Tuna pasta salad is a quick & easy salad loaded with shell pasta, tuna, cheddar cheese, peas, onions, and a creamy miracle whip sauce.

Tuna Pasta Salad in Stone Grey Bowls with Onion and Kitchen Towel Behind

Tuna pasta salad is one of our favorite summer salads. It’s a must-have at our family barbecues.

This delicious dish is made with shell pasta, tuna, cheddar cheese, peas, and onions and is mixed with a creamy, tangy miracle whip dressing. The same yummy sauce we use for our potato salad.

It’s an excellent side for summer barbecues and pairs well with anything grilled—burgers, hot dogs, steak, and ribs. Plus, the recipe is easy to double or triple for larger get-togethers like graduations and milestone celebrations.

Tuna Pasta Salad with Cheese and Peas in Bowl on Wooden Cutting Board


Here’s what you’ll need for the main salad ingredients and the dressing.

Tuna Pasta Salad Ingredients

Tuna Salad

Shell pasta – medium shell pasta, cooked al dente.

Tuna – canned tuna, drained.

Peas – canned sweet peas, drained. You can use frozen peas, they just won’t have the same texture or flavor.

Onion – chopped yellow onion.

Cheddar cheese – a block of cheddar cheese cut into chunks. We like sharp or medium cheddar, but you can use your favorite cheese.

Salad Dressing Ingredients

Salad Dressing

Miracle whip – regular miracle whip, not mayonnaise.

Mustard – regular yellow mustard.

Milk – skim, 1%, or 2% milk.

Sugar – granulated white sugar.

Salt – regular table salt.

Tuna Pasta Salad in White Serving Bowl

Supplies & Favorite Tools for Making Salads

  • Large pot
  • Cutting board and knife
  • Colander
  • Large mixing bowl
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Serving bowl and spoon
Pasta Salad with Tuna, Cheese, Peas in Grey Bowl

How to Make Cold Tuna Pasta Salad

Follow these simple steps to make this creamy tuna pasta salad.

Step 1 | cook pasta

Begin by cooking the shell pasta according to the directions on the package. When the pasta is done (al dente – tender but firm and slightly chewy), add it to a colander and rinse it with cold water until completely cooled.

Boiling Pasta in Large Grey Pot

Important – warm pasta and Miracle Whip are not a good combination! So make sure the pasta is completely cool before adding the sauce.

When completely cooled and drained, add the pasta to a large mixing bowl.

Step 2 | Chop Onions and cheese

Dice the onions and chop the block of cheddar cheese into small chunks. Add them both to the pasta.

Chop Onions and Cheese on Cutting Board (left) In Bowls (right)

Step 3 | drain & add tuna

Drain the tuna and add it to the pasta. The addition of tuna makes this salad sooo good!

Step 4 | drain & add peas

Drain the can of peas and add.

Salad Ingredients in Glass Bowl Before Mixing

Step 5 | mix ingredients

Carefully mix together the pasta, tuna, cheese, onions, and peas.

Step 6 | Make & add the sauce

Now for the sauce! In a separate bowl, combine the miracle whip, milk, yellow mustard, sugar, and salt. Mix well. 

When we make this sauce, it is typically a dump recipe. Our Mom taught us how to make it this way, passed down from our Grandmother. We estimate the ingredients, taste test, and then tweak if needed. But we created this measured recipe to share with you.

Tip: Tweak the recipe to your taste. We go lighter on the mustard (already figured into the recipe shown) because we are not huge mustard fans, but you could add more. This sauce is also the secret to our potato salad

Mixing Dressing for Pasta Salad with Tuna

Add the sauce to the pasta mixture.  Stir until everything is well coated.

Adding Dressing to Pasta Salad

Step 7 | chill & Serve

Chill for several hours before serving. Transfer to a nice serving bowl if you’d like. And enjoy!

Tuna Pasta Salad in Glass Mixing Bowl

Why We Love This Salad Recipe

Delicious and full of flavor: The combination of shell pasta, cheddar cheese, peas, onions, and tuna creates a flavorful salad that leaves you wanting seconds.

Creamy and tangy sauce: While many pasta salads use mayonnaise, this recipe uses Miracle Whip, adding a tangy element to the salad.

Easy to prepare: This tuna pasta salad recipe is quick and simple to put together, making it a perfect go-to recipe for busy days or when you need a last-minute dish for gatherings.

