This Macaroni Salad is packed with tender noodles and a super creamy, yet tangy dressing. Full of mayonnaise, relish, dijon mustard, spices, onion, celery, bell pepper, and hard-boiled eggs. It’s loaded with flavor and makes the perfect side dish for a grill-out or potluck.
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Summer potlucks are my favorite, because there’s a wide variety of my two favorite dishes: sides and desserts.
Gimme me the classics like this easy italian pasta salad, bbq baked beans, and deviled eggs, but I also love twists on classics like s’mores dips, sweet and salty s’mores bars, and strawberry goat cheese bruschetta.
Today, we’re going back to the basics and adding this classic macaroni salad recipe to our repertoire!
It’s got everything going for it: sweet, salty, tangy, creamy, crunchy . . . YES.
This macaroni salad is SO easy and the best part is, you probably already have these ingredients on hand!
- Macaroni Pasta – my favorite noodles to use for a cold pasta salad, because it soaks up the sauce beautifully and is the perfect size to complement the other mix-ins.
- Mayonnaise – the base for the sauce. Makes the dish extra creamy.
- Distilled White Vinegar – gives the dish some tang to offset the creaminess of the mayo and sweetness of the sugar. This also helps to thin out the dressing and allows it to fully coat the noodles.
- Relish – I prefer dill, but use sweet if that’s what you have on hand.
- Dijon Mustard – a little heat, a little sweet, a little tang. It perfectly compliments the creamy mayo.
- Sugar – offsets the tangy flavors with a little sweetness.
- Garlic Powder and Paprika – adds flavor and heat.
- Salt and Pepper – brings out other flavors and adds a bit of spice to the pasta salad
- Eggs – hard-boiled and crumbled into the salad for more texture and flavor.
- Red Onion, Celery, and Red Bell Pepper – adds color, texture, and lightens up a dish that tends to be a little heavy.
You can’t have macaroni salad, without well, macaroni noodles. That being said, if you’re in a pinch use another “short” noodle like small or medium shells!
If you’d like to lighten up this pasta salad, feel free to use an olive oil or avocado oil based mayo. You could even make this dish vegan by using veganaise and omitting the egg.
Don’t have white vinegar? Try apple cider vinegar instead.
How to make macaroni salad
This macaroni pasta salad comes together in minutes and can be served immediately or chilled for later:
- Use a whisk to mix together mayo, vinegar, sugar, relish, mustard, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and paprika in a large bowl.
- Stir in cooked pasta, hard-boiled eggs, red onion, celery, and bell pepper.
- Serve immediately or chill in the fridge, covered, until ready to serve!
And that’s all! You’ve got a whole lot of delicious in a bowl in just about 10 minutes!
Pro tip: Multi-task! You should be able prep (chop, measure, and stir) all your ingredients while the water boils, then cooks the pasta!
Should i rinse my noodles?
Pasta should be rinsed after cooking when being used for a cold dish like pasta salad. This stops the cooking process and helps it from clumping together.
If pasta is being used for a hot dish – like spaghetti with turkey bolognese – don’t rinse it after being drained. The starch on the pasta helps the sauce cling to the noodles.
Why does my macaroni salad dry out?
Pasta absorbs liquid as it sits, which is why this macaroni salad will look shinier and creamier right after it’s made than after it’s been in a fridge for a few days.
Try tossing your cooked noodles in a little oil before adding them to the sauce ingredients (this helps the pasta from absorbing too much liquid) or make a little extra sauce and store it in a separate container in the fridge. Stir in as much as you’d like if your pasta is too dry for your taste.
Macaroni salad add-ins
Today we’re using hard boiled egg, red onion, celery, and red pepper. I think this combination is perfect, but if you’re looking to add more flavors and textures to your pasta salad, here are some optional add-ins you could try:
- Peas add a really nice pop in every bite. Simply toss some frozen peas under warm water to thaw, then drain and stir into the pasta salad.
- Ham or bacon add a salty flavor and chewy texture if you’re not vegetarian.
- Tuna makes this dish the perfect tuna-salad/pasta-salad hybrid.
- Cheese is also really great in pasta salad. Try cutting chunks of cheddar, or another favorite cheese, and mixing it into the salad.
What are some of your favorite macaroni pasta salad add-ins? Let me know in the comments below!
What to serve with macaroni salad
This macaroni salad is the perfect side dish for a grill-out or a potluck! Serve it with your favorite protein, other bbq sides, and of course, dessert! Here are some other great recipes to go with this dish!
- Grilled Shrimp Skewers or any of our other grilled dinner recipes
- Instant Pot BBQ Pulled Pork
- Berry Fruit Salad
- Grilled Potato Salad
- Puppy Chow
- Roasted S’Mores Ice Cream
What are your favorite side dishes to pair with macaroni salad? Let me know in the comments below!
How to store
Place macaroni salad in a sealed airtight container for up to 5 days in the fridge.
If your pasta salad starts to dry out just mix in a little mayo to make it creamier or a little pasta water to thin it out, then re-season as necessary!
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- 6 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons relish
- 2 tablespoons dijon mustard
- 2 teaspoons salt plus more to taste (I did 2 1/2 teaspoons)
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 (16 oz) box elbow macaroni cooked according to package directions
- 3 large hard boiled eggs chopped
- 1/2 small red onion finely diced
- 2 stalks celery finely diced
- 1 red bell pepper finely diced
In a large bowl, whisk together mayo, vinegar, sugar, relish, mustard, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and paprika.
Stir in cooked pasta, hard boiled eggs, red onion, celery, and bell pepper.
Serve immediately or chill in the fridge, covered, until ready to serve and enjoy!