Retro Tuna Macaroni Salad

Retro Tuna Macaroni Salad just like mom used to make, fast , easy and delicious! My secret is to add pickles to give it a great tangy taste! 

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There is almost nothing as good as a Retro Tuna Macaroni Salad! This recipe brings back the tastes of your childhood – it’s just like Grandma used to make, with a healthy twist! ( or not, don’t worry, you can still make this the normal way!) Read on to find out! 

Retro Tuna Macaroni Salad in a white bowl on white background

Tuna Macaroni Salad is a Classic For a Reason!

Can I be sad that i am the only one in my family that eats tuna? Yes, it’s true! I can only make this when I have company over that over tuna macaroni salad as much as I do – that’s pretty much my other family members like my sister and my mom.

As I’m sure you know by now, I am a big fan of using whole wheat or grain-filled pasta whenever you possibly can in dishes. Sometimes you do need a glorious white pasta (decadent mac n’ cheese is a perfect example of this) but most times a dish and your health can benefit from substituting in a whole wheat or whole grain based pasta. We have been avid whole wheat/whole grain pasta lovers for over a decade now, starting our own conversion over when my 12 year-old was young. The kids now actually prefer whole grain pastas, as do Mike and I. There’s something so toothsome about them that I really enjoy.

a box of Catelli Ancient Grains macaroni for Retro Tuna Macaroni Salad

Summer time is on the way and I’ve oddly been dreaming about making a retro tuna macaroni salad. I love an amazing picnic salad and a tuna macaroni salad has been on my to-make list for as long as I can remember. What better time to try out new Catelli Ancient Grains macaroni than with my own twist on this time-tested classic –  retro tuna macaroni salad? Catelli Ancient Grains is the only 100% whole grain pasta of its kind, with a deliciously different, yet mild flavor. The five grains included in the pasta are quinoa, teff, amaranth, millet and sorghum. It’s also made with 100% all-natural, whole grain Canadian wheat, which as you can guess is very high in healthy fiber for us all! This line of pasta is only available in Western Canada right now.

Stirring together the tuna salad ingredients in a large white bowl
Stirring together the tuna salad ingredients

What ingredients are in tuna macaroni salad?

There are a few main ingredients in a tuna macaroni salad:

  • canned tuna, drained
  • mayonaise
  • whipped dressing ( yes, you need both for the best flavour!)
  • celery
  • boiled eggs
  • minced green onions
  • sweet green relish
  • pickles ( my favourite ingredient to add!)
Retro Tuna Macaroni Salad in a blue Pyrex Bowl
Retro Tuna Macaroni Salad in a blue Pyrex Bowl

Now, does the sight of this bring back memories of church picnics and potlucks of your youth? Oh, it sure does for me!  Tables groaning under the weight of delicious delights and there were always at least four or five different pasta salads! I would usually look for the tuna one, for even as a child I absolutely loved tuna in all forms.

close up of Retro Tuna Macaroni Salad in a blue Pyrex Bowl
Retro Tuna Macaroni Salad in a blue Pyrex Bowl

Karlynn’s Tuna Salad Recipe Tips & Tricks

  1. Now, I do make mine a little different. I think tuna always needs some dill pickles to cut the richness of the fish itself, not to mention in a mayo-based salad you definitely need the acid in there.
  2. I also have another secret to this salad’s success – and this is a family trick for sure- use half mayo and half whipped salad dressing. The tuna needs the tangy dressing, absolutely. While I am usually a mayo purist, in this salad, whipped salad dressing is the only way to go. Well, at least for half of it!
  3. You can customize the salad any way you like, from adding olives – which is the ultimate retro tuna salad!- which also add that acidity to cut through the richness. I added a lot of green onions since I love them, around 2 stalks of celery because I wanted a lot of crunch…the possibilities are endless. Mix, match and customize until you have a salad that you love!

Happy cooking everyone!

Love you more than chocolate!


Retro Tuna Macaroni Salad

Retro Tuna Macaroni Salad just like mom used to make, fast , easy and delicious! My secret is to add pickles to give it a great tangy taste! 
5 from 23 votes
Prep Time
20 minutes
Cook Time
9 minutes
North American
Karlynn Johnston


  • 1 gram box of Catelli Ancient Grains Macaroni 340
  • 3-4 hard boiled eggs peeled and chopped
  • 8 stalks of green onions chopped
  • 1/3 cup celery chopped finely
  • 2 medium dill pickles chopped finely
  • 2 ounces cans of tuna drained well 8 .
  • ¾ cup light mayonnaise
  • ¾ cup light whipped salad dressing
  • 3-4 tablespoons . sweet relish to taste
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper


  • Cook the pasta according to package instructions. Drain and set aside to cool.
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine the pasta, eggs, celery, pickles, green onions and tuna. Toss with a fork to combine.
  • In a measuring cup, mix the mayo, whipped dressing, relish and pepper Taste and add more relish or pepper as needed.
  • Pour the dressing over the macaroni and stir gently to combine.
  • Refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.
  • Serve and enjoy!

