Classic Macaroni Salad
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Homemade Macaroni Salad! A classic pasta salad recipe made with tender macaroni tossed with colorful veggies and eggs, and covered in a rich and creamy dressing.
Nothing super fancy here, just that delicious comfort food we crave! And when served chilled on a hot summer day it makes it something to really look forward to.
Classic Macaroni Salad
A delicious macaroni salad is just one of those things I didn’t always appreciate. I would always walk right past pasta salads and potato salads onto the next option and now I absolutely love both of them!
I think they are a true summertime staple.
This macaroni salad recipe is perfect for cookouts and picnics, and it’s such a tasty side to pair with grilled or slow cooked meat any day of the year.
This version is actually my go-to favorite! It has a delicious blend of fresh, colorful ingredients, a tempting light crunch and such a refreshing taste!
And the dressing is perfectly creamy without being overwhelmingly heavy. I’ve made it a little healthier by subbing out some of the mayonnaise with Greek yogurt (but if preferred you can go the all mayo route instead).
Everything here combined together just creates a harmonious blend of satisfying flavor. Chances are it will become a new favorite for you too!
What to Serve with Macaroni Salad
I love to serve it with:
- bbq chicken (basted with a homemade bbq sauce)
- kalua pork
- pulled pork sandwiches
- grilled corn on the cob
- chilled homemade lemonade
- and let’s not forget the rainbow fruit salad or ice cold watermelon
Macaroni Salad Ingredients (and Possible Substitutes)
To make the macaroni salad dressing, you’ll need:
- Mayonnaise: Use good quality mayo for best flavor, such as Hellman’s/Best Foods.
- Plain Greek yogurt: I like to use whole fat to keep it a little richer but low fat or fat free work too. Another option would be to use sour cream.
- White wine vinegar: Red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar will work great here too.
- Dijon mustard: This is one ingredient you can kind of add to taste. If you want a stronger mustard taste then use upward of 1 1/2 – 2 Tbsp. Regular yellow mustard will work too.
- Honey: This balances out the tang of the vinegar and mustard, don’t worry it doesn’t taste like a sweet dressing. Granulated sugar works too.
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper: Don’t forget to salt the water for boiling the macaroni pasta.
And for the rest of this simple macaroni salad, you’ll need:
- Dry elbow macaroni: Ditalini, tubetti or mini farfelle pasta should work fine here too.
- Hard boiled eggs: My preferred method to make hard boiled eggs is actually to steam them. Peeling is so much easier!
- Red bell pepper: This adds a nice crunch and lightly sweet flavor. Another color will work.
- Matchstick carrots: I usually buy pre-cut but you can definitely cut whole carrots into tiny sticks instead.
- Celery: I like to dice small so there’s no major crunch.
- Red onion: This adds a light bite and brings a lot of flavor. Yellow onion or even shallot will work.
- Fresh parsley: For extra herb flavor add more of this. Dried parsley will be fine.
Want to see how easy this macaroni salad recipe is? Watch the video!
How to Make Macaroni Salad
- Cook the pasta: Cook macaroni in salted water, to al dente according to directions on package.
- Drain and rinse: Drain and rinse with cold water until completely cool, drain very well (or toss drained macaroni with a little olive oil and refrigerate until cool).
- Make the macaroni salad dressing: In a medium mixing bowl stir together mayonnaise, Greek yogurt, vinegar, mustard, honey, and season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Add salad ingredients to mixing bowl: Add well drained macaroni to a large mixing bowl along with eggs, bell pepper, carrots, celery and onion.
- Toss with dressing: Pour dressing over top, add in parsley and toss mixture to evenly coat. Serve or store in refrigerator.
How to Make Hawaiian Macaroni Salad
- Just use 1 cup mayo, no Greek yogurt.
- Skip the bell pepper, celery, eggs, mustard and parsley (Hawaiian macaroni salad is just very basic).
- Thin salad with a little milk as needed.
How to Make to Tuna Macaroni Salad
- Add 1 – 2 (5 oz) cans tuna in water, drained.
- Replace vinegar with fresh lemon juice.
- Optionally replace red bell pepper with cooked peas.
- Include 1/3 cup diced baby dill pickles.
- Omit the eggs and dijon mustard.
Can Macaroni Salad Be Made in Advance?
Yes, this is great for making the night before serving. Making it ahead of time actually gives the macaroni some time to soak up all that flavor and makes for a cold pasta salad.
If needed you can thin with a little more yogurt the next day.
How Long Does it Last?
You can store this homemade macaroni salad in the fridge for up to 2 days.
More Mix-In’s Ideas
I love this homemade macaroni salad recipe as is, but it’s fun that you can make it your own!
Here are some other good things to add in:
- Tomatoes (seeded)
- Diced baby dill pickles or pickle relish
- Cheddar cheese
- Hot sauce
- Chopped ham or chicken
- Green onions, chives or dill
Tips for the Best Macaroni Salad
- Don’t over cook macaroni.
- Cool the macaroni thoroughly.
- Use good quality mayo.
- Be sure to add enough salt or it can taste bland.
More Pasta Salad Recipes You’ll Love:
- Avocado Caprese Pasta Salad
- Chicken Caeser Pasta Salad
- Greek Orzo Salad
- Easy Pasta Salad
- Mexican Macaroni Salad
- Poppy Seed Chicken and Grape Pasta Salad
Follow Cooking Classy
Classic Macaroni Salad
- 1/2 cup Hellmann's or Best Foods Mayonnaise
- 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt*
- 1 1/2 Tbsp white wine vinegar
- 2 tsp dijon mustard,** then more to taste (I like about 4 tsp)
- 2 tsp honey
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 8 oz dry elbow macaroni
- 2 steamed or hard boiled eggs , peeled and chopped
- 1 cup diced red bell pepper
- 1 cup matchstick carrots , roughly chopped
- 3/4 cup diced celery
- 1/4 cup diced red onion
- 1 - 2 Tbsp minced fresh parsley
- Cook macaroni in salted water according to directions on package (I added about 1/2 tbsp salt to the water).
- Drain and rinse with cold water until completely cool. Let drain very well.
- In a medium mixing bowl stir together mayonnaise, Greek yogurt, vinegar, mustard, honey, and season with salt and pepper to taste (start with about 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper then add more salt after you've added the dressing to the pasta).
- Add well drained macaroni to a large mixing bowl along with eggs, bell pepper, carrots, celery and onion (if you like to have some color over you salad I like set aside some of the veggies to sprinkle over the top).
- Pour dressing over top, add in parsley and toss mixture to evenly coat. Serve or store in refrigerator up to 1 day.
- *If you want an even richer, creamier dressing you can omit Greek yogurt, just use 1 cup mayonnaise and a few tablespoons milk to thin.
- **If you don't have Dijon on hand, feel free to use a different type of mustard instead.
- Try it with other mix-ins. You don't have to use those listed. Some ideas include - minced baby dill pickles, pickle relish, bacon, green onions or chives, paprika, capers, cucumbers or tomatoes.