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Creamy Tuna Macaroni Salad recipe

Creamy Tuna Macaroni Salad recipe


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  • Recipes
  • Dish type
  • Salad
  • Pasta salad
  • Seafood pasta salad
  • Tuna pasta salad

A very basic but very delicious pasta salad, made with tinned tuna, green pepper, celery and mayonnaise. Nice additions include garden peas, red pepper for colour, or spring onion.

132 people made this

IngredientsServes: 10

  • 210g uncooked macaroni
  • 2 (185g) tins tuna, drained
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 2 sticks celery, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons garlic granules
  • 340g mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons prepared mustard
  • salt and ground black pepper to taste

MethodPrep:20min ›Cook:8min ›Ready in:28min

  1. Cook macaroni in a large pan of boiling salted water until al dente. Rinse under cold water, and drain.
  2. Mix tuna, onion, pepper, celery, garlic granules, mayonnaise, salt, pepper and mustard together in a large bowl. Add pasta, and mix well.

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Reviews & ratingsAverage global rating:(152)

Reviews in English (119)

by RUCIFEY

We loved this, even Scott who doesn't like cold pasta. I did make a coupld of changes. We used can chicken (don't like tuna)(I put in in a bowl and separated the chunks with a fork), used the little salad macaronies, red pepper instead of green and add chopped cucumber. We also used lite miracle whip instead of the mayo (we're not big mayo fans). I'd been looking for an easier way to make chicken mac salad and this was perfect. You couldn't even tell that the chicken was canned, and it was so much easier than boiling that chicken all day. thanks:-)-16 Apr 2004

by I'm nuts too...

Yum. I have made this twice now, the first time following it to a tee for (tuna macaroni) & the second time just looking for macaroni salad, in which I changed a bit. I used eggs instead of tuna, miracle whip instead of mayo, red peppers instead of green, and per my hubbys suggestion, ketchup instead of mustard (which was a suprisingly pleasnt change). We like it both ways! Thanks Jennie!-27 Dec 2002

by Aahni

Great recipe if you don't like a sweet macaroni salad. My husband who hates the normal sweet macaroni salad loves this. He said what ever you do don't lose this recipe. I used one can of tuna and three boiled eggs and only 1 tbls of garlic powder.-29 Nov 2007


Creamy Tuna Macaroni Salad

Spring is such a busy time of year. The days are longer and I know for our family, we seem to have a to do list that is a mile long. When the weather is finally this nice, it’s hard not to spend every minute preparing your yard and gardens for the upcoming summer. This week my husband has been working very hard getting my new garden area ready. He is also building me raised beds this year, so I am very excited to plant vegetables this weekend and share some garden photos with everyone next week:).

After a long, busy month, we will be taking time this weekend to honor and remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice while serving our country. If you cannot make it to a service being held in your area, consider watching one of the many Memorial Ceremonies that will be broadcast on may news stations. I enjoy having a picnic with my family on Memorial Day, but I want my children to know the meaning of Memorial Day too.

I save this Tuna Macaroni Salad recipe for special summer family picnics, like Memorial Day and the Fourth of July. Don’t get me wrong, I could eat this type of side dish more often, but it’s obviously not a healthy food choice. I have seen many “light” and “skinny” versions of macaroni salads which work out wonderfully for some people. I am going to be completely honest here- I don’t eat macaroni salad all of the time, so when I do, I am not going to waste any of my calories on anything but the real deal! I am warning you now, this is not a light version, but it’s a great macaroni salad! I save myself time by making this the night before it is served, and you need the flavors to blend together nicely as well. This is not a fancy salad, but it is very easy to make, tastes great, serves a crowd and goes well with anything on the grill. Have a wonderful weekend and enjoy your loved ones!


Yes, you can swap this ingredient out if you prefer the taste of Miracle Whip. I recommend mayonnaise, because it doesn’t interfere as much with the unique flavor that is produced by the other ingredients.

The ingredients in this salad pair well with tuna because of how they balance the fishiness with tangy, pickled flavors. However, chicken is an acceptable substitute if you prefer not to use tuna.

If you like this recipe, you may also be interested in these other delicious recipes:

Watch the video below where Rachel will walk you through every step of this recipe. Sometimes it helps to have a visual, and we’ve always got you covered with our cooking show. You can find the complete collection of recipes on YouTube, Facebook Watch, or our Facebook Page, or right here on our website with their corresponding recipes.


