This creamy macaroni salad is made with simple ingredients that are completely customizable to suit your tastes. Tender pasta, crispy crunchy veggies, tangy dill pickles, and onions tossed in a simple dressing comes together quickly for all your summer parties.
Want to save this recipe?
Enter your email below and we’ll send the recipe straight to your inbox! (plus more yummy recipes sent weekly!)
Table of contents
Classic Macaroni Salad Recipe
An old-fashioned macaroni salad is a quick and easy classic side dish that is simple to make, tastes amazing and goes with almost anything!
Unlike the store-bought salad, our homemade version uses fresh ingredients and has no funny aftertaste. It’s simply the best!
Crunchy carrots, bell peppers, crispy celery, tangy dill pickles, onions, and elbow macaroni are then tossed in a flavorful homemade dressing.
It’s a staple salad recipe that completes any backyard cookout or summer BBQs. I don’t know about you, but I scan the table and once I notice that there’s homemade macaroni salad, broccoli salad and potato salad, I know it’s going to be a good day!
It’s best served cold, making it a great go-to dish for potlucks and an easy salad to pull out of the fridge for any weeknight meal.
Rather than the traditional fries or potato side dishes to grilled burgers, hot dogs or other favorite grilled meat, this macaroni salad is a fantastic alternative!
- Elbow macaroni: Cook macaroni according to package directions for al dente doneness. You can cook it while while you prepare the rest of the salad. This way it won’t become too soggy sitting too long.
- Add-ins: Diced carrots, red pepper, celery, dill pickles, red onions, and thinly sliced green onions. Together they add beautiful color, crunchy textures, and excellent flavor.
- Mayonnaise & Sour cream: The base of the dressing together makes it rich and creamy. The sour cream gives a nice tang.
- Dill pickle juice & Dijon mustard: Provides tartness and acidity as well as tangy zesty flavoring!
- Seasoning: Garlic powder, onion powder, salt, & pepper.
1. Elbow pasta is the classic choice but by no means the only choice. Use any short noodle pasta that you like. Shells, penne, rotini, orecchiette, bow tie pasta, or wheels can all be used instead.
2. Add protein to your macaroni salad such as canned albacore tuna, cocktail shrimp, diced ham, bacon bits, or diced chicken.
3. Toss in extra veggies like green peas, zucchini, black olives, green olives, corn, etc.
4. If you like eggs in your macaroni salad, chop up 2-3 or more hard-boiled eggs and mix them in.
5. For a lighter dressing swap the sour cream for Plain Greek yogurt.
6. You can also use Miracle Whip or light mayo. Keep in mind Miracle Whip has a sweeter flavor profile.
7. Use white wine vinegar or white vinegar instead of pickle juice if preferred.
8. Use sweet pickles or sweet pickle relish and sweet pickle juice if you prefer.
How to Make this Delicious Macaroni Salad Recipe
Once you’ve cooked the macaroni to al dente and allowed it to cool, it’s just a matter of tossing everything together!
Step 1: Grab a large bowl and combine the cooked macaroni noodles, red bell pepper, carrots, celery, dill pickles, red onion, and green onions. Gently stir to combine.
Step 2: In a separate bowl mix the dressing ingredients to combine then pour it all over the macaroni and vegetables.
Step 3: Gently stir to make sure everything is completely and evenly coated. Enjoy!
- When cooking the pasta, make sure to salt the boiling water. It helps water to boil faster but also flavors the pasta itself.
- Don’t skip running the pasta under the cold water. It helps stop the cooking process and keeps it al dente, but also adding the creamy dressing to hot pasta will cause the pasta to absorb it.
- This salad should be kept refrigerated when it’s not being served. To keep it cool while sitting out at a potluck or BBQ, place the bowl of macaroni salad inside a larger bowl filled with ice.
- It tastes even better the next day!
- Should be served chilled when outside on a hot day, however, if you’re inside, let it sit out for a few minutes to get the initial chill out, then serve just below room temperature.
You can. The only adjustment you’ll need to make is to add ⅓ cup heavy cream to the dressing to prevent the pasta from soaking up the dressing.
Assemble the pasta, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and keep chilled until you’re ready to serve it.
Keep macaroni salad stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Enjoy it for lunch, a snack, or dinner side dishes throughout the week.
For the Salad
- 8 ounces elbow macaroni uncooked
- 1 cup carrot diced
- 1 cup red bell pepper diced
- ½ cup celery diced
- ½ cup dill pickles diced
- ¼ cup red onion diced
- ¼ cup green onions thinly sliced
For the Dressing
- ½ cup mayonnaise
- ¼ cup sour cream
- 2 tablespoons dill pickle juice
- 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- salt and pepper to taste
- Cook the elbow elbow macaroni per the package directions to al dente, approximately 12 minutes.8 ounces elbow macaroni
- Drain the cooked macaroni into a colander in the sink and rinse it with cold water until cool to the touch.
- In a large bowl, combine the cooked noodles, red bell pepper, carrot, celery, dill pickles, red onion, and green onions and gently stir to combine.1 cup carrot, 1 cup red bell pepper, ½ cup celery, ½ cup dill pickles, ¼ cup red onion, ¼ cup green onions
- In a separate bowl, add the dressing ingredients and mix until combined.½ cup mayonnaise, ¼ cup sour cream, 2 tablespoons dill pickle juice, 1 tablespoon dijon mustard, ½ teaspoon paprika, ½ teaspoon garlic powder, ½ teaspoon onion powder, salt and pepper to taste
- Pour the dressing in with the macaroni and and veggies and gently stir to coat completely.
Nutritional facts are estimates and are provided as a courtesy to the reader. Please utilize your own brand nutritional values to double check against our estimates. Nutritional values are calculated via a third party. Changing ingredients, amounts or cooking technique will alter the estimated nutritional calculations.
Sharing of this recipe to social media is both encouraged and appreciated. Please share the direct link back to the recipe. Copy/Pasting and/or screenshots of the recipe to any social media is strictly prohibited. Content and photographs are copyright protected