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Classic Creamy Macaroni Salad

This easy Classic Creamy Macaroni Salad has tender pasta, crunchy veggies, and chopped eggs tossed with a mayonnaise-based dressing. It’s a must-have, crowd-pleasing side dish for all your summertime picnics, potlucks, and barbecues!

There’s a reason why macaroni salad is a favorite that makes an appearance at almost every summer picnic. Not only is it quick and easy to make (and you make it ahead of time), it goes with just about anything, and it’s absolutely delicious!

With Memorial Day coming up in just a few short days, I have been having a serious craving for my mom’s classic macaroni salad. She made it for every holiday cookout when we were kids, and she always served it along with potato salad on Easter and Christmas when she made ham for dinner.

I especially loved it because there were no pickles or pickle juice in it. I like pickles, but I just have a thing where I don’t want them in my salad.

Mom’s macaroni salad was very simple – elbow macaroni, carrots, celery, onion, hard-boiled eggs, and dressing – but it was perfect, absolutely delicious and always my favorite!

My sister and I had to put our heads together for this one because my mom didn’t write down the recipe for her macaroni salad. She had it down-pat and could whip up a batch from memory, tasting it and adding a little bit of this or that as needed.

We had an idea of the basic ingredients she used but didn’t know the exact amounts, so I made it several times until the smell and one bite took me right back in time to those summers as a kid. Isn’t is awesome how food can do that?

Although it might not exactly be my mom’s macaroni salad – hers will always be the best – I think my version is pretty darn close!

bowl of classic creamy macaroni salad garnished with paprika and chives with a spoon on the side

Ingredients you need:

  • Elbow macaroni
  • Mayonnaise
  • Dijon mustard
  • White vinegar
  • Sugar
  • Seasoned salt
  • Black pepper
  • Garlic powder
  • Onion powder
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Onion
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Paprika (optional, for garnish)
  • Fresh chives (optional, for garnish)

Here’s a look at how to make Classic Creamy Macaroni Salad:

two images, one of cooked macaroni in a colander with text that says cook macaroni, drain and rinse with cold water til cooled, drain, the other of a bowl of the dressing for the salad with a spoon in it with text that says mix together mayonnaise, mustard, vinegar, and seasonings
two images, one of macaroni, carrots, celery an onions added to the bowl with the dressing with text that says add macaroni, carrots, celery and onions, the other of the bowl with a spoon and all of the ingredients mixed together with text that says mix until well-combined
two images, one of the bowl of macaroni salad with chopped hard-boiled eggs on top with text that says add chopped eggs, the other of the bowl and a spoon with the eggs mixed into the salad with text that says gently fold them in
two images, one of a refrigerator with text that says cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours, overnight is best, the other of the finished salad in a bowl topped with paprika and chives with text that says top with paprika and fresh chives, optional, enjoy

Tips & Tidbits:

  • Elbow macaroni is the classic pasta for this salad, but other shorter, smaller pasta, such as ditalini, would work too.
  • Generously salt your pasta cooking water. You want that macaroni to have some flavor; otherwise, your salad might be a little bland.
  • Be careful not to overcook the macaroni so that your salad isn’t mushy. Aim for al dente.
  • You can change things up and add other fresh veggies, such as diced bell peppers or peas (or even pickles if that’s your thing).
  • Food safety: Don’t leave your macaroni salad out at room temperature for more than 2 hours (and even less than that if the temperature is super warm). To help keep it cool while serving, try placing your serving bowl in a larger bowl filled with ice.
  • Store your macaroni salad in the refrigerator for up to 3 to 4 days in an airtight container.
  • This macaroni salad is best when made the day before you want to serve it, but just make sure you make it at least 4 hours ahead of time so all those flavors get a chance to meld together and become even more delicious!
bowl of classic creamy macaroni salad with a spoonful being taken out

I’ll definitely be serving this up for my Memorial Day, 4th of July, and Labor Day cookouts (and lots of times in between). It goes great with hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken, ribs, steaks, or whatever else in on your menu!

I hope you try this recipe for Classic Creamy Macaroni Salad and love it as much as I do. Thanks for visiting today!

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Classic Creamy Macaroni Salad

This easy Classic Creamy Macaroni Salad has tender pasta, crunchy veggies, and chopped eggs tossed with a mayonnaise-based dressing. It's a must-have, crowd-pleasing side dish for all your summertime picnics, potlucks, and barbecues!
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Author: Michelle / Now Cook This!
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Chill Time: 4 hours
Total Time: 4 hours 35 minutes
Servings: 8 (about a heaping ½ cup each)
Estimated Calories: 321

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces dry elbow macaroni, about 2 cups
  • ½ cup finely grated carrots
  • ½ cup diced celery
  • ½ cup diced onions
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon seasoned salt, or to taste
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper, or to taste
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon onion powder
  • teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 3 hard-boiled eggs, chopped into ½-inch pieces
  • paprika, for garnish, optional
  • fresh chopped chives, for garnish, optional

Instructions

  • Cook the macaroni in salted water according to the package directions for al dente (be careful not to overcook so you salad isn't mushy). Drain the macaroni in a colander and immediately rinse with cold water until it has cooled completely, and then allow it to drain for a few minutes so it is not too wet.
  • In a large bowl, mix together the mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, white vinegar, sugar, seasoned salt, black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and cayenne pepper until well-combined.
  • Add the macaroni, carrots, celery, and onions to the bowl and mix until well-combined and everything is evenly coated with the dressing. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.
  • Add the chopped hard-boiled eggs and gently fold them in.
  • Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving to allow the flavors to meld (overnight is actually best!).
  • If desired, sprinkle the top with paprika and chopped fresh chives. Enjoy!

Notes

  • Store your macaroni salad in the refrigerator for up to 3 to 4 days in an airtight container. 
  • Food safety: Don’t leave your macaroni salad out at room temperature for more than 2 hours (and even less than that if the temperature is super warm). To help keep it cool while serving, try placing your serving bowl in a larger bowl filled with ice. 
  • To make hard-boiled eggs: Place the eggs in a pot and cover them with cold water by 1 inch. Bring to a boil (uncovered), and then immediately turn off the heat, cover the pot with the lid, and let them sit for 15 minutes. Drain and place the eggs in a bowl of ice water and let sit until completely cooled, about 10 minutes.
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