August 22, 2023Review Recipe
Table of Contents
Tender elbow macaroni, a homemade sauce, and colorful, fresh veggies combine for this simple and quick elbow macaroni pasta salad. This delicious macaroni salad is a breeze to make from scratch and a classic favorite at barbecues and potlucks.
Best Macaroni Salad ingredients
The soft texture of the elbow macaroni pairs perfectly with crunchy celery, bell peppers, and carrots. And the creamy dressing brings the ingredients together to create a delicious melody of flavors.
To make this easy recipe for pasta salad, you’ll need:
- 1-pound box of elbow macaroni, cooked
- 2 stalks of celery, finely chopped
- 1 red pepper, diced
- 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
Simple Macaroni Salad Recipe 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.
ELBOW MACARONI: If you don’t have elbow macaroni on hand, feel free to use other short pasta shapes such as penne, rotini, or fusilli. These pasta shapes will work just as well and provide a different texture to the salad.
If you decide to include bacon, we 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.
How to make Macaroni Salad
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 the 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.
OUR RECIPE DEVELOPER SAYS
Avoid using butter in place of 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.
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 the 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 is even better.
What to serve with Pasta Salad
This classic macaroni salad is a simple side dish for backyard BBQs, potlucks, or even just a family dinner at home. It’s a go-to dish all year round.
AS A SIDE
- With Grilled Meats: The creamy nature of the elbow macaroni salad balances the smoky flavors of grilled chicken, marinated steak.
- With Sandwiches and Wraps: Serve a small portion alongside a hearty sandwich or wrap. The salad adds a refreshing contrast to the fillings.
- With Seafood: The salad’s creaminess complements the delicate flavors of dishes such as grilled salmon or cajun shrimp.
AT A PICNIC
Pack your elbow macaroni salad in a mason jar or airtight container. The compact nature makes it easy to transport, and its refreshing taste is perfect for an outdoor setting. The creaminess nicely contrasts with tomato sandwiches.
AT A BABY SHOWER
Serve the elbow macaroni salad in small cups or dishes. You can also garnish the top with a sprinkle of fresh herbs – or, even, a tiny edible flower to add a touch of sophistication. Complement the macaroni salad with cucumber sandwiches, sliders and cupcakes.
AT A POTLUCK
Pasta salad works well as part of a buffet at potlucks, family gatherings and parties. Put it on the food table alongside other side dishes such as dill pickle pasta salad, KFC copycat coleslaw, coleslaw, cheesy potato casserole and scalloped potatoes.
Simple Macaroni Salad storage
Whether you want to make it ahead of time or have some leftovers, here’s what you need to know about storing this pasta salad.
MAKE AHEAD: If you’re planning to make this elbow macaroni salad ahead of time, it’s best to prepare the salad without adding the dressing. Cook the macaroni, chop the veggies, and mix everything together except for the dressing.
Store the salad and the dressing separately in airtight containers in the refrigerator. Just before serving, give the dressing a good shake and toss it with the salad.
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 elbow macaroni pasta salad recipe is a crowd-pleasing favorite that is quick and easy to make. Combine 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.
Best Macaroni Salad Recipe FAQs
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.
You can use any small bite-size pasta for this pasta salad. Just follow the package directions for cooking time.
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.
Macaroni salad became popular in Hawaii due to its fusion with local cuisine and its suitability for potlucks and plate lunches.
Yes, rinsing macaroni after cooking helps cool it down quickly and removes excess starch, preventing clumping in the salad.
Your macaroni salad might taste bland due to insufficient seasoning, undercooked pasta, or a lack of flavorful ingredients.
While the macaroni is still warm, toss it with a bit of oil or vinegar to prevent sticking, then add mayonnaise while the pasta is slightly warm.
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Best Macaroni Salad Recipe with Mayo
- 1 pound elbow macaroni, cooked
- 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
- 1 red pepper, diced
- 1 cup carrots, shredded
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- ¼ cup sour cream
- 1½ tablespoons sugar
- 1½ tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1½ tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 2 green onions, chopped
- 1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.