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Side Dishes

Macaroni Salad

This is not your classic southern macaroni salad! This Creamy Macaroni Salad is full of colorful and surprising veggies. Easy to make and perfect on the side of any weeknight meal!

Bowl of macaroni salad

A Classic Macaroni Salad Recipe

Macaroni salad is one of our favorite side dishes. It’s easy to make and so yummy! Although traditionally thought of as just a side dish for potlucks and summer cookouts, anything this easy immediately gets me thinking about weeknight meals! 

Macaroni Salad Ingredients

Macaroni salad may appear to have a lot of ingredients but don’t let that intimidate you. Really, it’s pretty low intensity cooking here! To make it, you just need to be able to boil water and chop veggies. You don’t even have to turn on your oven!

This is what you’ll need for my macaroni salad recipe: 

  • elbow macaroni
  • cheddar cheese
  • celery
  • shredded cabbage
  • red bell pepper
  • green onions
  • Mayonnaise
  • yogurt
  • apple cider vinegar
  • lemon juice
  • Dijon mustard
  • honey
  • garlic powder
  • Salt and pepper

How to Make the Best Creamy Macaroni Salad

I start by simply making my elbow macaroni according to the package instructions. Once it’s done, I drain it and immediately run it under cold water. I know! There’s a lot of debate about this. But, I do it because it serves two purposes. It rinses off the extra starch and it stops the cooking process. 

Bowl of macaroni salad ingredients

Next I transfer my macaroni to a salad bowl and I get to dicing my add-ins. Once cubed, diced, or chopped, I stir in the cheddar cheese, celery, cabbage, bell peppers, and green onions.

I don’t mean to brag, but my macaroni salad is the creamiest around. The secret is in the dressing. To make it, I simply mix mayonnaise, yogurt, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, honey, garlic powder, salt, and pepper into a bowl and whisk to combine. Before serving, I always taste test the dressing and adjust accordingly.

The final step is to pour the dressing over your salad and toss until everything is combined.

bowl of macaroni salad

Then, I like to cover the salad with plastic wrap and refrigerate it for 30 minutes or up to 1 hour. This really allows for all of the flavors to mix and for it to come to a nice temperature. 

Give it another nice big stir before serving.

Macaroni Salad Add-In Ideas

Roasted Red Peppers – Swapping the red bell peppers with roasted red peppers will make the texture a bit less crunchy but it will add a really nice flavor.

Bacon – Because, well, BACON. It makes everything better. 

Pickle relish – Pickles aren’t everyone’s thing but you could mix in dill or sweet for a whole new flavor profile.

Red onion – Diced and tossed in, red onion adds a nice tang and crunch.

Peas – My kids love popping peas! They add a really fun texture to macaroni salad.

How to Store Macaroni Salad

Macaroni salad is best enjoyed the same day. If you want to make it the night before or during weekend meal prep, you can store it in your fridge as long as it’s well covered. 

How Long Does Macaroni Salad Keep?

To be honest, macaroni salad never lasts very long in my fridge – someone has always got their eye on it! If I do need to save it, though, it will stay good refrigerated for 3 to 5 days if well sealed in an airtight container. Some even say the flavor gets better if it spends a night in the fridge. Just be sure to give it a good toss before serving. 

If you’ve set your macaroni salad out for longer than 2 hours, it will need to be tossed out. 

Bowl of macaroni salad

Recipes to Serve with Classic Macaroni Salad

I love macaroni salad as a side with anything grilled or smoked. The flavors just go together perfectly. BBQ grilled chicken, ribs or pulled pork are my go-tos. 

