Easy Macaroni Salad



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An Easy Macaroni Salad recipe, just like you’d get from the deli at the grocery store! Wondering how to make the best simple Macaroni Salad? This homemade recipe is easy and versatile and simply the best!

Simple macaroni salad is such a classic side dish for cookouts and potlucks! Today I will be teaching you how to make an easy macaroni salad that tastes even better than the pre-made kind from the deli at the grocery store. This classic cookout side dish pairs perfectly alongside burgers, hot dogs, ribs, and so many other summer staples.

easy macaroni salad

Easy Macaroni Salad Ingredients

Here is a list of ingredients that you will use to make this recipe just like the deli version at the grocery store:

  • Macaroni – 1 pound
  • Apple Cider Vinegar – you can also use red wine vinegar or white vinegar
  • Mayonnaise – use a good quality mayonnaise. Hellman’s is my preferred option
  • Sour Cream
  • Yellow Mustard
  • Sugar
  • Salt and black Pepper – more or less to taste
  • Veggies: finely chopped celery, finely diced red bell pepper, finely chopped fresh parsley

How to Make Macaroni Salad

This recipe comes together quickly and is a staple for summer cookouts and bbqs. And it goes so well as a side dish for grilled steak, chicken, ribs, and so much more.

Here’s a brief overview of how to make macaroni salad:

  • Cook the macaroni – you will need 1 pound of elbow macaroni cooked according to package directions. Don’t forget to salt the pasta water!
  • Cool the macaroni – after the macaroni is cooked, drain it, toss it with vinegar and place it in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes to allow the pasta to cool. While the macaroni cools, prep the vegetables and make the dressing.
  • Make the dressing – the easy mayonnaise-based dressing for macaroni salad consists of 3 ingredients. We’ll talk about those in a minute.
  • Prep the vegetables – I like to use finely chopped celery and red bell pepper in macaroni salad. Finely chopped fresh parsley is also delicious!
  • Combine the macaroni with the dressing – In a large bowl, combine the cooled macaroni with the dressing and finely chopped vegetables. Adjust seasoning to taste – you may want to add more salt and/or pepper.
  • Refrigerate – cover the macaroni salad then refrigerate for at two hours before serving. This allows the flavors to meld together.

Why add vinegar to macaroni salad? The acid in the vinegar helps to make the noodles more absorbent. This allows the macaroni to absorb all of the flavors from the dressing.

macaroni salad recipe

Macaroni Salad Dressing

Perhaps one of the most important parts of this recipe is the creamy dressing! There are three key ingredients that make up the base of the dressing but perhaps the most important is mayonnaise. Choose a good quality mayonnaise. I prefer using Hellman’s mayo. It offers the best taste and consistency. Feel free to add additional mayo for extra creaminess!

To make the dressing you’ll combine:

  • Mayo
  • Sour Cream
  • Yellow Mustard
  • Sugar
  • Salt and black pepper

Make it your own

The beauty of this recipe is that it’s super simple and easy, but it can be modified to suit your tastes. Here are some suggestions to make it your own:

  • Peas – want to throw in some peas? Delicious!
  • Tuna- tuna macaroni salad, anyone?
  • Eggs – chopped hard boiled eggs are a protein-packed addition!
  • Shrimp – mini cocktail shrimp
  • Add Green onions or carrots

I prefer to eat it as it’s written, just because it reminds me of the macaroni salad I ate growing up from the deli, but go ahead and change up this recipe however you’d like.

simple macaroni salad
Should you rinse macaroni when making macaroni salad?

I do not recommend rinsing the macaroni, but it does need to cool for 20 minutes in the refrigerator before getting tossed with the mayo-based dressing.

How long should macaroni salad chill before serving?

Macaroni salad should be covered and placed in the refrigerator to chill for at least 2 hours before serving.

Serving and storage

To serve macaroni salad, remove from the refrigerator. Taste it to see if it needs any adjustments to the seasoning. Add more salt and/or pepper to taste.

If it seems a bit dry, stir in milk, 1 tablespoon at a time until you get your desired consistency. You can also add additional mayonnaise.

Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-5 days.

This recipe is perfect for summer cookouts and bbq’s or any night of the week! I like to serve it alongside burgers, hot dogs, fried chicken, Grilled BBQ Ribs or even these Everyday French Dip Sandwiches. Enjoy!

More Cookout Side Dishes

As you put together your cookout menu, here are some cookout sides to try! Another favorite mac salad recipe is this Hawaiian Macaroni Salad. Have you tried it? It’s so good!

If you try this recipe for easy macaroni salad, please leave a comment or tag me on social media. I love to hear from you! I hope you like this simple recipe as much as I do! Enjoy!

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3.91 from 65 votes

Easy Macaroni Salad

Easy Macaroni Salad, just like you'd get from the deli at the grocery store! Wondering how to make classic Macaroni Salad? This homemade recipe is easy and versatile. Add tuna, peas, or any of your favorite add-ins.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Chill: 2 hours
Servings: 8


  • 1 pound elbow macaroni cooked according to package directions
  • 3 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 1 ½ cups finely chopped celery
  • 1 cup red bell pepper, diced
  • ¼ cup finely chopped parsley
  • 1 ½-2 cups mayonnaise
  • 3 tbsp sour cream
  • 1 tbsp yellow mustard
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp black pepper


  • Cook elbow macaroni according to package directions making sure to salt your pasta water. Drain the pasta then place it in a large bowl. Toss the macaroni with 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, then place the macaroni in the refrigerator for 20 minutes to cool.
  • While the Marconi cools, prep the vegetables. Finely chop celery, red bell pepper and fresh parsley (the parsley is optional).
  • Make the dressing: in a medium-sized bowl combine mayonnaise with sour cream, yellow mustard, sugar, salt, and black pepper. Stir to combine.
  • Combine the macaroni with the dressing: after the macaroni has cooled for 20 minutes in the refrigerator, stir in the dressing. Adjust seasoning to taste.
  • Chill for at least 2 hours before serving. Enjoy!


You may need to add a bit more mayo or milk (1 tablespoon at a time) to the macaroni salad just before serving if it seems dry. 
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Hi, I’m Ashley & I’m so happy you’re here!

Ashley is the founder of CenterCutCook and a former teacher that now spends her days in the kitchen so that she can share her favorite recipes with you!