You can never go wrong with a creamy Classic Macaroni Salad! This beloved cold side dish is the perfect addition to any meal or pot luck!
Not sure about you, but I love Classic Macaroni Salad. Truth be told, I love any and all macaroni salads. I love pairing it with my favorite pork loin recipes, with burgers and sandwiches, and crispy fried chicken. The pairing possibilities are endless.
The best part is how easy macaroni salad is to make! I love that I can throw it all together when I have a few minutes early in the day, and by dinner time I have the perfect cold salad to serve with our meals.
CLASSIC MACARONI SALAD
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I think my love of macaroni salad was solidified after my first trip to Hawaii many years ago. Prior to that trip, I always thought of it as strictly a side dish at a barbecue. After indulging in some of the best Hawaiian macaroni salad Hawaii had to offer, my appreciation for this versatile side dish grew and grew. I have tried plenty of easy macaroni salad recipes in the last few years, but this one is by far my family’s favorite.
WHAT GOES IN MACARONI SALAD?
One of the reasons I love it so much is because it is so versatile. You can essentially swap out or replace any ingredients you may not love. Also, feel free to add extra portions of your favorite veggies and design the perfect version of this cold side dish for yourself.
Veggies: We all know one of the signature traits of a great mac salad is the crunch of your veggies amongst those creamy bites. This recipe calls for red bell peppers, celery, and scallions.
You could also add carrots, red onions, dill pickles or sweet pickle relish, etc. The sky is the limit! You can mix and match your favorite veggies to create your own perfectly classic flavor combination.
Eggs: Depending on your preferences you can either chop up your hard-boiled eggs and add them directly into your mac salad or you can halve them and serve them on the top or side of it (as pictured!).
Mayonnaise and Sour Cream: If you are looking to cut a few calories, you can always consider using reduced-fat or fat-free versions of mayo and sour cream.
These light varieties will reduce the caloric and fat content of your salad, but may also alter the flavor slightly. If you are accustomed to the taste differences, you should be fine.
If you have never eaten or worked with these low or no fat options, I would suggest just cutting back on one. For example, use low-fat mayo and regular sour cream.
HOW TO MAKE MACARONI SALAD
Old fashioned macaroni salad is one of my favorite sides. For starters, it is the perfect combination of cold, crunchy, and slightly sweet. More importantly, though is just how easy it is to throw together.
- Cook your elbow macaroni noodles according to the directions on the box until al dente. Once they are cooked, drain the noodles and rinse them with cold water. Allow the noodles to fully drain and dry. If they are still damp, you can pat them down with a paper towel to absorb any excess moisture.
- Hard boil your eggs if you don’t already have some pre-cooked and ready to go. I usually make some the day before and use the extras for deviled eggs. You can also buy peeled hard-boiled eggs at the store near the fancy cheeses in the deli department.
- While your noodles are cooking or drying, dice your bell pepper and celery and slice up your scallions. Chop your eggs if you prefer to have macaroni salad with egg. Sometimes I just slice them in half and serve them on top or on the side of my mac salad. Whether or not you mix them in can be up to your personal preferences.
- Add together your cooked noodles, bell pepper, green onions, celery, and eggs (if you are mixing them in) to a large bowl and set aside.
- In a medium bowl, add the mayonnaise, sour cream, white vinegar, dijon mustard, garlic salt, sugar, and pepper, and whisk it all together until it is combined.
- Pour the dressing into the large bowl over your noodles and other ingredients and stir to combine and evenly distribute the dressing.
- Cover the bowl and place it in the fridge for at least 1 hour prior to serving.
HOW LONG DOES MACARONI SALAD LAST?
Another benefit of making this easy macaroni salad is that it makes great leftovers! You can store your leftovers in the fridge in a covered bowl or airtight container for 3 to 5 days.
If you are serving it at a potluck or barbecue, make sure not to leave it out for more than 2 hours. Any portion that is left over for longer than 2 hours should be discarded. If you are taking it on a picnic or to the beach, just pack enough for the day, keep it in an icebox or chilled cooler and discard whatever may be leftover at the end of your day. When in doubt, throw it out!
TRY THESE OTHER SIDE DISH RECIPES
- Rainbow Macaroni Salad
- BLT Pasta Salad
- Ranch Pasta Salad
- Greek Pasta Salad
- Red Potato Salad
- More side dish recipes…
Tools used to make this Classic Macaroni Salad recipe
Mixing Bowls: It helps to have great bowls in every size to tackle all of your mixing and baking needs. These stackable bowls are my favorites!
Rubber Spatula: When I am mixing thick or creamy ingredients, I reach for this rubber spatula to make sure I don’t leave a drop behind!
- 3 cups macaroni pasta (measured when dry)
- 1/2 red bell pepper seeded and diced
- 2 green onions thinly sliced
- 1 stalk celery diced
- 2 hard-boiled eggs chopped
- 3/4 cup mayonnaise
- 1/4 cup sour cream
- 2 1/2 tablespoons white vinegar
- 1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 1 clove garlic minced (about 1 teaspoon)
- 2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- Place a large pot of salted water over high heat and bring to a boil.
- Add pasta and cook according to package directions until al dente. Drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking. Leave in colander to let as much water drain out as possible while you prepare the other ingredients.
- Add the cooked pasta, bell pepper, green onions, celery, and eggs to a large mixing bowl or serving bowl. Set aside
- In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together mayo, sour cream, vinegar, Dijon, garlic, sugar, salt, and pepper until smooth.
- Pour dressing over pasta and gently stir until everything is well coated.
- Cover and chill in the fridge for at least 1 hour before serving.