Classic Macaroni Salad
Macaroni Salad with egg, sweet pickles and a creamy dressing is a delicious side dish that’s perfect for summer BBQ’s and potlucks. This macaroni salad recipe is quick and easy to make with just a few simple ingredients.
In the summer, it doesn’t get much better than dinner off of the grill and a side of homemade macaroni salad. This creamy pasta salad is the perfect side dish to serve with Grilled Chicken, Grilled Pork Chops or Slow Cooker Pulled Pork.
This macaroni salad is a slight adaptation of my grandma’s recipe. It’s a tried and true recipe that’s easy to make, with a delicious crunch from celery and bell pepper. You are going to love it!
- This recipe comes together in 30 minutes, start to finish.
- The dressing has just a touch of sweetness, which perfectly complements the other flavors in the salad.
- Macaroni salad tastes even better on the second day, after the flavors have had time to meld together. It’s a great make ahead side dish!
Complete your summer BBQ menu with one or two of these favorite side dishes: Pasta Salad, Broccoli Salad or Fruit Salad, and you’ll have a meal worthy of any summer cookout!
Macaroni Salad Ingredients
You’ll find that the ingredients vary slightly between different macaroni salad recipes. Here’s what goes in mine:
- Pasta: I use ditalini pasta because that’s what my mom and grandma have always used. Any short pasta will work, such as elbow macaroni.
- Red Bell Pepper: A chopped red bell pepper adds color, flavor and crunch. You could also use a yellow or orange bell pepper.
- Celery: For delicious crunch. Chop the celery up finely because small bites of celery are best here.
- Red Onion: A little bit of red onion is a nice contrast to the sweetness from the pickles and dressing. Chop the onion up finely.
- Sweet Pickles: Sweet pickles are a classic macaroni salad ingredient. Trust me when I say they go perfectly in this salad. If you really don’t like pickles, you can leave them out.
- Hard Boiled Eggs: I’ve always make my macaroni salad with egg, just like Potato Salad. My favorite way to cook the eggs for this recipe is to make Instant Pot Hard Boiled Eggs.
- Dressing: My homemade macaroni salad dressing is made with mayonnaise, apple cider vinegar, Dijon mustard, sugar, salt and pepper. I use just enough mayo to coat the pasta without making the salad overly mayonnaisey. If you like a really creamy salad, try making 1 1/2 times the dressing recipe.
How to Make Macaroni Salad
The steps to making macaroni salad are: cook and cool the pasta, make the dressing, and mix all of the ingredients together. That’s it!
Follow these tips for the best macaroni salad:
- To flavor the pasta for your salad right from the start, cook the pasta in salted water.
- Be careful to not under-cook or over-cook the pasta. Cook it until it is al dente, which means it is soft but has a very slight bite to it.
- After the pasta is cooked, transfer it to a colander and rinse it under cold water. The cold water rinse stops the cooking process and begins to cool the pasta.
- To keep the macaroni from absorbing all of the dressing, drain it well and let it cool completely before mixing in the dressing. Stir the pasta every once in a while as it cools to keep it from clumping together. To speed up the cooling process, you can spread the pasta out in a 9×13-inch baking dish. It will cool faster when it’s spread out in a thin layer.
- Chill the macaroni salad for at least 2 hours before serving.
- Garnish the salad with chopped fresh parsley or paprika.
- My grandpa would always add a little sweet pickle juice from the jar of sweet pickles to his macaroni salad dressing. It’s really tasty, and if you want to try it I recommend replacing half of the apple cider vinegar with the sweet pickle juice.
- I like to use avocado mayo instead of regular mayonnaise.
- Instead of the red onion in this recipe, you can use chopped green onion.
- You can make this salad a meal by adding chicken, tuna or chickpeas.
Macaroni salad will last for 3 days when you store it in an airtight container in your refrigerator. It tastes best on the second day so I recommend making it ahead!
For food safety, do not leave macaroni salad out at room temperature for more than two hours. If you are serving it outside on a hot day, I wouldn’t even leave it out for that long. This is true for all salads with mayo-based dressings.
More Favorite Salad Recipes
Classic Macaroni Salad
- 1 pound ditalini pasta, or elbow pasta
- 1 red bell pepper, chopped
- 2 ribs celery, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
- 1/2 cup chopped sweet pickles
- 3 hard boiled eggs, chopped
Macaroni Salad Dressing
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- chopped fresh parsley
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook pasta according to package directions for al dente. Transfer the pasta to a colander, rinse it with cold water and drain well. Set pasta aside to cool while you prepare the rest of the salad ingredients (see note). Stir the pasta occasionally to prevent it from sticking together.
- In a large bowl, combine the red bell pepper, celery, onion, pickles and hard boiled eggs.
- To make the dressing, combine the mayonnaise, apple cider vinegar, Dijon, sugar, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Whisk until well combined and smooth.
- When the pasta is completely cooled, add it to the bowl with the other pasta salad ingredients. Pour on the dressing and stir until everything is well combined.
- Cover and chill macaroni salad in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours before serving. It will keep for up to 3 days when stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
- Macaroni salad tastes best on the second day, so it is a perfect make ahead side dish.
- To cool the pasta more quickly, you can spread it out in a 9x13-inch baking dish.
