Tuna Macaroni Salad

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.

  • 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 extra virgin 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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  • 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. :-)

  • 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!!!

  • Jennifer

    Try substituting Smoked Paprika for a bolder smoky flavor.

    • Steve Voelker

      I like how you think. This is definitely a good idea!

  • 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.

  • Sherihan

    Had this for supper yasterday and packed it for lunch at work, delicious, thx for sharing.


  • hishtafel

    We just ate this for dinner tonight, and it was SO GOOD. Thank you for posting it!



  • 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 :)

  • Diannaount

    I made this salad today (only I cut the recipe down by half b/c I only had 1 can of Tuna on hand), and ‘Boy oh Boy’ was it Delish!! So Delish that I was unable to save some for my Husband :-/…He’ll try it the next time around ;-)

  • Joe Blow

    This is a great recipe. I cut the mayo and it was still good. Highly recommended!


  • April in Texas

    This picture and description was the best of a day’s recipe searches for mac salad. I hate to try a new recipe and make changes the first time, but the only changes I made were spiral pasta and I roasted Hatch chili peppers with red bell peppers for my peppers. And one BIG change (because I wanted to make a lot to store some) was using spinach instead of lettuce.

    OHMYGAWSH this was/is delish! From my 10 yr old to me, this is a HUGE hit. Love the light hint of lemon. LOVE LOVE LOVE all the greens.

    Thanks for the new family recipe. We’ll definitely make this every summer.

  • Linda

    Hi! Just made this this morning. I thought it would taste great for dinner especially since it is very hot and humid here in Ohio. Well, I was wrong. This will taste great for LUNCH instead. This is really good, Elise! Perfect to eat out on the patio with some peach iced tea. Thank you for sharing it.


  • Susan

    This is similar to my tuna pasta salad that calls for canned tuna packed in olive oil and is adored by my sister. The foundation of the recipe includes the following ingredients:

    cooked pasta; canned tuna in olive oil; extra virgin olive oil and/or a mixture of evoo and walnut and/or hazelnut oils; a lot of fresh italian parsley; green onion; red wine vinegar and/or lemon; chopped garlic; baby tomatoes…

    Capers add a nice touch if you’d like or have them on hand, and though I haven’t used them specifically for this, I believe peppers, especially yellow or red, would be a great fresh vegetable to add as well. I have used shelled edamame, which add more plant-based protein, and beans such as garbanzos and cannellini would be great, too!

  • Bob Sewell

    Instead of intermixing the lettuce with the either ingredients, I make a bed of chopped lettuce in a plate, then serve the salad on the lettuce. This keeps the salad fresh if you have leftovers.

    Otherwise a very good and easy set of instructions. My cat, Bogart, and I both enjoy it although I limit his serving size.

  • Linda

    My mother made this salad but added chopped hard boiled egg also, it’s delicious.

  • Tara

    I also make a salad similar to this, but without the lettuce. I always make double since leftovers are always the best. There is always a fight for whatever is left the next day for lunch!!

  • Coralie

    Aha! Something else to do with studenty staples (Tuna, Peppers, Lettuce)
    Hot pasta and bolognaise with a salad on the side gets a bit tired. This will make a fun alternative and no dairy!
    Chunks of apple and nuts would be fine too right? Waldorfy Macaroni?
    Thanks again!

    xX cj