Elbow Macaroni Pasta Salad (Easy Recipe)

Simple and quick, this easy macaroni salad recipe is a breeze to make from scratch. It’s a classic side dish in our family. I love how easy it is to make and how yummy it turns out.

This 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 this classic coleslaw recipe and scalloped potatoes.

Bowl full of elbow macaroni salad

Bowl full of elbow macaroni salad

Easy Macaroni Salad Recipe:

Do you dare ask for a classic dish like macaroni salad when you’re at a restaurant or are you a purist who says their own pasta salad is the best?

The thing about a macaroni salad recipe is it’s quick to make, with very little cooking and one batch makes several servings. If you can boil water, you’re golden. So when something that delicious is so simple to fix, a little experimentation never hurts.

Ingredients Needed for Macaroni Salad in a Big Bowl

Ingredients Needed for Macaroni Salad in a Big Bowl

What do you put in macaroni salad?

Even though the ingredient list for macaroni salad has room for lots of variation, I think everyone agrees it must have at least some creamy mayonnaise and it must be cold.

The best macaroni salad I ever tasted included: red pepper, celery, carrots, green onions, parsley, vinegar, a bit of sugar, sour cream, Dijon mustard, plus salt and pepper (recipe follows).

And no matter if you like your salad sweet, spicy, or sweet n’ sour, you can create your preferred version by adjusting add-ins.

If you’re feeling adventurous, here are some ingredient possibilities: olives, pickles, pickle relish, cucumbers, radishes, pimentos, green peppers, roasted red peppers, grape tomatoes, kidney beans, boiled eggs, peas, baby corn, cheese cubes, red onions, banana peppers, bacon, ham, hot dogs, chicken, turkey, tuna, and crab.

How’s that for variety?!

Cream Sauce Being Poured into Macaroni Pasta Salad

Cream Sauce Being Poured into Macaroni Pasta Salad

How to make macaroni salad:

Boil pasta according to the package directions–but slightly undercook so it doesn’t become mushy when you add dressing–and drain well, but don’t rinse.

Toss it with a little olive oil so it doesn’t stick together.

Avoid using butter because it will clump when it becomes cold and that changes the salad’s taste.

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

I think there is a better flavor melding if the add-ins are in smaller pieces or chunks. For example, halve cherry tomatoes, dice celery, and cube the ham.

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

For dressing, whisk mayonnaise, sour cream, sugar, vinegar, mustard, and parsley (or your chosen dressing version) together and pour over the salad. Be generous.

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

bowls of pasta salad

bowls of pasta salad

Are you getting hungry? Stick with the classics or dare to try something new. Macaroni salad is a crowd pleaser. Time to get that pasta boiling!

More Salad Recipes You Will Love

Macaroni Salad Recipe
  • 1 box of elbow macaroni cooked
  • 1 red pepper diced
  • 2 stalks of celery finely chopped
  • 1 cup of shredded carrots
  • 1 cup of mayo
  • 1/4 cup of sour cream
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard
  • 2 chopped green onions
  • 1 tablespoon of chopped parsley
  • 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.

Calories: 142kcal

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Create an amazing dish with help from these great baking ideas gathered by the crew at Spaceships and Laser Beams:

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Check out more great summer recipes:

Classic Coleslaw

Pistachio Cool Whip Salad

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