This is a classic, tasty, and oh-so easy macaroni salad recipe! Made with classic ingredient staples including celery, red pepper, and onion and dressed up in a simple creamy mayo-based dressing, this is guaranteed to be a hit at every cookout and potluck this year!
Be sure to check out the easy video that shows step-by-step how to make this recipe!
We have had a non-stop week of rain here.
Zach’s first two softball games of the season have been rained out and I’m beginning to forget what the sun looks like (I’m only slightly dramatic I promise 😉). I am completely over it. I’m ready for summertime sunshine and cookout weather, and with Memorial Day weekend just around the corner I’m taking the opportunity to prepare and share my all-time favorite macaroni salad recipe, even if it is grey and gloomy outside.
I’ve shared a few of my summertime salads, including my favorite broccoli salad and ramen noodle salad, but this one may just be my favorite.
Macaroni salad is a party/potluck/cookout staple, no get-together is complete without a giant chilled bowl, and today I’ll show you how I make my favorite recipe and the perfectly creamy, slightly sweet dressing that goes along with it.
What Ingredients are in Macaroni Salad?
Different macaroni salads contain different ingredients, but my staples include:
- Elbow macaroni (obviously 😉)
- Sweet pickles
- Red pepper
- Red onion
- Hard boiled eggs or shredded or diced cheddar cheese
- A homemade mayo-based macaroni salad dressing
You can obviously add your favorite additional add-ins or make substitutions (I know some people prefer sliced green onions to red onion and some people like to add paprika to their dressing), but this if my favorite combination and I really recommend you try it out exactly this way at least once for yourself.
The dressing I just mentioned is what really sets it apart from other potluck recipes you might have tried. It provides just the right amount of creaminess — the noodles are coated in just enough sauce and are neither dry nor are they drenched in the dressing. It’s also just slightly sweetened thanks to the addition of some sweet pickle juice and a pinch of sugar.
How long can you keep Macaroni Salad?
Macaroni salad will keep for up to five days when stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container. This is a great salad for making in advance (I actually recommend chilling for at least an hour before serving) and serving at picnics and potlucks, but try not to leave it out at room temperature (or worse, in the heat!) for very long as the salad dressing base will not keep well in the heat.
This macaroni salad recipe is a favorite to serve alongside my favorite BBQ pulled chicken and a plate full of deviled eggs (you’re already going to be boiling eggs anyway, might as well make enough for deviled eggs while you’re at it!).
When I shared my deviled egg recipe, so many of you shared your favorite methods for cleanly peeling fresh eggs, and I appreciated those tips so much and have tried many of them. I’d love to keep the conversation going here if you would share your favorite egg-peeling methods in the comments!
How Do You Make Homemade Macaroni Salad?
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- 8 oz macaroni noodles (227g)
- ½ cup finely diced sweet gherkins usually 4-6 sweet gherkins for me (80g)
- ¾ cup finely diced red bell pepper about ½ pepper (100g)
- ⅓ cup thinly sliced celery about 1-2 stalks (55g)
- ⅓ cup finely diced red onion (45g)
- 2 large hard boiled eggs, finely diced
Macaroni Salad Dressing
- ¾ cup mayonnaise I use olive oil mayo (175g)
- ¼ cup sour cream (70g)
- 2 Tablespoons sweet pickle juice
- 1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar*
- 1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons dijon mustard
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ⅛ teaspoon garlic powder
- ⅛ teaspoon crushed red pepper optional
- Prepare macaroni noodles according to package instructions. Drain and rinse immediately with cold water, then drizzle with a teaspoon of olive oil and gently stir so the noodles don't stick together as they sit.
- In a large bowl, combine macaroni noodles, sweet pickles, red pepper, celery, red onion, and eggs. Stir until well-combined. Set aside and prepare your dressing.
For the dressing
- To prepare your macaroni salad dressing, combine mayonnaise, sour cream, red wine vinegar, sweet pickle juice, sugar, dijon mustard, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and crushed red pepper (if using) in a medium-sized bowl. Whisk until ingredients are well-combined.
- Pour dressing over your macaroni salad ingredients and toss until well-combined.
- For best flavor, cover bowl and allow macaroni salad to chill for at least one hour. Stir once more before serving and enjoy!
Nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and should be considered an estimate only. Actual nutritional content will vary based upon brands used, measuring methods, cooking method, portion sizes, and more.
I have tried numerous macaroni salad recipes. Some were pretty good but always thought some ingredients were too pronounced or somehow lacking. I used sweet onions, sweet relish and sweet cheery peppers in place of red onions, gherkins and bell pepper because that is what I had on hand. I added some grated carrot. No egg or cheese. Made the dressing as directed except for pickle juice since I used sweet relish. The result was the best macaroni salad I have ever had. All ingredients complemented each other perfectly with flavor well-developed after 24 hr.
Dressing was amazing!! Ate a handful of bites before I covered it and put in the fridge lol. Was skeptical about the sour cream and gherkins but wow I’m glad I trusted the process best Mac salad I’ve ever made!!
Only recipe I ever use for Mac.Salad!
It’s simply THE BEST!
Easy and excellent, what a great combination. Also easy to adjust the quantity and add other veggies you like.
Very good dressing. I also added a pinch of dill and smoked paprika to give it a little extra spice.
Does this freeze well?
Hi Hope! I haven’t tried freezing it, but it should work. 🙂
Pasta absorbs water, and might get a bit mushy as the water expands and screws with the integrity of the pasta. I don’t see why it wouldn’t still taste ok, but the texture may be off. If the alternative is to waste it, definitely freeze it. It could be a bit more watery upon unthawing, so a little tad of mayo should freshen it up a little.
This is so good! I made a portion of it once, loved it, and have been craving it ever since! I didn’t have pickles the first time I made it, so I used relish instead. Also, I’m not too fond of peppers, so I didn’t use those either. To me, eggs do not belong in macaroni salad, so I didn’t use them either. Even with all the changes, this was AMAZING!!!!!!!!! It’s even good made with gluten-free noodles!
I am using relish also. Did you use -1/2 cup?
All my favorite ingredients for macaroni salad, well balanced dressing.