How to/ Basics,  Recipes,  Salad,  Side Dishes

Classic Macaroni Salad

Classic Macaroni Salad
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 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

Classic Macaroni salad; everyone's summer BBQ favorite!
Prep Time20 minutes
Total Time20 minutes
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Keyword: macaroni salad, pasta, side
Servings: 8 cups


  • 8 ounces macaroni “salad” or “elbow” cut
  • 3 each 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


  • Boil the macaroni in salted water until tender. Drain and chill.
  • In a large bowl, combine the cooked macaroni, chopped hard boiled eggs, diced celery and onions, and chopped parsley.
  • 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.


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