Classic macaroni salad is a creamy and delicious pasta salad that is so easy to throw together. It's packed with fresh crunchy vegetables and is all tossed in a creamy sauce that holds it all together. It's the perfect side salad to bring to a summer potluck or BBQ, and it makes a great make-ahead lunch, too. In fact, prepare this macaroni salad a day or two ahead of time and let the flavors infuse together int he refrigerator (it actually tastes better the next day!).
Why You’ll Love Macaroni Salad
- It's perfect to meal prep. This might be the best make-ahead meal you’ll have this week! It's an easy-to-follow recipe that is nearly impossible to mess up. Plus, you can completely customize it with other ingredients that you have on hand. No matter what, you’ll end up with a delicious macaroni salad.
- Beat the heat with a cold dish. Warm and sunny days are ahead, and cold dishes are the best to eat when it’s hot out. This chilled macaroni salad will help you enjoy the warmth and fill up with healthy energy. It's what your summer cookouts have been missing.
- Keeps you full. While some diets might shun carbs, glucose (aka carbs) is your brain’s preferred source of energy. Combined with the healthy veggies in this macaroni salad, this pasta is wholesome, filling, and also packed with nutrients. Meaning, you don't need to go searching for something else to keep you full.
Ingredients and Substitutions
To make this delicious and easy classic macaroni salad, you will need the following ingredients:
- elbow macaroni - you can substitute this with any short pasta.
- red onion
- red bell pepper
- pickle - try making your own homemade pickles in just 1-2 days, with NO canning!
- sour cream - or substitute with Greek yogurt.
- white vinegar - or you can substitute this with apple cider vinegar.
- Dijon mustard
- garlic powder
- salt and pepper
The best part is that this salad is completely customizable. If you prefer one ingredient over another, add more of it in. Some popular add-ins include: boiled eggs, ham, bacon, cherry tomtoes, and green peas.
How to Make the Best Macaroni Salad
- Boil the pasta. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente, about 8 minutes or according to package instructions. Drain and rinse pasta under cold water to stop the cooking process and to cool the pasta down.
- Assemble the salad. In a large mixing bowl or serving, combine cooked pasta, red onion, bell pepper, carrot, celery, and pickle.
- Add dressing. In a small mixing bowl, stir together mayonnaise, sour cream, vinegar, sugar, mustard, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Add dressing to salad and toss to combine.
- Serve or chill. Serve immediately, or cover the bowl tightly with plastic cling wrap and refrigerator for at least 2 hours (or overnight for the best results). This will allow the flavors to really infuse into each other.
Recipe Tips and Tricks
- How to serve: Serve classic macaroni salad as a side along your favorite summer grilled meats and corn on the cob. You can also serve it as a macaroni salad sandwich in between two slices of bread.
- Make ahead instructions: Macaroni salad is great for meal prep. To prepare an easy meal on the go, pre-portion the macaroni salad into smaller meal prep containers that you can grab on your way out of the house.
- How to store: Store macaroni salad in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.
- How to freeze: Store macaroni salad in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 3 months. Allow it to thaw overnight in the refrigerator before serving.
More Salad Recipes
- Italian Pasta Salad
- Creamy Cucumber Salad
- Mediterranean Orzo Pasta Salad
- Creamy Broccoli Slaw Salad
- Chickpea Greek Salad
- Shrimp Taco Salad
- Lemon Kale Salad
Did you make this recipe? I would greatly appreciate a comment and rating below, letting me know what you thought of the recipe. You can also snap a picture and tag me on Instagram @aheadofthyme or share it on the Pinterest pin so that I can follow along.