Tuna Macaroni Salad

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

Almost every other Friday growing up my mother would serve the family this tuna macaroni salad. With six kids she loved this standard; it was easy to make, filling, relatively inexpensive, and best, we all gobbled it up.

Tuna Macaroni Salad Recipe

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4


  • 1 cup uncooked elbow macaroni
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 quart water
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onion, including green onion greens
  • 1 cup chopped red, orange, or yellow bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 (5 oz) cans of tuna, packed in olive oil (do not drain), or if you get tuna packed in water, drain the water out and add 2-3 Tbsp olive oil.
  • 2 stalks of celery, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/4-1/3 a head of lettuce (preferably iceberg lettuce), sliced first and roughly chopped into 2 inch long strips
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise (more to taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika (we use sweet Hungarian)
  • Fresh ground pepper


1 In a saucepan, add 1 cup of elbow macaroni to 1 quart of boiling water with an added teaspoon of salt. Cook at a rolling boil uncovered for about 10 minutes until the macaroni is just a little more cooked than al dente. When ready, remove from heat, drain and rinse with cold water.

2 While the macaroni is cooking, assemble the other ingredients. In a large bowl mix the green onion, bell peppers, parsley, tuna, celery and lemon. Add the cooked and drained macaroni. Fold in the mayonnaise until well mixed. Add the paprika. Add fresh ground pepper to taste. At this point you can make ahead and chill.

3 When ready to serve, gently fold in the lettuce. The salad does not make good leftovers as the lettuce will eventually get soggy.

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Tuna Macaroni Salad

Showing 4 of 19 Comments

  • Jennifer

    Try substituting Smoked Paprika for a bolder smoky flavor.

  • Kata Szabo

    I just started making some pasta salad as I’m just super lazy today…the water just started boiling when I came across your recipe! :) Always great inspiration and always delicious!!

    Thank you!

  • Sally

    My mom, who died when I was in high school (and I’m past retirement age now), made a salad similar to this. I’ve been making it at least every two weeks throughout the summer for years. There are quite a few differences in her recipe, but the common elements are the macaroni, tuna, onion, celery, paprika, and mayonnaise. She used 1/4-1/3 cup sliced pimento stuffed olives instead of the bell pepper and no lettuce. Based on your recipe, I’ve added the lemon juice and parsley, but not the olive oil — yet. A summer favorite!

  • Kenny Schrader

    Just made it yesterday….sub the lettuce with un-cooked shredded carrots and red beets.

  • Sarah

    I tried this recipe tonight and loved it. I am fond of tuna but haven’t done much apart from tuna salad sandwiches and tuna casserole so this was a delightful change. I might try using more green onion and paprika next time, but don’t want to ruin it.
    I found your website only recently and the few recipes I have used were great. Thank you for taking the time and sharing :)

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