How to Make Macaroni Salad [+ Video]

A macaroni salad recipe that is creamy, crispy and tangy that will be devoured at all your summer BBQs, parties and potlucks! It has taken more years than I care to share to create the best macaroni salad, but we’ve got it and now we can teach you how to make it!

Macaroni salad is one of those classic side dishes that most people will just go buy at the deli. And let’s be honest, it just isn’t that good more often than not. It is so easy to make at home, and this is the best macaroni salad you will ever eat!


A wooden bowl on a red and white checkered napkin full of creamy macaroni salad.


Next time you are invited to a summer BBQ with friends, volunteer to bring macaroni salad, make this and thank me later! Muah!

How to Make Macaroni Salad?

Let’s get started on this best macaroni salad! It’s so simple! My girls like to make it for our family. You will start first with the pasta. Heat a pot of water over medium high heat and add a teaspoon or two of kosher salt. Once the water is boiling, toss in the pasta and cook it PAST al dente. Head to our Easy Southern English Pea Pasta Salad for details on cooking past al dente.

Drain the pasta immediately. You can even run some cold water over it to stop the cooking process. Then cool the pasta in the fridge while you finish preparing the veggies and dressing (see section below).

While the pasta is cooking and cooling, do a nice mince on the red onion, green bell pepper and red bell pepper.

Mix the veggies, cooled pasta and dressing together in a large bowl. Cover is with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 hours. Give it a good toss before serving. Feel free to add more seasoning if it is needed.


A wooden bowl on a red and white checkered napkin full of creamy macaroni salad.


How to Make the Dressing?

Combine the ingredients (sweetened condensed milk, mayo, sugar, apple cider vinegar, salt, pepper, dijon or yellow mustard) in a glass measuring cup and whisk them together. The dressing is perfectly sweet, tangy and creamy.

I’ve heard that some folks out there don’t like mayo. You can partially substitute the mayo, but do not omit it completely. It is what keeps the salad nice and creamy. You can use plain Greek yogurt or sour cream to substitute half of the mayo.

Possible Add-Ins for Macaroni Salad

For our macaroni salad recipe, we like to keep it super simple and include the following add-ins:

  • Red onion
  • Green bell peppers
  • Red bell peppers

You can add any number of things just depending on what flavors and textures you like. Here are some possibilities:

  • Peas
  • Ham
  • Pineapple (adding ham and pineapple gives it a nice Hawaiian flavor)
  • Pickles (sweet or dill)
  • Cheese (cubed)
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Tuna (ewwww, but do what floats your boat!)
  • Celery
  • Bacon
  • Carrots (shredded)


A wooden bowl on a red and white checkered napkin full of creamy macaroni salad.


How Do You Keep Macaroni Salad From Drying Out?

The key to keeping macaroni salad from drying out is the pasta. If you don’t cook it enough, the pasta won’t grab on to the dressing and will dry out. If you overcook the pasta, it will be completely soggy and gross. Cook the pasta just right, and your macaroni salad will stay perfectly creamy.

How Much Macaroni Salad for a Crowd?

It’s always hard to gauge how much macaroni salad to make for big crowd. A good rule of thumb is to go with 1/2 cup per person. That covers for the people who go crazy for it and those who don’t have any.

Can Macaroni Salad Be Made The Day Before?

Yes, I actually think it tastes the best if you make it the day before and let it refrigerate overnight. It can be made up to two days before. Just be sure to give it a good stir before serving.


A close up picture of a creamy macaroni salad recipe.


How Long Can Macaroni Salad Sit Out?

Macaroni salad is often served at hot summer BBQs, but you need to be careful about how long it sits out. Bacteria starts to grow quite rapidly between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Macaroni salad that has been sitting out at room temperature for more than 2 hours should be thrown away.

How Long Will Macaroni Salad Keep?

Macaroni salad will keep up to 5 days in the fridge in an airtight container.

Can Macaroni Salad Be Frozen?

Any salad that contains mayonnaise should not be frozen. Mayonnaise does not freeze and thaw well. It separates and becomes oily.

Is Macaroni Salad Safe To Eat When Pregnant?

Yes! Just make sure that the mayonnaise that you use is pasteurized. As always, while pregnant, you want to keep a healthy, balanced diet. As good as this macaroni salad recipe is, you probably shouldn’t eat it for every meal while you’re pregnant. Though, you will probably want to!


A wooden bowl with a red and white checkered napkin in the background full of creamy macaroni salad.


Is Macaroni Salad Gluten Free?

The only gluten in this macaroni salad recipe is in the pasta, so if you use gluten free pasta, then your macaroni salad is gluten free!

What to Eat with Macaroni Salad?

This macaroni salad goes with just about everything, but we love it with all our favorite summer dishes:

Then of course you’ll want to serve it along side our grilled corn on the cob and best baked beans with a heaping bowl of homemade berries and cream ice cream for dessert!


So don’t go to the deli for your macaroni salad, just whip up this simple classic macaroni salad recipe!



More delicious SIDE DISHES you’re sure to love:




A wooden bowl on a red and white checkered napkin full of creamy macaroni salad.
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How to Make Macaroni Salad

It's taken more years than I care to share to create the best classic macaroni salad. But we've got it and now we can teach you how to make macaroni salad!
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time15 mins
Total Time20 mins
Course: 15 of the Best Pasta Salad Recipes on the Internet
Keyword: bbq, grilling, macaroni salad, pasta, pasta salad, potluck, recipe, salad, side, side dish
Servings: 10 servings
Calories: 249kcal


  • 24 ounces Macaroni Pasta
  • 1/2  Red Onion  Minced
  • 1 Green Bell Pepper minced
  • 1 Red Bell Pepper minced
  • 1 Can Sweetened Condensed Milk
  • 2 Cups Mayonnaise
  • 1/2 Cup Sugar
  • 1/2 Cup Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1 Teaspoon Salt
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Fresh Ground Pepper
  • 3 Tablespoons Dijon or Regular Mustard


  • Heat a pot of water over medium high heat with a teaspoon or two of kosher salt.
  • Once boiling, add the pasta and cook PAST al dente. See blog post for tips.
  • Drain and completely cool the pasta in the fridge.
  • In a bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients, do not scrape the sweetened condensed milk out, just dump it.
  • In a large bowl, mix together the veggies, and dressing ingredients. Add the cooled pasta and toss to coat.
  • Set in the fridge for up to 3 hours, covered with plastic wrap. Stir before serving and adding additional seasoning if needed.


Serving: 1g | Calories: 249kcal | Carbohydrates: 20g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 18g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 14g | Cholesterol: 13mg | Sodium: 326mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 12g
Tried this recipe?Mention @OhSweetBasil or tag #OhSweetBasil!

A wooden bowl on a red and white checkered napkin full of creamy macaroni salad.



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Carrian Cheney

Lover of all things beautiful, good and delicious. Wife, mother, friend, foodie.

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4 comments on “How to Make Macaroni Salad [+ Video]”

  1. Delicious recipe.. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I’m a 76 year old grandmother who has been cooking for a half century. My secret ingredient for keeping macaroni salad moist without adding extra mayo is finely chopped zucchini. You won’t even know it’s in there. Cut a zucchini in half and chop in a food processor or by hand very fine.