Creamy Macaroni Salad – On a budget

This macaroni salad is a classic side dish for a reason.

Elbow macaroni and a handful of ingredients are mixed together in a super easy (and extra creamy) flavorful dressing.

I love it for potlucks, picnics, or BBQs as it’s quick to make and is best made ahead of time.

A simple make-ahead page

Macaroni pasta holds a special place in my heart. I love macaroni and cheese and my mom always served the elbows with roulade sauce and of course this classic macaroni salad. I think the best macaroni salad recipe is an easy side dish that’s delicious, filling, and inexpensive. It goes with everything from burgers to fried chicken.

  • You can (and should) make macaroni salad ahead of the times for the best taste.
  • It is budget friendly and you probably have that ingredients at hand.
  • It is Super fast to assemble and versatile (see notes below).
  • The dressing used simple ingredients but it is extra creamy with lots of spice (and it only takes about 2 minutes).
  • Use any short pasta or accompaniments to make your own recipe.
Ingredients for creamy macaroni salad in a pan

The basic ratio for macaroni salad: (full recipe below)

  • ½ pound elbow macaroni (or any short pasta)
  • about 2 cups additives
  • 1 cup dressing

Of course, you can add more or less of any of these ingredients as you like. Keep in mind that some of the dressing will seep into the pasta as it cools in the fridge. So be generous when adding the dressing.

Ingredients for macaroni salad

For the best macaroni salad, add small pasta like elbows or ditalini, a creamy dressing, and a few ingredients for flavor and texture.

  • Fresh and crisp – Celery, grated carrots, red peppers, fresh parsley or fresh dill
  • Salty – Try adding cheese, bacon, ham, sliced ​​olives or even capers.
  • savory – Green or red onions, dill pickles, garlic powder, boiled eggs, chopped or grated cheddar.
  • Sweet – Baby peas, sweet peppers, sweet cucumbers or additional cucumber relish.
Ingredients for macaroni salad in a glass bowl

Macaroni Salad Dressing

This macaroni salad dressing is a very simple mayonnaise-based dressing and only takes a few minutes to make.

  • mayonnaise (or dressing) is the base of this dressing recipe. Substitute half the mayonnaise for Greek yogurt to loosen up the dressing.
  • white wine vinegar or season with apple cider vinegar. You can also replace it with dill pickle juice if you like.
  • Sweet cucumber relish and a sprinkling of sugar add sweetness to balance the vinegar. Sugar substitutes work well for this recipe, or you can substitute a dash of sweet pickle juice for sugar.
  • Spices are kept simple and seasoned with a touch of prepared mustard or Dijon mustard and salt and pepper.

It’s sweet, tangy, and zesty; similar to a dressing found in potato salad or coleslaw. You can swap out your favorite cream dressing in this recipe, but bottled coleslaw dressing is a great option too.

Ingredients for macaroni salad in a bowl

How to make macaroni salad

As easy as 1,2,3…

  1. Cook pasta: Boil the macaroni, drain and let cool according to the recipe below.
  2. Prepare add-ins: While the macaroni is cooking, chop the veggies or side dishes.
  3. Mix and cool: Combine the ingredients for the dressing, mix with the macaroni and add.

Make Macaroni Salad ahead of time!

This recipe is best left over refrigerate for an hour or two Serve before serving to allow the flavors to blend and the dressing to soak into the pasta. It can be prepared up to 24 hours before serving.

Keep in mind that the pasta will be soaked with the dressing, so serve generously. Before serving, stir and garnish with a sprinkling of paprika and fresh herbs, if you like.

a bowl of macaroni salad

Tips for perfection

  • Elbows can be exchanged for any short noodles. Try ditalini, small mussels or wagon wheels.
  • Make sure the sides are about the same size as the macaroni.
  • Rinse the pasta after draining to keep it from cooking, mushy or sticky.
  • Mix the dressing right in the salad bowl, then add the other ingredients—one less dish to wash up!
  • Serve the salad generously, as the noodles will soak up some of the sauce as they stand.

Make ahead and leftovers

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What are your favorite add-ins? Leave a comment and rating below!

Serve the macaroni salad with a spoon

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Classic creamy macaroni salad

This classic macaroni salad is creamy and flavorful. Elbow macaroni and a handful of ingredients in an easy homemade dressing.

preparation time 15 protocol

cooking time 15 protocol

rest time 1 Hour

total time 1 Hour 30 protocol

  • Cook the macaroni according to package directions. Drain well and rinse under cold water to stop cooking.

  • To make the dressing, combine the mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar, sweet relish, yellow mustard, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Mix well.

  • In a large bowl, add the cooled macaroni, dressing, celery, carrots, red peppers, and onions. Mix well.

  • Place the macaroni salad in the refrigerator for at least 1 to 2 hours before serving.

*You will need 2 to 2 ½ Mugs with add-ins. Use the list above for a simple macaroni salad, or modify it to your liking. Other popular side dishes include pickles, olives, ham, peas, and cheddar cheese.

  • Elbows can be exchanged for any short noodles. Try ditalini, small mussels or wagon wheels.
  • Rinsing the pasta after draining keeps it from cooking so it doesn’t get mushy and doesn’t get sticky.
  • The dressing can be swapped out for your choice of bottle dressing or even coleslaw dressing.
  • Serve the salad generously, as the noodles will soak up some of the dressing as they stand.
  • Make sure the sides are about the same size as the macaroni.

Calories: 432 | Carbohydrates: 37G | Protein: 6G | Fat: 29G | Saturated Fatty Acids: 4G | Polyunsaturated fat: 17G | Monounsaturated fatty acids: 6G | trans fats: 1G | Cholesterol: 16mg | Sodium: 408mg | Potassium: 214mg | Fiber: 2G | Sugar: 9G | Vitamin A: 2332IU | Vitamin C: 18mg | Calcium: 25mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutritional information is an estimate and may vary depending on cooking method and brand of ingredients used.

course Pasta, salad, side dish
Kitchen American
Can you freeze macaroni salad?

Unfortunately, it doesn’t freeze well.

How long does macaroni salad keep?

Macaroni salad is best made ahead of time, so it’s perfect for parties. Leftovers can be kept in the refrigerator for up to four days.

What to eat with macaroni salad

We love serving up macaroni salad as a side to anything not grilled! Grilled chicken, hot dogs, or hamburgers are great options. It’s also great for serving with pulled pork.

Creamy macaroni salad in a bowl with a title
Close-up of a coated creamy macaroni salad with lettering
Bowl of creamy macaroni salad with wooden spoon and title
Pour creamy macaroni salad into a bowl and finish with a title

More side salads to prepare

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