How to Make Creamy Tuna Macaroni Salad

This recipe could not be simpler to make. First, go ahead and hard boil two large eggs. You can even do this a day or two ahead of time. Check out my tips for easy peel hard boiled eggs.

Next, cook one 16-ounce package of elbow macaroni according to the package directions. While the pasta is cooking, drain two 10-ounce cans of tuna in water and add it to a large mixing bowl. Peel and dice your cooled hard-boiled eggs and add them to the bowl also. Finally, dice two ribs of celery and drain one 15-ounce can of sweet peas. Go ahead and add them to the mixing bowl also.

Once the pasta is done cooking, drain it and let it cool slightly. Pour it into your mixing bowl with the rest of the ingredients. Finally, add ½ cup of mayonnaise , two tablespoons of dill pickle relish and 1/8 teaspoon of cayenne pepper. Give everything a good stir to get it thoroughly combined. I like to let the salad chill for 4-6 hours before serving. The pasta will soak up some of the mayo, so you may need to add just a little more right before serving so the salad won’t be dry.

What I love most about this salad is that you can make a day in advance and it tastes even better. I love the crunchy contrast of the celery and the soft chewy pasta, the bite from the dill pickle relish and the hint of heat from the cayenne. See, easy right?


Ingredient Notes & Substitutions

Pasta. Smaller-sized white pasta works best in this salad, we like the baby shells or elbows because the little nooks and crannies hold onto the dressing.

Substitute wheat pasta with your favorite gluten-free pasta for a gluten-free pasta salad.

Note: I usually cook with whole wheat pasta, but there are times when white pasta tastes better.

Vegetables. This is a very versatile salad, you can use any combination of vegetables that you like. If you don&rsquot care for bell peppers, leave them out and add more celery or carrots.

Mayonnaise. I like to use mayonnaise with avocado oil or olive oil, but any kind will work in this tuna mac salad recipe.

Greek yogurt. Adds creaminess, flavor and it lightens up this macaroni salad. If you prefer more mayonnaise, you can use less yogurt or vice versa if you prefer yogurt over mayonnaise. I like using equal amounts of each.

Substitute Greek yogurt with regular or Icelandic yogurt or your favorite dairy-free yogurt for a diary-free tuna mac salad.


Make this salad your way

  • Substitute small shells pasta for the elbow macaroni (just remember, the peas like to snuggle inside of the shell!)
  • Substitute cooked baby shrimp or canned chicken for the tuna fish.
  • Stir in some chopped garlic dill pickles or even better, some sweet hot pickles!
  • If you want to cut the heaviness of mayonnaise down, use half sour cream and half mayonnaise.
  • Add a teaspoon of dijon mustard or sweet hot mustard to the mayonnaise dressing.


Old Fashioned Tuna Macaroni Salad

Along with tomatoes, cucumbers and watermelon, I have eaten this macaroni salad so many times over the summer, I figured it was about time to share it!

It's not anything new of course, or even anything I've created - frankly it's been around longer then me - but if you're a little younger than me, you may have grown up with it. If you're closer to my age, you may remember it through your early days of marriage, or those struggling first apartment or college years, because it was both easy to make and economical. I'd be willing to bet that at least some of you also still make it yourself!

It's nice and light on these hot summer days, when you just want something simple for lunch or supper - or even to snack on throughout the day. I literally get a craving on for it, especially this time of year!

I've written my version in the ratios I like, and the way I've always made it - in the old fashioned way - simply tuna, noodles, chopped egg, celery, peas and salt and pepper, but for me, two individual touches. Old Bay, which makes an appearance with just about any seafood dish I make, and a touch of Cajun seasoning - our standard Deep South all-purpose seasoning. I'm not too big on "chunk light" tuna, but my husband picked this up so I'm using it. It works okay for this but not my number one choice. I prefer "solid" and in olive oil albacore or yellowfin for flavor - just a personal preference. Use whatever your budget allows.

Oh goodie, this also gives me a chance to tell you about my Fasta Pasta microwave cooker ! Y'all know I love telling you about products I have, love and use regularly, and this certainly is one of them!

