Macaroni Salad Recipe

Macaroni Salad is sweet and savory with eggs, peppers, onions, and celery mixed with cheddar cheese, pickles, green onions, and a delicate creamy sauce. This is perfect as one of the side dishes at your next picnic or pool party. Cold pasta salad is a family favorite of ours during the summer.

If you like this recipe, you will probably love this Chicken and Broccoli Pasta recipe with three kinds of cheese and robust flavors. For another way to enjoy chicken and pasta, try our Caesar Salad Pasta with parmesan cheese, chicken, and veggies.

plate of macaroni salad

This is the best macaroni salad recipe for anyone, including those who are making it for the first time. The ingredients and instructions are short and sweet, meaning you can make mac salad in minutes.

The best part is that you can add just about anything you want from onion powder to sugar. As we have mentioned, this recipe is very versatile and perfect for summer potlucks or summer cookouts.

In addition, we highly recommend you try our Crab Salad made with imitation crab meat and creamy dressing. As well, it makes a great side dish or appetizer!

creamy pasta salad

Ingredients needed:

You only need a few simple ingredients for this easy macaroni salad recipe. For measurements and instructions, scroll down to our recipe card below. 

  • Elbow pasta: Dry elbow macaroni. 
  • Large, hard-boiled eggs: Chopped and at room temperature. 
  • Red bell pepper: Chopped red peppers.
  • Red onion: Diced red onion.
  • Celery stalks: Diced.
  • Green onions: Chopped.
  • Sweet pickles: Diced sweet pickles. You can also use dill pickles.
  • Sweet corn: Drained and rinsed. 
  • Cheddar cheese: Diced.

For the creamy dressing:

  • Mayonnaise
  • Sour cream or Greek yogurt
  • Sugar
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Honey mustard
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper (to taste). 

How to make macaroni salad recipe?

  1. Cook: First, cook on the stovetop according to package directions for al dente. 
  2. Drain: Then, drain and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking process before putting it in a large bowl to cool.
  3. Mix the dressing: Next, in a separate large bowl, mix all the dressing ingredients and stir thoroughly. 
  4. Combine: Last, add the pasta and other salad ingredients to the dressing and stir gently. 
  5. Serve: Cover and chill in the fridge for two hours or up to two days before serving with parsley or chopped green onion.

a large spoon of pasta salad with cheese

Recipe variations:

  • Pickle juice: You can add a bit of pickle juice to the dressing for an extra tanginess.
  • Lemon juice: If that is too much pickle for you, try lemon juice instead. 
  • Sour cream: If you do not have plain Greek yogurt, try sour cream.
  • Hot and spicy: For a spicy kick, add some red pepper flakes.
  • Wine: You could substitute white wine vinegar for apple cider vinegar. 
  • Spices: Feel free to use your own fresh herbs and spices such as garlic powder and thyme.
  • Veggies: Add other veggies that you like such as black olives, green peas, or green bell pepper.

How to serve:

Why not serve this pasta salad at your next picnic instead of potato salad? This classic macaroni salad is my favorite recipe for a perfect side dish in the summer. Here are some great serving suggestions:

  • Add ham or chicken chunks to make this a main entrée. 
  • Turn this into taco pasta salad with this easy recipe. 
  • For Hawaiian macaroni salad, toss in some brown sugar, chopped pineapple, and shredded carrots.
  • Serve with other side dishes like air fryer Hasselback potatoes and air fryer asparagus.
  • In fact, this is a great side dish for hot dogs at a summer BBQ.
  • Sprinkle with curry powder just before serving.

a spoonful of macaroni salad

Frequently asked questions

Why rinse the macaroni after cooking?

This helps stop the cooking process, so your pasta is exactly how you want it. The macaroni noodles continue cooking until you rinse them.

For example, if you are going for al dente noodles and you do not rinse in cold water afterward, the noodles will not be al dente anymore. 

Why is my macaroni salad watery?

You may not have let the noodles dry all the way to get rid of the excess water. Be sure to drain the macaroni completely before mixing it into the other ingredients.

Try drying it on a paper towel as you prepare the dressing so all the water can be absorbed so you have creamy macaroni salad.

Can I use a different pasta noodle?

For delicious macaroni salad, short noodles work the best. My personal preference is macaroni, but you can use farfalle, rotini, or penne as well as ditalini, shells, or cavatappi.

Another great type of pasta is orecchiette, which is not used as often as the others, but it is perfect for holding onto sauces and flavors.

a spoonful of macaroni salad

How to store leftovers:

  • Store: This salad can be kept in the fridge for up to four days in an airtight container.  
  • Freeze: Alternatively, you can freeze it for up to three months.
  • Defrost: Don’t forget to thaw the pasta overnight in your fridge.  
  • Reheat: No reheating is needed. Serve chilled.  

Recipe tips:

  • Make this recipe ahead of time so it is already prepared and chilled for the next day. 
  • Some people say not to rinse your noodles after serving. If you like your pasta to be softer, you do not have to rinse.
  • Do not add oil to the water when cooking the macaroni or the dressing will not stick.
  • You can also use red wine vinegar for this pasta salad recipe.
5 from 3 votes
plate of macaroni salad
Macaroni Salad
Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
10 mins

Macaroni Salad is sweet and savory with eggs, peppers, onions, and celery mixed with cheddar cheese, pickles, green onions, and a delicate creamy sauce. 

Course: Appetizer, Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Macaroni Salad, Pasta Salad
Servings: 4 servings
Author: Catalina Castravet
  • 2 cups elbow pasta dry - or any other small size pasta
  • 3 large hard-boiled eggs chopped
  • 1 bell pepper diced
  • 1 small red onion diced
  • 2 stalks celery diced
  • 1/4 cup green onions chopped
  • 1 cup sweet pickles diced
  • 1 can sweet corn either grilled or canned - drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup yellow cheddar cheese cut into small cubes or shredded
  • 1 cup white cheddar cheese cut into small cubes or shredded
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup sour cream or greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar or honey
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey mustard
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  1. First, cook pasta just a few minutes short of what the package instructions say, aiming for al dente.

  2. Rinse under cold water when done, drain well and lightly mix with a drizzle of oil so it doesn't stick.

  3. In a large bowl combine all the dressing ingredients and stir well.

  4. After that, add the pasta and the remaining ingredients and stir to combine.

  5. Taste and adjust for salt and pepper.

  6. Cover, and chill for 2 hours for up to 2 days.

  7. Serve cold garnished with green onions.

easy macaroni salad pin


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