This easy Macaroni salad is a classic summer side dish you can make ahead the night before! Made with a creamy, tangy dressing and plenty of ways to customize the salad to make it your own.
I may not usually be the biggest fan of mayo-based salads… But sometimes you cannot mess with the classics! This macaroni salad tastes like all of my childhood memories about picnics, potlucks and summer barbecues. Nothing beats that!
This classic macaroni salad
- comes together in a snap!
- is made with a creamy, tangy dressing that takes minutes to prepare
- can be customized with hardboiled eggs, chopped chicken, cooked shrimp, canned tuna… to your heart’s desire!
- is a great dish to make the night before, so you don’t need to stress around in the kitchen while your summer party is in full swing
Ingredients in macaroni salad
Here is an overview of the ingredients in the recipe (great to use as a visual grocery list at the store!). Scroll down to the recipe at the bottom for quantities.
- Macaroni: Any short, small, tubular pasta can be used – elbow macaroni, Ziti, Ditalini, spirals, small shells. They all work! Just technically not macaroni salad anymore 😉
- Mayo: If you really despise mayo, feel free to use Greek yogurt instead. The taste will be different, but still good.
- Vegetables: Feel free to swap out any vegetables you don’t like. Great alternatives are peas, corn, green onion, other color peppers…
- Pickles: If you don’t like pickles, feel free to leave them out. You’ll need to add white vinegar to the dressing instead of pickle juice, otherwise you won’t get the tangy flavors.
How to make macaroni salad
- Adjust the amount of mayo to get the creaminess of your salad just right!
- If you make the salad ahead of time and refrigerate it for a few hours, chances are the macaroni soaked up some of the dressing. It helps to add more mayo and pickle juice to make it creamy again.
- Make sure you don’t overcook the macaroni, or the salad comes out soggy. I also always drain the macaroni immediately into a colander when they’re just done and rinse them under cold water to stop the cooking process.
Make ahead instructions
You can make the salad up to a day ahead. Cover the bowl and refrigerate the salad for up to a day. Let it sit on the counter for 5 minutes, then adjust mayo and pickle juice to taste before serving.
More easy summer salads
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Easy Macaroni Salad
- ⅔ cup mayonnaise
- ⅓ cup sour cream
- 3-4 tablespoons pickle juice
- 1 tablespoon yellow mustard
- 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- salt & pepper to taste
- ½ pound elbow macaroni cooked, drained and rinsed under cold water to cool
- 1 red bell pepper diced
- ⅓ cup diced red onion
- 2 ribs celery diced
- 1 medium carrot peeled and coarsely grated
- ⅓ cup diced sweet pickles
- Mix dressing ingredients in a large bowl until smooth.
- Add all salad ingredients to dressing and mix well. Adjust seasoning to taste.
- Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes and up to overnight. You may need to add extra dressing to the salad if you let it sit in the fridge for more than a couple of hours.
- Feel free to add diced hardboiled eggs, cheese, bacon, shrimp, chicken, canned tuna…. To the salad to turn it into a meal.
- Switch out any veggies you don’t like. Peas, other color peppers, diced green beans or corn are great alternatives.
- If you want to skip the mayo, feel free to use Greek yogurt instead. The taste will be different (but still good!). You will need to add more mustard and seasoning to balance out the flavors.