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Easy Tuna Macaroni Salad

This Easy Tuna Macaroni Salad recipe with peas and cheddar cheese is a cross between a casserole and a tuna macaroni salad. It is an easy family favorite recipe that’s best served cold!

It’s hard for me to think of something that I enjoy more in the summer time than salads. And I’m not just talking about lettuce salads. I’m talking about pasta salads, fruit salads, salad salads … you know, ALL of the salads.

I particularly enjoy pasta salads because they are comforting, versatile, cold, refreshing, yet filling at the same time. This Cold Tuna Macaroni Salad is all of those things! It reminds me of a cold tuna noodle casserole. The tender macaroni perfectly complements the rich, savory tuna and the sharpness of the cheddar cheese, creating the perfect blend of flavors. The addition of sweet, crisp peas adds a burst of color and a slight crunch, and I just love it.

The creamy dressing ties everything together. This tuna macaroni salad is not only delicious but is so easy to make and is perfect for potlucks, barbecues, or a simple summer lunch. Let’s make this together!

-Ashley

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How to Make Tuna Macaroni Salad

Here is a brief overview of how to make cold tuna macaroni salad. The full recipe including ingredient amounts can be found in the printable recipe card below.

  1. Make the macaroni: be sure to cook the pasta to al dente according to package directions. Don’t forget to salt the water.
  2. Prep the ingredients: cube the cheddar cheese, grate yellow onion, and drain the tuna. I use a box grater for the onion.
  3. Drain the macaroni then place it in a large bowl with apple cider vinegar along with the grated yellow onion. Stir to combine.
  4. Cool the macaroni: cover the macaroni noodles, then place the bowl in the refrigerator for 20 minutes to cool.
  5. Make the dressing: the dressing for this tuna pasta salad includes mayo, sour cream, milk, yellow mustard (or dijon mustard), granulated sugar and it’s seasoned with salt, black pepper, garlic powder and paprika.
  6. Combine the macaroni with the dressing: stir to combine. Add in peas and cubed cheddar cheese.
  7. Refrigerate: tuna macaroni salad is always best after it has had time to cool in the refrigerator. This gives it time for all of the flavors to meld together.
  8. Serve: Tuna Macaroni Salad is best served cold.

Dressing

Making a delicious dressing is essential because it ties all of the ingredients together. Here are the ingredients that you will need to make the dressing:

  • Mayo – you can also use Miracle Whip if you prefer. I prefer Hellman’s Mayo
  • Sour Cream – you can also use Greek yogurt
  • Mik
  • Yellow mustard – or dijon mustard
  • Granulated Sugar
  • Seasonings: salt, black pepper, garlic powder and paprika

Variations:

  • Try adding dill – either fresh or dried. Dill pairs beautifully with tuna!
  • Without peas – if you do not like peas, omit them altogether for a delicious tuna macaroni salad without peas
  • Add eggs – chopped hard boiled eggs are a delicious addition

What kind of tuna should I use for tuna macaroni salad?

I like to use tuna packed in water but if you only have tuna packed in oil, feel free to use that as well.

Can I make tuna macaroni salad ahead of time?

Yes, in fact, this macaroni salad gets better and better with time. Allow it to chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, but you can also make it an entire day ahead of time. It is always best served cold.

bowl of tuna macaroni salad

Serving Suggestions

As with most pasta salads, this tuna macaroni salad is versatile and can be served for a variety of occasions.

  1. A light summer lunch – my personal favorite way to enjoy it!
  2. Picnics and outdoor gatherings – it’s easy to make, easy to transport, and tastes best when made ahead of time which is ideal for barbecues, cookouts and picnics.
  3. Potlucks and social events – this is a budget friendly recipe and makes a lot!
  4. Side dish – tuna macaroni salad pairs well with grilled chicken, grilled burgers, or even other seafood like grilled salmon.

Other Macaroni Salad Recipes

  • Easy Macaroni Salad
  • Hawaiian Macaroni Salad
  • BBQ Macaroni Salad
  • Taco Macaroni Salad

If you try this Easy Tuna Macaroni Salad recipe or any of my other recipes, let me know what you think! I love hearing from you.

cold tuna macaroni salad

Print

Easy Macaroni Salad

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This Easy Tuna Macaroni Salad recipe with peas and cheddar cheese is a cross between a casserole and a tuna macaroni salad. It is an easy family favorite recipe that’s best served cold!

Course main dish, Side DishCuisine AmericanKeyword macaroni salad, pasta salad, Tuna

Prep Time 10 minutes Cook Time 6 minutes Chill Time 4 hours 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 pound macaroni noodles
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup grated yellow onion
  • 10-12 ounces tuna packed in water drained
  • 1 cup frozen peas thawed
  • 8 ounces cheddar cheese cubed
  • 2 cups mayo
  • ½ cup sour cream or greek yogurt
  • cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon back pepper
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon paprika

Instructions

  • Bring a pot of water to a boil. Salt the pasta water then cook the macaroni according to package directions – to al dente.
  • Drain the pasta and place it in a large bowl. Stir in 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar along with ¼ cup grated yellow onion. Stir to combine and place in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.
  • Make the dressing: in a medium-sized bowl combine 2 cups mayo with ½ cup sour cream, ⅓ cup milk, 1 tablespoon dijon mustard, 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, salt, black pepper, garlic powder and paprika. Stir to combine.
  • After the macaroni has slightly cooled in the refrigerator for 20 minutes, stir in the dressing along with peas, and cubed cheddar cheese.
  • Refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight before serving.

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