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Elbow Macaroni Pasta Salad (Easy Recipe)

A close up of pasta in a bowl, with Macaroni and Salad
Tender elbow macaroni, a homemade sauce, and colorful, fresh veggies combine for this simple and quick macaroni salad.
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Table of Contents
  1. ELBOW MACARONI PASTA SALAD INGREDIENTS
  2. HOW TO MAKE THIS ELBOW MACARONI PASTA SALAD RECIPE
  3. HOW TO SERVE
  4. STORAGE
  5. FAQ
  6. MORE RECIPES YOU'LL LOVE
  7. JUMP TO RECIPE

Simple and quick, this delicious macaroni salad is a breeze to make from scratch. This classic side dish combines tender pasta, a quick homemade creamy dressing, and fresh, crunchy veggies. You’ll love how tasty it is!

This great recipe is a go-to dish all year round. I serve it at potlucks and barbecues as well as large family gatherings and parties — alongside other side dishes such as dill pickle pasta salad, KFC copycat coleslaw, classic coleslaw, cheesy potato casserole, and scalloped potatoes.

A bowl of rice on a plate, with Salad and Macaroni

MORE SALAD RECIPES
Pistachio Pudding Salad | Ambrosia Salad


ELBOW MACARONI PASTA SALAD INGREDIENTS

A plate of food with rice and vegetables, with Salad and Macaroni

You will need:

  • 1 1-pound box of elbow macaroni, cooked
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 2 stalks of celery, finely chopped
  • 1 cup of shredded carrots
  • 1 cup of mayo
  • ¼ cup of sour cream
  • 1½ tablespoons of sugar
  • 1½ tablespoons of apple cider vinegar
  • 1½ tablespoons of Dijon mustard
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon of chopped parsley

SUBSTITUTIONS AND ADDITIONS

MIX-INS: If you’re feeling adventurous, there are so many ingredient possibilities that you can add to your salad. Try olives, red onion, dill pickles, sweet pickles, pickle relish, cucumbers, radishes, pimentos, green pepper, yellow bell peppers, roasted red peppers, grape tomatoes, kidney beans, boiled eggs, peas, baby corn, cheddar cheese cubes, red onions, banana peppers, bacon, ham, hot dogs, chicken, turkey, tuna, and crab.

PRO TIP: If you decide to include bacon, I suggest cutting it into bite-sized pieces before you fry it. That way it’s ready to be tossed into the salad without further messy crumbling.

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HOW TO MAKE THIS ELBOW MACARONI PASTA SALAD RECIPE

A plate of food, with Salad and Macaroni

STEP ONE: In a large pot, boil pasta according to the package directions but slightly undercook it so that it doesn’t become mushy when you add dressing. Drain cooked pasta well but don’t rinse it. Add it to a large bowl and toss it with a little olive oil so it doesn’t stick together.

PRO TIP: Avoid using butter in place of the olive oil because it will clump when it becomes cold and that changes the salad’s taste.

STEP TWO: Then toss your chosen add-ins with the pasta, gently folding the ingredients together with a spatula or large wooden spoon so the macaroni retains its shape.

PRO TIP: The flavors meld better if the add-ins are in small pieces or chunks. For example, halve cherry tomatoes, dice the celery, and cube the ham.

STEP THREE: For the salad dressing whisk mayonnaise, sour cream, sugar, vinegar, mustard, and parsley together in a small bowl and pour over the salad. Be generous.

STEP FOUR: I like to chill the entire salad for a minimum of two hours before serving but six hours are even better.

A bowl of rice on a plate, with Salad and Macaroni

HOW TO SERVE

This classic macaroni salad is a simple side dish for backyard BBQs, potlucks or even just a family dinner at home. Because of its versatility, you can serve it often and simply change up the extra ingredients you decide to add in. Serve alongside our popular potato salad and burgers or beer marinated grilled chicken. This side dish would also be perfect to serve with popcorn chicken or turkey tenders.

STORAGE

IN THE FRIDGE: You can keep this creamy macaroni salad in the fridge for up to 4 days in an airtight container.

IN THE FREEZER: We do not recommend freezing this easy pasta salad as the mayo in the dressing will separate and leave the salad watery.

This classic macaroni salad recipe is a crowd-pleasing favorite that is quick and easy to make. Combine tender macaroni noodles with crisp vegetables, and a fast, from-scratch sauce for a winning side dish that is an excellent choice for any meal or potluck.

FAQ

Can I make this recipe ahead of time?

This simple macaroni salad recipe is perfect for making the day before. It will give all of the ingredients time to mingle and will be ready for serving the next day.

Can I change the pasta I’m using for this recipe?

You can use any small bite-size pasta for this pasta salad. Just follow the package directions for cooking time.

Can I freeze pasta salad?

This pasta salad won’t freeze well. The mayo in the dressing will end up separating while frozen and won’t taste very good once thawed.

MORE RECIPES YOU’LL LOVE

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A close up of pasta in a bowl, with Macaroni and Salad

Elbow Macaroni Pasta Salad

5 from 3 votes
Tender elbow macaroni, a homemade sauce, and colorful, fresh veggies combine for this simple and quick macaroni salad.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Servings 10

Ingredients
  

  • 1 pound elbow macaroni cooked
  • 1 red pepper diced
  • 2 stalks celery finely chopped
  • 1 cup carrots shredded
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • 1 ½ tablespoons sugar
  • 1 ½ tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 ½ tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 green onions chopped
  • 1 tablespoon parsley chopped

Instructions
 

  • In a large bowl toss cooked macaroni with celery, red pepper, and carrots.
  • In a small bowl whisk together mayo, sour cream, sugar, vinegar, mustard, green onions and parsley.
  • Pour over macaroni and toss to coat. Refrigerate until serving.

Video

Notes

TIP: If you decide to include bacon, I suggest cutting it into bite-sized pieces before you fry it. That way it’s ready to be tossed into the salad without further messy crumbling.
TIP: Avoid using butter in place of the olive oil to toss the pasta because it will clump when it becomes cold and that changes the salad’s taste.
TIP: The flavors meld better if the add-ins are in small pieces or chunks. For example, halve cherry tomatoes, dice the celery, and cube the ham.

Nutrition

Calories: 352kcal | Carbohydrates: 38g | Protein: 7g | Fat: 19g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 10g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 12mg | Sodium: 192mg | Potassium: 214mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 2656IU | Vitamin C: 17mg | Calcium: 30mg | Iron: 1mg
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Proudly Prepared by the Spaceships Kitchen

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  1. Michele says

    5 stars
    Love the combination of veggies and the dressing recipe you have for this macaroni salad! I’m pinning and making!

  2. Laura says

    5 stars
    Outstanding recipe! This turned out so well that my mother said, “This is HOLIDAY good, you must make it for everyone!” This recipe is saved on my Favorites board and will delight many people in the future. Thank you for sharing!

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