Tuna Macaroni Salad Recipe – Great Summer Main Dish Salad

Bobbie says:

I had a craving for Tuna Macaroni Salad today*, and since it’s a perfect hot weather main-dish salad, I thought I’d share it with you, too. I’ve based this on the way my mom used to make it, but Mom never followed a recipe, so I’ve come up with my own proportions. Also, she used only mayonnaise, but I prefer the flavor and creaminess of the mayo and sour cream combo in my version.

Tuna Macaroni Salad - perfect for a picnic lunch

For a great make-ahead hot weather meal, cook the macaroni in the morning when using the stove might be a little easier to handle, or if your grill has a side burner, do it outside! Mix up the salad and chill until serving time. Pack Tuna Macaroni Salad in a cooler for an easy ready-to-eat picnic meal or a great potluck dish.

Recipe: Tuna Macaroni Salad

  • 2 cups elbow macaroni
  • 3 cans tuna, drained
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup each mayonnaise and sour cream
  • Dash of black pepper

Cook the macaroni until al dente – just tender to the bite. Follow the directions on the package for best results.

While the pasta is cooking, open the cans of tuna and drain them well. Empty the tuna into a large mixing bowl, and add the chopped onion. Measure out the mayonnaise and sour cream and dump those in the bowl, too, and maybe add a dash of pepper to the bowl. (I don’t usually add salt, since the tuna usually seems to have plenty.)

When the time for cooking the macaroni is almost up, put the frozen peas into the pot and stir well. When the macaroni is tender, dump the pasta & peas into a colander and rinse with cold tap water until cool. Shake the colander gently to help it drain very well, then dump the macaroni & peas into the bowl with the tuna.Β Tuna Macaroni Salad - ready to mix up the good stuff

Gently mix together until well combined. You can serve this immediately, but it’s really much better if you make it ahead of time and chill it thoroughly. When you’re ready to serve, you may want to add a bit more mayo and/or sour cream, if it seems dry due to the pasta absorbing all the available moisture, or you could stir in just a bit of half & half or milk.

Serve Tuna Macaroni Salad with sliced cucumbers, carrot sticks, or sliced bell peppers for a nice, cool and easy Β meal on a hot day.

Makes about 6 main dish-sized servings.

* Yes, really. I don’t get cravings for chocolate or desserts or sweets. Ever. Mine tend to be related to memories. Occasionally I get a craving for corn bread served with navy beans cooked almost to death, like my grandma used to make. Comfort food for the win.

Bobbie Laughman is a part-time caregiver and freelance writer seeking to prove the existence of intelligent life on the internet. The data so far is scant, but steadfastly she perseveres.


  1. jrseygrl on June 11, 2012 at 3:47 pm

    I make mine with Tuna…white onion & celery chopped very fine with mayo and pepper with alittle sea salt!! DeliCiouS:’)

  2. VeraThomasHannaford on June 21, 2011 at 7:21 am

    I made it last night (added sweet pickles for a little zing). It turned out great, and the husband, who normally does the cooking, loved it. Thanks for bringing to mind a childhood treat.

  3. VeraThomasHannaford on June 19, 2011 at 10:55 pm

    @deannaklemmer Sunflower seeds sound great. My mother would add relish.

  4. TaraSingleton on June 19, 2011 at 10:02 pm

    I made some macaroni salad for a Father’s Day cook out today. I had extra I left at home, so I mixed that with some tuna for lunch tomorrow. I never would have thought to do that without this article!

  5. VeraThomasHannaford on June 19, 2011 at 6:55 pm

    I’m not much of a cook, but I loved my mother’s macaroni salad, and I so need to try this.

  6. deannaklemmer on June 17, 2011 at 11:00 am

    This is great, I made it the other night. VERY similar to my mom’s buts she also did straight mayo and she added sunflower seeds. πŸ™‚

  7. bookchick on June 17, 2011 at 10:14 am

    @Bobbie Laughman I didn’t grow any this year, I went to the ‘fancy’ grocery store and bought some. One of the few advantages to TExas summers is stuff blooms and comes into season earlier so we are already getting tomatoes.

  8. Bobbie Laughman on June 16, 2011 at 7:17 pm

    @TheSignChef Nope, but if anyone said that to me, I’d just smile sweetly, pat them on the arm and say, “That’s nice, dear.” You know, like you do to people who are just talking crazy talk, because tuna macaroni salad without peas is kind of…insane.

    I’m kidding of course. If anyone tells me I made something wrong, they are more than welcome to make their own meal, and I’ll have their serving of what I made for my lunch the next day. πŸ™‚

  9. TheSignChef on June 16, 2011 at 6:19 pm

    @Bobbie Laughman Do people think you’re crazy putting peas in the tuna salad. I thought that is what you do and I think it is really good. When I tell people I put peas in it, they think I’m loony. Do you get that from anyone?

  10. Bobbie Laughman on June 16, 2011 at 5:35 pm

    @Cabinet Avocat I’m glad you liked it!

  11. Bobbie Laughman on June 16, 2011 at 5:35 pm

    @bookchick Oh, now I want a tomato, and mine are still these tiny little green things! *sigh*

  12. Bobbie Laughman on June 16, 2011 at 5:33 pm

    @TheSignChef I didn’t realize the plate matched the colors in the salad until I was editing the pictures. Nice surprise there!

  13. Cabinet Avocat on June 16, 2011 at 9:51 am

    I followed this recipe and ended up with a delicious salad! I used red onions too.

  14. JenniferGonzalez on June 15, 2011 at 3:34 pm

    I love tuna mac salads. thanks for this recipe and i’m glad you posted it!

  15. bookchick on June 15, 2011 at 1:27 pm

    I get cravings like that too. Last night I was craivng my mom’s tomato mozzarella pie.

  16. TheSignChef on June 15, 2011 at 12:37 pm

    Mmm, I gotta try that, thanks so much @KeterMagick

  17. KeterMagick on June 15, 2011 at 12:00 pm

    @TheSignChef I do a baked tuna mac, too, with very similar ingredients. I oil a glass baking dish, put a layer of DRY macaroni in it, top with tuna (use the juice too), squeeze on a lemon, pepper well, then diced onion, then peas and celery, and finally spread on a layer of mayo. I then pour on some heavy cream (half and half will do) and fill with homemade chicken stock up to the level of the mayo, not above. I pepper again with a steak seasoning blend (I use Weber Chicago Steak seasoning). Bake at 350 for about 40mins-1 hr (until the liquid is absorbed and the top starts to brown a bit). This is not diet food, but it is great for a busy night when I have to multitask: fast to prep, doesn’t need much watching and everyone likes it. You can also do a variation with canned salmon, to which I exchange peas for chopped mushrooms and add sprinkles of parmesan cheese in between layers. Either plus a green salad is a meal.

  18. KeterMagick on June 15, 2011 at 11:49 am

    I love macaroni salads of all types! I like thinly sliced celery and chopped green onion (tops, too) and a little lemon juice in my tuna macaroni salad.

  19. TheSignChef on June 15, 2011 at 9:26 am

    I’m glad you posted this meal. I bought like 20 cans of tuna while they were on sale and they have been sitting on the shelf for months.

    I also love how your plate matches the meal.

  20. 2MakeEndsMeet on June 15, 2011 at 8:23 am

    How timely! I made almost the exact dish last evening, without a recipe, of course! πŸ™‚

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