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Classic Macaroni Salad (quick and creamy)


Macaroni Salad is a favorite side dish with elbow macaroni and a handful of add-ins tossed a super easy (and extra creamy) dressing.

The dressing takes about 2 minutes to prepare and is great on any kind of pasta salad or even coleslaw!

classic macaroni salad in a bowl

An Easy Make Ahead Side

This simple side is tasty, filling, budget-friendly, and goes with everything from burgers to fried chicken.

  • You can (and should) make macaroni salad ahead of time for the best flavor.
  • Most kitchens have the ingredients on hand for this recipe.
  • It’s super fast to put together.
  • There are no special ingredients required for the dressing (and it only takes about 2 minutes).
  • Use any short pasta or add-ins to make it your own.

ingredients for macaroni salad on a tray


Ingredients in macaroni salad are versatile based on what you have on hand.

The basic ratio: (full recipe below)

  • 1/2 lb elbow macaroni (or any short pasta)
  • about 2 cups add-ins
  • 1 cup dressing

Of course, you can add more or less of any of these ingredients to your liking. Keep in mind that some of the dressing will soak into the pasta.

Try any of the following add-ins:

  • Fresh celery and shredded carrots for color and crunch.
  • Salty Try adding cheese, bacon, ham, pickles, sliced olives, or even capers.
  • Savory Green or red onions, boiled eggs,
  • Sweet Baby peas, pineapple, sweet bell peppers.

macaroni salad dressing ingredients in a bowl

Macaroni Salad Dressing

This macaroni salad dressing is a very simple mayonnaise based dressing with sugar, relish, vinegar, a touch of mustard, and salt & pepper.

It’s sweet, tangy, and zesty; similar to a dressing similar found in potato salad or coleslaw.

Other dressings you can use:

macaroni salad ingredients in a bowl

How to Make Macaroni Salad

As easy as 1,2,3…

  1. Boil, drain, and cool the macaroni.
  2. Chop While the macaroni is boiling, chop the veggies or add ins.
  3. Mix the dressing ingredients and toss with the macaroni and add ins.

This recipe is best left to chill for an hour or two before serving to allow the flavors to blend and the dressing to soak into the pasta.

serving macaroni salad with a spoon

Tips for Perfection

  • Elbows can be swapped for any short pasta.
  • Rinsing the pasta after draining stops it from cooking so it isn’t mushy or sticky.
  • Swap the dressing for any creamy dressing.
  • Dress the salad generously as the pasta will soak up some of the dressing as it sits.
  • Ensure add-ins are diced fairly small.

Make-Ahead & Leftovers

Macaroni salad is best made ahead of time which makes it party perfect. Leftovers will keep in the refrigerator for up to four days.  Sadly, it does not freeze well.

What are your favorite add ins? Leave a comment and rating below!

Classic Macaroni Salad

This classic macaroni salad has elbows and a handful of add ins in a simple homemade dressing

Follow Spend with Pennies on Pinterest

  • Cook elbow macaroni according to package instructions. Drain and rinse under cold water.

  • Combine dressing ingredients in a small bowl.

  • Add macaroni, dressing, and remaining ingredients to a large bowl.

  • Mix well to combine and refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving.

*You will need 2 to 2½ cups of add-ins. Use the list above for a basic macaroni salad or change them to your liking. Other favorite additions include pickles, olives, ham, sweet peas, cheddar cheese. Ensure add-ins are diced fairly small.
Rinsing the pasta after draining stops it from cooking so it doesn’t get mushy and keeps it from being sticky.
The dressing can be swapped for a bottled dressing of your choice or even coleslaw dressing.
Dress the salad generously as the pasta will soak up some of the dressing as it sits.

Calories: 432, Carbohydrates: 37g, Protein: 6g, Fat: 29g, Saturated Fat: 4g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 17g, Monounsaturated Fat: 6g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 16mg, Sodium: 408mg, Potassium: 214mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 9g, Vitamin A: 2332IU, Vitamin C: 18mg, Calcium: 25mg, Iron: 1mg

(Nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and brands of ingredients used.)

Keyword best macaroni salad, how to make macaroni salad, macaroni salad, macaroni salad recipe

Course Pasta, Salad, Side Dish

Cuisine American

More Make-Ahead Sides

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Classic Macaroni Salad before and after mixing in a bowl with a title


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