This Classic Macaroni Salad recipe is an oldie but a goodie from my family to yours!  I love serving this dish with BBQ bacon chicken sliders or along side some delicious lime grilled chicken kabobs!!

Like potato salad or coleslaw, everyone has their own recipe or it’s different every time you buy it.  This is the classic macaroni salad recipe that everyone always loves and when you make it from scratch- store bought can’t even compare! It has all the creamy and crunchy components that will complement any barbecue or potluck or just a simple refreshing and cold alternative to a staple green salad!

Classic macaroni salad in a bowl with a wooden spoon

What Goes into Macaroni Salad?

Naturally, the best macaroni salad has elbow macaroni in it, but rotini, or even spiral macaroni made from spinach, red lentils or even black beans, makes for a colorful and healthy alternative! Pasta is pasta, but you get to decide how you want it to look!

  • Macaroni (anything that can hold up well with the other ingredients)
  • Celery
  • Carrot
  • Finely diced onion
  • Cubed ham (optional)
  • Diced and drained pineapple (for a Hawaiian macaroni salad)!
  • Sliced black olives
  • Shredded cheddar cheese
  • Paprika
  • Mayonnaise
  • Sour Cream
  • Mustard
  • Sugar (optional)

How to Make Macaroni Salad

Every easy macaroni salad starts with elbow macaroni, but the key is to make sure that it is pre-cooked ‘al dente’ so it doesn’t get mushy when all the other ingredients are added! For a fuller, more ‘entrée’ style, make a tuna macaroni salad or a BBQ chicken macaroni salad. And if you are vegetarian, macaroni salad with eggs is a healthy option, too!

  1. Cook the macaroni of your choice until it is al dente. You’ll want to drain and rinse the macaroni in cold water. Then set it aside and let it chill while you prepare the yummy dressing.
  2. Combine your dressing ingredients and mix gently into the chilled macaroni.
  3. Add in the remaining ingredients and gently toss to combine. Make sure you chill before serving- the longer the better to keep it crunchy!

Macaroni salad with a wooden spoon

How Long Does Macaroni Salad Last?

Macaroni Salad will last up to a week in the fridge, but it will get a little ‘wet’ as the pasta starts to absorb the dressing more. To counteract this, either drain it a bit or add more chopped celery and onions to add back in some crunchy goodness! A little salt and pepper always peps up the flavors of leftovers too, right?

Can You Freeze Macaroni Salad?

Macaroni salad can be frozen, but it won’t thaw out in the crispy sort of way as it was when freshly made. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be saved! The best way to serve thawed macaroni salad is to add fresh chopped celery, onions, and some extra mustard to brighten up the flavors. A little extra paprika will not only add a pinch of color, but some flavor that will punch it up again too!

More Delicious Summer Salads!

Classic macaroni salad in a bowl with a wooden spoon
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Classic Macaroni Salad recipe

This classic macaroni salad is the hit of every potluck!
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Servings 8 servings
Author Holly


  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 tbsp mustard
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 lb macaroni cooked and drained
  • 1 cup sliced celery
  • 8 oz cheddar cheese cubed
  • ½ cup carrot shredded
  • ½ tsp paprika for garnish
  • 2 tbs onion finely diced
  • 1 ½ cups cubed ham (optional)


  • Cook macaroni according to package directions.  Pour cold water over, drain and set aside.
  • Combine sour cream, mayo, mustard, sugar, and salt.
  • Mix well.
  • Add celery, cheese, ham and carrot to the prepared macaroni.
  • Add the liquid ingredients and toss to combine. 
  • Chill before serving


Nutritional information does not include optional ingredients.
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Nutrition Information

Calories: 603kcal | Carbohydrates: 46g | Protein: 19g | Fat: 37g | Saturated Fat: 12g | Cholesterol: 67mg | Sodium: 695mg | Potassium: 258mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 1945IU | Vitamin C: 1.3mg | Calcium: 258mg | Iron: 1.3mg

Nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and brands of ingredients used.

Course Side Dish
Cuisine American

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