Tuna Macaroni Salad

This family favorite tuna macaroni salad is made with canned tuna, elbow mac, bell peppers, parsley, green onion, iceberg lettuce, and mayonnaise. Try it for your next potluck, BBQ, or family gathering.

Tuna macaroni salad in a pretty bowl for serving
Elise Bauer

Growing up, almost every other Friday my mother would serve our family this tuna macaroni salad. (Fish on Fridays, it's a Catholic thing.)

Favorite Tuna Macaroni Salad

It's such a simple salad, yet even now my heart skips a beat when I stop by my parents' house and find out that's what we're having for dinner. I think it's my favorite macaroni salad, and also my favorite tuna salad, of all time. In the whole world. Period.

Macaroni pasta with the creamy canned tuna and mayo, along with the crunch of bell peppers, celery, and lettuce?

A little squirt of lemon juice for some tang?

So good!

This salad is also one of my go-to dishes to prepare for a mid-week meal. It's easy to make, filling, and budget-friendly.

Tuna Macaroni Salad recipe
Elise Bauer

A Word About Canned Tuna for Tuna Macaroni Salad

Tuna packed in olive oil is more flavorful than tuna packed in water. If you can find it packed in olive oil, use it but don't drain it. If you have tuna packed in water, drain it, and add 2 to 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil.

We like Wild Planet Wild Albacore Tuna packed in extra virgin olive oil, and Genova Yellowfin Tuna packed in olive oil.

Need to Make Ahead?

The saddest thing about this salad is that the lettuce will get wilty and even soggy if stored for more than a few hours in the fridge. (We'll eat up the leftovers anyway, we love it that much.)

So, if you want to make it a day or two ahead, do everything in the recipe except for adding the sliced iceberg lettuce. Add the lettuce when it's time to serve.

Here Are 5 More Ways to Love Tuna

Tuna Macaroni Salad

Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Total Time 30 mins
Servings 4 servings

Tuna packed in olive oil is more flavorful than tuna packed in water. If you can find it packed in oil, use that but don't drain it. If you have tuna packed in water, drain it, and add 2 to 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil.

Ingredients

  • For the pasta:
  • 1 cup uncooked elbow macaroni
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 quart water
  • For the salad:
  • 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-ounce) cans tuna, packed in olive oil (if it's packed in water, drain and add 2 to 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil)
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/4-1/3 a head lettuce (preferably iceberg lettuce), sliced first and roughly chopped into 2 inch long strips
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise (more to taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika
  • Fresh ground pepper

Method

  1. Cook the macaroni:

    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.

    Remove from heat, drain, and rinse with cold water.

  2. Prep the salad ingredients:

    While the macaroni is cooking, assemble the other ingredients. In a large bowl mix the green onion, bell peppers, parsley, tuna, celery and lemon.

  3. Combine the salad ingredients:

    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.)

  4. Serve:

    Fold in the lettuce gently and serve. The salad does not make good leftovers as the lettuce will eventually get soggy.