Whip up a delicious macaroni salad in minutes with this easy recipe

Macaroni salad is a delightful pasta dish, always delivering creamy satisfaction. Utilizing basic vegetables and a zesty mayo-yogurt dressing, it yields a refreshing crunch and velvety texture. This versatile salad can be prepared in advance and enjoyed as a main or side dish at gatherings such as potlucks, picnics, and barbecues.

Whip Up a Delicious Macaroni Salad in Minutes with This Easy Recipe

You're sure to adore this macaroni salad recipe for its simplicity and, most importantly, its ability to please a crowd.

This dish is a quintessential American favorite, blending the influences of two distinct culinary traditions: Italian cuisine, which introduced macaroni to the United States through immigration, and German cuisine, renowned for its creamy mayonnaise-based sauces with a delightful sweet and tangy flavor.

To craft a delectable macaroni salad, there are three key components:

  • Pasta: Any pasta shape will suffice, but the classic choice is elbow macaroni.
  • Dressing: Traditionally mayo-based, our rendition incorporates egg-free mayo and Greek yogurt for a lighter yet still luxuriously creamy dressing.
  • Vegetables: Opt for vibrant, seasonal veggies with a satisfying crunch, typically added in their raw state.

While this recipe draws inspiration from the traditional macaroni salad, we've made a few tweaks to enhance its balance, nutritional value, and overall flavor profile.

What we need


Whip Up a Delicious Macaroni Salad in Minutes with This Easy Recipe

Here are the ingredients for preparing macaroni salad along with possible substitutions:

Pasta: Any Italian pasta variety works well, with elbow macaroni being the most common choice. Alternatives like fusilli, rotini, or ditalini are also suitable.

Frozen peas: These add a natural sweetness, vibrant green color, and protein. They can be cooked along with the pasta.

Bell pepper: Opt for crunchy red bell pepper, finely diced. Cherry tomatoes or yellow bell peppers can be used as substitutes.

Celery: Provides crunch and freshness, cut into small pieces. Thinly sliced radishes make a suitable replacement.

Red onion: Finely chopped red onion adds flavor. Shallots or green onions can be used as alternatives.

Carrot: Grated with a box grater for color and sweetness. Corn is a suitable substitute for carrots.

Pickle cucumber: Chopped dill, sour, or sweet pickles can be added. Sweet pickle relish, capers, or olives are alternative options. 

Prepare the dressing for the macaroni salad

Our dressing offers a creamy and luxurious texture, yet it's lighter and healthier compared to a traditional macaroni salad dressing. You can prepare it using the following ingredients:

  • Mayonnaise: Opt for either vegan mayo or regular mayo.
  • Greek yogurt: Substitute with unsweetened non-dairy yogurt to create a vegan version of the recipe.
  • Apple cider vinegar: Replace with red wine vinegar or white wine vinegar if preferred.
  • Mustard: Choose between yellow American mustard or Dijon mustard.
  • Sugar: While optional, a small amount of sugar enhances the authenticity of the recipe.
  • Garlic powder
  • Salt and black pepper
Whip Up a Delicious Macaroni Salad in Minutes with This Easy Recipe

How to make macaroni salad

Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water according to the instructions on the package. About halfway through the cooking process, add the frozen peas directly to the pot with the pasta. Once the pasta is cooked, drain it and rinse it under cold water for approximately 15 seconds before transferring it to a large bowl.

Please note: rinsing the pasta under cold water for a brief period is crucial to prevent overcooking. Avoid rinsing for more than 15 seconds to retain the flavor.

Whip Up a Delicious Macaroni Salad in Minutes with This Easy Recipe


While the pasta is cooking, prepare the dressing by combining mayonnaise, Greek yogurt, apple cider vinegar, mustard, sugar, salt, black pepper, and garlic powder in a bowl, then whisk them together until well blended.

Whip Up a Delicious Macaroni Salad in Minutes with This Easy Recipe

Combine shredded carrots, diced bell pepper, finely chopped red onion, chopped celery, chopped pickles, and the prepared dressing in the same bowl with the cooked pasta.

Whip Up a Delicious Macaroni Salad in Minutes with This Easy Recipe

Mix thoroughly until all ingredients are well incorporated, then serve immediately or refrigerate, covering the bowl with a plate or transferring the salad to an airtight container for storage.


Here are some helpful tips for preparing macaroni salad:

Salt the pasta water: It's essential to add salt to the water when cooking pasta. Without salt, the pasta will lack flavor, regardless of the dressing used. The amount of salt varies based on the quantity of pasta being cooked.

  • For 8 ounces of pasta (230 grams), use 1 tablespoon of salt (15 grams) in 2 quarts of boiling water (8 cups or 2 liters).
  • For 12 ounces of pasta (340 grams), use 1 ½ tablespoons of salt (21 grams) in 3 quarts of boiling water (12 cups or 3 liters).
  • For 1 pound of pasta (450 grams), use 2 tablespoons of salt (30 grams) in 1 gallon of boiling water (16 cups or 4 liters).

Cool the pasta with water: After draining the cooked pasta, cool it under running water to prevent overcooking. It's crucial to be quick; rinse the pasta for no more than 15 seconds to maintain its flavor and texture.

Cut the dressing with yogurt: Incorporating Greek-style yogurt into the dressing reduces the amount of mayonnaise, resulting in a lighter and more nutritious salad with fewer calories.


Preparation in Advance: Macaroni salad can be prepared a few days ahead, but keep in mind that the dressing may absorb into the pasta as it sits in the refrigerator. Before serving, add a splash of lemon juice and toss the salad to refresh the flavors.

Storage: Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator, where they will remain fresh for up to three days.

Freezing: It's not advisable to freeze macaroni salad due to potential changes in texture and flavor upon thawing.

Macaroni salad
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