Classic Macaroni Salad

Classic Macaroni Salad is a staple and perfect side dish for any potluck, tailgate, or barbecue. It’s easy to make, and everyone will love it. It takes several ingredients which you probably already have on hand. I’m confident your family and guest will love this dish.

picture of macaroni salad with text overlay

Why This Dish Is Fantastic

Easy to Make– Make this dish a day or two ahead of time- it keeps nicely in the refrigerator.

Perfect for Dishes on the Go– This dish transports well for on-the-go dinners, parties, bbq’s, or tailgating. 

Fresh & Tasty– Fresh vegetables and creamy dressing make every bite delicious. 

Budget Friendly– No fancy ingredients are needed in this dish.

This dish pairs nicely with hamburgers and grilled chicken.

Ingredients Needed

Simple ingredients are needed for this delicious macaroni salad—nothing fancy, just straightforward items from the refrigerator and pantry. 


Bell Pepper


Frozen Peas

Cheese Cubes (Cheddar, Pepper Jack, Colby Jack)


Elbow Macaroni

Dressing (ingredients below)

ingredients in bowls for macaroni salad with text overlay

Dressing for Macaroni Salad

This macaroni salad dressing is super simple to make and very tasty. It’s a mayonnaise-based dressing that only takes minutes to prepare. 

Mayonnaise– This is the base for the dressing.

Mustard– Gives it just a kick of spice.

Sweet Pickle Relish– Adds just the right amount of sweetness to the salad.

Vinegar– Mixes with the mayo and adds tang.

Sugar– Just a little sweetness.

Salt & Pepper– Simple is sometimes all you need.

ingredients for macaroni salad in bowls with text overlay

How To Make Macaroni Salad

The best part about this classic macaroni salad is that you can make it a day or two ahead of time. If you are having a gathering, double up on the recipe, make it the night before and store it in the refrigerator. Honestly, it is better the next day. Just give it a good stir before serving. 

This salad only requires basic steps from start to finish.

For complete recipe instructions, see the recipe card below.

  1.  Boil the noodles.
  2. Prepare the vegetables.
  3.  Make the dressing. 
  4. Mix everything and refrigerate. 
steps to make macaroni salad with picture of food

Easy Greek Pasta Salad is loaded with fresh vegetables and topped with a tasty dressing. Simple and incredible.

The creamy dressing, the veggies’ crunch, and the pepper’s heat make this dish irresistible. It is pure comfort food in every bite. You can’t go wrong with a big bowl of macaroni salad, barbecue from the grill, and a tall glass of lemonade.  

Other Add-Ins:

What’s nice about this easy macaroni salad is that you can add in just about anything you wish and make it to suit your taste. Get creative and make it unique. Some other great add-ins might be:

boiled eggs 

grated carrots

diced ham

crunchy bacon


ranch dressing


*Make sure noodles are cooled before adding the other ingredients. You don’t want your cheese to melt.

*Jalapenos are optional. If you are serving this dish to heat-sensitive guests or children, leave out the peppers.

*I used Cheddar. Try Pepper Jack Cheese for the added kick or feel free to use your favorite.

* Don’t overcook your noodles. You want them firm, not mushy.

* Any small pasta noodles will work for this recipe.

*Make a day in advance if time allows. You can certainly serve this salad the day you make it, but it is so much better the next day. 

*If serving the next day, stir in another big spoonful of mayo or ranch dressing to the salad. The noodles absorb all of the creamy dressing while chilling in the refrigerator. 

*Double the recipe if serving to a crowd. 

picture of macaroni salad in a bowl with text overlay

For More Easy Salads, be sure to check out:

Carrot and Apple Salad

Bacon and Broccoli Salad

Strawberry and Spinach Salad

Recipe FAQs

Adding boiled eggs is a personal preference. For this recipe, I do not add eggs.

I do not suggest freezing pasta salad. The mayonnaise will separate when frozen and the dish will loose the creaminess.

This salad will last 4-5 days in the refrigerator.

macaroni salad in a bowl

Classic Macaroni Salad

Gina Abernathy
Classic Macaroni Salad is a staple and perfect side dish for any potluck, tailgate, or barbecue. It's easy to make, and everyone will love it. It takes several ingredients which you probably already have on hand.
5 from 16 votes
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 10 mins
Course Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine American
Servings 12 servings (or more)


  • ½ cup celery diced
  • ½ cup bell pepper diced- red, green, or yellow
  • 1 small onion diced
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 cup cheese cubes Cheddar, Pepper Jack or Colby
  • 1 jalapeno (optional) finely chopped with seeds removed
  • 1 pound (16 oz.) elbow macaroni dried


  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon Mustard
  • 3 tablespoons sweet pickle relish
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ cup white vinegar


  • Cook the noodles according to package instructions, then drain in a colander and rinse with cool water. Shake well to remove all water and allow the noodles to cool for about 15-20 minutes. Then add to a large bowl.
  • Add the diced celery, onion, bell pepper, peas, jalapeno, and cheese to the pasta. Stir well.


  • Whisk together the dressing ingredients in a small bowl or Mason Jar (with a tight fitting lid) until smooth and creamy.
  • Pour the dressing over the macaroni and stir to coat evenly. Keep the salad covered and refrigerated until ready to serve. 


**Tip** If serving the next day, stir in another spoonful of mayo or ranch dressing to the salad. This will ensure more creaminess. The noodles absorb all of the dressing while chilling in the refrigerator. Enjoy!
Keyword Classic Macaroni Salad


  1. 5 stars
    This salad was so easy to make and was the perfect side dish for our picnic dinner last night! Everyone loved it!

  2. 5 stars
    We were looking for something simple that everyone would enjoy and this was just perfect! Took it on a picnic yesterday and loved it 🙂

  3. 5 stars
    Love a good pasta salad and this looks like it does the trick! Love the idea of adding the pickle relish. Thanks for the recipe!

  4. 5 stars
    This classic macaroni salad reminds me of my grandmas. It’s so simple and delicious. Thank you for sharing. I plan on bringing to our family Labor Day BBQ.

  5. 5 stars
    This was so good and easy to make! I’m bringing this to every potluck and picnic, it really is the perfect side dish!

  6. 5 stars
    Believe it or not, I never made macaroni salad and was asked to bring one, so I made yours and everyone loved it. The recipe is super simple and perfect with our BBQ.

  7. 5 stars
    What do you do when its to hot for mac and cheese? Make macaroni salad instead! Such a quick and easy recipe, I’ll be taking this to the next potluck 🙂

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