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Macaroni Salad is a classic pasta salad with mayo, celery, pickle relish, onions, peas, hard boiled eggs, and just a hint of mustard. This Best Macaroni Salad recipe is the perfect side dish for summer and always a hit at parties, BBQs, and picnics.

macaroni salad in a large white bowl with two serving spoons
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About This Recipe

I’ve learned over the years that sometimes you just don’t mess with a classic. And that’s what this recipe is – a simple, classic Macaroni Salad. It’s been in our family for 50 years and we haven’t changed a thing.

It’s super easy to make and so delicious with tender pasta, vegetables, eggs, and sweet pickles, tossed with a simple, creamy mayo-based macaroni salad dressing. It has the perfect amount of seasoning and just enough mayo to keep it moist without being overwhelming.

Pair this easy Macaroni Salad recipe alongside other picnic side dishes like Homemade Potato SaladBaked Macaroni and Cheese, Crab Salad and Tuna Pasta Salad.

Macaroni Salad Ingredients

macaroni salad ingredients
  • Elbow macaroni – We swear by Creamette brand. Make sure to grab the regular size and not the large elbows. Small shells or the tiny ditalini work too.
  • Sweet pickle relish – make sure you get the sweet kind and not dill. Although dill pickles would be a fine addition, we prefer the little bit of sweetness.
  • Celery – because you gotta have some crunch!
  • Onion – just a little and diced really fine.
  • Peas – Ok, this is where things get a little dicey. Not everyone likes peas, myself included, but they really pop (pun intended!) in this pasta salad.
  • Mayonnaise – This mac salad is mayo-based, but it’s not so heavy with the stuff that it’s all you can taste. It’s what makes this salad so creamy and delicious.
  • Mustard – for a little bit of tang. I use regular yellow mustard (it’s a classic) or dijon mustard.
  • Hard boiled eggsWe always have hard boiled eggs in our fridge because my husband eats them almost every day. Make them yourself using that easy recipe or buy a package at the store.

How to Make the Best Macaroni Salad

See recipe card below for ingredient quantities and full instructions.

cooked macaroni in a colander

Cook the pasta, and cook it right. Boil macaroni in a large pot of salted water, following the directions on the package. Drain and rinse in a colander with cold water and cool to at least room temperature, or chill in the fridge. *Note: For cold pasta salads, you want to always rinse your pasta. Not only does this cool it off and stop the cooking process, it helps to rinse the extra starches and keeps the noodles from sticking together.

macaroni, peas, celery onions pickle relish in a bowl

Toss the veggies and eggs. While the pasta is cooking toss together the chopped celery, diced onion, pickle relish, peas, and chopped hard boiled eggs in a large bowl. Once the macaroni is cool, stir that in too.

macaroni salad with mayo and mustard

Add the dressing. Using a silicone spatula or wooden spoon, stir in mayonnaise and mustard. The recipe calls for 1 cup of mayo, but you may need more or want to use less, depending on your personal preference. Season with salt to taste.

macaroni salad in a white bowl with metal spoons


How long can Macaroni Salad sit out?

Because of the mayonnaise in this recipe, it is best kept refrigerated. It can be left out for up to two hours in the shade before it would need to be discarded or refrigerated. If left out in the sun, it will spoil faster.

Do I have to add peas?

You do not have to add the peas to this salad. They add a nice texture, but you can customize with other vegetables, like bell peppers, tomatoes, or olives.

Should you rinse pasta for pasta salad?

Yes, because as pasta cooks, it releases starch into the water. Some of that starch clings to the pasta, and makes it stick together after it’s been drained. Rinses the macaroni rinses away a lot of the excess starch so it won’t stick together. Cold water also helps to stop the cooking process so it won’t get mushy.

Serving Suggestions

This classic pasta salad is often served with grilled meats, fried chicken, or fish and is a backyard barbecue staple. These recipes would pair fabulously:

macaroni salad served into a small white bowl


You can customize your salad any way you like. These are some of the more popular mix-ins and swaps.

  • Bell pepper – Add some color and crunch with chopped red bell pepper or salty black olives.
  • Onions – Depending on your preferences, you can use white onion, red onion, or even green onion. There are slight flavor differences but the goal is to add flavor and a slight bite.
  • The dressing – This is a family recipe that we have not changed in 50 years. Until now when I added a small bit of mustard. You can omit the mustard if you prefer, or add more. For a lower-calorie dressing, swap half of the mayo for light sour cream or plain Greek yogurt.
  • Seasonings – We just use salt and sometimes a little pepper, but you could add celery salt or garlic or onion powder.
  • Pickle juice or vinegar – For a more tangy dressing, add a couple tablespoons of pickle juice or red wine vinegar.
  • Proteins – You can make this pasta salad into a main dish by adding things like canned tuna, ham, chicken, or turkey. Try my tuna macaroni salad.
  • Fresh herbs – While it’s not uncommon to include herbs in this kind of salad, a little fresh parsley, dill or chives would brighten things up.

