Macaroni Salad Recipe – A real classic, this macaroni salad made with just a few simple ingredients delivers big-time flavor. It’s an easy, comforting side dish for fried chicken, barbecue, and other picnic meals! 🧺
Now that summer is in full swing, I want to share a pasta recipe that requires hardly any prep time and reflects those sunny summer vibes. I can make this recipe ahead of time and serve it with just about anything that comes off the grill. Can you tell how excited I am for this weekend’s grill out? 😆
You don’t need fancy ingredients to make this macaroni salad taste amazing. And I know you’ll fall in love with my mayo mixture here. It has sweet relish and mustard to create a perfectly balanced flavor. I even use this mayo mixture as a spread for my sandwiches! Sooo good! 😋
Is it Southern?
Is Macaroni Salad a Southern Dish?
Absolutely! If you are familiar with Southern cooking, you already know a whole host of “salads” have little or nothing to do with lettuce or raw veggies. This is one of those salads. 😂 Macaroni salad is a pasta dish with a creamy mayo dressing served as a side and can be eaten warm or chilled.
- Pasta – Macaroni pasta gives this pasta salad its name, but you could use shells or any other bite-sized pasta instead.
- Mayo Dressing – Mayo, sweet relish, mustard, and vinegar make this pasta salad irresistibly creamy.
- Veggies – Ok, ok, so this recipe does actually have a few chopped veggies to give the salad some crunch. Red and green peppers, celery, and onion add color and flavor to macaroni salad. (But we all know the pasta is the real star of this show. 🤫)
- Eggs – Boiled eggs add another layer of texture and flavor to this macaroni salad.
How to Make Macaroni Salad
- Cook macaroni following directions on the package.
- Drain and rinse well.
- Cool – Let it cool while working on the sauce. After cooling, refrigerate until ready to use.
- Make Dressing – Whisk together mayonnaise, sweet relish, vinegar, and mustard in a small bowl. Set aside or refrigerate until ready to use.
- Add the Extras – Once macaroni has cooled, place it in a bowl with the sliced celery, cut-up eggs, chopped green and red bell pepper, and the diced onion.
- Dress It – Add the prepared mayonnaise sauce to the bowl and mix thoroughly.
- Adjust salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with parsley, if desired.
- Customize this salad with any topping you love. Bacon, ham, grated cheese, chicken, and olives all taste amazing in this salad. Your imagination is the limit, so feel free to get creative with your flavors and textures!
- If you aren’t a mayo fan but still want to prepare this dish, replace the mayo with the same amount of sour cream plus two tablespoons of olive oil.
- You can serve it warm or cold. If you really want the flavors to come together though, chill the assembled salad and serve it the next day.
Tips and Tricks
- If the salad seems a bit dry, add a couple of tablespoons of mayonnaise (or sour cream) to moisten it.
- Don’t overcook your pasta. This recipe is best with macaroni that is al dente. Mushy macaroni salad is not great, my friends. 👎
- Don’t skip the pasta rinsing! Rinsing the pasta stops the cooking process, keeping things al dente. Plus, it washes away the starchy film that could make the pasta stick together and cause your salad to clump.
This dish was made for making ahead! I recommend making macaroni one day ahead of time. It boosts the flavor and saves you time too. 🙌
Serving and Storage Instructions
As I mentioned, you can serve this salad right after you assemble it when it is still warm or serve it chilled. Garnish with parsley to give it an extra pop of color and flavor.
Store in a tightly sealed container in the fridge, and it will keep for 4-5 days. Since this salad tastes amazing chilled, you can simply scoop out a portion of your leftovers and eat it straight out of the fridge. Alternatively, you can freeze macaroni salad, just don’t expect the veggies to have the same texture.
Technically, macaroni salad is a pasta salad. However, pasta salad usually refers to a specific recipe dressed with a vinaigrette instead of a mayo-based dressing.
There’s an easy fix for this. Chilling the macaroni before you assemble the macaroni salad ingredients will slow down the absorption of the mayo. You can also toss your macaroni in a tablespoon of oil, which will coat the pasta with a moisture-repellent layer.
Usually, macaroni salad tastes bland if you haven’t added enough salt or if you haven’t balanced the dressing flavors correctly, so you may need to make a few minor adjustments. You can also add other spices and seasonings if you want a little extra spice. Cayenne pepper, Italian seasoning, and fresh herbs like dill or green onion can all add a little kick of extra flavor.
What Goes with Macaroni Salad
It’s a classic side for grilled meals. Try it with crispy grilled chicken wings or Hawaiian grilled chicken thighs. It also pairs well with grilled shrimp kabobs or grilled New York steak. Heck, go ahead and grill both of those up to make it surf and turf with some delicious salad as a side!
More Southern Salad Recipes to Try
Got a few minutes to spare today? Then whip up some macaroni salad! And be sure to leave a recipe rating below to let me know how much you loved this recipe. 🙏
Watch How to Make It
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This blog post was originally published in July 2018 and has been updated with additional tips, new photos, and a video.
Macaroni Salad Recipe
- ½ pound macaroni, cooked and drained
- ¾-1 cup mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons sweet relish
- 1 tablespoon mustard
- 2 tablespoons vinegar
- 1 cup celery, sliced
- 3 hard boiled eggs
- ½ cup green pepper, chopped
- ½ cup red pepper, chopped
- ⅓ cup onion, diced
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons parsley, minced (optional for garnish)
- Cook macaroni following directions on the package. Drain, rinse well, and let it cool while working on the sauce. After cooling, refrigerate until ready to use .
- Whisk together mayonnaise, sweet relish, vinegar, and mustard in a small bowl. Set aside or refrigerate until ready to use.
- Once macaroni has cooled, place in a bowl together with the celery, eggs, green and red bell pepper, and onion.
- Add the prepared mayonnaise sauce to the bowl and thoroughly mix.
- Adjust salt and pepper to taste.
- Store in a tightly sealed container for 4-5 days. If salad seems dry, add a couple of tablespoons of mayonnaise to moisten. Garnish with parsley, if desired.