The BEST Macaroni Salad Recipe
This is the only Macaroni Salad recipe you will ever need! The secret to the best macaroni salad is a perfectly sweet and tangy dressing, not overcooking the macaroni, and chopping the veggies into small pieces so they don’t take over the pasta. Oh, and plenty of hard boiled eggs! They are the best, right?
Our 3-year-old daughter Valentine came out of her room very late last night. “My bed is not letting me go to sleep.” Nice try, kid. I can’t really empathize; my bed lets me go to sleep before I’m even in it sometimes.
Eric and I went to the drive-in movie theater last weekend. There are only like 300 drive-ins running in the US, isn’t that crazy? It’s only a 3 minute drive from our house so we take the kids all the time. And it’s easy to social distance! (Although I heard that real movie theaters are allowed to open up this week in CA!! So exciting! Can you tell we are movie people?)
Anyway, there are no new movies of course, so the drive in is showing all these old movies from when we were kids. The Mummy, Transformers, School of Rock. So much fun to see them on the big screen again! Eric usually sets up the back of our minivan with blankets and pillows so we can lay down and relax, and I fall asleep every time. Every. Time. See Valentine? I don’t even need a bed to go to sleep, the back of a car will do for me. I think I’m getting old!
This is the last week of school for my kids! Hooray! Just like when they actually attend school in person, we’re all mostly checked out at this point. Sorry, teach. But really is there anything better than being a kid on the last day of school? It’s the best!
I feel so lucky that my kids are young and they didn’t miss out on anything important because of Covid-19. I mean don’t get me wrong, they missed out on school, and school is important (kinda;) but at least they weren’t graduating, right? My brother’s step-daughter is a graduating senior this year. Just like the last day of school is the best, the last few months of senior year are a total party! Such a bummer to miss out.
And to top it off, they were driving through her graduation ceremony, and 4 cars away from the front where she was supposed to get her diploma, they ran out of gas!! ha! Way to make a weird situation even weirder!
How to make the Best Macaroni Salad
Now let’s talk Macaroni Salad! Are you a fan? I usually pick potato salad over macaroni salad, but that was before I discovered the secret to making it amazing: all the add-ins need to be chopped tiny. Now I am totally on team macaroni salad!
I’m serious, for me this is the difference between a horribly crunchy experience and a beautiful, homogenous macaroni experience.
It’s so easy to make. Here’s the line up: shredded carrots, celery chopped tiny, minced red and white onions (although you can just use one or the other if you prefer), green bell pepper, chives, hard boiled eggs, dill, and pimientos. This is the best combination! You can of course substitute whatever veggies you like best. But for me, this is where the magic is at for taste and texture.
The other really important thing to remember with macaroni salad is not to overcook the pasta. You want to cook it until it is just barely al dente. The pasta is going to sit in the dressing for a few hours and will continue absorbing liquid. We want it to absorb some of that dressing instead of being waterlogged!
And of course, we can’t forget the dressing. This is mayonnaise at it’s finest my friends. Add in some mustard, apple cider vinegar, pickle relish, and fresh lemon juice, and you will be in love!
I hope that gatherings loosen up in your area so that you can bring this macaroni salad to a BBQ sometime soon! Or be like me: make it and eat it for lunch every day for days on end. No regrets. Macaroni salad forever!!
More summer side dishes you are going to love!
- Lemon Tarragon Pasta Salad << still one of my favorite pasta salads of all time! Need to update those photos!
- Easy BLT Pasta Salad << the only thing better than an actual BLT!
- Italian Tortellini and Pepperoni Pasta Salad << Who can say no to these Italian flavors!
- My Favorite Coleslaw (with Lemon and Fresh Herbs) << love this stuff.
- Literally The Best Mac and Cheese I’ve Ever Had << still true to this day.
- Greek Salad Recipe << so fresh and delicious!
- The Best Potato Salad Recipe << one of my favorite summer staples!
- Classic Egg Salad Sandwich << adding boiled eggs and mayonnaise to anything is my favorite apparently.
- Mediterranean Orzo Salad from Iowa Girl Eats
- Italian Pasta Salad from Kristine’s Kitchen
- Picnic Pasta Salad from Brown Sugar Food Blogger
Best Macaroni Salad
- 3 & 1/2 cups dry elbow macaroni*
- 1 tablespoon salt, for the boiling water
- 4 eggs, hard boiled
For the dressing
- 1 & 1/2 cups mayonnaise
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 3 tablespoons yellow mustard
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon celery seed
- 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, optional
- 1 tablespoon or more to taste sweet pickle relish
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 (4-oz) jar pimientos, drained
- 2-3 medium carrots, peeled and shredded
- 1/2 green bell pepper, chopped very small
- 2 stalks celery, chopped very small
- 2 tablespoons red onion, chopped small
- 2 tablespoons yellow onion, chopped small
- 1-2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
- 1 tablespoons chives, chopped
- a little more mayonnaise, for after chilling
- Bring about 10 cups of water to a boil in a large pot set over high heat. Once boiling, add 1 tablespoon salt and 3 and 1/2 cups dry elbow macaroni. Boil for about 7-9 minutes, until the pasta is al dente. Try not to overcook it. Nobody wants mushy macaroni! When it is al dente, drain immediately and return to the pot. Drizzle with a bit of oil and stir so that the pasta doesn’t stick to itself.
- If you have a steamer, steam 4 eggs over boiling water set over high heat for 11 minutes. (Don’t put the eggs in the basket until the water is boiling.) Cool in an ice bath. If you don’t have a steamer, cover eggs with 1 inch of cold water and bring to a boil, then turn off heat and let sit with the lid on for about 12 minutes, then put in ice bath to stop the cooking. Once cool, peel the eggs and chop roughly.
- Meanwhile, make the dressing. In a large bowl, add 1 and 1/2 cups mayonnaise, 1/3 cup white sugar, 3 tablespoons yellow mustard, 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar, 2 teaspoons kosher salt, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, 1/4 teaspoon celery seed, 1/8 or 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (this adds great flavor and not much heat, if you are nervous just add a pinch), 1 tablespoon sweet pickle relish, and 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice. Whisk it all together.
- Now prep your veggies. The reason this is my favorite macaroni salad is because there are no giant chunks in it. Make yours according to your preference, but I always prefer smaller pieces of veggies that blend into the salad rather than sticking out. Drain the pimientos. Shred 2-3 carrots. Chop up half a green bell pepper, 2 stalks of celery, and mince 2 tablespoons each red and yellow onion. Chop up 1-2 tablespoons dill and a tablespoon of chives.
- Add the pimientos, shredded carrot, green bell pepper, celery, red onion, yellow onion, dill, chives, cooked pasta, and chopped eggs to the bowl with the dressing.
- Stir it all together and taste it. Add more salt, pepper, or other seasonings to taste.
- Let the macaroni salad chill for 2-4 hours until cold. Get it out of the fridge and let it sit on the counter for about a half hour before serving, to take the chill off. Just before serving, stir a spoonful of mayonnaise in to make it extra creamy!
- This recipe can me made 24 or even 48 hours in advance! When serving, be prepared with a bit of mayonnaise and maybe an extra squeeze of lemon just before serving, to loosen it up and brighten the flavor a bit.
- This macaroni salad will keep in the fridge for about 1 week.
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