Bowl of creamy macaroni salad
Print Recipe
5 from 6 votes

Macaroni Salad

This is not your classic southern Macaroni Salad! This Creamy Macaroni Salad is full of colorful and surprising veggies. Easy to make and perfect on the side of any weeknight meal!
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time10 mins
Course: Lunch, Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Keyword: best macaroni salad, creamy macaroni salad, easy macaroni salad recipe, how to make macaroni salad
Servings: 6

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces elbow macaroni
  • 4 ounces cheddar cheese, cubed
  • 3 ribs celery, diced
  • 2 cups shredded cabbage (you can use packaged coleslaw mix)
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • ¼ cup chopped green onions
  • ½ cup Mayonnaise
  • ½ cup low-fat plain yogurt
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 tsp honey
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Cook macaroni according to instructions on the package. Drain and rinse in cold water, Drain well.
  • Transfer macaroni to a salad bowl and stir in cubed cheddar cheese, celery, cabbage, bell peppers, and green onions.
  • In a bowl, combine mayonnaise, yogurt, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, honey, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Whisk until combined.
  • Taste test the dressing and adjust accordingly.
  • Pour dressing over salad and toss until everything is combined.
  • Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes or up to 1 hour.
  • Stir before serving.
  • Best enjoyed the same day but macaroni salad will stay good refrigerated for 3 to 5 days.

19 Comments

  • Jacque Hastert
    February 11, 2020 at 2:31 am

    5 stars
    I know what I am taking to our next potluck at church! I love that this has so many fresh veggies!

    Reply
    • Katerina Petrovska
      February 11, 2020 at 7:16 am

      The veggies are my favorite part. Thank so much, Jacque! 🙂

      Reply
  • Deseree
    February 11, 2020 at 2:48 am

    5 stars
    A delicious side dish that can make any meal even more delicious! I can’t wait to give this recipe a try.

    Reply
    • Katerina Petrovska
      February 11, 2020 at 7:12 am

      Hope you enjoy it! Thank you, Deseree! 🙂

      Reply
  • Kimberly
    February 11, 2020 at 3:24 am

    I love a good macaroni salad – this looks yummy!

    Reply
    • Katerina Petrovska
      February 11, 2020 at 7:03 am

      Thank you so much, Kimberly! 🙂

      Reply
  • Natasha
    February 11, 2020 at 6:55 am

    5 stars
    Macaroni salad is one of our favorite side dishes. Thank you for this awesome recipe! Can’t wait to try this soon.

    Reply
    • Katerina Petrovska
      February 11, 2020 at 7:01 am

      I am very happy you enjoyed it! Thank YOU! 🙂

      Reply
  • Jen
    February 11, 2020 at 2:36 pm

    5 stars
    This beats any store bought version HANDS DOWN!! The flavor is just so much fresher. We all enjoyed it, thanks.

    Reply
    • Katerina Petrovska
      February 11, 2020 at 3:33 pm

      I am very happy you enjoyed it!! Thank YOU! 🙂

      Reply
    • Katerina
      February 12, 2020 at 9:58 am

      I am very happy you enjoyed it!! Thank YOU!! 🙂

      Reply
  • Julia Frey
    February 11, 2020 at 3:07 pm

    5 stars
    Loved this recipe and the dressing is absolutely delicious!

    Reply
    • Katerina Petrovska
      February 11, 2020 at 3:34 pm

      Thank you so much, Julia! I am very happy you enjoyed it! 🙂

      Reply
    • Katerina
      February 12, 2020 at 9:57 am

      Thank you so much, Julia! 🙂

      Reply
  • Stephanie
    February 11, 2020 at 3:07 pm

    5 stars
    Such a great pasta salad! I just love everything that’s in it!

    Reply
    • Katerina Petrovska
      February 11, 2020 at 3:35 pm

      Thank YOU, Stephanie! 🙂 I hope you enjoy it!

      Reply
    • Katerina
      February 12, 2020 at 9:56 am

      Thank you, Stephanie! 🙂

      Reply
  • Dorothy Reinhold
    February 12, 2020 at 1:49 am

    This makes me think of summer and picnics. I think I will be hosting an indoor picnic with this salad this weekend!

    Reply
    • Katerina
      February 12, 2020 at 9:53 am

      That sounds like a great idea! Hope everyone will LOVE the macaroni salad! 🙂

      Reply

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