This cool, creamy, classic Macaroni Salad recipe is a summer staple! Prepare it ahead of time and serve it at a picnic or backyard barbecue.
Every delicious main dish needs a few complimentary side dishes that are just as good! This macaroni salad is a great option and can be easily customized to best fit the occasion.
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How To Make Macaroni Salad
Start by making the macaroni salad dressing. Put the mayonnaise, minced celery, minced onion, dill relish, ground mustard, garlic powder, and coarse ground black pepper in a small bowl.
Stir the dressing until well combined. Then cover the bowl and place it in the refrigerator.
Cook the elbow macaroni as directed on the package. Rinse with cold water until the pasta is cool. Remove the dressing from the fridge and add it to the pasta in a large bowl.
Other Pasta Shapes
You can make macaroni salad with any pasta shape you have on hand. Other commonly used shapes are shells, rings, and penne pasta. Whatever shape you pick, you’ll just need to make sure that you have four cups of cooked pasta in the end.
Stir the macaroni salad until it is well coated with the dressing. Cover the bowl and place it in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours. Another option is to only stir in half of the dressing before refrigeration and add the remaining dressing before serving.
Additional Optional Ingredients
This classic macaroni salad can be customized to fit any occasion or menu. If you want it to be more hearty, you can add protein. Or, if you want to have more color, you can add chopped-up veggies. Here are some popular additions:
- canned tuna
- shredded chicken
- bacon bits
- chopped hard boiled eggs
- cubed or shredded cheese
- diced bell peppers
- shredded carrots
Other Ways To Make It
Mexican Macaroni Salad
To make a Mexican version, use 3/4 cup of mayonnaise and 1/2 cup of Mexican crema instead of only mayo. Substitute the relish with pickled jalapenos. Also, add one cup of diced ham and 1/2 cup of corn kernels.
Chicken Macaroni Salad
For a chicken macaroni salad, simply add a cup of diced or shredded chicken. Keep in mind that whatever you use to season your chicken when you cook it will come through in the salad.
Southern Macaroni Salad
Give your macaroni salad a southern flair by adding peeled and chopped hard-boiled eggs and 1/4 cup of diced bell peppers, and use sweet pickle relish.
Frequently Asked Questions
To make it from scratch, you’ll need to make a simple dressing of mayonnaise, celery, onions, mustard, garlic, and black pepper. Use the dressing to coat cooked macaroni noodles.
There is no good way to keep macaroni from absorbing mayonnaise since that is how starches work. You can try coating the cooked pasta with olive oil before adding the dressing, but that will also hinder the dressing from sticking to the pasta. The best option is to only add half of the dressing before refrigeration and then add the remaining dressing before serving.
We do not recommend freezing pasta salad with mayo dressing. The dressing tends to separate in the freezer, and the thawed salad wouldn’t be the same.
What To Serve It With
This side dish is a staple from Memorial Day through Labor Day. You can serve this pasta salad with all of your summer dishes! Enjoy it alongside juicy burgers, southwest chicken, flank steak, and garlic and herb chicken kabobs.
More Pasta Salads
- Italian Pasta Salad is an easy, flavorful side dish with veggies, pepperoni, cheese, and Italian dressing. Make for parties, potlucks, and backyard barbecues.
- This BLT Pasta Salad features creamy dressing, crunchy bacon, crisp lettuce, and fresh tomatoes! It’s a popular summer salad recipe for a backyard cookout.
- This summer salad recipe for Spinach Pasta Salad is a delicious combination of baby spinach, penne pasta, and a creamy pesto dressing.
- Combine the mayo, minced celery, minced onion, relish, ground mustard, garlic powder, and black pepper. Refrigerate.
- Cook the pasta according to the package. Drain and rinse with cold water.
- Stir in the dressing mixture. Cover and refrigerate for 1-2 hours before serving. (Optional: only stir in half of the dressing before refrigeration and reserve the remaining dressing to add right before serving.)
- Sprinkle with paprika before serving.