Recipe Notes

Try olives, they are delicious and totally retro!

Nutrition Information

Serving: 12g, Calories: 96kcal, Carbohydrates: 7g, Protein: 3g, Fat: 5g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 62mg, Sodium: 462mg, Potassium: 90mg, Sugar: 4g, Vitamin A: 290IU, Vitamin C: 2mg, Calcium: 23mg, Iron: 0.6mg

All calories and info are based on a third party calculator and are only an estimate. Actual nutritional info will vary with brands used, your measuring methods, portion sizes and more.

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Retro Tuna Macaroni Salad just like mom used to make, fast , easy and delicious! My secret is to add pickles to give it a great tangy taste! #tuna #fish #seafood #salad #macaroni #pasta #picnic #wholewheat #healthy #pickles #celery #pastasalad

Karlynn Johnston

I’m a busy mom of two, wife & cookbook author who loves creating fast, fresh meals for my little family on the Canadian prairies. Karlynn Facts: I'm allergic to broccoli. I've never met a cocktail that I didn't like. I would rather burn down my house than clean it. Most of all, I love helping YOU get dinner ready because there's nothing more important than connecting with our loved ones around the dinner table!

Learn more about me

Site Index Pasta salad Tuna Vintage recipe

Reader Interactions

Comments & Recipe Tips Share a tip or comment!

  1. Mark says

    Hard to trust a recipe when the author can’t get the ingredients straight. “One gram box of pasta”, “2 ounce can of tuna”

    • Wendy Maillet says

      I was able to read the recipe as 1 (340 gram) box of elbow macaroni (12 ounces) and 2 (8 ounce) cans of tuna. Computers glitch sometimes and I just adjust 🙂 hope this helps5 stars

  2. Amanda says

    How much tuna is needed? The amount on the recipe isn’t clear.

    • sheri says

      I believe it calls for 2 – 6 ounce cans of tuna, that is what my old recipe calls for

  3. Suzanne Mills says

    I have a question please am going to make this yummy looking tuna salad and am wonder if this is calling for 8 cans of tuna? you show 2 oz cans of tuna and at the end after well drained there is an 8 just wanted to make sure


    can’t wait to try this

  4. Becky says

    I really want to try this recipe, but can you please tell me what “whipped dressing” is? Is it Miracle Whip?
    Thank you for all your delicious recipes! Can’t wait to try this one, too!

    • Karlynn says

      It is miracle whip, the tang is better than mayo in this recipe!5 stars

  5. G.Krompocker says

    if you don’t want to use tuna, coarsely cut up some chick peas to add in place of tuna, I have done that and it is good as well 🙂

  6. G.Krompocker says

    try adding some niblet corn to this, it is so good in tuna salad; I had an english friend give me the recipe and the only thing different was adding corn and it made a big difference to the taste and texture 🙂

  7. Miranda chamness says

    I’m wondering how this would turn out using gluten free noodles. Anyone try that out?

    • Tanya says

      Omg. Amazing. And my husband basically cleared a whole bowl before stopping. It was fantastic just as posted!5 stars

  8. Barbara says

    Hi, looks fabulous. But I too am wondering about the quantity of tuna. That line in recipe looks like it got scrambled a bit. Also 1 gm pasta does not make sense. Can you clarify? Thanks in advance!

  9. JoAnn says

    This brought back memories! Making this tomorrow. However, I’m kinda confused. When you get to the tuna, it says “2 oz cans of tuna”. Do you mean “two” 2 oz cans, or just a “2 oz can”? Please clarify.

  10. angela hammill says

    delicious just like i remember …..i add crushed regular chips on top like my grandma used to do!!! love love this recipe so much 🙂 old school is always better…..5 stars

  11. Crystal Carlson says

    Oh, my goodness! You must have grown up like I did, just 20 years later! I see so many familiar recipes on your site that I have long forgotten but should find their way back in my repetoire.

    5 stars

    • The Kitchen Magpie says

      Those are the best recipes, the ones from our childhoods!

      5 stars

  12. Raven Wanders says

    Ooo ty now i know what Im making this weekend

    5 stars

  13. Gil Livesay says

    If only you had something decent to serve it from…

    5 stars

    • The Kitchen Magpie says

      I know. I’d better go shopping for more Pyrex…

      5 stars

  14. Jennifer Budgell says

    This is a lot like the one I make, and if you want to kick it up a notch, add a sprinkle of celery seed. It gets in your teeth, but oh the celery flavour!!

    5 stars

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