Classic Macaroni Salad: Creamy & Delicious!

Macaroni Salad is a classic recipe for any gathering, picnic, or barbecue. Tender elbow macaroni, ham, carrots & celery are tossed in a super simple mayonnaise dressing.

Make this ahead of time for the perfect summer side dish!

A serving bowl full of Classic Macaroni Salad

Macaroni Salad is tasty, filling, budget-friendly and goes with everything from baked chicken to a classic hamburger recipe!  With tangy and contrasting flavors and textures, this salad is always welcome at any table.

Make Ahead Side

You can (and should) make macaroni salad ahead of time. It develops a better flavor when it has time to sit in the fridge for a little bit.  Make it at least several hours ahead of time (or even a day ahead of time) to allow the flavors to blend.

It also tastes best served icy cold, straight from the fridge!

Ingredients

Ingredients in macaroni salad are pretty simple (and versatile).

  • MACARONI Use elbows, shells or whatever short pasta you have on hand.
  • CELERY and carrots add color and crunch. Peas add a bit of sweetness.
  • HAM adds a nice salty flavor (bacon is a great substitution too).
  • ONION is great to add zip to this recipe. I like green because it’s mild but red or white work too.

Macaroni salad ingredients in a glass bowl before being combined.

How to Make Macaroni Salad

This foolproof recipe is super easy for even the most inexperienced cooks.

  1. Prepare dressing by mixing all ingredients and set aside.
  2. Boil, drain and cool the macaroni.
  3. Combine all ingredients in a bowl, cover and refrigerate.

Tip: speed prep time by mixing the hot macaroni with the frozen peas for rapid cooling and thawing at the same time.

Favorite Variations

You’ll find lots of room for creativity here. Macaroni salad will accommodate lots of different add ins, such as:

  • Diced hard-boiled eggs – Boiled eggs give macaroni salad even more body and flavor.
  • Diced bell peppers – Juicy, crunchy and colorful bell peppers are fabulous in mac salad.
  • Dill Pickles – Or capers. These briny bits can provide a little extra oomph (and we love them in our dill pickle pasta salad).
  • Cheese – Diced cheddar or mozzarella are great additions.

A serving bowl full of creamy macaroni salad, garnished with green onions.

How Long Does Macaroni Salad Last?

Leftovers will keep in the refrigerator for up to four days. Mac salad can serve as a quick and simple one-pot lunch or snack.

Sadly, you cannot freeze macaroni salad.

More Summer Sides

Classic Macaroni Salad

This classic macaroni salad combines creamy mayonnaise based dressing with the goodness of pasta and veggies!

  • 1/2 lb elbow macaroni (uncooked (approx. 2 cups dry))
  • 1 cup celery (diced)
  • 1/2 cup carrot (shredded)
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas (defrosted)
  • 1 cup ham (diced)
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced green onion (or red onion)

Dressing

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar (or white vinegar)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon yellow mustard
  • 2 tablespoons sweet relish
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt & pepper
  1. Cook macaroni according to package instructions and let cool.

  2. Combine pasta with remaining ingredients.

  3. Prepare dressing and stir to combine.