Easy Macaroni Salad

Classic Macaroni Salad is an easy side dish you can make the night before your next picnic or potluck with a creamy and tangy dressing.

Macaroni Salad is the classic popular summer side dish many people grew up eating. You will love bbq’s and picnics serving this along with Cole Slaw, Baked Beans and Baked Mac and Cheese for the ultimate spread.

Macaroni Salad

EASY MACARONI SALAD

Easy Macaroni Salad is an easy pasta salad that is a mix of elbow pasta, mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar, relish, mustard and pimento peppers. Macaroni Salad may seem like a silly recipe since most people tend to go to the grocery store deli and load up on sides (like Pea Salad and Crab Salad too!) in preparation for big parties. Making your own pasta salad can be so easy it won’t even be worth the grocery store trip.

This recipe is so crazy easy, the longest part is waiting for the water to boil. By the time the pasta is done cooking you’ll have the entire mixture ready to go. Then you drain the pasta, toss it in the mixture and refrigerate overnight.

You can have fun with this versatile recipe and mix in veggies to add some crunch and nutrients. Make it a Rainbow Macaroni Salad for the kids by adding in red bell peppers, orange bell peppers, yellow bell peppers, green bell peppers and red onions for an easy, vegetable filled rainbow.

Another fun option is Hawaiian Macaroni Salad which has grated onions, pineapple, carrot and sometimes cubed ham for a tropic twist. This is generally served along side steamed rice and classic Hawaiian bbq meats.

Because the pasta is so filling and tastes great at room temperature, it makes the perfect side dish to serve all summer long. Macaroni Salad is often made for large parties. A good rule of thumb is about ½ a cup or about 5 ounces per person.

MORE PASTA SALAD RECIPES

TIPS FOR MAKING EASY MACARONI SALAD

  • Fill a large stock pot with water over high heat and bring to a boil.
  • While water is heating, finely chop celery and pimento peppers.
  • Mix together remaining ingredients and fold in chopped celery and pimentos.
  • After pasta is cooked, drain but do not rinse. Allow to cool for a few minutes.
  • Mix pasta into mayonnaise mixture, cover, and refrigerate overnight.

Macaroni Salad Recipe

VARIATIONS ON EASY MACARONI SALAD

  • Peas: People LOVE peas in their pasta salads. You can just toss in frozen peas, they’ll thaw out overnight without any issues.
  • Ham: Diced ham is also really popular especially in a Hawaiian version which also has pineapple in it.
  • Red Onions: They’re slightly sweeter than yellow onions and add a fun color.
  • Bell Peppers: Don’t worry, they will have a slight crunch but also somewhat soften overnight.
  • Tuna: Tuna Macaroni Salad is hugely popular and a perfect easy picnic main dish option since you’re adding a protein.
  • Eggs: Chopped eggs are also an easy and very popular mix-in. Use 3-4 large eggs that have been hard boiled.
  • Pickle Juice: If vinegar is too harsh a flavor for you, try substituting pickle juice!
  • Cheese: Cubed bits of cheddar cheese added to your salad is an easy protein addition.
  • Noodles: Feel free to swap out the pasta shapes. You can use fusilli, bowtie, rotini, ziti or even broken spaghetti!

 

WHAT TO SERVE WITH MACARONI SALAD

HOW TO STORE EASY MACARONI SALAD

  • Serve: Don’t leave this pasta salad at room temperature for longer than 2 hours. 
  • Store: Cover the large bowl or put the Easy Macaroni Salad into another airtight container to store it in the fridge. It will keep well for up to 3 days.
  • Freeze: Unfortunately the creamy dressing in this salad recipe won’t stay good in the freezer. It’s better just to make the recipe fresh.

Macaroni Salad Recipe

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Macaroni Salad

Classic Macaroni Salad is an easy side dish you can make the night before your next picnic or potluck with a creamy and tangy dressing.
Yield 10 servings
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Course Side Dish
Cuisine American
Author Sabrina Snyder

Ingredients
 

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons yellow mustard
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
  • 1 stalk celery , finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons sweet relish
  • 2 tablespoons chopped pimento peppers
  • 1 pound elbow macaroni , cooked and drained

Instructions

  • Mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl and mix until pasta is well coated.
  • Refrigerate at least an hour, and preferably overnight.

