Classic Macaroni Salad – Just like Grandma used to make! Delicious pasta with all the right goodies tossed in an extra creamy, thick dressing!

Classic Macaroni Salad in a blue bowl

Classic macaroni salad creates a magical taste with an assist by mayo, dried mustard, and sweet pickle juice. A handful of everyday ingredients become a symphony of flavor when whisked and mixed in the right proportions!

Classic Macaroni Salad is a summertime standby, making regular appearances at picnics, cookouts, and post tee-ball dinner tables. If you want to hit a home run at the next outing (or inning!), try this recipe. I’ve even let you in on my secret ingredient. With only two steps, it won’t take you long to memorize!

If you loved my sweet and sour, smooth yet textured old fashioned macaroni salad, you might also enjoy my Pesto Pasta Salad, Tuna Pasta Salad, or Pasta Salad recipes!

Classic Macaroni Salad in a blue bowl

How To Make Classic Macaroni Salad

To prepare this classic macaroni salad, simply cook the pasta, whisk the dressing, then stir together the remaining ingredients! Macaroni salad ingredients include celery, onion, pepper, and olives.

Southern Macaroni Salad – Deliciously On The Sweet Side

The inclusion of sugar and sweet pickle juice is what makes this Southern Macaroni Salad deliciously on the sweet side.

More Macaroni Salad We’re Checking Out

Read on for Macaroni Salad variations!

Classic Macaroni Salad

Classic macaroni salad is probably what you picture when you think of Grandma’s macaroni salad! Rich, wholesome, and satisfying.

Chicken Macaroni Salad

Chicken macaroni salad makes for a filling but simple macaroni salad. The added protein is always a plus!

Hawaiian Macaroni Salad

Hawaiian macaroni salad is another deliciously creamy macaroni salad recipe that incorporates carrots and brown sugar!

Easy Macaroni Salad

Easy macaroni salad is perfect for weeknights and hectic game days when you can’t spare a single minute!

Macaroni Salad With Egg

Macaroni salad with egg v.  macaroni salad with cheese I give up – love em both!

Tuna Macaroni Salad

Tuna macaroni salad! Guys, macaroni salad with tuna brings down the house.  

Authentic Hawaiian Macaroni Salad Variation

A different alternative for this dish is Hawaiian macaroni salad. It’s a very similar recipe, but with apple cider vinegar, carrots and onions. (If you’ve ever heard that Hawaiian macaroni salad has ham and pineapple, don’t believe it. The traditional stuff—the best stuff—is made from a simple combination of ingredients.) Here’s a really awesome recipe for Authentic Hawaiian Macaroni Salad. It’s unique and very tangy!

Recipe Notes For Best Macaroni Salad

Mayo:A good, quality commercial mayo is vital to the success of this macaroni salad recipe. Because mayo is the base of the whole dressing, it doesn’t do you any good to buy the cheapest stuff on the shelf.

Seasoning: Food that’s served cold needs to be seasoned more aggressively than warm food in order to ensure that it tastes right. So don’t skimp out on the seasoning!

The Dressing: This recipe makes a very thick dressing. If you like a thinner dressing, simply add 1 Tablespoon at a time, of either milk, water, or even more sweet pickle juice, to the finished salad, tossing well to combine. Continue adding your liquid of choice, in 1 Tablespoon increments, until you reach desired consistency.

Pasta: Make sure your cooking water is well seasoned with salt. I use 2 Tablespoons of salt for every 4-6 quarts of water.

No, your eyes aren’t going—you read that right. 2 Tablespoons of salt. Cooking the pasta in well-salted water enhances the flavor of the finished pasta. It’s an important step to ensure that the pasta doesn’t taste bland in the macaroni salad.

I can’t stress this enough:  do not overcook the pasta. Classic Macaroni Salad is just not as good with soft noodles.

