Macaroni Salad is one of those dishes that just says summertime. Often paired with BBQ meats, hot dogs, and hamburgers, it’s the perfect creamy, refreshing side dish to please a crowd.
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Easy Macaroni Salad
Macaroni salad is a staple American pasta salad made with tender pasta, hardboiled eggs, crunchy veggies, and a creamy dressing. You’ll find it served throughout the year to cool down hot proteins sizzling on the grill or to pair with a sandwich on a picnic. A perfect, minimal prep recipe for those hot summer months!
Ingredients for Macaroni Salad
- Elbow Macaroni – Elbow macaroni is the most classic choice for macaroni salad. While you can get away with swapping in rotini or penne, nothing compares to the creamy dressing getting stuck in tiny crooks of the macaroni!
- Red Bell Peppers – We like to use red bell peppers for their subtle sweetness. If you can’t get your hands on them, any other color will do.
- Red Onion – Red onion works best for its pop of color and strong flavor.
- Celery – Fresh celery adds just the right amount of crunch and texture.
- Hardboiled Eggs – You can snag premade hard-boiled eggs or whip up your own using my guide on perfect-boiled eggs.
Pro Tip: In this recipe, we prefer to use bell peppers, red onion, and celery as the veggies of choice, but feel free to swap those out for any other crunchy veggies you like best (carrots and peas are both great choices).
The Best Dressing for Macaroni Salad
- Mayonnaise – Creamy, full-fat mayo is your best bet. Alternatively, you can use half mayo and half greek yogurt if you like it a little on the tangier side.
- Apple Cider Vinegar – Apple cider vinegar adds just the right amount of tang to cut through the fat of the mayo.
- Sweet Pickle Relish – Use the same sweet relish as you would for hot dogs in this recipe. You can also chop up dill pickles o
- Mustard – Regular yellow mustard or dijon mustard works best! You don’t need to run to the store to grab anything too fancy.
- Salt & Pepper – Finish the pasta salad with as much or as little salt and pepper as suits you!
- Fresh Herbs (Optional) – If you’d like, add in some minced fresh parsley, dill, or green onion for an extra pop of color and flavor.
Pro Tip: If you like a kick of spice, add some cayenne pepper to the dressing. If you like it extra salty, add in some diced ham cubes.
How to Make Macaroni Salad
- Prepare the Pasta – Cook elbow macaroni according to the package instructions. Drain it through a colander and rinse the pasta under cold water and set it aside.
- Make the Dressing – In a separate bowl, combine all the dressing ingredients and whisk until smooth and creamy.
- Toss the Salad – Place the macaroni, veggies, and eggs into a large bowl. Pour in the dressing, stir to combine, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Chill the salad in the fridge for a couple of hours or serve immediately. Enjoy!
- Picnics – Bring macaroni salad along on picnics to serve with any of our Best Sandwich Recipes like a classic BLT Sandwich.
- Backyard BBQs – Serve macaroni salad alongside BBQ favorites like Pulled Pork Sandwiches, Smoked Ribs, or Beef Kabobs.
- Potlucks – Macaroni salad is one of the best dishes to bring to a potluck – it’s so easy to batch cook for a large crowd.
If you want to get ahead of prep, you can make the salad a couple of hours or up to a day ahead of time. keep it covered and stored in the refrigerator. The best part is that it will continue to develop its flavors as it marinates. Just make sure to give it a good stir before serving to redistribute the dressing.
Your macaroni salad is likely bland if you didn’t add enough salt to the mix or balance the flavors of the dressing correctly. If you find yourself with flavorless macaroni salad, add more of your favorite ingredients and seasonings and keep tweaking it until you’re happy.
The main way to fix over-salted pasta salad is to cut the sodium with a little vinegar. If that doesn’t work, add a bit more mustard or relish.
If your macaroni salad gets a little dry in storage, you can rehydrate it by adding a bit more dressing. This is a common issue, as pasta soaks up moisture when stored in the fridge.
Since pasta does not freeze well and turns mushy when thawed, it’s not a good idea to freeze macaroni salad.
This is a crowd-pleasing Macaroni Salad and it’s so easy. I hope it becomes a new favorite for you. If you put something unique into your pasta salad recipe, I’d love to hear about it in the comments.
More Tasty Salad Recipes
- Chicken Cobb Salad
- Italian Pasta Salad Recipe (VIDEO)
- Egg Salad Recipe
- Chickpea Salad Recipe
- Caesar Salad Recipe
- Caprese Pasta Salad
Classic Macaroni Salad Recipe
- 2 cups elbow macaroni, uncooked
- 1 cup red bell peppers, diced
- 1/2 cup red onion, diced
- 1/2 cup celery, diced
- 2 large hard-boiled eggs
- 1 Tbsp chopped parsley, optional for garnish
- Cook the elbow macaroni according to the package instructions in salted water. Drain and rinse the pasta under cold water and set it aside.
- In a separate bowl, combine all the dressing ingredients together and whisk until smooth and creamy.
- Place the macaroni into a large bowl. Add the diced bell peppers, red onion, celery, and eggs.
- Pour in the dressing and stir to combine. Garnish with parsley if desired and serve right away or cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.