Tuna macaroni salad with pickles

Classic tuna macaroni salad with a twist!!  The addition of pickles and brine makes this the best tuna pasta salad recipe in the world!

a bowl of tuna macaroni salad with pickles


I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume we are all familiar with the summertime classic tuna macaroni salad.

Growing up, it was a staple at our home.  Along with bean salad, tuna pasta salad was a side dish staple at every family BBQ and get together.  It wasn’t just reserved for potluck meals though, there was often a container of it in the fridge for easy lunches or just to snack on.

Over the years, I’ve adapted my moms recipe to suit my adult tastes: the addition of celery, green onions instead of red, the addition of sour cream.  The most distinctive addition though – is the addition of pickles and pickle brine – which, in my opinion, makes this the best tuna pasta salad recipe in the world!  Not that I don’t still love my moms version, it’s just that I’m a bit of a pickle addict (full sour kosher dills to be exact) and I will add pickles to any recipe that I think can tolerate them.


Choosing canned tuna

Sustainability is something that we think about when making food choices.

If you also are concerned about making choices with a better impact on the environment, when choosing your tuna look for the ‘Pole & Line’ label on the can. Pole and line fishing catches the most sustainable species of tuna, skipjack and albacore, and does not have the same issues with bycatch as longline and drift net caught tuna.

How to make tuna macaroni salad

Start by cooking your pasta according to package directions.  As I do when cooking all pasta, I like to salt the water the pasta cooks in to flavour it – use sea salt for this, and when you taste the water it should be salty like the sea.

Drain the cooked pasta and run it under cold water until it has cooled and then allow the pasta to air dry.  You can skip the drying part, but if you are making the salad ahead of time I suggest that you don’t – the drier the pasta, the better chance you have of keeping the salad moist overnight.

Put the pasta in a large airtight container and add in the rest of the ingredients.  Mix thoroughly and serve.

a topdown view of a bowl of tuna macaroni salad with pickles

You’re going to love this salad because…

  • If you’re like me, it will remind you of your youth and be totally comforting 🙂
  • It’s a great make ahead salad for picnics, potlucks, BBQs etc
  • It’s not just a side dish, it’s also a great meal prep item for easy lunches
  • Pickles and pickle brine!  Need I say more……

How to keep tuna pasta salad moist

If you’ve made tuna pasta salad ahead of time you’ve probably noticed that it tends to dry out a bit when stored in the fridge.  Some tips to help keep it from drying out include:

  • making sure that the pasta has time to dry before adding the dressing – residual water dilutes the dressing and absorbs easily into the pasta.
  • letting the pasta completely cool before adding the dressing
  • keeping the salad stored in an airtight container in the fridge
  • keep the dressing separate until serving time and mix when you are ready to eat.

Tips and Tricks

  • Trade the sour cream for Greek or skyr yogurt to reduce the fat and add protein to this salad – this also has probiotic benefits!
  • The macaroni can be substituted with any other short pasta – fusilli is another good one to use here.
  • This salad will hold up well in the fridge for up to 5 days, but may get a little dry.  Add a bit more sour cream or mayo when serving if you need to.


Dietary Considerations and Accommodations

This recipe for tuna macaroni salad with pickles is suitable for the following diets:

  • for gluten free use gluten free pasta


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a bowl of tuna macaroni salad with pickles
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5 from 5 votes

Tuna Macaroni Salad with Pickles

retro classic tuna macaroni salad with pickles
Course Salad
Cuisine American
Keyword best tuna pasta salad recipe in the world, tuna macaroni salad
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 8 minutes
Servings 6
Calories 176kcal
Author Courtney


  • 1 1⁄4 cup dry macaroni
  • 1 can chunk light tuna drained
  • 1⁄3 cup mayo
  • 1⁄3 cup + 2 tbsp sour cream
  • 1 rib celery finely diced
  • 1 green onion thinly sliced
  • 2 full sour kosher dill pickles
  • 1-2 tbsp pickle juice
  • sea salt and pepper to taste


  • Cook the macaroni according to the package directions and drain in a colander. Rinse the macaroni under cold water until it is cool.
  • Add the mayo, sour cream, and tuna to a large mixing bowl along with the drained and cooled macaroni. Mix well.
  • Add the green onions, pickle, and celery to the bowl along with a tablespoon of pickle juice. Season with sea salt and pepper.

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