Macaroni Salad

Our macaroni salad recipe is the quintessential summer recipe! Perfect to take to parties, gatherings, and BBQs. Or just a simple side dish for lunch or dinner!

Macaroni salad in a glass bowl.
Homemade macaroni salad is a classic side dish for a family pot luck.

Why You Will Love This Recipe

Macaroni pasta and crisp vegetables dressed in a simple creamy mayo-based dressing are sure to please a crowd.

A classic macaroni salad that’s quick and easy to make. No get-together is complete without it.

Some other great sides, when the crowds gather and the bbq is lit, are Classic Easy Broccoli Salad, Easy Southern Potato Salad, Spinach and Feta Orzo Salad, Easy Barbecue Baked Beans, and Baked Macaroni And Cheese.

Ingredients Needed

Pretty simple stuff here. You might not even need to go to the store.

The Base – Elbow macaroni noodles, red bell pepper, red onion, celery, and parsley make for an easy, tasty salad.

The Dressing – Mayonnaise (we highly recommend Duke’s), sour cream, apple cider vinegar, dijon mustard, granulated sugar, and garlic powder, salt, and black pepper.

Mayonnaise and sour cream are both creamy and tangy ingredients that serve as the base for the dressing in a macaroni salad. The combination of the two provides a smooth and creamy texture while also adding a slightly acidic flavor to the dressing.

Apple cider vinegar adds a tangy flavor and helps to balance the sweetness of the sugar. It also helps to tenderize the pasta and vegetables in the salad.

Dijon mustard adds a sharp, slightly spicy flavor and helps to emulsify the dressing, giving it a smooth and creamy texture.

Granulated sugar helps to balance the acidity of the vinegar and adds a subtle sweetness to the dressing.

Garlic powder adds a savory depth of flavor to the dressing, while salt and black pepper help to enhance the other flavors and bring everything together.

macaroni salad in a glass bowl

The above are the classic ingredients, but you can add any of your favorite ingredients or make substitutions.

How To Make A Delicious Macaroni Salad

Cook the pasta according to the package directions al dente. Be sure to salt the water!

Drain the cooked pasta and rinse lightly in cool water.

Place the cooked macaroni in a large mixing bowl and immediately pour one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar over and stir. Set aside to cool.

This step will help flavor the pasta with the zing of the vinegar.

macaroni salad dressing ingredients in a metal bowl

While the pasta is cooling, in a small bowl, mix together the dressing ingredients and set aside for the flavors to start combining.

We DO NOT recommend using Miracle Whip for this recipe unless you are looking for a sweet pasta salad.

diced red bell pepper, diced cerlery, diced red onion and minced parsley

Dice the red pepper, red onion, and celery. Mince the parsley.

macaroni salad in a glass bowl

Once the pasta is completely cooled, add the vegetables and parsley to the bowl. Pour the dressing over and stir to evenly coat and combine.

Add additional salt and pepper to taste if needed.

Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour before serving for all the flavors to combine.

This creamy macaroni salad is a perfect side dish for all those summer cookouts. It’s a super easy macaroni salad recipe that everybody will love.

Tips And Variations

  • We like the crunch of red onions, but they can be a little strong for some. So use green onions, if you prefer.
  • You can also soak the diced red onions in some vinegar to take the bite out.
  • Some additional add-ins are diced hard-boiled eggs, diced sweet pickles, sweet dill relish, dill pickles, diced ham, or shredded carrots.

FAQs

What is macaroni salad dressing made of?

Macaroni salad dressing is typically made of a combination of mayonnaise and sour cream, along with apple cider vinegar, Dijon mustard, granulated sugar, garlic powder, salt, and black pepper. These ingredients are blended to create a creamy, tangy, and slightly sweet dressing that is perfect for coating the pasta and vegetables in a classic macaroni salad.

Why is my macaroni salad bland?

More seasoning: In addition to salt, you may need to add more seasoning to your macaroni salad to make it more flavorful. Add more black pepper, garlic powder, or other seasonings to taste.
Undercooked pasta: If undercooked, it can have a bland taste and a hard texture. Make sure to cook your pasta until it is al dente, which means it should be firm but still tender.
Not enough dressing: The dressing brings all the flavors in a macaroni salad together, so if you need more dressing, the salad can taste bland. Try adding more dressing and tossing the salad to ensure everything is evenly coated.
Lack of acidity: Acidity is essential in balancing the flavors of a macaroni salad. If your salad tastes bland, you may need to add more apple cider vinegar or lemon juice to give it a tangy kick.

More Delicious Salad Recipes to Try

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Macaroni salad in a glass bowl.

Macaroni Salad Recipe

This macaroni salad with crisp vegetables and a creamy, tangy mayo-based dressing is perfect for any get-together or bbq!
4.80 from 5 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Servings: 8
Calories: 443kcal
Author: Leigh Harris

Ingredients
 

Salad Ingredients

  • 1 lb Elbow pasta, uncooked
  • 1 tbsp Apple cider vinegar
  • 1 medium Red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 cup Red onion, diced
  • 3 medium Celery ribs, diced
  • 1/3 cup Fresh parsley, minced

Dressing Ingredients

  • 1 cup Mayonnaise (not Miracle Whip)
  • 1/2 cup Sour cream
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp Apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp Garlic powder
  • 2 tsp Granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp Fresh ground black pepper more or less to taste
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt more or less to taste

Instructions

  • Cook the pasta according to the package instructions to al dente. Be sure to salt the water.
    1 lb Elbow pasta, uncooked
  • Drain the cooked pasta and rinse lightly in cool water. Place the cooked macaroni in a large bowl and immediately pour 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar over and stir. Set aside to cool.
    1 tbsp Apple cider vinegar
  • While the pasta is cooling, in a small bowl mix together the dressing ingredients and set aside for the flavors to start combining.
    1 medium Red bell pepper, diced, 1/2 cup Red onion, diced, 3 medium Celery ribs, diced, 1/3 cup Fresh parsley, minced, 1 cup Mayonnaise, 1/2 cup Sour cream, 1 tbsp Dijon mustard, 2 tbsp Apple cider vinegar, 1 tsp Garlic powder, 2 tsp Granulated sugar, 1 tsp Fresh ground black pepper, 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • Once the pasta is completely cooled add the vegetables and parsley to the bowl. Pour the dressing over and stir to evenly coat and combine. Add additional salt and pepper to taste if needed.
  • Cover and refrigerate for at least two hours before serving for all the flavors to combine.

Notes

To store leftover macaroni salad, keep the macaroni salad in the refrigerator in an airtight container.
Macaroni salad can last up to five days in the refrigerator if stored correctly. However, it’s best to consume it within three days for optimal freshness and flavor.
Before serving, give the macaroni salad a good stir or toss to redistribute the dressing, and make sure all the ingredients are coated evenly.
Macaroni salad doesn’t freeze well due to the creamy dressing, and the texture of the pasta can change significantly after being frozen and thawed.
By following these guidelines, you can safely store leftover macaroni salad and enjoy it for up to five days after making it.

Nutrition

Calories: 443kcal | Carbohydrates: 46g | Protein: 8g | Fat: 25g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 13g | Monounsaturated Fat: 6g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 19mg | Sodium: 509mg | Potassium: 231mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 794IU | Vitamin C: 23mg | Calcium: 40mg | Iron: 1mg

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2 Comments

  1. How does adding the vinegar directly to the noodle add to the dish? I’ve read other recipes that have them mix the vinegar in the dressing, so I’m curious. I made my own version of the macaroni salad with that method and everyone loved it!

4.80 from 5 votes (5 ratings without comment)

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