This macaroni salad recipe is simple to make and perfect for summer BBQs, cookouts, and picnics. The creamy dressing is a classic, and you'll be reminded of the pasta salad you grew up on!
Why you'll love it
This old-fashioned macaroni salad is a mainstay at summer gatherings. It's got the best balance of creaminess and crunch, and you won't be able to resist the homemade dressing that has layers of zesty flavor. This is no plain pasta salad, and it happens to pair well with practically any summer main course.
We make it all summer long at my home, and it always is one of the first dishes to disappear. This creamy macaroni salad is also a wonderful base to make it your own with endless creative add-ins, so you can change it up all season long!
Ingredients for it
For the salad
- Elbow macaroni - the ideal shape to be coated in the creamy dressing. If you're all out, ditalini or elbows will be okay since they're also small.
- Hard-boiled eggs - diced eggs add more rich flavor
- Pickles - whether you choose sweet pickles or dill pickles is up to you!
- Celery - for that irresistible crunch
- Red onion - they're the best variety for salads since they're milder
For the dressing
- Mayo - I like Hellmann's best, but use your usual brand
- Celery salt - it's a blend of table salt and ground celery seeds, and it comes in a jar that you'll find in the aisle with other seasonings and herbs
- Dijon mustard - you don't taste Dijon specifically. It just infuses a special savory quality to the dressing.
- Sugar - for balancing out the flavors and a hint of sweetness
- White vinegar - for a little tangy zip
- Black pepper - making a mayo-based dressing a bit peppery is always a good idea
Add-ins to macaroni salad
- Some of our favorite ways to jazz up macaroni salad include frozen peas, diced ham, chopped bell peppers, oven cooked bacon, cheddar cheese, fresh dill, or grape tomatoes! You can't go wrong here.
How to make macaroni salad
This is an overview, and full ingredients & instructions are in the recipe card below.
- Start by cooking the macaroni al dente and boiling the eggs. While they cook and then cool, prep the other salad ingredients (pickles, onions, celery). Peel and chop the eggs finely.
- Mix together the dressing ingredients in a small bowl.
- Add all the salad ingredients to a large bowl, and toss with the dressing. You can enjoy this pasta salad immediately, or let it chill so the flavors get a chance to meld!
- This makes quite a lot of pasta salad, at least 6-8 servings, so you can definitely halve it if needed. I recommend halving all ingredients, and you can use 1-2 eggs depending on what you prefer.
- Need to make it ahead of time? Just keep it in the fridge for up to a day before serving for best results and peak flavor.
Substitutions and variations
- If you're not a fan of eggs, you can leave them out, or try my other Macaroni Salad that's a bit more veggie-forward but similar.
- You can sub Dijon mustard for yellow mustard, but you may need to increase the quantity a bit.
- Sub the chopped pickles for relish if you like.
- You could substitute some of the mayo (I'd do half) with Greek yogurt if you want to lighten it up a bit.
What to serve with it
- It's great in a summer cookout spread that includes Cilantro Lime Grilled Chicken Thighs or Grilled Honey Garlic Shrimp.
- Alongside my Deviled Eggs at a potluck is another way to serve it! People will devour them both.
- Want to make it a main dish? Toss in your favorite protein like cooked chicken or salmon.
Leftovers and storage
- This pasta salad will keep in the fridge for 3-4 days in a covered container.
- For food safety reasons, ensure that it isn't left out for too long, especially outdoors in the heat. If it hasn't been refrigerated for a while (max 2 hours), discard the rest or eat it right away.
Questions about this easy macaroni salad recipe? Did you grow up with a similar one? Let me know! As always, if you've made one of my recipes, tag me #saltandlavender on Instagram and write me a review below.
- 16 ounces uncooked macaroni
- 3 eggs
- 1/2 cup sweet or dill pickles chopped small
- 2 sticks celery chopped small
- 1/4 cup red onion chopped finely
- 1 cup mayo
- 1/2 teaspoon celery salt
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon white vinegar
- Pepper to taste
- Boil a large, salted pot of water for the macaroni and cook it al dente according to package directions. Drain it then rinse it under cold water and set aside (let it drain well).
- At the same time as the pasta is boiling, cook the eggs in a separate pot until they're hard-boiled. I simply time 10 minutes from the point where they start to boil. I cool them by running cold water over them for a few minutes. Peel the eggs once they've cooled.
- Meanwhile, make the dressing by combining the dressing ingredients in a measuring cup or small bowl, and prep the remaining ingredients (pickles, celery, onion).
- Once the pasta is cooled and dry, add it to a large salad bowl, along with the eggs (chop them to desired size), pickles, celery, and onion. Pour the dressing over and toss until well coated.
- Serve right away or refrigerate for a couple hours first (cover the bowl tightly) to let the flavors meld.
- Serves about 8 as a side depending on how much people eat.
- Nutritional information is provided as a courtesy only and should be construed as an estimate rather than a guarantee. Ingredients can vary and Salt & Lavender makes no guarantees to the accuracy of this information.