This Tuna Macaroni Salad is loaded with albacore tuna, peas, hard-boiled egg, and tossed in a creamy mayo dressing that the whole family will love!
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Tuna Macaroni Salad
Tuna macaroni salad is always a crowd-pleaser. You can customize it any way you want, from the add-ins to the dressing. This recipe is super easy to double and make for a large crowd, or size down to make as a side dish for smaller families. Great for BBQs, potlucks, family gatherings (or family reunions), or just as a light lunch!
What’s In Tuna Macaroni Salad?
Tuna mac salad is very simple with only a few easy-to-find ingredients. Chances are, you already have most of the ingredients to make it in your pantry or refrigerator.
- Macaroni (or any “short” pasta)
- Hard Boiled Eggs
When it comes to canned tuna, I am extremely picky. I can only handle the pure, albacore canned tuna. I promise you, all canned “tuna” is not the same. “Chunk light” tuna is usually cheap and made with other kinds of fish besides tuna. It tastes more “fishy” and is often slightly darker in color. Albacore tuna is slightly more expensive, more mild in flavor (not as “fishy” smelling), and is lighter in color. I really like the albacore tuna that comes in the packs at Costco. I highly recommend it for this recipe!
The dressing for this tuna macaroni salad is very simple. I use mostly mayonnaise and a little bit of sour cream. If you want to lighten it up more, you can always adjust the mayo-sour cream ratio. Using more sour cream will actually keep the macaroni from absorbing the dressing and prevent it from getting too dry. You can keep the dressing simple or you can add more flavor by adding lemon juice, garlic powder, paprika, dill, or chives.
How To Keep Your Macaroni Salad From Drying Out
There are several different ways to keep your tuna mac salad from absorbing too much mayonnaise and drying out. Here are a few suggestions:
- Cool it down – Allow the pasta to cool before mixing in the mayo mixture. You can sprinkle some very cold water over it to help cool it down or toss with some ice cubes. PRO TIP: If using frozen peas, mix the peas (still frozen) with the macaroni to help it cool faster and thaw the peas at the same time.
- Keep some of the pasta water – As the noodles are cooling, they might become a little dry. Set aside 1-2 cups of pasta water to toss with the noodles. As the noodles cool, so will the water. Just gently toss a little bit at a time, you probably won’t even need all the pasta water.
- Toss it in a little oil – You can also toss the noodles in a little bit of oil after the pasta has cooled down a bit. Don’t add the oil when the pasta is too hot. Only add a small amount at a time (about a teaspoon) until noodles are coated. This creates a barrier making it more difficult for the noodles to absorb the dressing.
- Adjust the mayo-sour cream ratio – The more sour cream you use, the less the dressing will be absorbed. The trade-off here is that by reducing the mayonnaise, you may be sacrificing some of the flavor. Play around with the ratios to see what works best for you.
More Add-In Ideas:
What I love most about this salad is that it is fully customizable! You can add or take away ingredients to make it your own. Try some of these other tasty add-in ideas:
- Cubed or shredded cheddar cheese
- Chopped pickles (dill or sweet)
- Shredded carrot
- Red Onion
- Green Onion
- Chopped dill
How Long Does Macaroni Salad Last?
Macaroni salad will stay good for up to 5 days in an airtight container in the refrigerator. To keep your salad fresh, and from absorbing the mayonnaise too much, you can always toss everything else together ahead of time and add the dressing before serving.
There are several reasons why your macaroni salad could be dry, including tossing it with the mayonnaise while the noodles are still hot. See our solutions above for keeping your tuna mac salad from drying out.
You can season your macaroni salad by adding a little extra salt and pepper or by adding some dill, paprika, apple cider vinegar, or a little squeeze of fresh lemon.
Yes, if you prefer Miracle Whip to Mayonnaise, you can swap it out. It will make it quite a bit sweeter, but if that’s what you like, go for it!
Any short pasta will work great, including (but not limited to) ditalini, small shells, cavatappi, penne, rotini, bowtie (farfalle), or fusilli.
More Popular Macaroni Salad and Pasta Salad Recipes
- Cook macaroni according to package directions to "al dente". Drain noodles saving 1-2 cups of the pasta water. Place in a bowl to cool. Toss noodles with peas, cider vinegar and salt and pepper.Allow to cool to room temperature. Toss with some of the pasta water a little at a time if noodles become too dry and sticky while cooling.
- In a small bowl, combine mayonnaise and sour cream. Add to cooled noodles. Stir until evenly coated. Add tuna and stir until well combined. Add additional salt and pepper to taste, if needed.
- Peel and chop (or slice) hard boiled eggs. Stir into the macaroni salad of place on top for presentation. Garnish with green onion (optional) and serve.