Best Ever Macaroni Salad

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Today I’m sharing with you what I will unabashedly describe as the Best Macaroni Salad Recipe ever – slightly sweet, tangy and creamy made with everyday kitchen staples.

Best Ever Macaroni Salad recipe with a simple, creamy, mayo-based dressing with that perfect slightly sweet and acidic bite. I want crunchy veggies, soft (just past al dente) pasta and a zing of flavor.

Best Macaroni Salad Recipe

OK, don’t get me wrong. I’ll about being creative and inventive in the kitchen.

But there are some classic recipes that aren’t to be messed with. A classic macaroni salad recipe is one of them.

I don’t want to show up to a BBQ or picnic and bite into a riff on a macaroni salad. I want a simple, creamy, mayo-based dressing with that perfect slightly sweet and acidic bite. I want crunchy veggies, soft (just past al dente) pasta and a zing of flavor.

If that’s what you also picture when you think of the perfect nostalgic macaroni salad recipe, then not only is this recipe exactly what you’re looking for – you’re welcome to my house for our next BBQ.

Today’s macaroni salad recipe is anything but plain or boring, but rather it stays true to the flavors that a classic (or vintage) macaroni salad recipe would have – while taking less than 20 minutes to whip together.

The dressing may seem a bit runny and thin at first, but as it sets up in the fridge it will thicken up beautifully. Be sure to give it a good stir before serving and taste in case you want to adjust the seasoning.

close-up image of a classic macaroni salad recipe in a white bowl

Macaroni Salad Variations:

  • Add Protein: diced ham, chicken, steak and hard-boiled eggs- or flaked tuna – are favorite add-ins
  • Shredded or diced cheddar cheese
  • Diced red onions instead of green onions (tip: soak the red onions before incorporating to mellow out the flavor a bit)
  • Jalapeños – add chopped jalapeños along with a dash of their juice (if using jarred)
  • Add or swap out the veggies for frozen sweet peas, shredded carrots, cucumbers, chopped tomatoes, etc.
  • Amp up the heat with cayenne pepper or chili powder
  • Add bacon bits for a salty bite
  • Swap out half of the mayo for Greek yogurt or sour cream
  • Add a dash of pickle juice for added tang – or even some diced pickles
  • If avoiding processed sugar, use honey to substitute
  • Hit it with some hot sauce

Can you prep macaroni salad in advance? Yes, macaroni salad is best prepared a day or two in advance (although even just a few hours in the fridge will do the trick of thickening up the dressing and allowing the flavors to marinate). Keep in the fridge for up to 5 days.

Be sure to taste and re-season the macaroni salad before serving if you have stored it in the fridge.

composite image showing close-up image of a classic macaroni salad recipe along with three in-process images of how to make it

Macaroni Salad Ingredients

For the dressing:

Scroll down to the printable recipe card for full measurements.

labeled image of the ingredients needed to make macaroni salad

Tip: if the pasta is done cooking before the dressing is ready, shock the pasta in cold water to ensure that it doesn’t stick together.

Kitchen Tools You May Find Helpful

  • Sharp Kitchen Knife
  • Cutting Board
  • Measuring Cups and Spoons
  • Mixing Bowl
  • Saucepan
  • Colander
  • Wooden Spoon or Spatula <– I like these spatulas because they are one solid piece and don’t have removable heads for bacteria to get trapped underneath. Plus they are heat-resistant and have a lifetime warranty.
close-up image of a classic macaroni salad recipe in a white bowl

How to Make Macaroni Salad

Cook the pasta according to package directions.

Do not rinse the pasta after draining unless the dressing isn’t ready – if the dressing is still being made, rinse quickly with cold water, stirring up the pasta to break up clumps.

in-process image of how to make macaroni salad

In a large bowl, mix together the dressing ingredients. Taste and adjust to your personal preferences.

in-process image of how to make macaroni salad

Add the cooked macaroni, stir well to coat, and then mix in the chopped vegetables.

in-process image of how to make macaroni salad

Place the salad in the fridge for an hour to let the flavours marinate.

in-process image of how to make macaroni salad

Before serving, stir the macaroni salad and taste to assess if you need to adjust the seasonings.

Pin this Easy Macaroni Salad recipe for your next BBQ or easy summer sidedish:

Best Ever Macaroni Salad recipe with a simple, creamy, mayo-based dressing with that perfect slightly sweet and acidic bite. I want crunchy veggies, soft (just past al dente) pasta and a zing of flavor.

Grab your free printable recipe card for our best ever macaroni salad recipe:

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Yield: 6-8 servings

Best Macaroni Salad

Best Macaroni Salad
The Best Macaroni Salad Recipe ever - slightly sweet, tangy and creamy made with everyday kitchen staples, ready in less than 20 minutes.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 8 minutes
Total Time 23 minutes

Ingredients

For the Pasta Salad:

  • 2 cups Dry Macaroni Noodles (4 cups cooked)
  • 2 Stalks Celery, diced
  • 1/2 cup Diced Carrots
  • 1/2 Diced Red Bell Pepper
  • 2 Diced Green Onions (green parts only)

For the dressing:

  • 1/2 cup Mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup Sour Cream
  • 3 Tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar (can use white or red wine vinegar)
  • 2 Tablespoons White Sugar, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon Yellow Mustard
  • 2 Tablespoons Sweet Green Relish
  • 1/2 teaspoon Garlic Powder
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. Cook the pasta according to package directions.
  2. Do not rinse the pasta after draining unless the dressing isn't ready - if the dressing is still being made, rinse quickly with cold water, stirring up the pasta to break up clumps.
  3. In a large bowl, mix together the dressing ingredients. Taste and adjust to your personal preferences.
  4. Add the cooked macaroni, stir well to coat, and then mix in the chopped vegetables.
  5. Place the salad in the fridge for an hour to let the flavours marinate.
  6. Before serving, stir the macaroni salad and taste to assess if you need to adjust the seasonings.

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Nutrition Information:

Yield:

8

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 198Total Fat: 13gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 14mgSodium: 182mgCarbohydrates: 17gFiber: 1gSugar: 6gProtein: 3g

Sugar, Spice and Glitter uses an auto-generate nutrition calculator. Nutrition information isn’t always accurate unless analyzed in a scientific lab, so these should be considered more of a guideline than medical information.

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close-up image of a classic macaroni salad recipe in a white bowl

I hope your family loves this easy macaroni salad recipe as much as my family does!

For more perfect pastas, check out our full pasta recipe collection here:

For more delicious salads, check out our full salad recipe collection here:

For more scrumptious side dishes, check out our full side dish recipe collection here:

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