Easy Classic Macaroni Salad with Peas

Enjoy and indulge in this delightful Classic Macaroni Salad with Peas that’s easy to make, goes great as a side to any main meal, and everyone will love it. This easy make-ahead side dish combines the flavors of macaroni, sweet peas, crisp vegetables, and cheddar cheese tossed together in a creamy dressing. It’s a classic side dish and a great recipe for any potluck, tailgate, or barbecue. I’m confident your family and guest will love this dish.

Classic Macaroni Salad is a staple and the perfect side dish for any occasion. 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 make this dish time and time again.

picture of macaroni salad with text overlay

When the weather warms up, activities move outside, and I am always looking for a simple recipe to fit the occasion. A cold salad is refreshing on hot summer days and served as a side dish at barbecues or other gatherings. Potato salad and Mexican Corn Salad usually appear on the menu when grilled food is served.

Why This Dish Is Fantastic

Cold pasta salads are always a great side dish to serve when the weather turns warm and more people gather outside for cookouts. This simple macaroni salad recipe combines tender pasta with fresh peas (or frozen- my choice) with a slightly tangy dressing that will feed a large crowd.

Easy to Make– This is truly an easy pasta salad to make. If desired, prepare this dish a day or two ahead of time- it keeps nicely in the refrigerator. Then, add more dressing to the salad before serving.

Versatile– This salad is easily customizable to your tastes. Add or subtract ingredients as you desire. If you don’t like something, leave it out. If you want more of something, add it.

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.

Creamy Macaroni Salad Ingredients

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

Celery- I add fresh celery for the crunch.

Bell Pepper- Green peppers are usually in my refrigerator, but a yellow or red bell pepper would work nicely.

Onion- Diced onion adds flavor and crunch. Use less if desired. I’ve used yellow, Vidalia, and even a red onion in this salad, and they all work fine.

Frozen Peas- I use frozen green peas because they are handy, and I often keep an extra bag in the freezer. They are so good in this salad.

Cheese Cubes- (Cheddar, Pepper Jack, Colby Jack)

Jalapeno- Remove the seeds, and it is not hot. The jalapeno adds flavor and spice. Leave out if desired.

Elbow Macaroni- Regular elbow macaroni noodles are easy to find and perfect for this salad.

Dressing (ingredients below)

ingredients in bowls for macaroni salad with text overlay

Dressing for Macaroni Salad

This classic macaroni salad dressing is super simple to make and very tasty. It’s a mayonnaise-based dressing that adds creaminess and elevates the flavor. In addition, the dressing plays an essential role in enhancing and coating the noodles in a great way.

Pour the mayonnaise mixture dressing over the macaroni and stir to coat evenly. 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. Add a cup of mayonnaise or more for extra creaminess. My personal preference is Duke’s Mayonnaise but use your favorite brand.

Mustard– Gives it just a kick of spice. I like Dijon mustard, but if you don’t have Dijon on hand, yellow mustard works as well.

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

Vinegar– Mixes with the mayo and adds tang. I use white and sometimes apple cider vinegar. Both work for the pea salad dressing.

Sugar– Just a little sweetness.

Salt & Black Pepper– Simple is sometimes all you need.

ingredients for macaroni salad in bowls with text overlay

How To Make This Easy Macaroni Salad Recipe

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. 

For complete detailed instructions, see the recipe card below. This is the best macaroni salad recipe and the only one I use. Macaroni Salad is best served chilled so all the flavors can meld together.

This salad only requires basic steps from start to finish.

  1.  Boil the noodles.  Fill a large pot with cold water and follow the package directions to cook elbow macaroni. Cook them al dente, drain them in a colander, and rinse with cool water. Let the cooked pasta cool.
  2. Prepare the vegetables.  In a large mixing bowl, add the cooked pasta noodles. Then add diced celery, onion, bell pepper, peas, jalapeno, and cheese. 
  3.  Make the dressing. Whisk together the dressing ingredients in a small bowl or Mason Jar. The recipe calls for one cup mayonnaise, but add more if you desire. I sometimes do it to make it extra creamy.
  4. Mix everything and refrigerate. Chill the creamy macaroni salad before serving for the best results and great flavor. You may need to add additional dressing before serving. The noodles seem to drink up the sauce.
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.  

How to Store this Easy Classic Macaroni Salad

Store this salad in an airtight container (or cover the bowl with plastic wrap or foil) in the refrigerator for up to a week. You may need to add more creamy dressing to the salad before serving; The noodles will drink up the dressing.

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. A few of my favorite add-ins are:

boiled eggs 

grated carrots

(diced) leftover ham

crunchy bacon


ranch dressing

fresh dill

green onions

Seasonings- celery salt or onion powder


*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. If you do not like elbow macaroni, any small shell pasta noodles will work just fine.

*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 Salad Recipes, be sure to check out:

Side dish salads go perfectly with any main dish. Some of my favorite salads are:

Carrot and Apple Salad

Bacon and Broccoli Salad

Strawberry and Spinach Salad

What to Serve with Macaroni Salad?

This classic pasta salad goes well with so many main dish foods. This dish goes well with backyard barbecue food and pairs well with chicken, pork, beef, and fish.

Grilled Chicken Drumsticks

Grilled Hamburgers

Oven Baked Barbecue Ribs

More Summer Side Dishes

Tangy Vinegar Coleslaw– Tangy Vinegar Coleslaw- slaw mix, vinegar, oil, sugar, salt, and pepper. So easy and taste fabulous! This slaw recipe is most definitely a keeper. This goes great with everything from BBQ to fish to tailgating food. Try it, and I bet it will be a hit!

Southern Tomato Pie– Southern Tomato Pie is the ultimate comfort food made with fresh garden tomatoes, bacon, caramelized onions, fresh basil, and topped with a gooey cheese mixture.

Grilled Corn on the Cob– Grilled Corn on the cob with Parmesan screams summertime. Sweet, smoky, charred, and crunchy. As the weather gets warmer, the corn just gets sweeter. Does it get any better?

Baked Bean with Ground Beef– Simple Baked Beans with Ground Beef is a hearty side dish for your next cookout, potluck, or gathering. A side dish perfect for any occasion or holiday.

Cheesy Stuffed Jalapenos– Only 5 ingredients are needed to make these Cheesy Stuffed Jalapenos–jalapeno peppers, cream cheese, shredded cheddar cheese, Worcestershire sauce, and bacon all come together to make a tasty treat.

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 26 votes
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
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 🙂

  8. 5 stars
    I’ve eaten lots of macaroni salad over the years but never one with cheese chunks in it! What a great addition! I’ll never make it without cheese again!

  9. 5 stars
    The jalapenos in this gave it such a nice little kick! I added a little extra because I love them so much and WOW this mac salad is popping!

  10. Can we please have the nutritional list for this recipe? I’m a new diabetic and need to watch calories, as well as sugars and salt. Thank you for your valuable time! 😁😊

  11. 5 stars
    This is so awesome and indeed classic. I remember eating this when I was a kind and really enjoying it. I loved this so much now as well!

  12. 5 stars
    This is such a classic and delicious recipe! We brought this to a picnic today and it was a hit – everyone loved it and we had no leftovers!

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