This easy, classic Macaroni Salad recipe has favorite add-ins like celery, onion, bell pepper and shredded carrot, tossed in a creamy mayo-based dressing. It’s a beloved side dish at potlucks and BBQ’s and it’s easy to adapt to add what you like.
There are a few side dishes that make summer dinner complete, including Baked Potato Salad, Baked Beans, and Skillet Cornbread!
Whether its the fun shape of the pasta, the delicious creamy sauce, or the variety of add-ins, macaroni salad has been one of the most popular side-dishes at American dinner tables for decades! It goes well with just about anything, and you can include whatever leftover veggies, meats and cheese you like or need to use up from your fridge.
What you’ll need:
Pasta: Elbow macaroni is the most popular pasta in macaroni salad but any short pasta will work, including ditalini, farfalle, and rotini.
Dressing: I use half mayonnaise and half Greek yogurt or lowfat sour cream because I love the mellow flavor and creaminess it adds.
Veggies: Bell pepper, celery, onion, shredded carrot.
Other add-in ideas: Diced cheese, peas, hard boiled eggs, diced ham, pickles, bacon, tuna, chicken
How to make macaroni salad:
Cook and cool pasta: Cook pasta according to package directions, until al dente. Rinse with cold water and drain. This stops the cooking process and rinses away extra starch so the noodles will not stick together. Cool the noodles completely before adding the dressing.
Add chopped salad ingredients: In a large mixing bowl, toss together cooked and cooled noodles onion, celery, bell pepper, and carrots. Additional add in for macaroni salad include: Diced cheese, peas, hard boiled eggs, diced ham, pickles, bacon, tuna, chicken.
Make dressing: In a small mixing bowl whisk together mayonnaise, sour cream, milk, cider vinegar, sugar, dijon mustard, salt, and pepper. Pour half of the sauce over pasta and toss until everything is well coated. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and chill for at least one hour before serving. Stir in additional sauce before serving.
Storing: Leftover macaroni salad can be stored in the fridge for 3 to 5 days.
- No mayo Macaroni Salad: Use an olive-oil based dressing instead, like this Italian dressing.
- Filipino Macaroni salad: Add chicken, pineapple, raisins and cheese.
- Hawaiian Macaroni salad: Add milk to the dressing instead of sour cream of Greek yogurt. Leave out the bell pepper and add green onion. Chopped pineapple and ham are optional additions.
Make ahead and Freezing Instructions:
To make ahead, assemble the salad ingredients and dressing and store separately in the refrigerator for 3-5 days.
Freeze the pasta mixture without the sauce, in a freezer safe container for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge before adding the dressing.
Macaroni Salad goes well with:
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- 1/2 pound elbow noodles , or ditalini
- 1/4 cup finely diced red onion
- 1 rib rib celery , finely diced
- 1/2 of a red bell pepper , finely diced
- ¼ cup finely shredded carrot , loosely measured, then squeezed out
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 1/4 cup sour cream or plain Greek yogurt
- 2 Tablespoons milk
- 2 Tablespoons cider vinegar
- 1/2 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1/2 tablespoon dijon mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook macaroni according to package directions, until al dente. Rinse with cold water and drain. This stops the cooking process and rinses away extra starch so the noodles will not stick together.
- Cool the noodles completely before adding the dressing.
- In a large mixing bowl, toss together cooked and cooled noodles onion, celery, bell pepper, and carrots.
- In a small mixing bowl whisk together mayonnaise, sour cream, milk, cider vinegar, sugar, dijon mustard, salt, and pepper.
- Pour half of the sauce over pasta and toss until everything is well coated. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and chill for at least one hour before serving. Stir in additional sauce before serving. Add a splash of milk, for a thinner sauce, if desired.
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RATE and COMMENT below! I would love to hear your experience.
We love this salad. It is our go to for green pea macaroni salad. Sometimes we change it a bit but not much. We actually added +1 tsp of the vinegar. It has to have that bite! Thank you for this recipe!!
I did 2 cups of macaroni noodles. No onion or carrot. Added my own amount of ham, cheddar cheese, green onion, celery and red pepper. Followed the sauce recipe except only used 1 tbsp of vinegar. My husband and I love it!
For me there was too much crunch for macarini salad. I would leave out the celery, use 1/4 red pepper diced small, leave out the carrot. The sauce was too thin so I increased the Mayo to 3/4+ cup. This would be similar to the deli near me which has a great salad. Next time I might try Miracle Whip instead of Mayo.
I have tried a few of your other recipies and I love them. Thank you
I made this recipe and it was excellent. I will definitely make this one again.
Turned out great. Thanks for sharing.
Once again, TastesBetterFromScratch saved the day. I made this for our last-minute 4th of July bbq party and it was a hit! It was the first dish to run out. I have since made it two more times. It’s quick, easy, and the whole family loves it!
So excited to make this for the 4th of July! I’m planning to make the Hawaiian version and notice it requires replacing either the mayo or sour cream with milk — should I replace both of those or just one of them? If just one, which one?
Thank you! LOVE your recipes!
Replace the sour cream or Greek yogurt with milk! Thanks for checking my typo!