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Macaroni Salad: Simple and Classic Recipe

Macaroni Salad is a classic, delicious, pasta salad recipe that every cookout, BBQ, potluck, and picnic deserves! Incredibly simple to make, it’s filled with fresh vegetables and macaroni tossed in a tangy, slightly sweet, and creamy homemade dressing.

Side view of Macaroni Salad in a green and white bowl with serving spoons

And it’s oh-so-yummy! Seriously, when you’re looking for classic macaroni salad flavors, this is a recipe you’ll want to keep.

So, so good!

Think summer picnics, 4th of July (always!) cookouts, reunions, potlucks, and people over for dinner on the patio. Or just when you’re craving classic flavors of the season.

Top view of classic Macaroni Salad in large serving bowl with fresh parsley

Summer Macaroni Salad

While there isn’t one pasta salad (or any other salad) on this site I don’t absolutely love, this one has a nostalgic element that makes it perfect for summer.

Along with my mother’s and grandmother’s macaroni salad with shredded carrots, this is a perennial favorite of the family.

Rich flavors, crunchy texture, creamy mayo-based dressing with hints of sweet and tangy, it’s a salad you’ll want seconds of.

Top view of Macaroni Salad ingredients on a wood board

Macaroni Salad Ingredients

These simple ingredients are all you need to make this salad. The exact measurements are in the recipe card at the bottom of this post.

  • Dry macaroni
  • Sweet pickles (or gherkins)
  • Red bell pepper
  • Celery
  • Red onion
  • Homemade Macaroni Dressing

Ingredient Notes

  • Macaroni: Any short shaped pasta works, including gluten-free!
  • Red Onions: I love them for their mild flavor, but you can easily substitute green onions.
  • Sweet Pickles: Gherkins are small, bumpy pickled cucumbers. I’m using sweet pickles to give the macaroni salad a sweet and tangy flavor, but if you prefer dill pickles, they are delicious too.
  • Red Pepper: Again, I often reach for red peppers for color (and they are a bit healthier too) but use whichever color you have or like!
  • Mayonaise: The dressing is mayonnaise-based, but you can easily swap it for Greek yogurt or olive oil mayo too.
  • Mustard: My family loves the traditional yellow mustard in this salad but you might prefer Dijon or even country-style mustard instead.

How long can you keep Macaroni Salad?

Macaroni Salad will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Making it ahead actually increases the flavors, making it even more delicious.

This salad, though, should be refrigerated and not left at room temperature for extended periods of time due to its dressing.

How to Make Macaroni Salad

Detailed instructions are in the recipe card at the bottom of this post, but here’s an overview of this oh-so-simple pasta salad!

Begin by cooking the macaroni according to the package instructions. Then rinse in cold water to stop the cooking.

In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients. Then drizzle the dressing over the top, stir to combine, and chill.

Helpful Kitchen Tools

There are a few vegetables that need to be chopped in this salad. While I kind of enjoy chopping veggies, I ordered this vegetable chopper at Amazon the other day to make quick work of chopped salads.

It’s kind of amazing! I chopped all the vegetables in this salad (red onion, pepper, celery, and pickles in a couple of minutes!

Tips for Making Macaroni Salad

  • Cook the macaroni to al-dente. On the stovetop, this should take about 7 to 8 minutes. I love to cook pasta in the Instant Pot for 4 minutes with 4 cups of water. Quick release.
  • Chop the vegetables finely and try to keep them similarly sized and shaped.
  • Reserve some of the homemade dressing for tossing the salad in just before serving.
  • Paprika: Every summer salad my grandmother ever made had a dusting of paprika over the top.

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Closeup view of Classic Macaroni Salad with homemade dressing
Side view of Macaroni Salad in a green and white bowl with serving spoons

Easy Summer Macaroni Salad

Yield: 10 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 7 minutes
Chilling Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 17 minutes

Macaroni Salad is a classic and delicious pasta salad recipe every summer cookout, BBQ, potluck, and picnic deserves! Incredibly simple to make, it's filled with fresh vegetables and macaroni tossed in a tangy, slightly sweet, and creamy homemade dressing.

Ingredients

  • 8 oz dry macaroni
  • 1/3 cup finely diced sweet pickles (gherkins - about 3-4)
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, finely diced
  • 2 stalks celery, finally diced or sliced (about ⅓ cup)
  • 1/2 red onions, finely diced

Macaroni Salad Dressing

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons sweet pickle juice
  • 1 tablespoon apple clider vinegar (or vinegar of choice)
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons prepared mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper (or to taste)
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Instructions

  1. Prepare macaroni according to package instructions. Drain and rinse with cold water immediately. While the pasta is cooking, dice the vegetables.
  2. In a large bowl, combine macaroni, sweet pickles, red pepper, celery, and red onion. Gentle stir to combine the ingredients.
  3. Combine mayonnaise, apple cider vinegar, sweet pickle juice, sugar, mustard, salt, pepper, and garlic powder in a medium-size bowl, or glass measure. Whisk until completely combined.
  4. Drizzle the dressing over the macaroni salad and toss to combine. I like to start with about 1/3 of the dressing and add more as desired. If any dressing remains, store in a lidded jar in the refrigerator to add later if needed.
  5. Cover the macaroni salad and chill for at least an hour before serving. Stir and add any remaining dressing if needed.

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 10 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 221Total Fat: 17gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 14gCholesterol: 9mgSodium: 264mgCarbohydrates: 16gFiber: 1gSugar: 8gProtein: 2g

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