Easy Macaroni Salad

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Try our flavorful Macaroni Salad! It’s packed with tender pasta, crisp veggies, and a delicious dressing that’ll leave you craving more!

For a protein-rich salad, give our Tuna Macaroni Salad a try.

View of Macaroni Salad

The Best Macaroni Salad Recipe!

Hawaiian Macaroni Salad is a tasty, easy-to-make side with pasta, carrots, onions, celery, and green onions, all mixed with a sweet-tangy-creamy dressing.

It’s a go-to in Hawaiian cuisine for its amazing mix of flavors. What makes this one stand out? Loads of dressing for every bite AND a special spice blend in the dressing that kicks it up a notch.

Perfect for impressing at BBQs or enjoying for a simple lunch, this Macaroni Salad is a must-try!

Next, try some of our other favorite summer pasta salads like this Greek Pasta SaladItalian Pasta Salad, or Taco Pasta Salad.

Macaroni Salad Tips

  • Cook pasta al dente: Overcooked pasta can become mushy and unappealing in a salad. To avoid this, be sure to cook the pasta al dente, which means it should be firm and slightly undercooked–the opposite of soggy.
  • Chill it: Once the salad is made, it’s best to chill it in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before serving. This will help the flavors meld together and keep the pasta from becoming too soft.
  • Salt the pasta water: To make the perfect Macaroni Salad, don’t forget to salt the pasta water. Use 1 tablespoon of salt for every 4 quarts of rapidly boiling water, and make sure the water tastes as salty as sea water. This will add flavor and help the pasta cook evenly, resulting in pasta with a nice firm texture for your salad.
  • Good-quality mayo: Make sure to use a high-quality mayonnaise. It makes such a difference in the final taste of the salad! Low-quality mayo can be too sweet or too sour and affect the final flavor balance. 

How To Make Macaroni Salad

A quick overview of making this salad:

  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  • Add pasta and cook according to package directions.
  • Drain pasta and let it cool.
  • While pasta is cooling, mix dressing ingredients together.
  • Combine the cooled pasta, veggies, and dressing.
  • Toss everything together and enjoy!

Ingredient shot: image of the components of Macaroni Salad

What To Serve With Macaroni Salad

Macaroni Salad is a versatile side dish that complements a variety of main dishes. Some popular options include:

  • Grilled meats: Macaroni salad is a classic side dish for grilled meats like burgers, hot dogs, ribs, steak and chicken.
  • Seafood: It’s also a great pairing for seafood dishes such as grilled fish, shrimp, or crab cakes.
  • Sandwiches: This salad can be served alongside sandwiches like a pulled BBQ pork sandwich or a BBQ Chicken Sandwich.
  • Salads: It makes a great component in a larger salad when mixed with greens, other veggies, and protein.
  • As a standalone: Macaroni salad can be served as a standalone dish for a quick and easy lunch or dinner. Toss in some tuna for added protein!
  • With other side dishes: If you’re serving a whole BBQ spread, consider serving this salad with a Potato Salad, Creamy Fruit Salad, grilled corn on the cob (or Elote), Baked Beans, and a good chip dip (this Cowboy Caviar).

QUICK TIP

You can serve Macaroni Salad cold or at room temperature, making it perfect for picnics, potlucks, and other outdoor gatherings. You can prepare it in advance and chill it till serving time.

Process shots: making the dressing for Macaroni Salad

VARIATIONS

Different Macaroni Salad Recipes

Macaroni Salad is a versatile dish that can be made with a variety of ingredients to suit different tastes and preferences. Here are a few variations you can try:

  • Ranch-style: Use a creamy ranch dressing to give your salad a milder flavor and a creamy texture. You could also include some chopped herbs, diced tomatoes, cucumbers or bacon.
  • Mediterranean-style: Add some Mediterranean flavors to your Macaroni Salad by tossing with this Greek Salad Dressing. Replace the veggies with kalamata olives, feta cheese, and diced cherry tomatoes.
  • Mexican-style: Give a bit of a kick to Macaroni Salad by using the dressing on this Mexican Street Corn Pasta Salad. Replace the veggies with diced sweet peppers, jalapeños, black beans, and cilantro.
  • Tuna or chicken: Add some protein by adding canned tuna or chicken.
  • Cheese-based: Add in some cheese like blue cheese, or feta for extra creaminess and flavor.
  • Fruit-based: Add some sweetness and color by incorporating fresh fruit like grapes, apple, pineapple, or strawberries.