This is an addictive macaroni salad! People can’t get enough of it. This is going into my recipe book for future reference. So yummy!
Absolutely delicious! I copied it down to become a permanent part of my recipe box.
This recipe is a keeper. I used half sour cream and half mayo. I also had to add black olives. So yummy. Definitely will be my go to macaroni salad recipe.
Try adding cubed fresh tomato, diced ham, and some cucumber .
Try This is the best Macaroni Salad I’ve made in a very long time. The mayonnaise and Apple cider vinegar is perfect on this. All the flavors and textures complement each other. Delicious! I would definitely recommend trying.
So easy to make and DELICIOUS! Will definitely be my new go to macaroni salad. I will however, omit the salt in the pasta water and in the dressing as we found it a bit salty. Thanks for this great recipe.
My favorite macaroni salad recipe! This delicious recipe will always be my go to recipe for potlucks!
Loved this recipe. I added bacon and olives, easy and loved the dressing
I have avoided macaroni salad for years because I don’t like Mayo. This was very appealing due to the limited use of mayonnaise. It looked perfect in your photos. I got the avocado Mayo and followed your recipe and was shocked at how much I loved it! Who knew? And I have the barbecue pork in the slow cooker! Thanks for the inspiration. PS I’m a retired teacher…
I’m so happy that you enjoyed this recipe! You’ll love the pulled pork! It’s another of my favorites. 🙂
The pulled pork was awesome! I will be looking for more recipes now. Your recipes are well written. Thanks.
Yay! I’m so glad you loved it. Thank you for trying my recipes! I hope you find many more favorites! 🙂
I’m not a cook but needed to take a pasta salad to a party. This one looked easy and it was! But wow! It tasted super good. Yes, this will be my “go-to” salad from here on. My friends loved it too. The only thing I added was Trader Joe’s Chile Lime seasoning. Perfection!
It is the best macaroni salad . Family could not stop eating. Will be my go to salad recipe.
I have searched for many years to find a macaroni salad that I would like. I made this recipe at Easter and have made it twice since then. Followed the recipe and it was easy and delish! I think I will try your coleslaw recipe next. Thank you.
To save a little bit of chopping, I always add sweet relish instead of pickles.. Pasta salad is a favorite in my family in the summer and I always make a huge one for a get-together, hoping to have extras. Thanks for the tips and recipe! Making it today for tomorrow’s Independence Day picnic!
I’m about to make this recipe. I have a question before I start. Is the amount of pasta it calls for cooked or uncooked? You know how pasta grows. I don’t want to make too much if it means uncooked
Use a 1 pound box of pasta (uncooked). I hope you enjoy the macaroni salad!
This is good on the first day, but great on the second and third days. A keeper for sure.
Absolutely delicious. Will definitely be adding to my recipe book.
I think this is the 2nd time I’ve made this salad but it’s my favorite!! It was even delicious after maybe 10 mins in fridge but now that it’s the 2nd day, I’m sure it’ll be even better if that’s possible. I used what I had which meant using Rotini in lieu of elbow macaroni. Otherwise, i followed recipe pretty closely. I may have reduced red onion to 1/3 cup instead of 1/2 and diced very finely so my kids would eat it. I had slices of bread and butter pickles which are sweet and very juicy. I eyeballed the pickle amount but it was 1/2-3/4 cup. I made did 4 hard-boiled eggs instead of 3. I followed dressing to the tee which is sooo yummy. I thought at first maybe it wouldn’t be enough and I don’t like “dry” salads….I’m a sloppy saucy person but I held back the urge and am thankful I did. Just the perfect amount to kiss all the ingredients just right.
I made this and it’s yummy. I just made a second batch and tweaked it a little. I used more chopped pickles and added 2 T of the pickle juice to the dressing. I also use cracked white pepper.
I’ve never added a comment on any recipe ever before. And I never thought my first one would be on a macaroni salad, but oh my goodness, this is one of the best party/side dishes I’ve EVER made. This is an amazing recipe! Thank you so much!! DELISH!
I’m so happy to hear how much you enjoyed this macaroni salad! Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment! 🙂
Needed a EASY macaroni salad. My deli was out (Labor Day weekend). I didn’t want the plastic container of it. Came across this recipe as I was standing in the grocery store trying to come up with a plan B. I added the optional paprika, but only had smoked paprika. I also subbed the thick chopped relish for the chopped pickles. It was sooooo good! Even my husband ate it! He does not like mayo based salads! This will now be a summer holiday staple! Thanks!
This was EXCELLENT and pretty easy to make! The people I served it to at a party last night just raved about it!
I made this recipe with gluten free macaroni and used sweet pickle juice instead of apple cider vinegar. Everybody I gave it to raved about how good it was.
I made it for a lady friend of mine who never eaten macaroni salad. Also gave some to several other friends. Just me is on a gluten free diet. My first try at making my own macaroni salad.
This is an excellent recipe! I made this for the first time to take to a church potluck and it was a big hit! I will definitely make this again, so delicious!😋
Delicious! I also like to add shrimp with pasta shells. A great summertime meal.
A very good classic recipe! And it’s not dripping with sauce. I used yellow mustard and it turned out fine.