Of all my chicken recipes, chicken macaroni salad recipe is the one I bring out most often. It’s a delicious base macaroni salad, a perfect crossover of chicken pasta recipes and barbecue party side dishes.
Excellent for tailgates, backyard cookouts, or if you just want a zesty dish, chicken macaroni salad recipe is light enough to accompany grilled meats but it’s a filling enough pasta recipe to be a quick standalone lunch meal. I’ve yet to find a time when it wasn’t the perfect recipe to make!
Let me walk you through this quick, tasty pasta salad treat!
Aside from it being crazy simple to make on my end, I’ve gotten a ton of rave comments over the years when I bring this dish to parties. A few of my favorites:
- So creamy!
- Those pops of dried fruit — yum.
- Eggs and chicken? So much protein!
- The right amount of crunch from celery and nuts
Usually, a “base chicken pasta salad” recipe is fairly straightforward, with pasta, a mayo sauce, and chicken. But over the years, I’ve livened mine up with different textures and flavor profiles to give you a truly rounded chicken macaroni salad experience!
Poultry Seasoning: What even is poultry seasoning, you may ask? Typically, it’s a combination of nutmeg, thyme, marjoram, rosemary, and pepper — so if you don’t have any premixed poultry seasoning in your cupboard, whip up your own!
What’s in a Mustard? I don’t know about you, but I get a little intimidated when I go down the condiment aisle anymore. There are about forty different types of mustard alone. Dijon? German? English? Yellow?
What’s the difference? Well, I did a bit of research, and French Mustard (also known as Dijon) has a stronger bite of heat, though not quite as intense as the straight-up Spicy mustards. But if French Mustard is still too mustardy for you, you can switch it out for the milder Yellow or Honey mustards.
Nuts about NUTS: Confession time: I always get pecans and walnuts confused. I cannot tell you how many times I come home from the grocery with the wrong pouch of those soft brown nuts. Luckily, there isn’t *too* much different between them — walnuts have slightly higher protein, but both pecans and walnuts offer similar benefits.
So if you, too, grab the wrong type at the store, throw it into your salad regardless!
Butcher like a pro: Hate taking apart rotisserie chickens? Some tips I’ve picked up are, first of all, to thoroughly let your chicken cool. No one wants to handle scalding hot meat. This also frees you up to use your hands (in rubber gloves) to break down your chicken, which I’ve always preferred — it lets you really get in there to make sure you get all the meat.
Still feeling lost? There’s a good step-by-step chicken walkthrough here!
Shake up that dressing: Believe it or not, when I make salad dressings, I go to my liquor cabinet — and grab my cocktail shaker! It’s so much easier to whip up yummy dressings by putting all the ingredients in the shaker and giving it a whirl. If you don’t have a cocktail shaker, you can also use a food processor.
Cranberry Rehydration: One tip you’ll see in the recipe below is to soak the dried cranberries. Why? Doing this rehydrates the berries a bit, making them plumper and giving them a fuller, yummier flavor.
Chicken macaroni salad recipe is much like all other pasta salads in that it gets better with age. The ideal way to serve this is to make it a day ahead, put it in either a bowl sealed with plastic wrap or an airtight container, and let it sit in the fridge overnight. That way, the sauce gets all friendly with the noodles and fillings, and you end up with every ounce of flavor you can get out of your ingredients. Yum!
If you don’t have time to make it ahead, no worries! Your chicken macaroni salad will still be delicious. Or, if you’re worried about the noodles getting too mushy in the sauce, you can either leave the dressing off until just before serving or make sure to undercook your noodles so they retain their structure.
No matter what you choose to do, it’s bound to be lip-smacking good!
Can You Freeze This?
If you do want to freeze your chicken macaroni salad recipe, I recommend planning ahead and freezing the pasta with the fillings on their own, and then making the dressing after you thaw the rest. Recipes like this, that have a cream-based dressing as well as citrus, tend to separate in the freezer’s high temperatures, which makes for chunky sauce after it’s thawed.
How Long Can You Keep This?
You can store chicken macaroni salad recipe in a sealed container in the fridge for up to four days. In the freezer, it can last for up to four months.
But if you’ve had this dish sitting out at a party for any length of time, I’d toss the leftovers. The sour cream in the dressing can do icky things if not refrigerated, so better safe than sorry!
The world of chicken pasta dishes is wide and wonderful and full of belly-filling bites!
What Other Chicken Pasta I Can Cook?
Chicken florentine pasta is a must-try for anyone with a chicken pasta craving. A white wine sauce, spinach, and parmesan come together over chicken and noodles and make a truly mouth-watering dinner.
If you want something simple, chicken piccata pasta is noodles and chicken in a sauce that’s as easy as lemon juice, creamy butter, and salty capers. Sometimes simple is the most delicious!
Can I Try This With Seafood?
Yes, please! A seafood twist would be perfect for a beach party or a poolside cookout. Tuna macaroni salad is a guaranteed winner — either sear up some tuna steaks or crack open a can of the good stuff. Or get really luscious with shrimp pasta salad by grilling them up or even frying them. I’ll have second helpings of both, please!
Is There A Mediterranean Option?
Throwing in some salty olives and feta to make this greek pasta salad is a yummy way to transport your tastebuds to the Mediterranean. Or shake in some Italian seasoning and mozzarella for a similar-yet-different twist that will still go over smashingly… Italian pasta salad!
Can I Try Bacon Instead?
ALWAYS! I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like BLT pasta salad, and it’s as easy as bacon, romaine, and tomatoes. Boom. DONE.
Even better: bacon ranch pasta salad. Either use the premade ranch dressing or the dried packets to give that signature pop of ranch flavor. Paired with bacon’s greasy crunch, and you’ve got heaven in a bowl!
Can I Substitute Tortellini With Macaroni?
Yum, yum, YUM! Tortellini pasta salad is a favorite around here. I love the variation you can have just by choosing a different type of tortellini — three cheese, spinach, chicken, etc. There is no bad tortellini salad, so get creative!
Chicken Macaroni Salad
- 1 3/4 cups mayonnaise
- 1/4 cup sour Cream
- 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
- 2 zest of medium oranges
- 1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
- 1 tablespoon french mustard
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 1 teaspoon tarragon finely chopped
- 1 pound elbow pasta
- 1/3 cup red onion
- 1/2 cup parsley
- 1 cup dried cranberries
- 1 cup pecans chopped
- 1 stalk celery
- 1 rotisserie chicken cut in cubes
- 1/2 cup golden raisin
- 4-6 hard-boiled eggs
- In a small mixing bowl whisk together dressing ingredients until smoothly combined; set aside.
- Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to package instructions just to al dente. Drain and rinse immediately with cold water.
- In a large mixing bowl, add all salad ingredients and dressing and fold until evenly combined and coated.
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Once you start making pasta salads, it’s hard to stop! For more of my favorite pasta salad recipes, check out:
- Hawaiian Macaroni Salad
- Classic Macaroni Salad
- Chicken Parmesan Pasta
- Chicken Broccoli Pasta
- Chicken Fettuccine
The chicken macaroni salad recipe is easy, simple, and downright delicious. You won’t regret picking this dish for your cookout or making a ton to have as weekday lunches. It’s satisfying and flavorful, creamy and crunchy, and it’s really, truly just the best.
What’s your favorite filling in Chicken macaroni salad recipe? Let me know in the comments!