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Tuna Macaroni Salad

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Tuna macaroni salad is served cold with macaroni pasta and canned tuna as the base. It’s loaded with fresh vegetables including shredded carrots, broccoli slaw, celery, and onion. Everything is tossed together with Italian salad dressing, a bit of mayonnaise, salt and pepper for a flavorful meal!

It’s the perfect side dish serve at picnics or potlucks with hamburgers, steak, or hot dogs alongside our pineapple chicken rice salad.

Close up of tuna macaroni salad in a bowl with a wood spoon.

Pasta Salad with Canned Tuna

  • This cold salad is full of flavor using simple ingredients like macaroni pasta noodles and canned tuna as the base.
  • Canned tuna is budget-friendly and healthy. It’s the perfect protein to add to salads like our chickpea lemon tuna salad and this one!
  • Leftovers can be used for easy lunches as a complete meal. Have an extra can of tuna? Use it to make our healthy avocado tuna melt sandwiches.
  • Because this salad is served cold, it can be prepped the night before and stored in the fridge until ready to serve.
  • A jar of Italian salad dressing, some mayonnaise, salt and pepper are all you need to add flavor.
  • It’s the perfect addition to any picnic, potluck or barbecue on hot days with marinated pork chops, our easy baked chicken legs, hamburgers or roasted chicken.
Ingredients in bowls on the counter to make the recipe including bowls of broccoli slaw, cooked elbow pasta, cans of tuna, celery, shredded carrots, grated cheese and chopped onion.

Recipe Ingredients

MACARONI: The recipe uses 3 cups of cooked elbow macaroni pasta noodles. This is about 1 or 1½ cups of uncooked pasta. I used rice pasta spiral noodles because that’s what we had in our pantry. Any shape of noodle will work. Feel free to use regular whole wheat pasta, rice pasta or other gluten-free versions.

TUNA: Chunk light tuna in water is inexpensive and easy to add to recipes like this one (I used solid white albacore tuna) ! Grab 2 cans of tuna from the grocery store that are approximately 170g each (different brands will vary in weight). Look for the ocean wise seafood label to make sure you’re choosing a product that considers the best long-term health of our oceans.

VEGETABLES: A bag of broccoli slaw from the grocery store helps to keep things easy. I also used store-bought shredded carrots but these can be shredded easily at home with a cheese grater. You’ll also need chopped red raw onion, celery and green onion.

CHEESE: 1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese adds flavor. Feel free to substitute with any other favorite cheese styles including marble, mozzarella, or feta.

DRESSING: Italian salad dressing, mayonnaise (or miracle whip), salt and pepper are combined with the salad to create a simple tangy and creamy dressing.

VARIATIONS: Add chopped red bell pepper, green peas, dill pickle. Drizzle freshly squeezed lemon juice and olive oil over finished salad. Sprinkle hot sauce for an extra kick.

Four images showing steps to make recipe. First is chopped onion and celery with a knife. Second is shredded cheese beside a cheese grater. Third is salad ingredients in a large white bowl with a dollop of mayonnaise on top. Fourth is salad covered with plastic wrap in a bowl with wood spoon beside it.

How To Make Cold Tuna Macaroni Salad

Here’s a quick overview of how to make the salad with full instructions in the recipe card below.

  1. Follow package directions to cook the pasta noodles in a large pot. Drain and set them aside.
  2. Prep the ingredients: shred the cheese and carrots. Chop green onion, celery, and red onion.
  3. Add al dente pasta, tuna, carrots, cheese, broccoli slaw, red onion, green onion and celery to a large serving bowl.
  4. Drizzle with Italian dressing and mix everything together. Chill for 1 hour. Mix in mayonnaise just before serving.

This salad tastes best when served cold. Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge up to 3-4 days.

Tuna macaroni salad in a large white bowl with a wood spoon inside.

Recipe Tips

  • Buy store-bought broccoli slaw, pre-shredded carrots and shredded cheese to help save time.
  • Any shape of pasta noodles will work for the recipe. They do not need to be macaroni style.
  • Try rice pasta as a healthier alternative to regular durum wheat pasta noodles.
  • Prep the salad the night before you plan to serve. This will give it plenty of time to chill and absorb the Italian dressing.
  • Add the mayonnaise, salt and pepper, and toss it together just before serving. Mayonnaise can also be skipped if preferred.
Close up of salad with wood spoon and elbow macaroni, shredded vegetables, chopped parsley and chunks of tuna.

More Easy Recipes

Here are some more salads that are perfect for picnics, barbecues and potlucks.

Tuna Macaroni Salad Recipe

A cold salad with pasta noodles, tuna and vegetables. All tossed with Italian dressing and a bit of mayonnaise.
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Prep Time: 15 minutes
Chill Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Servings: 8 servings


  • 3 cups cooked macaroni - approx 1-1½ cups uncooked
  • 2 cans chunk light tuna in water - drained (approx 170 g each)
  • 2 cups broccoli slaw - store-bought bag
  • 1 cup chopped red onion
  • 1 cup shredded carrots - or chopped
  • 3 green onions - chopped
  • 2 celery stalks - chopped
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup Italian salad dressing
  • ¼ cup mayonnaise - or plain greek yogurt, sour cream
  • Salt and pepper - to taste


  • Cook the pasta in boiling salted water according to package instructions. Drain, then rinse under cold water. Measure out 3 cups of cooked macaroni into a large bowl.
  • Shred the carrots and cheddar cheese with a grater (enough to make 1 cup each). Chop the red onion, celery stalks and green onion. Drain the canned tuna from all liquid.
    Two images: First is shredded cheese beside cheese grater. Second is piles of chopped green onion, celery and red onion with a knife.
  • Add canned tuna, broccoli slaw, red onion, carrots, onions, celery and grated cheddar cheese to the large bowl with cooked pasta. Mix everything together.
    Drizzle the Italian dressing overtop and mix again. Cover and let chill in the fridge for 1 hour minimum or overnight.
    Two images: First is a large bowl with sections of pasta, tuna, carrots, celery and coleslaw. Second image is all salad ingredients mixed together in the large bowl.
  • Just before serving, mix in the mayonnaise. Season with salt and pepper. Serve and enjoy!
    Dollop of mayonnaise on top of salad with spatula. Second image is mayonnaise mixed into salad with a spatula in bowl.

The nutritional information provided is an estimate and is per serving.

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