officially begun!
Like many of the best things in life, this tuna mac salad is incredibly simple. The ingredients are low cost, making it the perfect option if you're on a tight budget (aren't we all?). It's so awesome how you can combine a few simple ingredients and make a salad that is so addictive that you cannot stop eating it. And by you, I mean me. Seriously. This type of gluttony is out of control.
It's also fast. I threw this mac salad together in twenty minutes this morning for a family dinner later in the evening and everyone was thrilled to see it as part of our spread. I also love to make a big batch and enjoy it for lunch all week!
Tips for making Tuna Macaroni Salad Recipe
- Boil the pasta to al dente as it will soften up more as it absorbs the mayo- and be sure to salt the water!
- Cool the pasta completely before mixing the salad together.
- Do it by taste, not measurements. I listed the ingredients in the amounts that I personally enjoy but the amounts of ingredients are completely subject to your own personal tastes. Sometimes I vary it based on my mood as well.
- Feel free to mix it up and add different flavors that you like!
Tuna Noodle Salad ingredient information:
- Tuna fish: I prefer to use chunk light canned tuna in water. Be sure to drain the tuna really well before mixing with the rest of the ingredients.
- Macaroni: My preferred pasta for this is elbow macaroni, but you can easily sub in the same amount of any other small pasta.
- Vegetables: I typically make this with minced onions and diced celery for delicious flavor and crunch. My mom often adds diced carrots as well. Expert tip: if raw onion flavor is too strong for you, soak the minced onions in cold water for about 10 minutes and then drain really well before adding it to the other ingredients.
- Mayonnaise: Mayo is the perfect binder for this recipe. Full fat or light both work, Hellmans is my favorite!
- Seasonings: I like to keep it simple with just kosher salt and freshly ground back pepper, and I do it by taste. But if you prefer even more flavor, feel free to add your favorite seasonings or fresh chopped herbs to kick it up a notch.
What's the best way to cool the pasta?
I like to run it under really cold water.
Can I make this ahead?
Absolutely! You can make the whole salad up to a day or two ahead, just be sure to add additional mayo. if you feel it needs more (sometimes the pasta sucks up the moisture). I love this for make-ahead option for a weeks worth of lunches! Additionally, you can simple prep the ingredients ahead and mix it before serving.
This salad lasts for up to 4 days covered in the refrigerator.
Ingredients you can prep ahead:
- Boil and cool pasta
- Mince onions
- Chop celery
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Tuna Macaroni Salad
- 16 ounces elbow macaroni, cooked to al dente and cooled (or the small pasta of your choice)
- 4 ribs celery, diced
- ½ small-medium onion, finely diced
- 1-2 cans Tuna in water, well-drained (You could also use a 12 ounce package of Surimi Seafood)
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- Kosher salt to taste
- Ground black pepper to taste
- In a large bowl, stir all ingredients well until fully combined.
- Serve immediately or refrigerate until you're ready to serve for up to a week.