Classic Macaroni Salad


Classic Macaroni Salad is a beloved side dish that combines the comforting texture of pasta with a creamy, tangy dressing. It’s a versatile and crowd-pleasing addition to picnics, barbecues, and family gatherings. With its blend of crunchy vegetables and flavorful herbs, this salad is both satisfying and refreshing.

Overview of the Recipe

This Classic Macaroni Salad features cooked elbow macaroni combined with a rich dressing made from mayonnaise, apple cider vinegar, and Dijon mustard. The salad is enhanced with finely chopped celery, red onion, parsley, dill pickles, and hard-boiled eggs, making it a perfect mix of textures and flavors.

History and Origin

Macaroni salad has its roots in the United States, with influences from Italian pasta dishes and the American love for mayonnaise-based salads. It gained popularity in the mid-20th century as an easy-to-make dish that could be prepared ahead of time and served cold, making it ideal for potlucks and outdoor events. Over the years, various regional and family recipes have emerged, each adding unique twists to this classic.


  • 2 cups elbow macaroni
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped celery
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/4 cup chopped dill pickles
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs, chopped


  1. Cook the Pasta:
    • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
    • Add 2 cups of elbow macaroni to the boiling water.
    • Cook according to package instructions, usually about 8-10 minutes, until al dente.
    • Drain the macaroni and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking process and cool the pasta. Drain well and set aside.
  2. Prepare the Dressing:
    • In a large mixing bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup of mayonnaise, 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar, 1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard, 1 teaspoon of sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper until smooth and well combined.
  3. Combine Ingredients:
    • Add the cooled macaroni to the bowl with the dressing.
    • Add 1/2 cup of finely chopped celery, 1/4 cup of finely chopped red onion, 1/4 cup of chopped parsley, 1/4 cup of chopped dill pickles, and 2 chopped hard-boiled eggs.
    • Toss all the ingredients together until everything is evenly coated with the dressing.
  4. Chill the Salad:
    • Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or transfer the salad to an airtight container.
    • Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving to allow the flavors to meld together.
  5. Serve:
    • After chilling, give the salad a good stir and taste for seasoning, adding more salt and pepper if necessary.
    • Serve cold and enjoy!


Classic Macaroni Salad is best served cold as a side dish. It pairs well with grilled meats, sandwiches, or as part of a picnic spread. This recipe yields approximately 6 servings.

Pairing and Serving Suggestions

  • Grilled Meats: The creamy and tangy flavors of the salad complement grilled chicken, beef, or turkey burgers.
  • Sandwiches: Serve alongside a chicken ham sandwich or turkey bacon club for a complete meal.
  • Picnic Spread: Add it to your picnic basket along with fresh fruits, cheese, and crackers for a delightful outdoor meal.

Variations of the Recipe

  1. Protein Boost: Add cooked and chopped chicken breast, turkey bacon, or shrimp for added protein.
  2. Vegetarian Option: Incorporate additional vegetables such as bell peppers, shredded carrots, or peas.
  3. Spicy Kick: Add a dash of hot sauce or some diced jalapenos to the dressing for a spicy version.

Health Benefits Notes

While Classic Macaroni Salad is a delicious treat, it’s important to enjoy it in moderation due to its calorie content from mayonnaise. For a healthier version:

  • Use light mayonnaise or Greek yogurt instead of regular mayonnaise.
  • Add more vegetables to increase fiber and nutrients.
  • Whole grain or high-protein pasta can be used for added health benefits.


1. Can I make this salad ahead of time? Yes, macaroni salad can be made a day in advance. In fact, allowing it to chill overnight can enhance the flavors.

2. How long does macaroni salad last in the fridge? It can last for 3-5 days when stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

3. Can I freeze macaroni salad? Freezing is not recommended as the texture of the pasta and mayonnaise dressing may change upon thawing.

4. What can I use instead of Dijon mustard? Yellow mustard or a bit of honey mustard can be used as substitutes for Dijon mustard.

5. Is there a way to make this salad vegan? Yes, use vegan mayonnaise and omit the hard-boiled eggs. You can add tofu or chickpeas for protein.


Classic Macaroni Salad is a timeless dish that brings together creamy, tangy, and crunchy elements in perfect harmony. Whether it’s for a family barbecue, a potluck, or a simple weeknight dinner, this salad is sure to be a hit. With its easy preparation and customizable nature, you can make it your own by adding your favorite ingredients or making healthier substitutions. Enjoy the comforting taste of this classic dish and share it with loved ones!

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