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Tuna Macaroni Salad

This classic cold pasta salad is a quick and easy summer side dish that can easily be doubled for larger gatherings.





When I think back on summer memories as a kid, I always think about the amazing cookouts that my parents would have. Lots of love and laughter…and lots of food! I was a picky eater but one thing I always look back fondly on was the tuna macaroni salad. It was a part of every gathering.



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The recipe that my mother would make for this macaroni salad, had to please everyone: picky and non-picky eaters alike. You won’t find any crunchy anything in this version of tuna macaroni salad – no onions, no celery, no carrots. But that doesn’t mean it is lacking in the taste department. The amazing thing about this recipe is how versatile it is. If you are a fan of all things crunchy – add ’em in there.



There are some easy variations to make this recipe your own. You can go ahead and add that crunch with finely diced raw celery, onions and/or carrots. I like to add in fresh peas on occasion and to top it with sliced hard-boiled eggs. Use chunk light tuna instead of albacore, if you prefer, and feel free to use whole wheat or gluten-free macaroni or something other than elbows. Small shells work great with this salad.



Tuna Macaroni Salad



This dish comes together quickly. It serves about 8, but can easily be doubled to serve a larger crowd. It travels well so it is great to take with you, and it only required refrigeration before serving. If you are hosting the cookout yourself, you can make it the day before to save yourself some time.



If you do make it ahead of time, give it a good stir before serving and add in another tablespoon or two of mayo if necessary.




16 ounces of elbow macaroni (or your favorite small pasta), uncooked
8 ounces tuna fish
1 cup mayo
1 tablespoon yellow mustard
1 teaspoon paprika
salt & pepper



Ingredients for Tuna Macaroni Salad



Cook the macaroni according to package directions, then drain. While it’s in the colander (this is the most important step in this recipe) be sure to run cold water over the macaroni until it becomes cold to the touch.



Transfer the pasta to a large bowl and mix in the mayo, tuna, and mustard. Add in the paprika, along with your desired amount of salt and pepper.



You can either serve it immediately or put it in an airtight container in the fridge to be served later. Use it within 3 – 5 days for best quality.




Macaroni under cold water



Tools I recommend to make this side dish:

Pasta pot
Large bowl
Mixing spoon
Airtight container



Tuna Macaroni Salad



If you like this easy summer salad, you’ll love these:

Antipasto Pasta Salad

Broccoli Bacon Salad

Cucumber and Tomato Salad



I know you’ll enjoy this Tuna Macaroni Salad as much as I do. It’s a quick and easy classic cold summer pasta salad that is a staple at any cookout or backyard party.



When you make this, snap a photo and tag @coolbeanliving on Instagram so I can see how great it turned out!





Tuna Macaroni Salad

Pin Recipe
Cold macaroni salad with tuna
Cook Time15 mins
Total Time15 mins
Course: Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Keyword: cold pasta salad, elbow macaroni, macaroni salad, summer cold salad, tuna
Servings: 8 servings


  • 16 oz elbow macaroni uncooked
  • 8 oz tuna
  • 1 cup mayo
  • 1 tbsp mustard
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • salt & pepper to taste


  • Cook macaroni according to package directions.
  • Drain tuna and break up flakes.
  • Drain macaroni and run under cold water until chilled.
  • Put macaroni in large bowl. Add tuna, mayo and mustard. Mix well.
  • Stir in paprika and add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to serve.


Classic Tuna Macaroni Salad

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