Best Macaroni Salad Recipe

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

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 favorites like Southern Potato SaladBaked Macaroni and Cheese, and Tuna Pasta Salad.

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.
macaroni salad ingredients

How to Make the Best Macaroni Salad

Be sure to check the recipe card below for full ingredients & instructions.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
cooked macaroni in a colander
macaroni, peas, celery onions pickle relish in a bowl
macaroni salad with mayo and mustard
macaroni salad in a white bowl with metal spoons

What Goes with Macaroni Salad?

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:

FAQs

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 do 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.

macaroni salad served into a small white bowl

Variations

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 some 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.
  • Fresh herbs – While it’s not super common 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.

Expert 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

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Best Macaroni Salad

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 mins
Cook Time 12 mins
Total Time 24 mins
Course Picnic, Potluck, Side Dish
Cuisine American
Servings 8 servings
Calories 390kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 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

Instructions
 

  • 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.

Notes

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.

Nutrition

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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Comments

  1. 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!

  2. 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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