Rinse – Rinse – Rinse. This step removes the starchy residue that occurs when cooking pasta. This extra starch is really helpful when you’re making a hot pasta dish; it aides the sauce in sticking to the pasta. But in a cold pasta dish, it doesn’t work the same. Instead, the starch just makes the pasta sort of gluey and sticky.

Make sure the pasta is well drained. The extra water clinging to the pasta can really dilute the creamy dressing, making it thinner and less delicious.

Chilling: The recipe says to chill for six hours. I generally prefer to chill overnight. I think the extra few hours while I’m sleeping helps the flavors come together better. Time in the fridge is crucial to a good dish—the flavors marry and mingle while chilling.

The Secret Ingredient: Sweet pickle juice, there, I said it! It really makes the dish shine. I also use sweet pickle juice in my Classic Deviled Eggs Recipe.

Variations: Occasionally I’ll use pimentos instead of the peppers. It’s a solid substitute when I want to change things up. Or when I just have extra pimentos lying around.

Some people prefer a heartier version of this recipe called Amish macaroni salad. Basically, it’s just macaroni salad with egg. Great either way – It’s up to you!

Food Safety: If you’re taking this dish to a potluck or a picnic, remember that you can’t leave any mayo-based salad, like this one, out of the fridge for too long. It will go bad. Check out this article on Food Network for more food safety information.

Classic Macaroni Salad Recipe

This classic macaroni salad recipe shows off macaroni, red onion, and olives in their best possible light!




Classic Macaroni Salad in a blue bowl
5 from 1 vote

Classic Macaroni Salad

Classic Macaroni Salad - Just like Grandma used to make! Delicious pasta with all the right goodies tossed in an extra creamy, thick dressing!

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 8 minutes
Total Time 28 minutes
Servings 8 -12 Servings
Calories 636 kcal
Author Kathleen


  • 1 -16 Ounce Box Elbow Pasta
  • 2 Cups Mayonnaise
  • 2 Tablespoons Red Wine Vinegar
  • 1 Teaspoon Sugar
  • 2 Teaspoons Salt
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoons Pepper
  • 1/2 Teaspoons Dried Mustard
  • 3 Tablespoons Sweet Pickle Juice
  • 1/2 Cup Whole Milk
  • 1 Cup Celery Finely Chopped
  • 1/2 Cup Red Bell Pepper Finely Chopped
  • 1 Cup Red Onion Finely Chopped
  • 1 -4.25 Ounce Can Chopped Black Olives Drained, Rinsed and Coarsely Chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons Fresh Parsley Finely Chopped


  1. Cook the macaroni just until it's al dente according to package directions in lightly salted water; drain and rinse with cold water until completely cool. Set aside.

  2. In a large bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, vinegar,  sugar, salt, pepper, dried mustard, sweet pickle juice and milk until smooth. Stir in macaroni, celery, red pepper, red onion and olives.  Chill for 6 hours.  If you like a thinner dressing, simply add 1 Tablespoon at a time, of either milk, water, or even more sweet pickle juice, to the finished salad, toss well to combine. Continue adding your liquid of choice, in 1 Tablespoon increments, until you reach desired consistency. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve

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Nutritional Information

Nutrition information will vary based on the specific products. To be safe, check the nutrition facts labels of your products. Optional object listed above have been left out of nutritional data.

Nutrition Facts
Classic Macaroni Salad
Amount Per Serving (1 /8 of the recipe)
Calories 636 Calories from Fat 414
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 46g 71%
Saturated Fat 6g 30%
Monounsaturated Fat 1g
Cholesterol 25mg 8%
Sodium 1155mg 48%
Potassium 230mg 7%
Total Carbohydrates 47g 16%
Dietary Fiber 2g 8%
Sugars 5g
Protein 8g 16%
Vitamin A 10.1%
Vitamin C 18.6%
Calcium 3.4%
Iron 1.8%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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Macaroni Salad~this classic pasta salad is loaded with all the right goodies and tossed in a super thick, creamy dressing! LOVE!

Source: Gonna Want Seconds