These are just a few ideas, and you can always get creative and experiment with different ingredients to create your own unique Macaroni Salad.

Process shots: cook and cool the macaroni; add veggies; top with dressing; mix it all together.

STORAGE

Storage Tips for Macaroni Salad

  • Refrigeration: Store in an airtight container or cover with plastic wrap. For best freshness, press the wrap directly on the salad’s surface.
  • Serving: Let it warm slightly at room temperature for a few minutes and toss before serving.
  • Best Within: Ideally, eat within 3-4 days for the best texture and taste, especially good on the first two days.

Freezing Macaroni Salad?

  • Not recommended due to texture and taste changes; freezing can make pasta mushy and dressing may separate.
  • If necessary, freeze in airtight containers, label with the date, and consume within 3-4 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge and check before eating.

Closeup view of Macaroni Salad

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Macaroni Salad

5 from 2 votes
Looking for a delicious and satisfying Macaroni Salad that packs a punch of flavor? Look no further! Our special recipe is the perfect combination of tender pasta, crisp veggies, and a robustly flavored dressing that will leave your taste buds tingling.
Print Recipe

Macaroni Salad

5 from 2 votes
Looking for a delicious and satisfying Macaroni Salad that packs a punch of flavor? Look no further! Our special recipe is the perfect combination of tender pasta, crisp veggies, and a robustly flavored dressing that will leave your taste buds tingling.
Course Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine American, Vegetarian
Keyword Macaroni Salad, Macaroni Salad recipe
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 9 minutes
Total Time 24 minutes
Servings 6 -8 (as a side)
Chelsea Lords
Calories 514kcal
Cost $7.82

Ingredients

  • 3 cups (13 oz.) elbow pasta or similar pasta variety (Note 1)
  • Fine sea salt & pepper
  • 1-1/2 cups finely diced celery (3 large stalks)
  • 1 large red bell pepper, finely diced
  • 3/4 cup finely sliced green onions (1 bunch)
  • 1-1/2 cups grated carrots (3 carrots)

Dressing

  • 3/4 cup good mayo (like Best Foods/Hellmans)
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon white sugar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon celery seed, optional

Instructions

  • COOK MACARONI: Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Once the water is boiling, add salt-- about 1 tablespoon for every 4 quarts of water. Then add the pasta to the pot and cook according to the package directions (for the lowest time indicated). Once the pasta is cooked, drain it and then let it cool. Toss it a few times as it is cooling to keep it from sticking together. While pasta is cooking and cooling, prepare veggies: finely dice celery, pepper, and green onions. Peel and then grate the carrots (on the large holes of the grater).
  • DRESSING: Meanwhile, combine the dressing ingredients. Season to taste. (We add 1 tsp salt and 3/4 tsp pepper.)
  • ASSEMBLE: Once the pasta is cooled, put it in a large mixing bowl. Add in the prepared veggies (carrots, celery, onion, and pepper). Pour the dressing over the all ingredients and toss everything together.
  • ADJUST: Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary, adding more salt, sugar, vinegar or mayo as needed until flavors sing.
  • CHILL: Let the salad chill for at least 20-30 minutes before serving. Serve at room temperature, tossing again before serving. Salad is still delicious for the next couple of days; just toss well before serving.

Video

Recipe Notes

Note 1: Macaroni: Don't use the entire package here-- it will be too much pasta for the amount of veggies and dressing. Three cups is perfect!

Nutrition Facts

Calories: 514kcal | Carbohydrates: 56g | Protein: 10g | Fat: 28g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 13g | Monounsaturated Fat: 6g | Trans Fat: 0.1g | Cholesterol: 29mg | Sodium: 267mg | Potassium: 428mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 8g | Vitamin A: 5706IU | Vitamin C: 39mg | Calcium: 79mg | Iron: 2mg

We do our best to provide accurate nutritional analysis for our recipes. Our nutritional data is calculated using a third-party algorithm and may vary, based on individual cooking styles, measurements, and ingredient sizes. Please use this information for comparison purposes and consult a health professional for nutrition guidance as needed.

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2 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Love this salad! My husband “hates” carrots, but he really liked this salad, lol. Served with BBQ chicken and it was wonderful!

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