This cool, creamy Classic Macaroni Salad base recipe, can be easily customized with ham and colorful vegetables, for the Best Classic Macaroni Salad ever, and will be the most popular side dish at your summer BBQ or picnic!
Best Classic Macaroni Salad
Everyone loves Macaroni Salad! It is super popular, probably the most popular pasta salad. Why? What is it about Macaroni Salad that everyone loves?
- It is a delicious pasta salad that is associated with summer, picnics, and July 4th BBQs.
- Everyone had macaroni salad when they were a kid, which brings back memories, making it a popular comfort food.
- Maybe it is because it is a creamy pasta dish. Who doesn’t love a good creamy pasta dish?
Table of Contents
- Best Classic Macaroni Salad
- Perfect Recipe For A Summer BBQ
- Best Classic Macaroni Salad Base Recipe Ingredients
- How To Make The Best Classic Macaroni Salad
- Best Classic Macaroni Salad Popular Variations
- Tips For Perfect Macaroni Salad Every Time
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
- Other Pasta Salad Recipes
- Other Ideas For BBQ Side Dishes
Perfect Recipe For A Summer BBQ
Be sure to make this Best Classic Macaroni Salad for your next summer BBQ or picnic. Serve it with one of these other popular recipes as they go well together.
- Sweet Tea BBQ Chicken Thighs – Smoky, tangy, sweet and grilled to perfection. It is the perfect BBQ main dish to serve with this macaroni salad.
- Steak Fajitas – made with skirt steak or flank steak, and served with sautéed onions, red and green peppers, makes an easy, delicious, smoky, and slightly spicy main dish for your BBQ. The cool, creamy macaroni salad makes a nice contrast to the spicy fajitas.
- Mango Habanero Turkey Breast – with a simple BBQ rub, and glazed with a sweet and spicy mango habanero sauce, this turkey breast is cooked to smoky perfection on the grill, making it perfect for your Summer outdoor BBQ.
- Maple Chipotle Barbecue Pork – Maple Chipotle Barbecue Pork Tenderloin is a wonderful smoky, sweet, spicy, tangy, barbecue pork that is a perfect main dish for a BBQ or picnic.
- Baked BBQ Chicken – BBQ Chicken baked inside in an oven instead of on an outdoor grill.
This is the base recipe for the Classic Macaroni Salad. Below I will detail how you can customize it to your taste.
Best Classic Macaroni Salad Base Recipe Ingredients
- Elbow Macaroni. This pasta is typically the go to type of pasta for a macaroni salad. After all, the recipe is named after this pasta. However, you could also use other small pasta, such as Ditalini, which is a small tube shaped pasta.
- Mayonnaise. Mayonnaise adds the creaminess to the macaroni salad dressing. If you want to choose a lighter or healthier option, reduce the mayonnaise by half and use half Greek yogurt instead.
- Vinegar. I used white vinegar, but you could use apple cider vinegar, rice vinegar, or white wine vinegar instead.
- Sugar. If you add vinegar, you need to add sugar to offset the vinegar. It adds a little sweetness to give the dressing that distinctive taste.
- Mustard. This gives the dressing a little tanginess. I like to use regular yellow mustard but you could also use Dijon mustard as well.
How To Make The Best Classic Macaroni Salad
- Boil, rinse, and drain the elbow macaroni.
- Customize this macaroni salad to make it the Best Classic Macaroni Salad by adding these ingredients:
- Chopped Celery – about 2 stalks of celery, chopped.
- Chopped Red Onions – 1/4 cup chopped red onion.
- Shredded or Cubed Carrots – 1/4 cup shredded carrots.
- Green Peas (Can use frozen peas if you make the macaroni salad a day ahead.) – 1/4 cup green peas.
- Diced Bell Peppers (1/4 cup chopped Red, Green, and Yellow peppers add color)
- Chopped Hard Boiled Eggs – Use 3 to 4 hard boiled eggs that have been chopped. Try the Instant Pot Easy Peel Hard Boiled Eggs to make it easier on yourself.
- Chopped Ham or Bacon – 1 cup chopped ham or 1/2 cup chopped bacon.