I learned about Fasta Pasta from The View on ABC more than a year ago when Whoopie talked about products she loved. so I'm surprised I haven't told you about it before now, because I use this just about every time I need pasta for a recipe. It's especially good for those times when you only need a half pound or less of pasta, but I've cooked rice, potatoes, green beans and broccoli in it too.

Basically you dump in your pasta, add water to the recommended fill line (from the booklet that comes with it), microwave without the lid for the recommended time, stir and microwave a few minutes longer, put the lid on and drain. It has handles to make it super easy to remove from the microwave, and the lid has drain holes so you can walk it right to the sink, drain it and then you're ready to go. No watching a pot and waiting for the water to boil. Another of my favorite kitchen gadgets !

For the salad, my secret is to mix the mayonnaise in while the noodles are still hot, then add the other ingredients, gently folding in the tuna and peas last. You can use tuna in water if you like, but I prefer the flavor tuna in oil adds.

Adjust ingredients as you please of course - less or more mayo, more tuna or eggs, whatever you like! Though I hope you'll try it once as written, I've included some of the typical add-ins that have appeared in more recent years in the cook's notes. Some will tell you it absolutely must have bell pepper. Others feel pickles are necessary. I say, let your imagination run free and make it your own.

I like to serve it right when I make it, when it's soft and creamy, but of course, refrigerate if your prefer it cold and be sure to refrigerate any leftovers. If there are any! Great as a side dish, main dish or just to grab a couple of spoonfuls throughout the day.

Recipe: Old Fashioned Tuna Macaroni Salad

©From the Kitchen of Deep South Dish
Prep time: 10 min
Cook time: 10 min
Total time: 20 min
Yield: About 4 to 6 servings

  • 1/2 pound elbow (or shell) macaroni
  • 1 cup mayonnaise , more or less
  • 1 hard boiled egg , chopped
  • 1 stalk celery , chopped
  • Salt , pepper , Cajun seasoning and Old Bay , to taste
  • 1 to 2 (5 ounce) cans tuna in oil , undrained
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas , thawed
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons pickle juice , optional

Prepare macaroni according to package directions drain and place into storage or serving bowl. Immediately add mayonnaise and toss until well coated. Mix in the egg, celery and seasonings. Add the tuna and peas and gently fold in, adding pickle juice, if using, and/or additional mayonnaise if needed for desired moisture. Serve immediately. Refrigerate leftovers. Double or increase as desired.

Optional Add-ins: Chopped sweet onion, purple or green onion, chopped sweet or dill pickles or relish, chow chow, black or green pitted olives, sweet bell pepper, pimentos, chopped or shredded carrots, shredded cheese, 1-2 tablespoons of a creamy salad dressing, juice from a wedge or two of fresh lemon, splash of pickle juice or cider vinegar, chopped fresh parsley, dill, and paprika, are a few of the more common ones. Shredded iceberg lettuce was often used as an extender. May also substitute flaked salmon, boiled shrimp or shredded or chopped cooked chicken for the tuna. For a sweeter taste use a salad dressing like Miracle Whip, for the mayo, if you prefer.

Check These Recipes Out Too Y’all!

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Hawaiian Style Loaded Tuna Macaroni Salad

Love of the macaroni salad runs deep in Hawaii. Did you know that macaroni salad is a requirement when you’re eating a classic Hawaiian plate lunch? Seriously, if you’ve never had a classic plate lunch, it’s always served with two scoops of rice, macaroni salad, and meat. ALWAYS.

A macaroni salad (and rice) is not only a requirement on a plate lunch, it’s a “must have” at family gatherings too. A normal plate lunch macaroni salad is pretty basic with little to no vegetables or tuna. The salads are still great, but the ladies in my family always made it better by adding their own special twist to it.

Like my aunts, my Hawaiian Style Loaded Tuna Macaroni Salad recipe isn’t the typical plate lunch macaroni salad, but a pumped up version of salads that I’ve eaten at family gatherings. This hearty macaroni salad is full of tuna, eggs, carrots, celery, and onions. This salad can be eaten as a tasty side or as a mid-day snack.

Recently, I made my own Kalua pig plate lunch for my family and had the opportunity to get feedback on my Hawaiian Style Loaded Tuna Salad Recipe. Normally, I don’t add any vegetables and only use tuna and egg in the salad because I have really picker eaters to please.

