Enjoy this Tuna Macaroni Salad as a cool main dish this summer or as a substantial side dish at your next barbecue. It packs super well for lunch on the go.
Whether you serve this tuna salad with pasta as a main dish or along with a selection of cold salads, you’re sure to please the masses with this quick Tuna Mac Salad that comes together in less than 30 minutes.
If you’re looking for something cool, easy, and very make-ahead, then look no further.
With hearty macaroni, a tangy lemon dressing, and loads of sweet peas, red bell peppers, and flaky tuna, this Tuna Macaroni Salad just may be your new best friend. You’ll love the crunch of the sweet pepper and the soft bite of the noodles combined with creamy dressing and the meaty fish.
Why Make This
It’s simple. With just a handful of ingredient, many that are likely grocery staples, you’ll have the fixings for a hearty meal that’s uber-easy to prep.
It comes together in minutes. Got half an hour? That’s all you’ll need to cook some noodles and stir up the easy homemade dressing.
It tastes delicious! Even my husband who won’t eat peas in most other foods, loves this salad. They add just the right contrast to the crunchy peppers, flaky tuna, and creamy pasta.
What goes in tuna macaroni salad? Just a few, simple ingredients. Here’s what you’ll need:
macaroni or other pasta – You can use whatever kind of short pasta you like: macaroni, shells, conchiglie, or even rigatoni or penne. Cook it just until al dente as the pasta will soften in the dressing.
tuna – I use canned albacore, but you can use whatever tuna you prefer, provided it’s canned or cooked. You can even sub in leftover cooked fish of other varieties. Just flake it and add it to the salad.
green peas – Frozen peas add the best texture; you don’t even need to thaw them. You can also use fresh or canned peas, well drained.
chopped red pepper – The crispy sweet red bell pepper bits add nice contrast to the other salad elements. You can use another color bell pepper or feel free to add other crispy vegetables, such as shredded carrot or chopped green or sweet onion.
homemade dressing – The dressing is a simple creamy mixture of mayonnaise, lemon juice, dill, and black pepper. Feel free to change the herbs and seasoning to your preferences and what you have on hand. For example, you can use lime juice or a favorite vinegar instead of lemon juice. Add in chopped fresh herbs instead of dried dill if you like. The dressing is a fun template for experimenting.
1. Cook the pasta.
Bring a pot of salted water to boil on the stovetop. Add the macaroni or other pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, just until al dente, according to package directions.
Rinse the noodles with cool water and drain them well.
2. Make the dressing.
While the pasta cooks, prepare the dressing. To save on dishes, assemble the dressing in the serving bowl.
Add the mayonnaise, lemon juice, dill weed, and black pepper to the bowl. Whisk well to combine.
3. Assemble the salad.
Once the noodles are drained and cooled, add them to the salad bowl along with the drained and flaked tuna, the chopped peppers, and the frozen peas.
Stir well to combine. Chill until ready to serve.
This tuna macaroni salad can be eaten of course on its own. In fact, it’s just one amazing way you can turn a can of tuna into a meal.
This tuna macaroni salad will keep in your fridge for 3 to 4 days in an airtight container. However, it’s important to refrigerate leftovers promptly. Food left at room temperature for more than 2 hours should be discarded.
Unfortunately tuna pasta salads, especially those made with a mayonnaise dressing, are not freezer friendly. The mayo will separate and leave you a clumpy, curdled mess.
Both the tuna and the pasta will absorb the dressing as the salad chills in the refrigerator. Feel free to add more mayonnaise or mix up extra dressing to add right before serving.
Knowing how much it costs you to prepare a recipe can help you decide if it’s the type of recipe to make regularly or one you might want to save for special occasions. Let’s crunch some numbers and see how this recipe pencils out.
- macaroni – $1.00
- tuna – $1.99
- bell pepper $0.75
- peas – $0.17
- mayonnaise – $1.11
- lemon juice – $0.20
- dill – $0.18
- black pepper – $0.02
Shopping at a mid-range grocery store at non-sale prices, you can expect to pay about $5.42 per batch of salad, or 45 cents per serving.
Save even more
Tuna Macaroni Salad is pretty economical by virtue of its being a simple pasta salad. Here are some of the strategies I use to make this recipe even more affordable:
- Stock up on ingredients when they are on sale! When I see a great price on pasta, I buy a lot of it. We almost always have a stockpile of noodles in the pantry. Frozen peas and red peppers go on sale often. My tip is to buy generic when it comes to frozen vegetables. And tuna is easy to stock up on to keep on hand.
- Make your own mayonnaise. It’s not difficult to make homemade mayonnaise, and it may be more economical than buying the commercial variety.
More Cold Salad Recipes
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Tuna Macaroni Salad
- 1 lb elbow macaroni
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 1/2 tsp dried dill
- 1/8 tsp black pepper
- 1 7-ounce can albacore tuna drained
- 1 cup frozen green peas no need to thaw
- 1 red bell pepper for 1 cup finely chopped
- In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the noodles according to package directions until al dente. Rinse with cool water and drain.
- In a large salad bowl combine the mayonnaise, lemon juice, dill, and pepper. Whisk to blend.
- Add the macaroni, tuna, peas, and pepper. Fold gently to combine. Chill until ready to serve.
This post was originally published on June 11, 2017. It has been updated for content and clarity.