This Macaroni Salad features sweet pickles, bell pepper, hard boiled eggs and a creamy dressing. While some macaroni salads can be overly mayonnaisey and heavy, this one has just enough dressing to make it both light and satisfying. It’s a great make ahead recipe, since the flavors are even better on the second day!

Macaroni salad served in a white bowl.

This macaroni salad recipe is my grandma’s recipe, and we all know that grandma’s recipes are the best. 😉

I grew up eating this creamy pasta salad at our family’s 4th of July get-togethers, summer BBQ’s and Sunday dinners. Not only is it a tried-and-true favorite recipe in my family, but the comments below show that it’s become a trusted favorite in many readers’ homes as well.

It is the best macaroni salad. Family could not stop eating. Will be my go to salad recipe.


Why You’ll Love This Macaroni Salad Recipe Too

  • Recipe comes together in just 30 minutes, start to finish.
  • Easy to customize – I’ve given you lots of ideas below.
  • A delicious mix of textures and flavors. Celery, bell peppers and pickles bring a satisfying crunch to balance out the tender pasta.
  • The creamy dressing has a touch of sweetness that perfectly complements the other flavors.
  • Versatile side dish. I love it with grilled chicken, burgers and slow cooker pulled pork
  • It feeds a crowd and is perfect for a BBQ or potluck.
Close up of macaroni salad in a white serving bowl.

Make it Ahead: It Tastes Even Better on Day 2 and 3

One of my best tips for success with this recipe is to make it ahead of time – at least a few hours ahead, but a day ahead is even better. As the macaroni salad chills in the fridge, the flavors develop and meld together, making the salad even tastier.

Macaroni Salad Ingredients

  • Pasta: I use ditalini pasta because that’s what my grandma always used, but any short pasta shape will work. Elbow macaroni is a common favorite for macaroni salad.
  • 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 more crunch! Chop the celery up finely because small bites of celery are best here.
  • Red Onion: The red onion is a nice contrast to the sweetness from the pickles and dressing. Chop the onion up finely so that it doesn’t overpower the other ingredients.
  • Sweet Pickles: Sweet pickles are a classic macaroni salad ingredient. Trust me when I say they go perfectly in this salad!
  • Hard Boiled Eggs: I’ve always make my macaroni salad with egg, just like potato salad. Cook the eggs using my stovetop hard boiled eggs recipe, or my Instant Pot hard boiled eggs recipe.
  • 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.
Cooked pasta, hard boiled egg, pickles, red onion, celery and bell pepper combined in a mixing bowl.

How to Make Macaroni Salad

Here’s a quick overview of how to make this recipe. See the printable recipe card below for the full recipe with measurements.

  1. Cook the pasta. Once it’s cooked to al dente, drain the pasta and rinse it with cold water. Let the pasta cool.
  2. Chop the other ingredients. In a large bowl, combine the red bell pepper, celery, onion, pickles and hard boiled eggs.
  3. Make the dressing. Whisk together the mayonnaise, apple cider vinegar, Dijon mustard, sugar, salt and pepper.
  4. Combine it all together. Add the cooled pasta to the bowl with the chopped ingredients. Pour on the dressing and stir until everything is well combined.
  5. Chill. Chill the salad for at least 2 hours before serving to let the flavors develop.
  6. Serve. Right before serving, garnish with chopped fresh parsley and/or a sprinkle of sweet paprika.

Tips for the Best Macaroni Salad

  • Cook the pasta in salted water to flavor it right from the start.
  • Don’t 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.
  • Rinse the pasta with cold water after it cooks, then drain it well. The cold water rinse stops the cooking process and begins to cool the pasta. 
  • To keep the macaroni from absorbing all of the dressing, 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 or on a baking sheet.
  • Chill the macaroni salad for at least 2 hours before serving. I know I said this above, but it’s worth repeating because it’s very important for the best-tasting macaroni salad.

Recipe Variations

  • 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.
  • Use avocado mayo instead of regular mayonnaise. This is what I usually do!
  • Switch up the pasta shape. Try elbow macaroni, shells or rotini.
  • Use green onion instead of red onion.
  • Add black olives.
  • Add chopped cucumber.
  • Add peas.
  • Add bacon.
  • Make it a meal by adding protein. Try chicken, ham, tuna or chickpeas.
  • Make it extra creamy by making 1.5 times the dressing amount.

Storage Instructions

  • Macaroni salad will last for 3 days when you store it in an airtight container in your refrigerator.
  • 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.
Creamy macaroni salad in a white bowl.

More Favorite Salad Recipes

Complete your summer BBQ menu with one or two of these favorite side dishes, and you’ll have a meal worthy of any summer cookout!

Macaroni salad with creamy dressing served in a white bowl.
4.96 from 23 ratings

Macaroni Salad

Servings: 14 servings
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
This macaroni salad has sweet pickles, bell pepper, hard boiled eggs and a creamy dressing. It makes a big batch and is perfect for sharing at a BBQ or potluck. This recipe is ideal for making ahead since it tastes even better on the second day.


  • 1 pound ditalini pasta, or elbow macaroni 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

Optional Garnishes

  • chopped fresh parsley
  • paprika


  • 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 9×13-inch baking dish.
Serving: 1cup, Calories: 261kcal, Carbohydrates: 28g, Protein: 6g, Fat: 14g, Saturated Fat: 2g, Cholesterol: 47mg, Sodium: 242mg, Potassium: 136mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 4g, Vitamin A: 400IU, Vitamin C: 11.5mg, Calcium: 20mg, Iron: 0.6mg
Nutrition information is an estimate.
Cuisine: American
Course: Side Dish
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