Classic Macaroni Salad

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Macaroni Salad is a classic recipe for any gathering, picnic, or barbecue. Tender elbow macaroni, ham, carrots & celery are tossed in a super simple mayonnaise dressing.

Make this ahead of time for the perfect summer side dish!

Bowl of Classic Macaroni Salad

Macaroni Salad is tasty, filling, budget-friendly and goes with everything from baked chicken to a classic hamburger recipe!  With tangy and contrasting flavors and textures, this salad is always welcome at any table.

Make Ahead Side

You can (and should) make macaroni salad ahead of time. It develops a better flavor when it has time to sit in the fridge for a little bit.  Make it at least several hours ahead of time (or even a day ahead of time) to allow the flavors to blend.

It also tastes best served icy cold, straight from the fridge!


Ingredients in macaroni salad are pretty simple (and versatile).

  • MACARONI Use elbows, shells or whatever short pasta you have on hand.
  • CELERY and carrots add color and crunch. Peas add a bit of sweetness.
  • HAM adds a nice salty flavor (bacon is a great substitution too).
  • ONION is great to add zip to this recipe. I like green because it’s mild but red or white work too.

Classic Macaroni Salad ingredients in a clear bowl

How to Make Macaroni Salad

This foolproof recipe is super easy for even the most inexperienced cooks.

  1. Prepare dressing by mixing all ingredients and set aside.
  2. Boil, drain and cool the macaroni.
  3. Combine all ingredients in a bowl, cover and refrigerate.

Tip: speed prep time by mixing the hot macaroni with the frozen peas for rapid cooling and thawing at the same time.

Favorite Variations

You’ll find lots of room for creativity here. Macaroni salad will accommodate lots of different add ins, such as:

  • Diced hard-boiled eggs – Boiled eggs give macaroni salad even more body and flavor.
  • Diced bell peppers – Juicy, crunchy and colorful bell peppers are fabulous in mac salad.
  • Dill Pickles – Or capers. These briny bits can provide a little extra oomph (and we love them in our dill pickle pasta salad).
  • Cheese – Diced cheddar or mozzarella are great additions.

Classic Macaroni Salad in a white bowl

How Long Does Macaroni Salad Last?

Leftovers will keep in the refrigerator for up to four days. Mac salad can serve as a quick and simple one-pot lunch or snack.

Sadly, you cannot freeze macaroni salad.

More Summer Sides

Bowl of Classic Macaroni Salad
5 from 19 votes
Review Recipe

Classic Macaroni Salad

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Servings 6 servings
Author Holly Nilsson
Course Pasta, Side Dish
Cuisine American
This classic macaroni salad combines creamy mayonnaise based dressing with the goodness of pasta and veggies!


  • 1/2 lb elbow macaroni uncooked (approx. 2 cups dry)
  • 1 cup celery diced
  • 1/2 cup carrot shredded
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas defrosted
  • 1 cup ham diced
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced green onion or red onion
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar or white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon yellow mustard
  • 2 tablespoons sweet relish
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt & pepper

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  • Cook macaroni according to package instructions and let cool.
  • Combine pasta with remaining ingredients.
  • Prepare dressing and stir to combine.

Nutrition Information

Calories: 492, Carbohydrates: 38g, Protein: 11g, Fat: 33g, Saturated Fat: 6g, Cholesterol: 30mg, Sodium: 685mg, Potassium: 266mg, Fiber: 3g, Sugar: 9g, Vitamin A: 2055IU, Vitamin C: 6mg, Calcium: 24mg, Iron: 1mg

(Nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and brands of ingredients used.)

Keyword macaroni salad
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Holly is a wine and cheese lover, recipe creator, shopping enthusiast and self appointed foodie. Her greatest passion is creating in the kitchen and making deliciously comforting recipes for the everyday home cook!

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