This creamy macaroni salad is packed full of flavor with simple ingredients. It’s such a great dish for potlucks, barbecues, or practically any occasion.
I love macaroni salad, it’s such a classic American dish that contains elbow macaroni pasta mixed with veggies, and all coated in a creamy dressing. I love the creamy mayonnaise dressing that coats all the noodles, and mixed in with lots of crisp and crunchy fresh veggies. Its such a great combination of flavors and textures.
It’s always been one of my favorite side dishes to grab from the grocery store deli to bring to a potluck, campout, or for our own backyard barbecues. But making it at home is so simple, and such a great way to customize the dish to your own tastes.
This macaroni salad is my go to recipe. It’s super easy to make, a make it to your taste type recipe and is always a hit at any summer gathering.
This is a quick overview of the ingredients you’ll need for this Macaroni Salad recipe. Specific measurements and full recipe instructions are in the printable recipe card below.
- elbow macaroni
- red bell pepper and green bell pepper
- red onion
- shredded carrots
- apple cider vinegar – can be substituted for white vinegar
- granulated sugar
- salt and pepper
How to make Macaroni Salad?
- Cook the elbow macaroni according to the package directions, drain out the hot water and rinse in cold water to keep the noodles from going too soft. Add the ingredients for the dressing to a small bowl, and whisk them together. Taste the dressing and add additional ingredients as needed for your tastes.
- Add the noodles, veggies, and dressing to a large bowl and stir them together to coat everything evenly in the dressing. Cover the salad and place in the fridge for at least 2 hours before serving.
Tips and Tricks:
- This recipe is super customizable, so you can make it your own tastes. Add your favorite veggies, or leave them out.
- This makes a big giant bowlful, so if you aren’t serving a crowd or meal prepping macaroni salad for the week cut the recipe in half.
- For a creamier macaroni salad, add a little more mayonnaise. Or multiply the dressing recipe by 1 1/2 times the recipe.
- Elbow macaroni noodles can be swapped out for any short pasta, small shells, orecchiette, mini farfalle, etc.
- Cut your add in vegetables into small diced pieces, the size of, or smaller than the macaroni.
- Try avocado mayo or olive oil mayo instead of regular mayonnaise.
- Instead of red onion, try adding diced green onion.
- Try a variety of your favorite veggies for this – add about 2 cups of diced veggies total. Choose from frozen peas, bell pepper, celery, carrots, red onion, green onion, cucumber, or tomato, etc.
- Add up to 1 TBS of dijon mustard or regular mustard.
- Try swapping the vinegar for pickle juice.
- Add up to 1 cup of diced cheddar cheese cubes, if desired.
- Add up to 1 cup of diced ham cubes or shredded chicken, if desired.
Storage and Make-Ahead Instructions:
Macaroni salad should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Because of the mayonnaise based dressing, its important to keep the salad chilled, and only keep it out for about 2 hours at a time. The leftovers can be stored in the fridge for about 3 to 4 days.
This side dish is a great make ahead option because it stores well in the fridge. Sometimes the pasta soaks up the dressing when stored, so if you plan on making it ahead of time, I recommend making a little extra creamy dressing. Stir and toss the macaroni salad before storing to mix up all the ingredients, and make sure everything is coated evenly in the dressing.
This macaroni salad is a classic side dish that everyone loves. It’s creamy, tangy, and has the perfect crunch from the fresh vegetables. It’s sure to be a hit with your family and friends, and is a great option for any summer gathering!
More side dish recipes:
- Creamy Pasta Salad
- Broccoli Salad
- Frog Eye Salad
- Southwest Pasta Salad
- Taco Pasta Salad
- 16 oz uncooked elbow macaroni noodles
- 1 cup diced red pepper
- 1 cup diced celery
- 1/2 cup diced red onion
- 1/2 cup julienned carrots
- 1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
- 2 TBS sugar
- 1 TBS apple cider vinegar
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp pepper
- Cook the elbow macaroni according to package directions. Drain and rinse the noodles and set aside.
- Prepare all the vegetables while the noodles are cooking.
- In a small bowl mix together the mayo, sugar, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Adjust the amounts according to your taste.
- Place the noodles, and vegetables in a bowl. Pour the dressing over the bowl (start with about 2/3 of it) and mix it all together. Add more dressing if you want it extra coated, or if you are storing if for longer than a couple hours in the fridge.
- Cover completely and place in the fridge for at least 2-4 hours before serving.
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This macaroni salad recipe was first posted on June 18, 2016. The photos and text were updated on May 12, 2023.
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