A quick and easy summer salad, shrimp pasta salad comes together quickly and is the perfect pairing for your next cookout (or anytime!). Recipe includes a how-to video!
The Perfect Pasta Salad
Today I’m sharing my take on my grandmother’s shrimp pasta salad recipe. It’s a close cousin to my popular macaroni salad with a surprisingly tasty seafood twist.
My family has been enjoying this recipe for years and I was a little surprised that it hadn’t made its way onto the blog yet (plenty of her other recipes have, like her hot milk cake and apple dumplings). Because I can’t help myself, I made a few variations to make this recipe my own, but if you’d like to see her original recipe just scroll to the bottom of the post beneath the recipe card.
What You Need (and Why!)
Basic ingredients are all you need, but let’s go over them before we dig in!
- Pasta. You can use any small pasta, but elbow macaroni is a classic choice and my preference.
- Veggies. chopped celery, onion, and bell pepper are all you need! My grandmother uses the celery leaves as well as the stalks, but I always remove the leaves, personally.
- Shrimp. Salad shrimp are the perfect bite-sized shrimp for this pasta, and I always buy mine pre-cooked (they’re usually frozen). If you can only find larger shrimp, simply chop them into bite-sized pieces before adding to the salad (and make sure you cook them first, of course!). See the notes in the recipe card for more details on how to use larger shrimp for this recipe.
- Mayo. This is the base of our dressing; choose a quality mayo that you enjoy the taste of. My grandmother’s original recipe uses Miracle Whip (and does not add sugar, vinegar, or sour cream), so that’s another option. I have used mayo made with olive oil and been happy with those results!
- Sour cream. We’re only adding two tablespoons (such a small amount I forgot to capture it in the photo above 🤫), but it adds a subtle depth of flavor that takes this shrimp pasta salad to the next level.
- Vinegar. This not only helps to thin the consistency of the dressing but also adds a slight tang that balances the richness of the mayo. I use distilled white vinegar, but white wine vinegar or red wine vinegar will work instead.
- Granulated sugar. This won’t make the salad sweet, but it does enhance the flavor.
- Spices. Celery seed is a critical flavor, do not omit or substitute. You’ll also need a small bit of ground mustard as well as salt and pepper to taste.
This is just an overview of the ingredients I used and why. For the full recipe please scroll down to the bottom of the post!
How To Make Shrimp Pasta Salad
- Cook the macaroni until al dente (cooked, but still firm when you bite into it). Don’t over-cook or the pasta will be mushy! Drain and rinse under cool water (to stop the cooking process and to keep the noodles from absorbing all of the sauce in the fridge, which could make your pasta salad dry!) and transfer to a large bowl.
- Chop your veggies and add them to the bowl with your macaroni along with cooked shrimp.
- Whisk together the dressing ingredients in a separate bowl. Taste test and add more salt and pepper as needed, but remember that the flavors won’t fully develop until the salad has had time to sit in the fridge.
- Combine the dressing and all other ingredients, stirring until everything is evenly coated. Cover tightly and refrigerate for at least an hour before serving. Make sure to give it a stir before you dig in!
Frequently Asked Questions
Because of its mayo-based dressing, I don’t recommend letting the pasta salad sit out at room temperature for more than 30 minutes or so. If you intend to serve this recipe outdoors or in a warm environment, keep it in a cooler or nestle the serving bowl in an ice bin to keep it chilled.
When properly stored in an airtight container it will last up to three days. Always stir before serving. I do not recommend freezing this (or any) pasta salad, as it can separate and become oily once thawed.
This recipe is easily doubled by simply doubling all your ingredients. Just make sure you have a large enough bowl!
More Recipes You Might Like
Let’s bake together! Make sure to check out the how-to VIDEO in the recipe card!
Shrimp Pasta Salad
- 8 oz elbow macaroni noodles
- 4 stalks celery chopped small (110g/about 1 cup chopped celery)
- ½ red or green bell pepper diced, seeds removed (85g/approximately ⅔ cup)
- ¼ small onion diced (105g/approximately ¾ cup)
- 2 cups small salad shrimp cooked¹ (260g)
- 1 cup mayonnaise (230g)
- 2 Tablespoons sour cream
- 2 teaspoons distilled white vinegar
- 1 ½ teaspoons granulated sugar
- ¾ teaspoon celery seed
- ¼ teaspoon ground mustard
- ¼ teaspoon salt plus more to taste (I typically need a heaping ¼ teaspoon)
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- Cook macaroni noodles al-dente according to package instructions. Drain and rinse under cool water, drain again and transfer to a large bowl.
- Add celery, pepper, onion, and shrimp and stir to combine.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together dressing ingredients (mayonnaise, sour cream, vinegar, sugar, celery seed, ground mustard, salt, and black pepper). Taste test and add more salt or pepper as needed.
- Pour dressing over macaroni mixture and stir well until all ingredients are coated with dressing. Cover shrimp macaroni salad and refrigerate at least one hour (preferably overnight) for the flavor to fully develop before serving. Always stir before serving.
¹ShrimpI am often able to find cooked small “salad” shrimp in the frozen section. Typically I toss these right into the salad frozen and when I go to serve the next day the shrimp has thawed and I just need to stir before serving. If you choose to thaw the shrimp first, do not drain. Alternatively you may cook/steam or use larger cooked shrimp, just coarsely chop the shrimp into small pieces. When my grandmother makes this recipe, she just uses a single (undrained) tin of tiny shrimp.
²StoringStore shrimp pasta salad in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. For probably obvious reasons, this salad does not do well in the heat so I recommend keeping chilled or serving on ice for cook-outs etc.
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.