This old-fashioned Classic Macaroni Salad is an easy and delicious make-ahead side dish. It serves a crowd and is perfect for potlucks, cookouts, and summer picnics. Elbow pasta is coated with a simple mayonnaise-based dressing with chopped bell pepper, red onion, crunchy celery, and peas. It’s creamy pasta deliciousness!
This salad brings back so many childhood memories… when I was growing up, no family reunion was ever complete without macaroni salad. It was (and still is!) one of my favorite side dishes. It’s a perfect accompaniment to baked BBQ chicken thighs or BBQ pork ribs.
This dish is prepared with simple ingredients and is easily customizable to your personal taste. You can’t go wrong with bringing this flavorful pasta salad to any event for any occasion… it’s always a crowd-pleaser!
Macaroni Salad Ingredients
- Pasta (elbow macaroni) that has been cooked, drained in a colander and rinsed well with cold water until cooled.
- Red onion
- Bell pepper – I use red bell pepper but any color will be fine!
- Peas – frozen peas that have been thawed.
- Mayonnaise – low fat mayo can be substituted for regular mayo, although I prefer real mayonnaise in this recipe.
- Sour cream – low fat sour cream can be substituted for regular.
- Dijon mustard
- White granulated sugar
- White vinegar
- Black pepper
- Sweet pickle relish
How to Prepare
Following is a very brief overview – please see the recipe card for full detailed instructions.
Step 1: Boil pasta according to package directions. Drain in a colander and rinse with cold water until pasta is cooled.
Step 2: Whisk together the dressing ingredients.
Step 3: Toss together the cooked macaroni, onion, bell pepper, celery and peas in a large bowl. Drizzle with dressing and stir to coat as evenly as possible.
According to the USDA, the longest it can stay out at room temperature is a maximum of 2 hours. If it stays out longer than 2 hours, throw it away. If the temperature is above 90 degrees F, it should not be left out for more than 1 hour.
If stored properly covered in the refrigerator, it will last for up to 3 to 4 days.
- Switch out the veggies to customize to your liking.
- Add diced ham, chopped hard-boiled eggs, olives, or even shredded cheese for a heartier salad.
Number of Servings
This recipe yields approximately 16 cups of pasta salad – enough to feed a crowd!
More Pasta Salads
Classic Macaroni Salad
For the salad:
- 1 pound macaroni pasta elbow noodles
- ¾ cup chopped red onion
- 1 large red bell pepper seeded, cored and chopped
- 1 cup chopped celery
- 1 cup frozen peas thawed
For the dressing:
- 1 ½ cups mayonnaise low fat can be used
- ¼ cup sour cream low fat can be used
- 1 tablespoon prepared Dijon mustard
- 3 tablespoons granulated white sugar
- ¼ cup white vinegar
- 1 teaspoon salt more or less, to taste
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper more or less, to taste
- 3 tablespoons sweet pickle relish
- Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain in a colander and rinse well with cold water until all of the pasta is cooled.
- Whisk together mayonnaise, sour cream, mustard, sugar, vinegar, salt, pepper and relish in a medium bowl. *
- Toss together cooked pasta, red onion, bell pepper, celery and peas in a large bowl. Drizzle with dressing and stir to coat as evenly as possible. Season with additional salt and pepper, if desired.
- Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving. Stir again before serving.
- *It will look like there is a lot of dressing, but when the pasta is refrigerated it will absorb some of the dressing. Stir before serving to re-distribute the dressing in the salad.
- Store covered in the fridge for up to 3 to 4 days.
- Do not leave out at room temperature for more than 2 hours (1 hour if the temperature is 90 degrees F or above).
If provided, nutritional info is a courtesy, is not guaranteed and should only be considered as a guideline.