Video

Nutrition

Calories: 231kcal | Carbohydrates: 47g | Protein: 7g | Fat: 1g | Sodium: 371mg | Potassium: 144mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 70IU | Vitamin C: 0.2mg | Calcium: 16mg | Iron: 0.8mg
Keyword: Easy Macaroni Salad, side dish

Macaroni Salad collage

About the Author: Sabrina Snyder

Sabrina is a professionally trained Private Chef of over 10 years with ServSafe Manager certification in food safety. She creates all the recipes here on Dinner, then Dessert, fueled in no small part by her love for bacon.

Sabrina Snyder is a professionally trained personal and private chef of over 10 years who is the creator and developer of all the recipes on Dinner, then Dessert.

She is also the author of the upcoming cookbook: Dinner, then Dessert – Satisfying Meals Using Only 3, 5 or 7 Ingredients which is being published by Harper Collins.

She started Dinner, then Dessert as a business in her office as a lunch service for her coworkers who admired her lunches before going to culinary school and becoming a full time personal chef and private chef.

As a personal chef Sabrina would cook for families one day a week and cook their entire week of dinners. All grocery shopping, cooking and cleaning was done along with instructions on reheating. As a private chef she cooked for private parties and cooked in family homes in the evenings for families on a nightly basis after working as a personal chef during the day.

Sabrina has been certified as a ServSafe Manager since 2007 and was a longstanding member of the USPCA Personal Chef Association including being on the board of the Washington DC Chapter of Chefs in the US Personal Chef Association when they won Chapter of the year.

As a member of the community of food website creators Sabrina Snyder has spoken at many conferences regarding her experiences as a food writer including the Indulge Food Conference, Everything Food Conference, Haven Food Conference and IACP Annual Food Professionals Conference.

Sabrina lives with her family in sunny California.

Dinner, then Dessert, Inc. owns the copyright on all images and text and does not allow for its original recipes and pictures to be reproduced anywhere other than at this site unless authorization is given. If you enjoyed the recipe and would like to publish it on your own site, please re-write it in your own words, and link back to my site and recipe page. Read my disclosure and copyright policy. This post may contain affiliate links.

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Comments

  1. At long last, the macaroni salad recipe that both my grandmothers made. Without all the extras in modern-day salads. What I couldn’t recall from memory were the exact dressing measurements. Thank you for having this one.

  2. Can you make smaller amounts? Adjusting portions is very important. Only feeding 4 people or 2! Thank You for your kindness.

    1. Hi! For meals that you want smaller servings of, you can “scale” a recipe. Most recipes allow for you to just half the ingredients to yield smaller portions. If you google “scaling recipes” there are tons of articles that are filled with awesome information! 🙂

  3. Simple and delicious! The tang from the vinegar and mustard is a perfect balance with the richness of the mayonnaise. This is my new favourite macaroni salad. Thank you for sharing it <3

  4. definitely less vinegar next time, its all i can taste. other than that, i would add some paprika and perfect!!!

  5. I took a very big bite after I mixed everything up and before I put it in the refrigerator and I could eat it just like that! This is delicious and I will be making this over and over again! Thanks for the great recipe!

  6. This was great!
    Most other places put 500 ingredients in it and it all gets lost.
    some people don’t know when to hold back. I am sure i seen one video that tried mixing in the kitchen sink!

  7. Rinse the pasta in cold water to stop the cooking and remove the starch…let sit to dry for maybe 20 min…this will prevent absorbing of too much dressing…I didn’t add the sugar but added a med size pkg of pepperoni, peas, grated carrot, chopped olives and finely chopped celery to make this a complete summer meal…excellent!!!!

  8. Awesome recipe! Turned out great. Super easy and since I also made your potato salad I had most of the ingredients out. Thank you!!

