This Old fashioned macaroni salad is the perfect retro recipe that will remind you of growing up at Grandmas. Cue the big scoops of totally creamy perfectly balanced macaroni salad (with an egg of course) on the side of the plate. As a picnic or holiday side dish, this simple, delicious macaroni salad is a true staple that must not be skipped.
Looking for a family favorite recipe for the Thanksgiving menu?
THIS. IS. THE. RECIPE.
Why you will love this Macaroni Salad Recipe
Just like Grandma used to make: This recipe version tastes like traditional macaroni salad. It’s a 10-15 minute salad, longer if you don’t have your pasta ready. You can also boil your pasta and cool a day, so this is a perfect make-ahead side dish.
Easy to alter: One thing about an old-fashioned macaroni salad recipe is that everyone has an opinion. There are hoards of variations regarding this traditional side dish and what you like in it or on it is something that is continuously debated. Growing up I was exposed to just about every macaroni salad that you can imagine.
Classic expected side dish: From tangy to sweet, every picnic, church function, and family get-together has included this aging staple. And why not? Wrapped up in delicious spices and mayo, the pasta in the macaroni salad is so creamy and delicious. Now, this particular macaroni salad recipe is a basic version but it’s absolutely the best macaroni salad. It can be added and detracted from quite easily to make the recipe your own.
- uncooked elbow macaroni – that has been boiled, cooked, well-drained, and cooled down with cold water.
- real mayonnaise – part of a classic macaroni salad recipe to create a creamy dressing with tons of flavor. While many people try to use unflavored Greek yogurt or sour cream as a basis, I highly suggest using real creamy mayonnaise for the dressing.
- hard-boiled eggs – the best way to make hard-boiled eggs in the summer salad season is to pressure cook. Check out my Ninja Foodi hard-boiled eggs recipe – SO EASY!
- diced celery ribs
- green onions
- prepared yellow mustard
- onion powder
- kosher salt & black pepper
How to make Grandma’s Macaroni Salad
- Add cold elbow macaroni noodles, eggs, and diced stalks celery in a mixing bowl and mix well.
- Stir in mayonnaise, mustard, onion powder, salt and pepper and mix well.
- Add all but 1 teaspoon of green onion and mix well.
- Refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight. Serve with remaining onions sprinkled on top and as always, additional salt and a little ground black pepper is fine to add.
Expert tips and Recipe Variations
To mix your classic macaroni salad up, you can add drained green olives, vegetables like crunchy diced bell pepper, or even sweet pickles (or sweet pickle relish). Alternative fresh herbs are often used to add additional seasoning. Fresh dill is a common choice.
Not a fan of elbow macaroni? Feel free to experiment with different pasta sizes as well. If you choose something other than the macaroni’s and go with farfalle, pasta shells, or fusilli (the corkscrew pasta) it can bring a texture change that a lot of people really love as unique.
Best way to cool down noodles
No matter whether you are making this day ahead of time, it’s imperative to make sure your cooked macaroni is COLD. If you need this done quickly, rinse pasta immediately with cold running water and let drain super well before moving on. Any excess water or heat in the pasta can result in the creamy dressing being too liquid.
What can you serve with macaroni salad?
Macaroni salad is a common side dish for potlucks and cookouts and goes great with burgers, hot dogs, chicken, and ribs. Serve with a bowl of fruit fluff, fresh fruit watermelon slices, or a side of fruit kabobs for a full meal.
How long can macaroni salad be stored in the fridge?
Sealed in an airtight container, this salad can be left in the fridge for about 3-4 days. Occasionally the noodles dry out a bit, so additional mayo may be needed to bring the freshness back. Just add a tablespoon and stir well before serving.
Can Dijon mustard or brown mustard be used?
Yes! Mustards can actually really alter this side dish and to mix up up the taste, I have been known to add some sweet Dijon mustard or honey mustard.
Can you freeze macaroni salad?
I do not recommend freezing macaroni salad due to the dressing.
What is the difference between prepared yellow mustard and dry mustard?
There are two main types of mustard: dry and prepared. In the case of most side dishes, wet prepared mustard is used which already contains additional stronger flavors as well as accounts for some of the consistency.
Best way to add crunch
As stated above, this recipe is a classic salad. As such, I leave out the whole filled with tons of ingredients and rely on simple flavors – just like my grandma used to make (and now I make for her). However, if you want to add more to it, this BBQ side dish is super simple to alter.
If you like crunch, try a bit of sweet onion, some green peppers, or if you want more flavor a tsp of sweet pickle juice or white vinegar. I love experimenting and creating new salads, although this recipe, as is, needs nothing else!
- Classic macaroni with sweet relish
- Amish Macaroni Salad
- Southern Potato Salad
- Red Skin Potato Salad
- BLT Pasta Salad
- Dill Potato Salad
- Classic Creamy Pea Salad with red onions
- Pea Pasta Salad
- Vegetable Macaroni Salad
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Comments & Reviews
How many lbs of dry elbow macaroni is needed to feed 50 people. Making macaroni salad. Thank you
Hi Rena, I would check the back of the macaroni box for recommended serving sizes and go off of that. I hope this helps!
This turned out so good!! I just added a bit more onion powder and it was perfect!
Thanks Linda! There is always room for more onion powder!
Tara shaeffer says
I am in Pennsylvania dutch I remember it being like that but I thought there was vinegar and sugar in it too I can’t remember exactly how to make it
Trisha Haas says
There are a great deal many recipes for something like macaroni salad, so in your past, they may have added a bit of vinegar. I personally do not love sugar in my macaroni salad, it makes it too sweet but some like it with pickle juice and some sugar. You can always experiment by adding a bit to the dressing.