This old fashioned macaroni salad with peas packs that creamy and deliciously tangy flavor you grew up with in every bite. This is the perfect side dish to finish off any picnic, potluck, or barbecue. Best of all, it is easy to make in advance!
What is Macaroni Salad?
Classic macaroni salad is a summertime side dish served frequently at picnics and outdoor BBQs. This cold pasta salad is recognized by its creamy dressing infused with a subtle tanginess from mustard and vinegar, which is offset by the sweetness of sugar. An old fashioned macaroni salad recipe typically contains the added crunch of fresh peas, celery, and chopped onion mixed in with the tender elbow macaroni and dressing.
Ingredients & Substitutions
- Elbow macaroni
- Mayonnaise - You can make macaroni salad with Miracle Whip as well.
- Distilled white vinegar - Apple cider vinegar can be substituted.
- Dijon mustard - Yellow mustard is fine to substitute.
- Sweet onion - Substitute red onion for a stronger onion flavor.
- Fresh peas - Frozen peas are fine to use as long as they are thawed. Avoid canned peas.
- Sweet pickle relish - Chopped sweet pickles can be substituted.
- Granulated white sugar
- Table salt - Kosher salt is fine to substitute.
- Fresh ground black pepper
Even a classic macaroni salad recipe has flexibility on the acceptable ingredient add-ins. Red bell pepper, hard-boiled eggs, green onions, and shredded cheddar cheese are among the many additions people sometimes include in their recipes. I've even seen dill pickles included as well, though I would rather make my Dill Pickle Pasta Salad if I was going that route. The point is, feel free to customize it to your own tastes.
How to make it
This easy old-fashioned macaroni salad recipe is straightforward to make. To begin, boil the elbow macaroni noodles in a large pot of water until al dente and prep the remaining ingredients while it cooks.
While the pasta boils, add all of the ingredients together in a large bowl and mix to combine. Once the pasta is tender, remove it from the water then rinse the warm pasta under cold water prior to mixing it with the other ingredients to prevent heating up the pasta salad.
Tip: Make sure the pasta is well drained or your pasta salad can get runny. If it does turn out runnier than you prefer, you can add more mayo.
Serving & Storing Macaroni Salad
Macaroni salad is the perfect make-ahead side dish because it can keep well in the refrigerator for up to one week. Just be sure to store it in an airtight container to preserve the flavor. For best flavor, I recommend only making it one day in advance.
Since the tangy dressing is mayo-based, you don't want to let it sit at room temperature all afternoon when serving, or you risk food poisoning. Don't let it sit at room temperature longer than two hours without chilling it.
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Classic Macaroni Salad
- Large serving bowl
- Cook pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water according to package directions.
- While pasta is cooking prepare the remaining ingredients and stir together in a large bowl.
- When the noodles are tender drain them from the pot and rinse under cold water until cooled.
- Combine cooled pasta with remaining ingredients and mix well to combine.
- Serve immediately or store in the refrigerator in an airtight container.
More BBQ Side Dishes
This recipe was originally published here on July 13, 2018.