Storage Instructions

How to Store Leftovers: Store salad in the refrigerator in a tightly sealed container for up to 5 days. If the salad seems dry, add a couple tablespoons of mayonnaise to moisten it before serving.

Helpful Tips

  • Rinse the pasta – Make sure to rinse the pasta after draining it. You want your macaroni to be al dente and not get mushy. Plus it helps keep your noodles from sticking together.
  • Don’t like mayonnaise? Instead of mayo you could use sour cream or Greek yogurt. It definitely won’t have the same taste or texture but it’s close enough to still taste good.
serving of macaroni salad in a bowl with a fork

More Picnic Friendly Sides


Best Macaroni Salad

4.65 from 48 votes
The Best Macaroni Salad is a classic summer side dish with mayo, celery, sweet pickles, onions, peas, hard boiled eggs and a hint of mustard.
Prep Time 12 minutes
Cook Time 12 minutes
Total Time 24 minutes
Servings 8 servings


  • 2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni ½ box
  • 4 tablespoons  sweet pickle relish
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 2 tablespoons chopped onion
  • 1 cup frozen peas cooked and cooled
  • 4 hard cooked eggs chopped
  • 2 teaspoons prepared mustard
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon salt to taste


  • Cook macaroni following directions on the package. Drain into a colander and rinse with cold water. Cool to at least room temperature, or in the fridge.
  • Meanwhile, in a large bowl combine celery, onion, relish, eggs and peas.
  • Stir in cooked macaroni.
  • Stir in mustard and mayonnaise and blend thoroughly. Taste and add salt as desired.
  • Store in a tightly sealed container for up to 5 days. If salad seems dry, add a couple of tablespoons of mayonnaise to moisten.


How to Store Leftovers: Store macaroni salad in the refrigerator in a tightly sealed container for up to 5 days. If the salad seems dry, add a couple tablespoons of mayonnaise to moisten it before serving.


Calories: 390kcalCarbohydrates: 33gProtein: 9gFat: 24gSaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 105mgSodium: 643mgPotassium: 181mgFiber: 3gSugar: 5gVitamin A: 769IUVitamin C: 3mgCalcium: 33mgIron: 1mg
Keyword macaroni salad

Kristin Maxwell

Kristin Maxwell is the creator and main recipe developer, writer, and photographer of Yellow Bliss Road. A self-taught cook and self-appointed foodie, she specializes in easy, flavorful and approachable recipes for any home cook.

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  1. I did t have peas so I added red bell pepper and another tablespoon of onion. I also used sweet relish and Wickles relish.❤️❤️

  2. Hi Kristin: These 2 recipes are lovely, The Macaroni Salad with peas & The Baked Chicken are so yummy together. I love your recipes as they are so simple to make & are so tasty.

  3. Salad was great. I did add a bit of garlic powder the second time I made it along with some cooked crisp fried bacon for a bit of variety. Two kids loved it without bacon but my little bacon eater loved it better with the bacon (of course!). I also always added some black pepper but white pepper would work also.
    But the recipe is great just the way it is. Love the proportion of ingredients. Some cooks add too much mayo or eggs or onions but this is perfect. Good job.

  4. This is such an easy recipe. It reminds me of my Grandma May’s recipe, that I had lost. Love, love this recipe. I’ll be making it more often in the future. Very tasty! Thank you!

  5. I followed the recipe and it was very bland and tasteless. Was very disappointed in it. I can say I’ll won’t be making it again.

    1. ‘Might want to stick to Rice Krispies and milk if you can’t use a bit of imagination – or call Grandma…

  6. I have made this recipe several times, my husband even loves it and he doesn’t normally like macaroni salad , our families all time favorite, I do splash a little apple cider vinegar over the noodles after I rinse them, just something I like to do!
    We have had it with several different add-ins, anyway you make it it is delicious!

  7. My go to Macaroni salad recipe from now on! This was a big hit, very flavorful. Next time I will only use two tsp of sweet relish to cut down on the sweetness, just personal preference though. thanks for this tasty recipe….

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