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The Only Macaroni Salad Recipe You Need

Serves 12     adjust servings

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?


To boil

  • 3 and 1/2 cups dry elbow macaroni*
  • 1 tablespoon salt, for the boiling water
  • 4 eggs, hard boiled

For the dressing

  • 1 and 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

To assemble

  • 1 (4-ounce) 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


  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Stir it all together and taste it. Add more salt, pepper, or other seasonings to taste.
  7. 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!
  8. 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. 
  9. This macaroni salad will keep in the fridge for about 1 week.