Classic Macaroni Salad

by formerchef on June 26, 2015

Classic Macaroni Salad

Ask anyone what their favorite summer salad is and many people will say “potato salad”, “macaroni salad”, or “coleslaw”. But then ask them for their favorite recipe and odds are you’ll get a dozen different answers, typically including “my mother makes the best macaroni salad” or “my grandmother’s German potato salad is amazing”. Truthfully, each one of these recipes would be slightly different and still “the best”. Yet cross reference the ingredients of these recipes and you’ll get very different results. Some might include pickle relish, mustard or bacon while others would scoff at those ingredients. One thing’s for sure though, any dish with jello as an ingredient is not a “salad”.*

Classic macaroni salad, one made with either short cut or elbow shaped macaroni and a mayonnaise based dressing can be found in various forms from school lunches, to southern BBQ shacks to every deli case. These salads started in the late 19th century and early versions were often elaborate molded affairs. Pasta salads are an offshoot of this and typically use other forms of “macaroni” (shells, bow-ties, rotini) and are dressed with a vinaigrette style dressing.

The recipe for the Macaroni Salad below is courtesy of the my mother and really is “the best”. My mom makes this every summer, usually served with some sort of smoked pulled pork and it’s so good, people will come to dinner just because they hear it’s on the menu. We fight over the leftovers.

Do you have a favorite version of macaroni salad? Let me know in the comments below.

Classic Macaroni Salad

Ingredients for Classic Macaroni Salad

Classic Macaroni Salad

Yield: 8 cups


  • 8 ounces macaroni (“salad” or “elbow” cut)
  • 3 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and chopped
  • ¾ cup diced celery
  • ½ cup diced red onion
  • ½ cup chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon spicy brown mustard
  • 2 tablespoons sweet pickle relish
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • ½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


  1. Boil the macaroni in salted water until tender. Drain and chill.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the cooked macaroni, chopped hard boiled eggs, diced celery and onions, and chopped parsley.
  3. Into the bowl with the macaroni, add the mustard, sweet pickle relish, mayonnaise and stir to combine. Mix in the salt, pepper, and Worcestershire sauce and taste for seasoning. Adjust as needed and refrigerate. Check seasoning and texture before serving because sometimes the macaroni will need more moisture (mayonnaise) after absorbing some of the dressing while in the refrigerator

Classic Macaroni Salad

Classic Macaroni Salad

* The comment about jello is a nod to some of my coworkers who have an ongoing argument every year about if “jello salad” is a salad or a dessert. I am firmly in the dessert camp on that one.

1 Pam Valente June 27, 2015 at 9:27 am

I was thinking about this recipe just this week. Thanks for posting it. I am going to make it and add cold boiled shrimp!

2 formerchef June 27, 2015 at 10:47 am

I’m sure shrimp would be delicious. I often put leftover barbecue chicken in mine.

3 Susan De Masi June 27, 2015 at 11:46 am

This sounds heavenly -except for the hard-boiled egg part. Love the whites, just can’t choke down the yolks. Can it still be “the best” if I omit the yolks? I made sweet pickle relish yesterday, it would be so good in this recipe!

And jello salad is definitely DESSERT.

4 formerchef June 27, 2015 at 11:50 am

Absolutely leave out the yolks if you must. 🙂 Agreed on the jello!

5 Louisa Hefty June 27, 2015 at 4:32 pm

This looks delicious! My mother made the best but sadly she never wrote it down. Okay, don’t scream but I don’t like sweet salads. I’m assuming the sweet relish just provides a nice balance to the savory?

6 formerchef June 27, 2015 at 4:48 pm

Louisa- I don’t like sweet relish in anything but this salad. Yes, it’s in there for balance. Try it with 1/2 the amount, taste it, and add more if needed.

7 Sharon June 27, 2015 at 9:44 pm

What is sweet pickle relish? Is that like spring gully sweet mustard pickles? I’m from Oz.

8 formerchef June 27, 2015 at 9:54 pm

That’s a good question! I had to google it, because it’s so common here in the US I’ve never given it much thought. I guess it’s very much an American condiment. It’s often used on hot dogs and in salads like this (potato salad and tuna salad too). I also looked up spring gully sweet mustard pickles and I don’t think it’s quite the same; there’s no mustard in American pickle relish. Here’s a little more that I found

9 Rosemary June 29, 2015 at 1:17 am

Smoked pulled pork and a pasta salad – that sounds amazing! Your mom does sound like she has the best pasta salad out there.

10 tanya July 1, 2015 at 12:38 pm

This looks great! I really want to make this for the 4th! Yum 🙂

11 Louisa Hefty July 10, 2015 at 4:58 am

I followed this recipe exactly and it was delicious! Thank you for a “new” summer favorite.

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