Classic Macaroni Salad


This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy.

Macaroni Salad is a classic side dish, super easy to make and extra creamy good.

Tender elbow macaroni, a handful of add ins and some diced veggies are tossed in a super quick and delicious dressing. Best of all, this dish is even better made ahead of time.

Bowl of Classic Macaroni Salad

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

The Perfect Side Dish

  • 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.
  • We have the ingredients to make this budget-friendly side on hand almost all of the time.
  • It’s super fast to put together.
  • There are no special ingredients required for the dressing (and it’s the perfect creamy addition)!
  • Use any short pasta or add ins to make it your own.

macaroni salad ingredients in a bowl

Ingredients

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

  • Elbows (or short pasta) Use elbows, shells or whatever short pasta you have on hand.
  • Veggies We use celery and carrots for color and crunch. Peas add a bit of sweetness. Red bell pepper is a great addition too.
  • Ham adds a nice salty flavor (bacon is a great substitution too).
  • Onion is great to add zip to this recipe. Green, white or red will work.

Dressing for Macaroni Salad is a simple mayonnaise based dressing similar to that found on a potato salad or coleslaw. It’s just the right amount of creamy and zesty.

dressing ingredients in a bowl

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 or even olives. 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.

How to Make Macaroni Salad

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

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

Dressing Swap If you’re in a rush, the dressing can be swapped for a bottled dressing of your choice or even coleslaw dressing. Add dash of vinegar, a pinch of sugar and a spoonful of sweet relish if you have it.

Classic Macaroni Salad ingredients in a clear bowl

Tips for a Perfect Dish

  • Elbows can be swapped for any short pasta.
  • Rinsing the pasta after draining stops it from cooking so it doesn’t get mushy and keeps it from being sticky.
  • The dressing can be swapped for a bottled dressing of your choice or even coleslaw dressing. Add dash of vinegar, a pinch of sugar and a spoonful of sweet relish if you have it.
  • Dress the salad generously as the pasta will soak up some of the dressing as it sits.
  • Ensure add-ins are diced fairly small.
  • Change up the add-ins to your liking, pickles, boiled eggs or diced veggies are great in this recipe.

Time Saving Tip Place the peas in the bottom of the strainer. The hot water from draining the pasta will thaw the peas quickly!

Classic Macaroni Salad in a white bowl

Make-Ahead & Leftovers

Make this at least an hour ahead of time, a few hours is best.

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 Make Ahead Sides

Bowl of Classic Macaroni Salad
5 from 22 votes
Review Recipe

Classic Macaroni Salad

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Chill Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Servings 6 servings
Author Holly Nilsson
This classic macaroni salad combines creamy mayonnaise-based dressing with the goodness of pasta and veggies!

Ingredients

  • ½ pound elbow macaroni uncooked (approx. 2 cups dry)
  • 1 cup celery diced
  • ½ cup carrots shredded
  • ½ cup frozen peas defrosted
  • 1 cup ham diced
  • ¼ cup green onion or red onion, thinly sliced
Dressing
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar or white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons sweet relish
  • 1 teaspoon yellow mustard
  • ¼ teaspoon salt & pepper

Follow Spend with Pennies on Pinterest

Instructions

  • Cook macaroni according to package instructions. Drain and rinse under cold water.
  • Combine dressing ingredients in a small bowl.
  • Add macaroni, dressing, and remaining ingredients to a large bowl.
  • Mix well to combine and refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving.

Recipe Notes

  • Macaroni can be swapped for any short pasta.
  • Rinsing the pasta after draining stops it from cooking so it doesn't get mushy and keeps it from being sticky.
  • The dressing can be swapped for a bottled dressing of your choice or even coleslaw dressing. Add dash of vinegar, a pinch of sugar and a spoonful of sweet relish if you have it.
  • Dress the salad generously as the pasta will soak up some of the dressing as it sits.
  • Ensure add-ins are diced fairly small.
  • Change up the add ins to your liking, pickles, boiled eggs or diced veggies are great in this recipe.

Nutrition Information

Calories: 493, Carbohydrates: 38g, Protein: 11g, Fat: 33g, Saturated Fat: 6g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 30mg, Sodium: 686mg, Potassium: 285mg, Fiber: 3g, Sugar: 9g, Vitamin A: 2077IU, Vitamin C: 7mg, Calcium: 30mg, Iron: 1mg

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

Keyword best macaroni salad, how to make macaroni salad, macaroni salad, macaroni salad recipe
Course Pasta, Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine American
plated Classic Macaroni Salad with writing
Classic Macaroni Salad with a title
Classic Macaroni Salad in a bowl with a title
Classic Macaroni Salad before and after mixing in a bowl with a title

More Recipes You'll Love

About the author

Holly

pinterest facebook twitter instagram

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!

More Posts by Holly

Latest & Greatest Dishes