  9. Good, simple recipe. I made three alterations so i didn’t have to go to the market. I used a garlic honey dijon mustard instead of yellow mustard and omitted the sugar. I used dill pickle juice instead of white vinegar. And i used a tablespoon (maybe 2?) of Sambal instead of pimento. Yum yum yum. And cheap!

  10. I made this early this morning and put it in the fridge. But I can’t stay out of it, it is that good! I hope I have enough left for our late lunch.
    Your recipes are straightforward and easy to follow. I really appreciate your suggestions for substitutions, and with what to serve it. I subbed sweet pickle juice for the vinegar, red onion, and added very small cubes of cheese. We are serving this with a brisket we smoked overnight. I can’t wait to see the reactions from my family! Thanks so much!

  11. Thank you for simple and delicious, the complexity of a thousand ingredients couldn’t put you at a checkered table cloth in July under an old oak tree as this recipe does.

  12. Thank you for the recipe! I made it a couple weeks ago and I’m making it again this weekend! Everybody had seconds!

  13. In these uncertain times, I have been fixing most meals at home. Just so happened I had all the ingredients on hand (save the pimento pepper). Came out great! I added diced ham, to make it a heartier meal for dad and me. I rinsed the pasta before adding it to the mix although it didn’t say to do so. Thank you for posting this simple recipe. God bless!

  14. Made this for Thanksgiving. Added celery carrots and peas. I did add a splash of milk to thin the dressing becouse i added a bit more pasta and im lazy and didnt want to go get more mayo from store ?. Anyways.. I taste tested before and after milk and it didnt realy change flavor. I will be making this again. Not usualy a pasta salad lover but this was realy good. Thank you

  15. Great recipe. I did almost a quarter cup of pickle juice with about 2 tablespoons of vinegar. didn’t wanna completely substitute all the vinegar out; I wanted it to have a bit of kick. finely chopped red bells, and a couple cans of tuna. Overall a very satisfying pasta!

  16. Macaroni salad is one of my favorites and this recipe definitely did not disappoint. It is very easy and simple one..Thanks for a great recipe!!!!

  17. This was a huge hit at my latest bbq. I changed the recipe a bit to my taste but the overall recommendations were easy and delicious. In my version I used red and green bell peppers, half the amount of mustard, and an additional cup of mayo. I did not use the pimento peppers, celery, or relish. 5 stars! Thanks

  18. I have made this twice, following the recipe, and something is just not right. The first time I used a store brand mayo from Sam’s Club and I was thinking that may be the issue. Then I tried Hellmann’s (not sure if that is the correct spelling 🙂 ). The pasta seems to not be creamy at all, like it absorbs the mayo. I’m not sure sure what’s going on with it. I was wondering if the pasta needs to be chilled before adding the other ingredients. The reviews are really good so I’m assuming it’s either the mayo or something that I am doing wrong. I am also using Barilla macaroni. I’m just frustrated as I would like this recipe to work.

    1. Oh no! You just really need to make sure the pasta is fully drained before adding it in. If you’re still having an issue, you could try coating the pasta with a very thin layer of olive oil to work as a barrier. Hope this helps!

      1. I made this following recipe except I drained themacaroni and then rinsed the macaroni out with cold water. Mine turnedout great.. Thanx and am looking forward to trying some more of your recipes..

    2. Hi Laurie. Whenever I make macaroni salad using Barilla Pasta shells or elbows I have the same issue. For whatever reason the mixture does not come out creamy. Try using a different pasta and I think you will have better luck.

    3. I had the same issue Laurie! And I used a cheap brand of elbows. So now I’m wondering what pasta is best for this dish. This was the first time I made it and I had asked my mom why it came out like that and she said she didn’t know lol. BTW- it’s nice to see a Laurie that spells her name like I do ! LoL.. : )

    4. If the macaroni is warm when you mix in the other ingredients it will absorb the dressing (mayo, vinegar, etc). You can either chill the macaroni first or increase the amount of mayo. you put in it, either one will work. I personally would not coat the macaroni with olive oil, it will make the salad greasy and change the taste.