- Shredded or Cubed Cheese (Sharp Cheddar works well.) – 1/2 cup shredded cheddar.
- Make the Macaroni Salad Dressing by stirring together mayonnaise, mustard, distilled vinegar, sugar, relish, salt and pepper into a small bowl.
- Add the dry Mix-In Ingredients To The Macaroni.
- Pour The Dressing On The Macaroni Salad and Stir.
- Refrigerate Until Ready To Serve.
Best Classic Macaroni Salad Popular Variations
If you want to give your Best Classic Macaroni Salad a twist, try making one of these variations by changing up the add-ins.
- Chicken Macaroni Salad. Add in chopped or shredded chicken to your Classic Macaroni Salad to turn it into a main dish.
- Tuna Macaroni Salad. Tuna is another popular add-in to transform this Classic Macaroni Salad into a new version of a tuna salad.
- Hawaiian Macaroni Salad. By adding chopped ham and chunked pineapple or pineapple tidbits, you can give the Classic Macaroni Salad a Hawaiian twist.
- Amish Macaroni Salad. A sweeter version of the classic macaroni salad, it has extra sugar, and plenty of hard boiled eggs.
- Filipino Macaroni Salad. With sweetened condensed milk, raisins, pineapple, chicken and ham, the Filipinos have given their own twist to the Classic Macaroni Salad.
Tips For Perfect Macaroni Salad Every Time
- Make The Macaroni Salad A Day Ahead. I recommend making the salad the day (or night) before you are going to serve. That will allow the flavors to fully develop and will provide the best tasting macaroni salad possible.
- Rinse and Drain The Macaroni. Rinse the cooked macaroni with cold water to stop the pasta from cooking, and drain it thoroughly. If you have too much water in the dish, it will make the macaroni salad soupy and unappetizing.
- Measure The Mayonnaise. Measure the mayonnaise and don’t estimate. If you overestimate, you may end up with gloppy mess and if you underestimate, you will have a dry macaroni salad that no one will want. Get those measuring cups out and measure accurately to ensure perfect creamy macaroni salad every time.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
- Can I Make The Best Classic Macaroni Salad A Day Ahead?
- Yes! As a matter of fact, I recommend that you do because that give the macaroni time for the flavors to fully develop and you will have a better tasting, more flavorful macaroni salad.
- Does Macaroni Salad Have To Be Refrigerated?
- Yes! Refrigerate the macaroni salad until you are ready to serve. If you have leftover macaroni salad, then store the leftovers in the refrigerator.
- How Long Can Macaroni Salad Stay Out of the Refrigerator?
- If you are serving the macaroni salad at a picnic or potluck, it can stay out up to 2 hours. At 2 hours, it needs to be refrigerated again.
- How Long Can I Store Macaroni Salad In The Refrigerator?
- According to StillTasty.com, a macaroni salad will last 3 to 5 days in the refrigerator.
Other Pasta Salad Recipes
- Buffalo Chicken Pasta Salad
- Caprese Pasta Salad
- AntiPasto Pasta Salad
- Bacon Ranch Pasta Salad
- Jalapeno Popper Pasta Salad
Other Ideas For BBQ Side Dishes
If you like this recipe or make this recipe, be sure to leave a comment, rate the recipe, and follow us on:
Best Classic Macaroni Salad Recipe
Best Classic Macaroni Salad
- 1 lb elbow macaroni
- 2 stalks celery (chopped)
- 1/4 cup chopped red onion
- 1/4 cup shredded carrots
- 1/4 cup peas
- 1/4 cup bell peppers (red, green, or yellow)
- 1 cup chopped ham (can use chopped bacon instead, if desired)
- 1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- 3 hard boiled eggs (chopped)
Best Classic Macaroni Salad
- Drain the pasta and rinse with cold water. Allow the cold water to drain.
- In a large bowl stir together all ingredients for the macaroni salad, except for the dressing.
Macaroni Salad Dressing
- In a small bowl, mix together the mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar, mustard, relish, salt and pepper
- Pour the dressing over the macaroni salad and stir to coat all ingredients in the dressing.
- Cover and refrigerate the macaroni salad until ready to serve.