This easy homemade version of the classic summer salad has crunchy vegetables and creamy dressing. Make it yours by adding some egg, pickle, or anything you like.
Classic homemade macaroni salad is a crowd-pleaser at every cookout, potluck, picnic, and family gathering. But the deli version is just OK, not bad but not outstanding—just one of that mandatory blah side-dishes.
Anybody can buy the macaroni salad but take up a few notches and show up with your own version. And as a bonus, you will know what's in it.
You and your family deserve outstanding. So blow that deli macaroni salad out of the water in every way. Great taste from fresh ingredients. Bound to be a new family standard.
A nice medium 4. I won't be doing it often since it makes too much for two. But it is a solid side dish.
👨🍳 Recipe Size
This is a basic recipe that will get you started. Add or subtract what you want. Cook some pasta, make a mayonnaise-based sauce and put in what you like. It is that simple.
My main problem was trying to make it "cooking for two" friendly. I finally decided that it just wasn't happening for me. Cutting it down to the current size is easy, but it will produce more wasted ingredients while simple.
Otherwise, you can cut this recipe in half and make it more "cooking for two." I decided I would mainly use it for gatherings and holiday cooking, so I'm ok with the eight servings.
Classically elbow macaroni is used, but any short pasta will do nicely. Be sure to cook until done but do not overcook. Rinsing after cooking helps prevent sticking.
Generally celery, red onion, and pepper.
Hard-boiled eggs are commonly added. Sweet pickles are also a common addition, along with some pickle juice.
Generally 3-4 days refrigerated. Freezing is not recommended.
This one of those dishes that can lead to food poisoning, so please obey the food safety rules.
Cold foods are safe:
- If set out then no longer than 2 hours in temperature under 90°F.
- Or 1 hour if the temperature is above 90°F.
- Or you can keep it cool to 40°F or less.
See Summer Food Safety if you have questions.
This recipe is listed in these categories. See them for more similar recipes.
🖼️Step-by-Step Photo Instructions
This is an easy recipe to cut in half. As written, it is 8 servings and keeps waste to the minimum.
Cook 2 cups of pasta according to package directions. A one-pound box of pasta is generally 4 cups. Rinse the pasta under running water to prevent sticking.
In a large bowl, mix 1 cup mayonnaise (regular or low-fat), three tablespoons milk, two tablespoon vinegar, one tablespoon mustard, 1-2 teaspoon sugar to taste, ½ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper.
Finely chop one small or ½ medium red onion, two ribs celery, and one pepper (red or green). Optionally, you may add 2 chopped hard-boiled eggs or 4-6 chopped sweet pickles and a bit of pickle juice.
Mix pasta with the dressing, veggies, and 1 cup of shredded mild cheddar cheese. Refrigerate for a few hours to blend flavors.
Homemade Macaroni Salad
- 2 cups pasta - 8 oz.
- 1 cup mayonnaise - regular or low-fat
- 3 tablespoons milk
- 2 tablespoon vinegar
- 1 tablespoon mustard
- 1-2 teaspoon sugar - to taste
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- 1 red onion - small or ½ medium
- 2 ribs celery
- 1 pepper - red or green
- 1 cup cheddar cheese - shredded or cubed
- 2 hard boiled eggs - chopped
- 6-8 sweet pickles - chopped
- 2-3 tablespoons sweet pickle juice - if using pickles
- Cook 2 cups pasta according to package directions. A one pound box of pasta is generally 4 cups. Rinse after cooking to prevent sticking.
- In a large bowl mix 1 cup mayonnaise (regular or low-fat), three tablespoons milk, two tablespoon vinegar, one tablespoon mustard, 1-2 teaspoon sugar to taste, ½ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper.
- Finely chop one small or ½ medium red onion, two ribs of celery, and one pepper (red or green). You may also add 2 chopped hard-boiled eggs, 6-8 sweet pickles, and a little pickle juice.
- Mix pasta with the dressing, veggies, and 1 cup of shredded or cubed mild cheddar cheese. Refrigerate for a few hours to blend flavors.
My Private Notes
- This is a very easy recipe to cut in half or double.
- I use a full pepper which is a bit heavy for some, decrease if you want
- Use low-fat mayo if you want.
- A one-pound box of macaroni is 4 cups dry pasta.
- Good refrigerated for 3-4 days but will not freeze well.
- Tastes better if it spends a few hours in the refrigerator after mixing.
- This one of those dishes that can lead to food poisoning. Please obey the food safety rules. See Summer Food Safety if you have questions.
To adjust the recipe size:
You may adjust the number of servings in this recipe card under servings. This does the math for the ingredients for you. BUT it does NOT adjust the text of the instructions. So you need to do that yourself.
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Originally Published May 25, 2014. Updated with expanded options, refreshed photos, and a table of contents to help navigation.