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This old-fashioned classic Macaroni Salad recipe is a texture lover’s dream with a creamy, light mayo-based dressing, al dente pasta, hard-boiled eggs, and crunchy fresh veggies like celery, red pepper, and onion in every bite! Perfect for all your summer gatherings from picnics to potlucks!

During the hot months of summer we sure love to eat pasta salad! Be sure not to miss some of our other favorites like BLT Pasta Salad, Hawaiian Macaroni Salad, and Frog Eye Salad.

A large glass bowl filled with macaroni salad.

Best Macaroni Salad

Summer means burgers on the grill, slices of juicy, cold watermelon, and all the barbecue side dishes you can think of! Whether it’s Memorial Day weekend, the 4th of July, or closing out the summer right with a Labor Day cookout, summer is a time for gathering with friends and enjoying the weather and food!

Macaroni salad is one of the best recipes to make for cookouts because it goes with pretty much everything! There is just something about the cool, tangy flavors of creamy macaroni salad that pairs perfectly with spicy barbecue, grilled meat, and juicy burgers.

Everybody seems to like their macaroni salad a little bit different, and this recipe is my favorite because it’s so easy to customize it to your preferences. I love macaroni salad with eggs, but you can always leave them out and add cubed cheddar cheese in their place.

I know lots of people tend to swing by the deli department at the supermarket to grab tubs of macaroni salad, but making it at home is so much better and you can customize it to your preferences. For example, I love my macaroni salad with eggs and extra veggies. Plus, it is really a quick and easy recipe to make!

Two white bowls with servings of cold macaroni salad next to a larger serving bowl, a striped napkin, and spoon.

Ingredients in macaroni salad

  • Pasta: I love ditalani for macaroni salad, but obviously elbow macaroni noodles are a good choice too. Even small shells will work here.
  • Veggies: I typically use red bell peppers, celery, green or red onions (depending on what I have on hand), and broccoli florets. But I change it up often depending on what I have on hand. You might consider sliced radishes, frozen peas (if making ahead, just add them cold and they will thaw by the time you get to the party!), chopped roma tomatoes, and olives. Some people like to add sweet pickles and use the sweet pickle juice in the dressing. It’s not really my thing, but if you love sweet pickles then go for it!
  • Hard-boiled eggs or diced cheddar cheese
  • Macaroni salad dressing: This quick and easy dressing is whisked together in one bowl and made with real mayo (no fake stuff for me, thank you very much!), sour cream, Dijon mustard, white vinegar (or apple cider vinegar), a little sugar, salt, and pepper.
A white bowl with macaroni salad with egg, broccoli, and red pepper.

Macaroni salad dressing

The dressing for this chilled pasta salad is what really sets it apart. It’s just the right amount of creaminess with balanced flavors of tangy and ever-so-slightly sweet, with a little kick from the dijon mustard.

There is just enough sauce to coat the pasta without overwhelming the salad and making it seem soggy. And just say no to dry macaroni salad.

A glass bowl with the ingredients for macaroni salad dressing.

How to make macaroni salad

A large bowl filled with the ingredients for macaroni salad and a mayo-based dressing poured over the top.
  1. Cook the pasta until al dente. Follow the package directions and cook the pasta in boiling salted water. Drain well and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process.
  2. Prep the mix-ins like veggies and eggs. While the pasta cooks, chop the celery, onion, and red pepper. Peel and chop the hard boiled eggs.
  3. Make the macaroni salad dressing. This is as easy as adding mayo, sour cream, mustard, vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper to a bowl and whisking it to combine.
  4. Combine! Mix everything in a large bowl, toss to evenly coat the noodles and vegetables in the creamy sauce. Taste and adjust the salt and pepper, if needed.
  5. Chill until ready to serve.
Small white bowls with macaroni salad next to a larger serving bowl.

How long is macaroni salad good for?

This is a great salad to make a day or two in advance and keep in the fridge since it is best served chilled.

You can keep macaroni salad in the fridge for up to 5 days after making it. Which is perfect because I will totally eat this for lunch every day during the summer with leftover grilled chicken from the night before or whatever else is on hand. Lazy lunch options are the best during this time of year.

Don’t leave this salad out at room temperature for more than 2 hours though because of the mayo-based dressing. If you are going to a potluck or picnic and it’s going to be a hot day, I recommend bringing a cooler to store this in for food safety.

A large glass bowl with macaroni salad next to a striped napkin and spoon.

More potluck perfect side dishes

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A glass bowl filled with macaroni salad.
Yield: 6-8 Servings

Classic Macaroni Salad

This old-fashioned classic Macaroni Salad recipe is a texture lover's dream with a creamy, light mayo-based dressing, al dente pasta, hard-boiled eggs, and crunchy fresh veggies like celery, red pepper, and onion in every bite! Perfect for all your summer gatherings from picnics to potlucks!

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Additional Time 15 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes

Ingredients

Salad

  • 8 ounces ditalini pasta or elbow macaroni
  • 3/4 cup broccoli florets
  • 1 cup red pepper, diced small (about 1 medium)
  • 2 celery stalks, diced small
  • 1/4 cup green onion, sliced thin
  • 4 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley (optional)

Dressing

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Cook pasta in boiling, salted water according to package directions. Add broccoli florets to the pasta water in last 30 seconds. Drain and rinse the cooked pasta with cold water.
  2. Combine the pasta and broccoli with the red pepper, celery, onion, and hard boiled eggs in a large bowl.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the mayo, sour cream, vinegar, mustard, sugar, salt, and pepper. Pour over the pasta and veggies. Stir well until everything is uniformly coated in the dressing, then sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley, if desired.
  4. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

Notes

  • Optional add-ins: 1/2 cup diced english cucumber, 1/2 cup sliced black olives, 1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese (cubed or shredded), 3/4 cup frozen peas.
  • Substitutions: Apple cider or red wine vinegar will work in place of white vinegar. Greek yogurt can be substituted for up to 1/2 of the mayo and sour cream, although the taste will be slightly different. Any small type of pasta may be used.
  • This will keep for up to 5 days in the fridge.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

8

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 320Total Fat: 25gSaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 19gCholesterol: 108mgSodium: 473mgCarbohydrates: 18gFiber: 2gSugar: 3gProtein: 7g