Macaroni salad is a classic side dish. This recipe features a rich and creamy dressing topping pasta and crunchy veggies! Neither overly saucy or overly dry!
I used to order macaroni salad from KFC like it was nobody’s business! I mean, who can pass up on that tangy and creamy sauce topping elbow macaroni and vegetables??
Not me, that’s for sure!
I think this recipe is actually better than KFC’s macaroni salad! (Sorry KFC! Still love you!) The vegetables are extra crunchy, it’s sauced to perfection (not too much, not too little!), and I would actually list chopping vegetables as one of my most exciting pasttimes.
Sad, but true.
I always make a double batch of this recipe, and keep a heaping bowl of macaroni salad in my fridge for snacking and lunches throughout the week. It’s one of my favorite make ahead recipes because it actually tastes better when it has a chance to sit in the fridge for a bit!
And since there are vegetables in it and it’s called a pasta salad, can we pretend it’s healthy? Please?
We can sort that out later.
How to make macaroni salad:
What makes macaroni salad easy is the fact that the only cooking you need to do is for the pasta. Otherwise it’s really just tossing everything together. And voila! You have a quick and easy side/lunch/snack/etc.!
After cooking your pasta, rinse and drain well before combining it with all of your chopped veggies.
In a separate bowl, whisk together all of your sauce ingredients.
Then, you just need to top the pasta and veggies with the sauce, and toss to combine! I also recommend chilling your salad for 1 hour before serving for the best flavor.
Refrigerating your salad:
This recipe can be served right away, but I highly, highly, HIGHLY recommend chilling it for 1 hour before serving! Giving it a chance to sit for a bit helps the pasta soak in some of the dressing, and all of the flavors get a chance to mix & mingle.
Macaroni salad variations:
Here are a few extra additions you can make to mix up your macaroni salad!
• tuna macaroni salad: you can make this macaroni salad with tuna (either canned or freshly cooked). Just be careful when mixing because tuna is quite fragile!
• macaroni chicken salad: use some store-bought, freshly cooked, or leftover chicken. Shred or dice it and add it to the salad before tossing with the dressing (This is my favorite chicken to use!)
• potato macaroni salad: add some diced, boiled or baked potatoes to the salad for an extra filling dish!
• macaroni egg salad: just like with tuna, eggs are a bit fragile, so be careful when mixing these in if you choose to add them
• corn macaroni salad: add some cooked corn kernels to your salad for added sweetness!
If you liked this easy macaroni salad, check out some of these similar recipes!
Macaroni Salad Recipe
For the salad:
- 8 ounces elbow macaroni, cooked according to package instructions
- 1/2 medium red onion, finely diced
- 1/2 medium red bell pepper, seeded and finely diced
- 1 celery stalk, finely diced
- 1 medium carrot, peeled and finely diced
For the salad dressing:
- 3/4 cup mayonnaise
- 1/3 cup sour cream
- 2 tablespoons white vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
- 1 clove garlic finely minced or 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt or more to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper or more to taste
- Bring a large pot of salted water up to a boil. Add your pasta and cook according to the package instructions. I like to add an extra minute to the cook time because I like my pasta salad a bit softer. Rinse with some cold water to keep the pasta from sticking, and drain well.
- In a large bowl, combine your cooked pasta, and your chopped red onion, red bell pepper, celery stalk, and carrot. Mix to combine, and set aside to prep the dressing.
- In a medium sized bowl, whisk together all of the dressing ingredients until incorporated. Top your pasta and veggies with the dressing, and mix to coat everything with the sauce. You can serve it right away, but this salad tastes even better when it's refrigerated for 1 hour beforehand. Serve at room temperature or cold.