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Up close photo of the noodles of Best Macaroni Salad.

Macaroni Salad

Creamy, crunchy and flavorful cold Macaroni Salad is an easy and foolproof side dish perfect for BBQ’s and get togethers.
Course Side Dish
Cuisine American
Keyword Mac Salad, Macaroni Salad, Pasta Salad with Mayo
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 7 minutes
Chilling Time 1 hour
Servings 12 servings
Calories 343kcal
Author Heather


  • 16 ounces macaroni noodles
  • 1/2 cup finely diced red onion See note #1 below
  • 3/4 cup diced dill pickles See note #2 below
  • 1 cup thinly diced celery *about 3-4 stalks
  • 3/4 cup diced red bell pepper

Macaroni Salad Dressing

  • 1 1/2 cups mayonnaise See note #3 below
  • 1/4 cup pickle juice See note #4 below
  • 2 tablespoons dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper *optional


  • Dice the onion, celery, pickles and bell pepper. Add to a large bowl.
  • To the veggie bowl add 1 cup mayonnaise and the remaining salad dressing ingredients. Stir well and refrigerate. See note #5 below
  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook pasta to al dente following the directions on the package. See note #6 below
    Drain the pasta well and transfer to a large bowl. Let the pasta cool to room temperature by stirring occasionally. You will know the noodles are ready for the dressing when they are tacky to the touch. See note #7 below
  • Pour dressing over the top of the noodles and stir well. Cover an refrigerate for 1 hourly or up to 24 hours.
  • Just before serving remove the salad from the refrigerator and stir well. Add in an additional 1/2-1 cup of mayonnaise (depending on preferred creaminess that is desired.)
    Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-5 days.


Recipe Notes
Note #1- Sweet Visalia onion or white onion may be substituted. 
Note #2- Using the pre-sliced Kosher dill pickles used for hamburgers shortens the dicing time. 
Note #3- Use only 1 cup of mayonnaise when making the dressing. An additional 1/2-1 cup of mayonnaise is added after the salad has been made and chilled. The additional mayo is what gives the salad its beautiful creaminess. 
Note #4-Pickle juice contains dill and garlic, adding extra flavor into the salad. However, white vinegar or apple cider vinegar may be used as a substitution. 
Note #5- Let the dressing sit in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes while cooking the pasta. This will allow the flavors in the dressing to marry.
Note #6- Al dente means "to the tooth". In other words, cook the pasta until it is soft and yet slightly chewy. As the pasta cools it will continue to cook, making it the perfect texture for the salad. 
Note #7- You will know the pasta is ready for the dressing when it stops steaming and when you touch them, the noodles stick to your finger.
It is very important to not add the dressing when the noodles are hot because the heat will turn the mayonnaise into an oily sloppy mess.
Also, it is important to not rinse the cooked noodles. Rinsing washes away too much starch from the surface of the pasta and the starch allows the dressing to cling to the noodles. 


Calories: 343kcal | Carbohydrates: 31g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 22g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 13g | Monounsaturated Fat: 5g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 12mg | Sodium: 749mg | Potassium: 166mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 539IU | Vitamin C: 13mg | Calcium: 24mg | Iron: 1mg