The Best Macaroni Salad

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Macaroni salad is one of the most classic picnic, barbecue and picnic side dishes! Filled with tender pasta, crunchy veggies, and a creamy mayonnaise dressing, this recipe is easy to put together—and even easier to scarf down!

This easy macaroni salad recipe is a side dish staple! It’s sure to be a good choice whenever we’re asked to bring something to a party. All it involves is cooking some penne pasta, then adding all the delicious extras after the pasta has cooled. Even the most inexperienced chef can do it! We topped ours off with crunchy celery and onions, crisp bell peppers, peas, and a little cheddar. Some easy macaroni salad recipes that skip the cheesy stuff, but we love it. The mayonnaise sauce came together quickly too. The addition of kimchi seasoning added a bit of sweetness that we couldn’t get enough of. The next time you’re on a mission to bring a side dish to a party, try this easy pea salad!

Do you rinse pasta for cold pasta salad?

While we don’t recommend rinsing the pasta while it’s hot, for this pasta salad, you should. Not only does rinsing allow the pasta to cool down, but it also washes off excess starch that can keep the noodles from sticking together. This is the best way to avoid clumpy cold pasta.

Troubleshooting: How to Keep Macaroni Salad from Drying Out?

It’s all about macaroni! You want to make sure your noodles are cooked just right for the creamiest results. If it’s overcooked, the pasta will absorb the dressing very quickly and you’ll end up with a mess. Undercooked, dressings and other additions don’t stick to the noodles, leaving a dry salad. Perfectly cooked noodles mean perfectly creamy results!

Another recommended tip is to toss the noodles in a little olive oil before adding the other ingredients. This will prevent the pasta from absorbing too much dressing and keep your dish moist rather than soggy.

Service suggestion:

We recommend this recipe as a side dish. It goes best with grilled meat or seafood, as well as burgers. We love our:

Add-ons and variants:

Use this easy macaroni salad recipe as the base for a noodle salad. Other ingredients may vary based on your personal preference. Sauces are usually mayonnaise-based, but you can substitute low-fat or egg-free options if desired. Mustard, herbs, and pickle juice or relish are all common ingredients added to sauces. In addition to the pasta and toppings in our recipe, you can add more fresh vegetables, or use a different type of cheese:

  • tomato
  • avocado
  • cucumber
  • carrot
  • mushroom
  • corn
  • cauliflower
  • olive, black or green
  • Feta, fresh mozzarella, or goat cheese instead of cheddar

You can also add some hard-boiled eggs or bacon for a little extra protein. Feel free to mix and match to suit your own personal taste!

Macaroni Salad.

Note in advance:

This dish is best eaten fresh. That said, if you want to finish cooking planning ahead of time, you can start prepping the night before. Cook the pasta and let it cool completely before storing in an airtight container. You can put it in the refrigerator overnight. You can even chop up other ingredients and store them separately in the freezer. If you’re really ambitious, you can also make the dressing ahead of time. Then, a few hours before your planned meal, you can combine everything in a large bowl. Store in the refrigerator until you’re ready to enjoy!

How long can this dish be kept? :

Our Easy Macaroni Salad will sit at room temperature for up to 2 hours before it should be discarded. If you’re serving it outdoors, be sure to refrigerate it before serving and choose to keep it in the shade when you’re ready to enjoy it. Since the dressing is made with mayonnaise, this dish will spoil in the sun.

Storage Instructions:

If you have any leftovers, they will keep for 3 to 5 days in the refrigerator. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, or store it in an airtight container for maximum freshness.

If you liked this recipe, you might be interested in these other delicious salad recipes:

watch the video below Rachel will walk you through each step of this recipe. Sometimes the visuals help, and we always let you watch our cooking shows.You can find the complete collection of recipes youtube, facebook watch, or our facebook pageor provide a corresponding recipe on our website.

Overhead view of a bowl of macaroni salad.

Macaroni salad is one of the most classic picnic, barbecue and picnic side dishes! Filled with tender pasta, crunchy veggies, and a creamy mayonnaise dressing, this recipe is easy to put together—and even easier to scarf down!

Preparation time 10 minute

cooking time 10 minute

total time 20 minute

raw material

  • 1 pound Elbow noodles
  • 4 ounce cheddar cheese diced or chopped
  • ½ Shallot minced
  • 4 Ribs Celery diced
  • 1 red bell pepper minced
  • 1 cup frozen peas thaw
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh dill
  • 2 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoon Sweet Pickle Relish
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper


  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook elbow noodles according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water until the pasta is cool. Drain well.

  • In a large mixing bowl, toss cooked noodles with cheese, onion, celery, bell pepper, and peas.

  • In a small mixing bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, apple cider vinegar, dill, sugar, vinaigrette, Dijon mustard, salt, and pepper.

  • Pour the sauce over the pasta and toss until everything is well coated. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.

Calories: 408kcal | carbohydrate: 52G | protein: 12G | fat: 16G | Saturated fat: 4G | cholesterol: 20mg | sodium: 541mg | Potassium: 294mg | fiber: 3G | sugar: 8G | Vitamin A: 1005unit | Vitamin C: 28.6mg | calcium: 131mg | iron: 1.4mg

Best Macaroni Salad