Sorry to call all of you out, but my boys are the most difficult to please. My husband likes simple ingredients and eats everything plain. He’s the type of guy that finds A-1 sauce “fancy”. Then I have to deal with my two boys, who are extremely picky with food. Both boys don’t like onions and one doesn’t care for carrots, but will eat it if I can hide or shred it small enough.

Needless to say, I was worried about serving this loaded tuna salad to my kids, but guess what? I was able to split the base of the salad into two bowls and only added onions to one, which pleased everyone.

Okay, I did receive some grief about the carrots not being shredded small enough for my pickiest son. I guess I can’t please everyone all of the time…*sigh*. Despite his complaint, the rest of my picker eaters managed to finish off this salad in less than 24 hours. Yes, this salad only lasted through one dinner, several snack bowls the next day, and lunch. Just know that you can adapt this recipe to please your own picker eaters too.
To start this salad, we need to prepare the pasta in salted water and boil some eggs. While the pasta and eggs are cooking, prep all the other ingredients for the salad – drain the tuna, shred the carrot, and chop the celery. This next step is for the onion lovers. If you don’t care for onions, omit this step and leave the onions out.

I tend to like the subtle taste of onions in my macaroni salad and use a little trick to avoid a strong onion taste. I finely chop the onions, place it on a paper napkin, and gently pat out some of the juice. For those that want a stronger onion flavor, skip the squeezing and add the finely chopped onion into the macaroni mix.

By the time all the prep is done, the pasta and eggs should be done cooking. Peel and coarsely chop the eggs to add in later.

Strain the pasta, add it to a large mixing bowl, and mix in apple cider vinegar to the hot pasta for a little bit of tangy. Next, start mixing in all of the prepared ingredients – tuna, carrots, eggs, parsley, and onions*.

*If you have kids/family that aren’t onion lovers, separate the salad mix into two bowls after the mayonnaise/milk mixture is added in the next step and only add onions to one bowl. Make sure you reduce the chopped onions when doing this. Mix together the mayonnaise and milk. Add this to the macaroni mix. If you feel the mix is too dry, add a little more milk/mayo. Salt and pepper to taste.

At this point, the salad is still warm and I prefer my salad cold. If you’re the same, place it in the refrigerator for a few hours before serving and serve with low sodium soy sauce. Soy sauce adds even more flavor and most Hawaii locals will add some on their salads . Yum! That’s what I call a Hawaiian Style Loaded Tuna Macaroni Salad that “brok da’ mout”!

brok da mout = Hawaiian pidgin slang for food that is super delicious


How to make old fashioned Tuna Pasta Salad:

Dice the onion and set aside.

Cook the pasta in a sauce pan according to the package directions. Click for a sauce pan.

Empty the pasta into a colander to drain, rinse well with cold water, and then drain again.

Place the pasta into a medium bowl.

Add the oil and tuna to the cooked noodles. Toss to coat.

Stir in the mayo, sour cream, salt, pepper and mustard.

Fold in the onion and frozen peas. The peas will thaw within minutes. Do not thaw or cook them ahead of time.

Place into the refrigerator to chill until ready to serve.

Easy Classic Tuna Macaroni Salad


Recipe Summary

  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 8 ounces elbow macaroni pasta
  • 1/2 small red onion, cut into 1/4-inch pieces (about 1/2 cup)
  • 2 ribs celery, cut into 1/4-inch pieces (about 1 cup), plus 1/4 cup celery heart leaves
  • 1/2 jalapeno, seeded if desired, and finely chopped (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 1 (5-ounce) can solid tuna in water, drained and flaked
  • 6 tablespoons mayonnaise, preferably Hellmann's
  • 1/4 cup low-fat buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons dill relish
  • 1 teaspoon grainy mustard

In a pot of boiling, salted water, cook pasta until al dente, 7 to 8 minutes. Drain, then transfer to large bowl to cool slightly.

While pasta cools, soak onion in cold water. Drain, then stir into pasta along with celery, celery leaves, jalapeno and tuna. Whisk together mayonnaise, buttermilk, lemon juice, relish and mustard. Toss with pasta mixture and season to taste. Refrigerate until cold, at least 30 minutes and up to 8 hours.