Easily customizable: You can change up this salad by adding or substituting ingredients based on personal preferences—for example, additional vegetables, fresh herbs, or different cheeses.

Ideal for gatherings: Whether it’s a picnic, potluck, or family barbecue, this salad is a crowd-pleaser. The shell pasta and cheese make it a hit among both kids and adults alike.

Pasta Salad with Tuna in Glass Bowl with Wooden Spoon

Tips for Storing Leftover Tuna Pasta Salad

Refrigerate any tuna pasta salad leftovers within two hours. Bacteria grows rapidly at room temperature, so it’s important to get it into the fridge quickly.

Transfer the leftover salad to a clean, airtight container. This will help to keep the salad fresh and prevent any odors from spreading to other items in the fridge.

Ensure your refrigerator is set to 40°F (4°C) or below. Bacterial growth is significantly slowed at this temperature, reducing the risk of food spoilage.

Leftover tuna pasta salad can generally be kept safely in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days. After this period, the quality may deteriorate, and there’s a risk of foodborne illness.

If the salad looks a bit dry when you’re ready to eat it again, you can make and add a smaller batch of dressing and gently mix it to bring back some moisture.

Pasta Salad in Serving Bowl with Peas, Cheese, Onions, and Tuna

What to Serve with Tuna Pasta Salad

Creamy tuna pasta salad pairs well with so many entrées and other sides. Here are a few meal ideas:


  • Grilled steak
  • Smoked brisket
  • Barbecue chicken
  • Honey-glazed ham
  • Rotisserie chicken
  • Pulled pork sandwiches
  • Barbecue ribs
  • Hamburgers

Other Sides

  • Sweet potato fries
  • Grilled corn on the cob
  • Grilled vegetables
  • Garlic bread
  • Mixed green salad
  • Roasted potatoes
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Tuna Pasta Salad in Stone Grey Bowls with Onion and Kitchen Towel Behind

Easy Tuna Pasta Salad

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This quick and easy salad is loaded with shell pasta, tuna, onions, peas, and chunks of cheddar cheese and mixed with a creamy, tangy miracle whip dressing.

  • Total Time: 35 minutes
  • Yield: 10 1x


Units Scale


  • 1/2 box shell pasta, cooked (8 oz dry)
  • 1 block cheddar cheese (8 oz)
  • 1/2 large onion (or 1 medium)
  • 1 can tuna (8 oz)
  • 1 can peas (15 oz)


  • 2 1/2 cups miracle whip
  • 3/4 tbsp yellow mustard
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt


  1. Cook the shell pasta according to box directions. Rinse with cold water. (Warm pasta and miracle whip will not be a good combination!)
  2. Add the pasta to a large mixing bowl.
  3. Chop a block of cheddar cheese into small chunks and add.
  4. Dice one medium onion and add.
  5. Drain the tuna and add.
  6. Drain the can of peas and add.
  7. In a separate bowl, combine the miracle whip, milk, mustard, sugar, and salt. Mix well.
  8. Add the sauce to the pasta, cheese, onion, tuna, and peas mixture. Stir until everything is well coated.
  9. Chill for several hours before serving.
  10. Transfer to a serving bowl if desired.
  11. Serve and enjoy!


  • Be sure to let the pasta cool before adding the dressing.
  • We recommend chilling the salad for a few hours before serving.
  • Author: Kelsey Restemayer
  • Prep Time: 25 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Category: Salad
  • Cuisine: American


  • Serving Size:
  • Calories: 236
  • Sugar: 9.7 g
  • Sodium: 921.8 mg
  • Fat: 7.1 g
  • Saturated Fat: 3.1 g
  • Carbohydrates: 31.5 g
  • Protein: 11.5 g
  • Cholesterol: 26.3 mg
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Closeup of Pasta Salad with Tuna

Final Thoughts

This simple tuna pasta salad is a delightful and refreshing dish with shell pasta, tuna, cheddar cheese, peas, and onions, mixed with a creamy miracle whip sauce. It’s a crowd-pleaser at barbecues and picnics and so easy to prepare that it will quickly become one of your go-to recipes for summer parties.


Have You Tried This Recipe? Please rate it in the comments and let us know your thoughts!

Tuna Pasta Salad with Kitchen Towel Behind

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