Classic Macaroni Salad

June 5, 2020  ·  Published April 15, 2017

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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.Close up side angle view of macaroni salad in a light blue bowl.

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:

Ingredients that are in macaroni salad shown here. Includes mayonnaise, Greek yogurt, dijon mustard, honey, eggs, carrots, bell pepper, celery, parsley, vinegar, salt and pepper.

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!

Collage image of macaroni salad dressing in a mixing bowl shown before and after mixing.

How to Make Macaroni Salad

  1. Cook the pasta: Cook macaroni in salted water, to al dente according to directions on package.
  2. 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).
  3. 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.
  4. Add salad ingredients to mixing bowl: Add well drained macaroni to a large mixing bowl along with eggs, bell pepper, carrots, celery and onion.
  5. Toss with dressing: Pour dressing over top, add in parsley and toss mixture to evenly coat. Serve or store in refrigerator.

Macaroni salad ingredients in a glass bowl before tossing together.

How to Make Hawaiian Macaroni Salad

  1.  Just use 1 cup mayo, no Greek yogurt.
  2. Skip the bell pepper, celery, eggs, mustard and parsley (Hawaiian macaroni salad is just very basic).
  3. Thin salad with a little milk as needed.

How to Make to Tuna Macaroni Salad

  1. Add 1 – 2 (5 oz) cans tuna in water, drained.
  2. Replace vinegar with fresh lemon juice.
  3. Optionally replace red bell pepper with cooked peas.
  4. Include 1/3 cup diced baby dill pickles.
  5. Omit the eggs and dijon mustard.

Serving dish of Macaroni Salad with red onion, celery, peppers, carrots and egg

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:

  • Cucumbers
  • Tomatoes (seeded)
  • Diced baby dill pickles or pickle relish
  • Capers
  • Peas
  • Cheddar cheese
  • Bacon
  • Paprika
  • Hot sauce
  • Chopped ham or chicken
  • Green onions, chives or dill

Closeup of Easy Pasta Salad

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:

Classic Macaroni Salad

4.84 from 18 votes

The best summertime macaroni salad! Just like what you remember eating as a kid but here it's made a little healthier with Greek yogurt in the dressing. It's layered with colorful veggies and sure to satisfy!

Servings: 8 servings
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes

Ingredients

Dressing:

  • 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

Macaroni Salad:

  • 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

Instructions

  1. Cook macaroni in salted water according to directions on package (I added about 1/2 tbsp salt to the water). 
  2. Drain and rinse with cold water until completely cool. Let drain very well.
  3. 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).

  4. 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).
  5. Pour dressing over top, add in parsley and toss mixture to evenly coat. Serve or store in refrigerator up to 1 day.

Recipe Notes

  • *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.
Nutrition Facts
Classic Macaroni Salad
Amount Per Serving
Calories 247 Calories from Fat 108
% Daily Value*
Fat 12g18%
Saturated Fat 2g13%
Cholesterol 47mg16%
Sodium 146mg6%
Potassium 193mg6%
Carbohydrates 26g9%
Fiber 1g4%
Sugar 4g4%
Protein 6g12%
Vitamin A 3415IU68%
Vitamin C 25.7mg31%
Calcium 39mg4%
Iron 0.8mg4%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Course: Salad
Cuisine: American
Keyword: cold pasta salad
Author: Jaclyn
Note that recipe originally called for 1/2 cup mayonnaise. I like it a little richer so have increased that amount to 2/3 cup.