Tuna Macaroni Salad

BudgetQuick and EasyCanned TunaMacaroni

Family favorite tuna macaroni salad, made with canned tuna, elbow macaroni pasta, bell peppers, parsley, green onion, iceberg lettuce, and mayonnaise. This tuna macaroni salad is so simple, yet so delicious. A must-have for potlucks, BBQ's or any family gathering.

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

Tuna Macaroni Salad – A Beloved Family Recipe

Almost every other Friday growing up my mother would serve our family this tuna macaroni salad. It’s such a beloved family recipe, it’s hard to explain our love of this salad, given its simplicity.

This tuna macaroni salad is easy to make, filling, and budget-friendly, to be sure.

But more importantly, it is irresistibly good once you take your first bite! The 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?

Friends, this tuna macaroni salad is on the menu for my last meal, it’s that good.

We always make more than we can eat. And even though the leftovers the next day aren’t nearly as good since the lettuce has lost its crispness, we still make enough to eat the next day.

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 Cook the macaroni pasta: 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 Prep and chop other 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 Add the cooked macaroni, mayo, paprika, and pepper: 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 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 (tuna noodle salad)

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Elise Bauer

Elise Bauer is the founder of Simply Recipes. Elise launched Simply Recipes in 2003 as a way to keep track of her family's recipes, and along the way grew it into one of the most popular cooking websites in the world. Elise is dedicated to helping home cooks be successful in the kitchen. Elise is a graduate of Stanford University, and lives in Sacramento, California.

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21 Comments / Reviews

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Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Sharala

    Sounds pretty much like my standby. Alwayx use celery, onion, dtried dill and frssb or dried parsley. Mayo of course. Suggestion for crisp leftovers: Reserve enough tuna mac mixture for next day and chill separately. don’t add lettuce until time to serve. If you need more first time, just pull out of fridge and tear up some more lettuce. :-)

  2. Stacie

    Wasn’t sure about celery and peppers in this type of dish so I’m glad I found your recipe to match the veggies I needed to use up anyway! A couple dashes of cayenne pepper and a packet of Taco Bell hot sauce sets it right off!!!

  3. Jennifer

    Try substituting Smoked Paprika for a bolder smoky flavor.

    Show Replies (1)
  4. 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!


    Show Replies (1)
  5. 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!

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