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!
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.