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This classic macaroni salad is the perfect side dish to any picnic or BBQ. Coated with a creamy dressing, loaded with fresh crisp veggies, this simple, easy to make recipe is sure to be a winner!

Bowl of macaroni salad on a picnic table.


 

Macaroni salad is an easy side dish recipe to make that will complement the best Summer BBQs and picnics. This pasta salad is dressed in a creamy dressing made with mayonnaise, vinegar, mustard, with a hint of sugar to balance the flavors.

One highlight of this dish is that it is simple to substitute and customize! Make this mac salad to suit your family by adding your favorite filling options.

Ingredients & Substitutions

Ingredients needed to make macaroni salad.
  • Macaroni Noodles: Make this dish using classic elbow macaroni noodles or shorter Ditalini noodles.
  • Mayonnaise: This creates the base of the creamy dressing, use your favorite brand.
  • Vinegar: Add a slight tang to the dressing (think coleslaw), use a plain white vinegar or apple cider vinegar.
  • Dijon: Use dijon mustard for a hint of flavor.
  • Sugar: This is used to add a hint of sweetness and to balance the flavoring of the dressing. You can substitute with your preferred sweetener or use honey if preferred.

Some other popular add ins are:

  • sweet pickles
  • grated or diced carrots
  • pimentos
  • cheese
  • green onion
  • peas

Find the complete recipe card below with measurements and full instructions.

How to make Macaroni Salad

  1. Bring a medium to large size pot of water to a boil. There should be enough water that when the noodles are added they will be completely submerged in the water. Once the water is boiling add 1 and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Stir together, then add the macaroni noodles. 
  2. Cook for about 5 minutes or until the noodles are just past al dente. Don’t overcook, they will get mushy.
Cooked macaroni in a pot then added to a glass bowl with additional fillings for macaroni salad.
  1. Pour the noodles into a strainer to get rid of the water, and rinse the noodles with some cold water to stop the cooking. Pat dry with paper towels.
  2. Add the cooked macaroni noodles to a large bowl, then add in all the optional fillings: diced bell pepper, red onion, hard-boiled eggs, and celery.
Creamy Macaroni salad dressing.
  1. Prepare the dressing in a small bowl by combining all of the ingredients, stir together until mixed and creamy. Drizzle the dressing over the macaroni salad and fillings. Stir until combined. 
  2. Cover and place in the refrigerator and allow to chill for at least 30 minutes prior to serving.
Dressing being added to a bowl of macaroni salad.

Serving

Allow the macaroni salad to chill in the refrigerator prior to serving. This side dish is best served cold and is a perfect pairing for summer BBQs, picnics, and potlucks. Some of our favorite main dishes to serve this with include:

Up close of macaroni salad with creamy dressing, bits of celery, and hard boiled egg.

Storage Tip

If you are storing the macaroni salad overnight or for a couple of days (up to 3-5 days), you may need to mix together some more of the dressing to stir into the salad before serving.  The salad will soak in a lot of the dressing as it sits over a few days.

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Classic Macaroni Salad

5 from 6 votes
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 8 minutes
Total: 23 minutes
Servings: 8 cups
Author: Serene
This classic macaroni salad is the perfect side dish to any picnic or BBQ. Coated with a creamy dressing, loaded with fresh crisp veggies, this simple, easy to make recipe is sure to be a winner! 
Macaroni salad in a bowl with soda being poured on the side.

Ingredients  

  • 8 ounces elbow macaroni noodles
  • 1/4 cup red onion diced
  • 3 stalks celery diced
  • 1 bell pepper diced
  • 3 hardboiled eggs chopped

Macaroni Salad Dressing

Instructions 

  • Bring a medium to large size pot of water to a boil. There should be enough water that when the noodles are added they will be completely submerged in the water. Once the water is boiling add 1 and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Stir together, then add the macaroni noodles.
  • Cook for about 5 minutes or until the noodles are just past al dente. Don't overcook, they will get mushy.
  • Pour the noodles into a strainer to get rid of the water, and rinse the noodles with some cold water to stop the cooking. Pat dry with paper towels.
  • Add the cooked macaroni noodles to a large bowl.
  • Prepare the dressing in a small bowl by combining all of the ingredients, stir together until mixed and creamy.
  • Add the diced add ins to the cooked macaroni in the large bowl. Drizzle the dressing over. Stir until combined. 
  • Cover and place in the refrigerator and allow to chill for at least 30 minutes prior to serving.

Video

Notes

  • Can be kept in a sealed container in the refrigerator for 4-5 days. As the salad keeps, it will soak up the dressing.
  • If you make this ahead of time, you may need to prepare additional dressing to re-coat the pasta with prior to serving.  

Nutrition

Serving: 1 | Calories: 149kcal | Carbohydrates: 10g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 11g | Sodium: 386mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Like this? Leave a comment below!

Recipe first published July 9, 2019. Updated May 13, 2020 and June 10, 2024.

Photography by KJandCompany.co


Welcome to my kitchen!

Welcome to the House of Yumm!! My name is Serene. I’m the food photographer, recipe developer, and official taste tester around these parts.

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5 Comments

  1. This is a fabulous Macaroni salad! I used the elbow Mac and its a perfect old school classic! The dressing is delicious, you can’t go wrong with this one!