You can’t have a summer potluck or BBQ without a big ol’ bowl of macaroni salad. It’s a classic summer comfort food. Cold, creamy, carby, and delicious. And cheap! Which is great because we all need that right now. But macaroni salad isn’t just good for gatherings, it’s also a great side to meal prep for your lunches for the week.
What’s In Macaroni Salad?
Macaroni salad starts with a base of one of our favorite budget-friendly ingredient, macaroni. We add a little celery, bell pepper, and red onion for color and crunch, and a couple of hard-boiled eggs to give the salad more heft. All of this gets finished off with a super creamy dressing made with mayo, Dijon, sweet pickle relish, vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper. Classicly creamy, sweet, tangy, crunchy, and delicious.
Adjust the Sweetness
There are two main camps when it comes to macaroni salad, sweet and not so sweet. I like my macaroni salad with just a touch of sweetness to balance the acidity and creaminess of the dressing, so that’s what you’ll get with the recipe below. If you like a sweet macaroni salad, you can simply add more sugar to taste (up to about ¼ cup sugar).
What Else Can I Add to Macaroni Salad?
Macaroni Salad is another one of those great catch-all recipes. You can add all sorts of ingredients for color, texture, and flavor. Here are some ideas for other ingredients to add to your macaroni salad:
- Cheddar cheese cubes
- Broccoli florets
- Black olives
- Shredded carrots
- Diced ham
- Chopped parsley
How Long Does Macaroni Salad Stay Good?
Macaroni salad can be kept in the refrigerator for about 4-5 days. The macaroni will continue to absorb moisture as it sits in the refrigerator, so you may find it gets a little drier each day. If taking your macaroni salad to a potluck or BBQ, make sure to not let it sit out at room temperature for more than two hours.
- 2 hard-boiled eggs ($0.48)
- 1/2 red bell pepper ($0.75)
- 1/2 red onion ($0.20)
- 2 ribs celery ($0.47)
- 8 oz. macaroni ($0.67)
- 1 cup mayonnaise ($1.16)
- 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard ($0.18)
- 1 Tbsp sweet pickle relish ($0.08)
- 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar ($0.10)
- 1 Tbsp sugar ($0.01)
- 1/2 tsp salt ($0.02)
- 1/4 tsp freshly cracked pepper ($0.02)
- Chop the salad ingredients first, so they're ready to go. Dice the hard-boiled eggs, bell pepper, onion, and celery.
- Boil the macaroni until tender, then drain it in a colander. Briefly rinse the pasta with cool water to cool it off.
- While the macaroni is boiling, prepare the dressing. Stir together the mayonnaise, Dijon, relish, red wine vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper.
- Combine the cooled and drained macaroni, egg, bell pepper, celery, and onion in a bowl. Pour the dressing over top, then stir until everything is well combined and coated in dressing.
- Serve the macaroni salad immediately or refrigerate until ready to eat.
See how we calculate recipe costs here.
How to Make Macaroni Salad – Step by Step Photos
Chop the macaroni salad add-ins first. Dice two hard-boiled eggs (here’s a tutorial on how to make hard-boiled eggs, if needed), ½ of a red bell pepper, 2 ribs of celery, and ½ of a red onion.
Next, boil 8oz. elbow macaroni until tender. Drain the pasta in a colander and rinse briefly with cool water to cool down the pasta.
While the macaroni is cooking, prepare the dressing. Combine 1 cup mayonnaise, 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard, 1 Tbsp sweet relish, 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar, 1 Tbsp sugar, ½ tsp salt, and ¼ tsp freshly cracked pepper.
Add the cooked and cooled macaroni to a large bowl along with the chopped egg, bell pepper, celery, and red onion.
Pour the prepared dressing over the salad in the bowl.
And now your macaroni salad is ready to eat! Make sure to keep it in the refrigerator if you don’t plan to serve it right away, and give it a good stir again just before serving.
Need more recipe ideas for your summer gatherings? Check out our round-up of Recipes for Summer BBQs and Potlucks.
I made a half batch of this before and it was SO GOOD I need to make it again. Any suggestions for making this a full meal, like the meal prep recipes? Thanks!
This came out so GOOD!!! My husband loved it and always loves your dishes. But this was the kicker. I was cooking this and my dad came over to deliver some groceries and he smelled what I had just cooked. I gave him some of this pasta salad to take home for him and my mom to try and they loved it too. They have now requested that I make it for Thanksgiving Day. Beth, you may have just started a new Thanksgiving tradition in our family’s home without even knowing it. Lol :)
Hey, I’ve always wondered – is there a particular reason to use macaroni for pasta salads, or is it just tradition? Does it make any kind of difference in the pasta shape itself?
Use what you have! I love making mine with bowtie. XOXO -Monti
This recipe is amazing! I had my first bite and said “wow” out loud. My partner who normally doesn’t like any sort of mayo based dressings loved it too. I cut the sugar back a tiny bit (added about 2 tsp instead of 1 tbsp) but that’s just preference. Will definitely be keeping this in the summer rotation! Thanks Beth :)
Can you use gluten free pasta in this salad?
Absolutely! Just make sure to follow the directions on the box and cook until tender.
Loved this! I don’t usually like mayo-based pasta salads, but this was so good. I doubled everything to use a full box of pasta, left out the eggs and instead added more veg.
My husband doesn’t usually like macaroni salad but he devoured this. Went back for multiple servings. This pasta salad is great. Just the right amount of sweetness, crunchy veggies, creamy dressing. Super good.
This is so good! I love the crunch of all of the vegetables, I’ve found that a lot of other macaroni salads are too mushy. I only used part of the dressing (saving the rest) since I wasn’t planning on eating it all in one go and I was worried the pasta would soak up too much of the dressing/get dry. The dressing has a good tang to it and honestly would be good on anything combo of veggies and pasta! This will be a summer staple.
The dressing is so good, it’s delicious! I added shredded carrot and skipped the egg. Great, classic salad!
This was so tasty! I loved the crunch of all of the veggies in it. Would definitely make this again!