Macaroni Salad is a favorite side dish with elbow macaroni and a handful of add-ins tossed a super easy (and extra creamy) dressing.
The dressing takes about 2 minutes to prepare and is great on any kind of pasta salad or even coleslaw!
An Easy Make Ahead Side
- You can (and should) make macaroni salad ahead of time for the best flavor.
- Most kitchens have the ingredients on hand for this recipe.
- It’s super fast to put together.
- There are no special ingredients required for the dressing (and it only takes about 2 minutes).
- Use any short pasta or add-ins to make it your own.
Ingredients in macaroni salad are versatile based on what you have on hand.
The basic ratio: (full recipe below)
- 1/2 lb elbow macaroni (or any short pasta)
- about 2 cups add-ins
- 1 cup dressing
Of course, you can add more or less of any of these ingredients to your liking. Keep in mind that some of the dressing will soak into the pasta.
Try any of the following add-ins:
- Fresh celery and shredded carrots for color and crunch.
- Salty Try adding cheese, bacon, ham, pickles, sliced olives, or even capers.
- Savory Green or red onions, boiled eggs,
- Sweet Baby peas, pineapple, sweet bell peppers.
Macaroni Salad Dressing
This macaroni salad dressing is a very simple mayonnaise based dressing with sugar, relish, vinegar, a touch of mustard, and salt & pepper.
Other dressings you can use:
- Chipotle Ranch Dressing
- Bottled or homemade coleslaw dressing
- Creamy Italian Dressing
- Creamy Garlic Dressing
- Homemade Ranch Dressing
How to Make Macaroni Salad
As easy as 1,2,3…
- Boil, drain, and cool the macaroni.
- Chop While the macaroni is boiling, chop the veggies or add ins.
- Mix the dressing ingredients and toss with the macaroni and add ins.
This recipe is best left to chill for an hour or two before serving to allow the flavors to blend and the dressing to soak into the pasta.
Tips for Perfection
- Elbows can be swapped for any short pasta.
- Rinsing the pasta after draining stops it from cooking so it isn’t mushy or sticky.
- Swap the dressing for any creamy dressing.
- Dress the salad generously as the pasta will soak up some of the dressing as it sits.
- Ensure add-ins are diced fairly small.
Make-Ahead & Leftovers
Macaroni salad is best made ahead of time which makes it party perfect. Leftovers will keep in the refrigerator for up to four days. Sadly, it does not freeze well.
What are your favorite add ins? Leave a comment and rating below!
Classic Macaroni Salad
- ½ pound elbow macaroni uncooked (approx. 2 cups dry), or any short pasta
Add Ins* (see note)
- 1 cup celery diced
- ½ cup carrots shredded
- ½ cup red pepper diced
- ¼ cup red onion diced, or green onion
- 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
- Cook elbow 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.
(Nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and brands of ingredients used.)
More Make-Ahead Sides
- Italian Pasta Salad – five star favorite
- Fresh Corn Salad
- Broccoli Salad– fresh & delicious
- Caprese Pasta Salad
- Cucumber Tomato Salad – full of flavor
- Creamy Cucumber Salad – creamy & fresh