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Traditional Macaroni Salad is perfect for your next picnic or BBQ. This side dish tastes like summer and is what every gathering needs.

white bowl of classic macaroni salad

Traditional Macaroni Salad

Serve this classic macaroni salad recipe at your next barbecue alongside feta & artichoke pasta salad and baked macaroni and cheese. Give me all the side dishes!

I’ve made this pasta salad many times yet I’ve never actually used macaroni noodles so it’s not always macaroni salad. Sometimes it’s Shells Salad or Mini Penne Salad.

My point is, it’s just as good regardless of noodle shape. Use what you like or whatever you have on hand.

overhead shot of bowl of macaroni salad

Rosie’s birthday is ON Memorial Day this year and we’re having family over for an “Oh Two-dles” birthday party. I have plans to make this macaroni salad to pair with all the meats Bob will undoubtedly make.

Tools you’ll need

  • Mixing Bowls –  Nothing worse than trying to toss a salad in a bowl that’s too small – pick the right size!
  • Knives – Also super frustrating to try to chop onions and tomatoes with a dull knife. 
  • Colander – A collapsable strainer is nice to save space. 
  • Whisk – A whisk to mix up the dressing. 

Classic Macaroni Salad Ingredients

Below is a list of the ingredients you’ll need to gather to make this recipe. Scroll all the way down for the full recipe card.

  • Noodles – Keep it classic with macaroni noodles or switch it up and try shells or penne.
  • Red Onion – Minced red onion, which you’ll soak in cold water for 5-10 minutes to lessen the strong onion taste and make them a bit sweeter.
  • Parsley – Dried or fresh will work.
  • Tomato – I usually use romas.
  • Cucumber – I like to use an English cucumber.
  • Mayo – Duke’s or Hellman’s? People have strong opinions about mayo!
  • Dry Mustard – For great flavor.
  • Sugar – For balance.
  • Apple Cider Vinegar – ACV makes a great dressing.
  • Sour Cream
  • Salt & pepper

mise en place of macaroni salad ingredients

How to make Macaroni Salad

  1. First, cook your noodles until al dente then rinse well in cold water. Drain in a colander to remove any excess water.
  2. Pour the drained noodles into a large bowl and add onion, parsley, tomatoes, and cucumber.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the mayo, mustard, sugar, sour cream, vinegar, and salt.
  4. Then, pour the wet ingredients over the noodles and stir to combine. Let sit in the fridge so the flavors can come together.
large bowl of macaroni salad with wooden spoon

What to serve with it

Any BBQ food, especially grilled meats (if that’s what you’re into), goes well with macaroni salad – chicken, sausages, steak, corn on the cob, or baked beans.

I personally like a plate full of sides – macaroni salad, potato salad, deviled egg potato salad, baked beans…

How long does macaroni salad keep in the fridge?

Keep macaroni salad, covered, in the fridge for 3-5 days.

Do you rinse macaroni for macaroni salad?

When you make pasta for a cold salad, you should rinse it after cooking to stop the cooking process and remove excess starch.

Make sure you drain it well in a colander after rinsing it so the mayo and other ingredients can stick to the pasta without getting watered down.

Most recently, I made too many noodles so half went turned into this salad and the other half became Feta Artichoke Pasta Salad.

macaroni salad in white bowl

Need more pasta salads? Try these:

white bowl of classic macaroni salad
4.72 from 7 votes

Traditional Macaroni Salad

Servings: 6 servings
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Traditional Macaroni Salad is perfect for your next picnic or BBQ. This side dish tastes like summer and is what every gathering needs.


  • 2 cups dry noodles cooked and drained
  • ¼ cup red onion minced, soaked in cold water for 5 minutes, drained
  • 1 tablespoon parsley minced (dried or fresh)
  • ½ cup diced tomato
  • ½ cup diced cucumber
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • ¾ teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1 ½ teaspoons sugar
  • 1 ½ tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons sour cream
  • ½ teaspoon salt plus more to taste
  • black pepper to taste


  • Pour the cooked noodles into a large bowl. Add in the onion, parsley, tomato & cucumber.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, mustard, sugar, vinegar, sour cream and salt.
  • Pour the dressing over the noodles and diced veggies and stir to combine.
  • Store covered in the refrigerator.


Store leftovers covered in the fridge for up to 3 days.
Adapted from Food Network


Serving: 1g | Calories: 152kcal | Carbohydrates: 3g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 15g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 11mg | Sodium: 320mg | Potassium: 69mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 140IU | Vitamin C: 3.5mg | Calcium: 13mg | Iron: 0.3mg

Nutritional information is an estimate and provided to you as a courtesy. You should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe using your preferred nutrition calculator.

Did you make this recipe?

Tag me on Instagram @melissa_pplates so I can see!

Originally published May 28, 2012

Traditional Macaroni Salad is perfect for your next picnic, BBQ, or dinner side dish! | Persnickety Plates

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