Salmon Macaroni Salad

I distinctly remember the tall cans of dark pink salmon that used to be in our pantry when I was a kid. Although we could any time open a can of tuna or sardines and eat to our hearts content without permission, the canned salmon was off limits.

Although the excuse my dad gave was, “it’s special” (followed by “keep your hands off”), I think the real reason was that he loved the stuff and always wanted to make sure there was a can or two in the pantry when he wanted it. Nothing lasted that long in the pantry of a family with six kids.

Salmon Macaroni Salad

One of my favorite things to do with canned salmon is to make a simple salmon macaroni salad with it, a riff off our family favorite tuna macaroni salad. You can choose to add sliced lettuce (iceberg works best) to the salad, but it works best as is, without lettuce, if you are planning to bring it to a picnic or have it last for leftovers.

Salmon Macaroni Salad Recipe

  • Cook time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4

Tip: add the macaroni to the salmon mayo mixture when it is still warm. That way it will absorb the flavors better.

Prep the salad ingredients while the pasta water is heating and the macaroni cooking.



  • 1/2 pound (about 2 cups) dry macaroni pasta
  • Salt
  • 2 (7-ounce) cans salmon
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise (plus more to taste or for added smoothness)
  • 1 teaspoon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup chopped shallots, red onions, or green onions (with onion greens)
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh dill (or 1/2 teaspoon dried dill)
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • Tabasco to taste (we used about 10 drops)
  • Freshly ground black pepper


1 Bring a pot of water (2 quarts) to a boil. Add 1 TbspĀ salt. Add the dry macaroni pasta and cook, uncovered, in a rolling boil for about 10 minutes, or until the macaroni is al dente (slightly firm). Remove from heat, drain, rinse briefly in cold water (macaroni should be still warm after rinsing) and drain again.

2 In a large bowl mix the salmon, mayonnaise, mustard, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Mix in the shallots, parsley, dill, and celery.

3 Mix in the cooked macaroni while it is still warm. Add Tabasco and freshly ground blackĀ pepper to taste. As the macaroni absorbs the mayonnaise, you may need to add some water to the salad to keep it from being dry. Adjust seasonings.

Chill before serving.

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Showing 4 of 35 Comments

  • soopling

    How perfect, I have pasta and canned salmon languishing in the pantry, as well as an abundance of dill, scallions, and celery in the fridge. I’m so excited to make this!

    I also used to make a salmon-pasta salad that featured mayo, cilantro, and fresh green peas. I should revisit that too.

  • Greg Walker

    In concept, this recipe sounds great. And, strangely, I have the same memories of the canned salmon in my sainted mother’s pantry when I was a youth – it was the “good” stuff, and off limits to small hands.

    In later years I came to the conclusion that the reason for this was that she was a teen during the depression and the canned salmon might have been the best stuff they had. I realized recently, when making my mother’s fondly remembered salmon croquettes that I HATE sorting through the bones and skin and junk in canned salmon, which is sad, as I love many old recipes that call for it. Yes, I know that you *can* leave the bones in, but I don’t want to!

    I am going to experiment with subbing some well-done grilled salmon in lieu of the canned in this recipe. It will be more expensive, but I think it could be a knock-out.

    We had fresh salmon for dinner tonight and I was thinking how good the leftovers would be in this macaroni salad. ‘Cept there weren’t any leftovers. But it is a great way to use up grilled, baked, or poached salmon leftovers if you have them. Like using fresh tuna for tuna salad, takes it to a whole other level. ~Elise

  • jonathan

    I’m still trying to visualize the Bauer children fighting over the last available can of sardines.
    If there was any in my family’s pantry twenty years ago, I’m sure it would still be there had we not moved. ;^)

  • Cookin' Canuck

    This is very reminiscent of the pasta salad that my mum used to make all the time (canned salmon and all) and that I now make for my kids. I can’t stop eating the stuff! I like your addition of lemon, which probably brightens it up nicely. For my kids and me, the best part of our salmon pasta salad was the loads of capers we added.

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