      1. I cook my pasta the day before; letting it drain really well,letting it chill in the fridge over night and then next day I add in the remaining ingredients.

      2. I agree with Cindy. If I don’t let the pasta cool completely, no matter which brand I buy, I have the same issue. I personally wouldn’t add oil either. Just be sure pasta is cool before making the dish up then the pasta doesn’t soak up as much of the mayo.

  19. I just made this – other than substituting pickle juice for vinegar I followed recipe exactly (could not be easier). Excellent recipe – thank you! Easy but tastes like it was a lot of work. Looking forward to checking out your other recipes.

  20. Just need a quick clarification: You say you can add pickle relish instead of vinegar… is that dill pickle relish or sweet? Since there’s also sugar in the recipe I want to make sure I don’t get it too sweet!

  21. I’ve made this twice now with everything except the pimento peppers. I added 3 hard boiled eggs and sliced olives. Served at bbqs with carne asada, chicken, Spanish rice, pinto beans. Everyone LOVES! Thanks so much!

  22. Thank you so much for this recipe – made it to use up some hard boiled eggs and I threw in some peas too, per your recommendations. Delicious! I’ve tried other recipes on your site and I’m never disappointed. I’m truly grateful!

  23. I made this and now it’s in the fridge awaiting lunch tomorrow. I had corned beef I needed to use, so in it went. I cubed some cheese and added that too. Your recipe is versatile and the sauce is very tasty. Not boring! Can’t wait to have some!

      1. Goodness… Is there anything you can’t make? What us your favorite food. Meat starch vegetables desert restaurant???? Do you have a book out? Bottom line… You’re awesome#!! Thanks so much for your teaching and experience. Much appreciated.

  24. I want to try this recipe for the first time…can you tell me the most important ingredients and steps I should not miss.

  25. I’ve been eating macaroni salad all my life and have NEVER had it with onions….doesn’t even sound right to me. Thank you for posting the only recipe on the internet that doesn’t have them in it. It’s the one I’m going with!

    1. Agree, I don’t like onions in macaroni salad! All the recipes out there have them! Glad I found this recipe, will be making it for a party on Sunday

  26. Way too sweet, I think if I were to attempt this recipe again, I’d either forego the sugar or the sweet relish to balance it out. Other than that it wasn’t too bad.

  27. This recipe was a hit with a group of pilots at an air force function! We doubled the recipe and still, the bowl was completely cleaned-out. Not one morsel left.
    Days later, I had calls from some of the wives asking for the recipe as their husbands kept raving about it. The addition of the relish was a wonderful taste enhancer. I referred them to your website. Thank you for your terrific recipes!

  28. I look forward to trying this Macaroni salad, im so very busy, I usually don’t have time to cook. Our church usually has great potluck dinners. The ladies at our church usually make homemade dishes, most are retired. I needed something I could make in short time. Thanks for the recipes.

  29. I totally LOVE Macaroni Salad, and have probably made it every which way possible over the years. We also love it w/small shrimp, celery, diced red onion, & plenty of fresh dill. I like using a (70-30%) blend of real mayo & sour cream for the dressing when I make it this way (so refreshing on a hot summer day.) Your Macaroni Salad recipe is perfect as written, and I also like all of the optional ingredients which you listed. The possibilities are endless. Thanks for posting this amazing recipe!

  30. I haven’t made this yet but i love macaroni salad. I will be giving this a try. I made the pea salad and loved it. thank you for all the wonderful recipes.

  31. In the past when making mac salad the mac absorbed all the mayo etc. I had to add more mayo and liquid .any suggestions on keeping it like store bought mac
    Jim

      1. Years ago I was taught that to make the perfect pasta salad, no matter what pasta, you drain the pasta then pour it out in a single level, like onto cookie sheets, and allow it to completely cool. Do not rinse, just let it cool. make sure it is spread out and not stacked up. It won’t stick together, once cooled, and your dressing will coat it beautifully.
        It works!

    1. Yes. Let your maccaroni cool completely before adding may and liquids. If you domt your maccaroni will absorb the mayo and liquid