How to Make the Best Macaroni Salad Ever (2024)

Table of Contents
Ingredients Directions

I love macaroni salad, but I'm very picky about it. I want macaroni salad that's creamy but light, flavorful but not vinegary, and filled with crispy, crunchy, zingy bits for taste and texture. Easy, right? Wrong! Trust me when I say I kissed quite a few frogs(er,pasta salad recipes) before finding this prince.I could fill a notebook with my list of macaroni salad demands, but this one is my most favorite.It's simple, delicious, and what I think macaroni salad should be!I usually stray away from calling any of my recipes "the best ever," but not this one. It really is... the best ever.

Now summer isn't complete without it! I like serving it with grilling recipes likebarbecue chicken orburgers at cookouts. It's also really yummy with Easter hamin the spring.

What is the dressing for macaroni salad?

Good macaroni salad is highly dependent on the dressing and this one is so good. It has mayonnaise for creaminess, sugar for just a touch of sweetness, salt, and pepper. Then there's splashes of vinegar and pickle juice for an acidic bite and finally some milk to thin it out so it's pourable. No gloopysalad dressings here!

Do you rinse macaroni for macaroni salad?

Yes, be sure to rinse the macaroni just after it finishes cooking. Otherwise the pasta will stick together.

What kind of pickles do you use?

Any kind you want, really, but I like using a sweet and spicy pickle. It adds an extra hint ofsweetness to the salad and a kick of heat.

What else can you add to macaroni salad?

This recipe is flexible—add whatever you want! Many people like diced celery in their macaroni salad, and it would be tasty here. Others like chopped hard-boiled eggs. If you're into that sort of thing, toss some in!Cubed cheddar cheese? Be my guest.You can even double all the vegetables in the salad if you tend to like more in yours.

Why is my macaroni salad runny?

The dressing may seem too thin when you first pour it in, but it'll thicken as it chills, so don't skip that step! I also start with just three-fourths of the dressing. You can always add more if you think the saladneeds it, once it'sis all mixed up. But starting with just a portion ensures the saladdoesn't become over-dressed and soupy. Be sure to give it a big stir before serving!

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Yields:
12 serving(s)
Prep Time:
10 mins
Cook Time:
15 mins
Total Time:
25 mins

Ingredients

  • 4 c.

    elbow macaroni

  • 1/2 c.

    mayonnaise

  • 1 Tbsp.

    red wine or distilled vinegar

  • 3 tsp.

    sugar, plusmore or less to taste

  • 1/4 tsp.

    salt, plusmore to taste

  • Plenty of black pepper

  • 1/4 c.

    milk, plusmore if needed

  • Splash of pickle juice, plusmore to taste

  • 3

    whole roasted red peppers, diced, plus more to taste (can also use pimentos)

  • 1/2 c.

    black olives, finely chopped

  • 6

    sweet/spicy pickle slices, diced (about 1/2 cup diced)

  • 3

    green onions, sliced (white and dark green parts)

Directions

    1. Step1Cook the macaroni in lightly salted water according to the package directions. Drain and rinse under cold water to cool. Set aside.
    2. Step2In a small bowl, mix together the mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper. Splash in enough milk to make it pourable. Splash in pickle juice for extra flavor. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Set aside.
    3. Step3Place the cooled macaroni in a large bowl and pour in three-fourths of the dressing. Toss and add more dressing if you'd like. (The dressing will seem a little thin, but it will thicken up as the salad chills.)
    4. Step4Stir in the roasted red peppers (or pimentos), olives, pickles, and green onions. Add more of any ingredient if you'd like more stuff going on! At the end, splash in a little more pickle juice and stir.
    5. Step5Chill for at least 2 hours before serving. Sprinkle with sliced green onions to serve!

I love, love, love, adore, and love macaroni salad. I’m also picky, picky, picky, particular, and picky about macaroni salad. No joke. Macaroni salad is a religion to me.

I have issues, is what I’m saying.

Here’s what I don’t like: Macaroni salad that’s gloopy.
Here’s what I do like: Macaroni salad that’s creamy but still light.
Here’s what I don’t like: Macaroni salad that’s overly vinegary.
Here’s what I do like: Macaroni salad with a sweet/tangy/spicy kick.
Here’s what I don’t like: Macaroni salad that’s mostly macaroni.
Here’s what I do like: Macaroni salad with a confetti of wonderfulness coloring the whole mix with flavor, spice, and texture.
Here’s what I don’t like: Tea.
Here’s what I do like: Diet Dr Pepper.

How to Make the Best Macaroni Salad Ever (2)

Now that that’s all settled, let’s make Macaroni Salad!

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The Cast of Characters: Macaroni, mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar, salt, pepper, milk, spicy/sweet pickles, black olives, roasted red peppers (you can use pimentos instead!), and green onions. Easy stuff!

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Start by bawlin’ the macaroni till it’s done.

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Then drain it…

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Then rinse it under cold water until it’s totally cooled down.

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Next, chop up some black olives! The good ol’ canned, ripe, nothing-exotic-about-them black olives.

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Slice up three whole green onions pretty thinly…

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Then grab some roasted red peppers! You can roast your own, of course, but in this dish it’s really not necessary.

You can also use diced or chopped pimentos instead.

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Grab three or four of ’em…

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Then slice ’em up…

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And chop ’em.

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Now, grab some good, good, yummy, great, good, awesome pickles. These are made here in Oklahoma, and I love them. They’re pretty sweet, but also very spicy—you need both for macaroni salad. Any sweet/spicy pickles will do!

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Grab a few slices, then eat one. Then grab another one from the jar to replace it and act like nothing ever happened.

Now set the veggies aside and make the dressing!

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Start with half a cup of mayonnaise. The real stuff. Not the grody stuff.

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Add some vinegar. I used red wine vinegar, but you can use regular distilled/white/clear/plain/unadorned. Just a slight bite is all you’re looking for!

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Add in some sugar…

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Because I can’t be in the presence of vinegar unless sugar is also involved.

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Stir that around, then splash in a little milk—just enough to make the dressing pourable.

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Use your incredibly awesome and beautiful hand to sprinkle in salt…

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Then use your foot to sprinkle in a little black pepper.

Not really on the foot part.

I honestly have no idea why I said that.

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Finally, splash in a little of the pickle juice. Adds a little more sweetness, a little more bite, and—if the pickles are nice and spicy—a little kick.

Spicy Pickles = Good.

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Now the fun really begins! Throw the macaroni into a big ol’ bowl.

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Then drizzle in 3/4 of the dressing (save the rest for later!)…

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And mix it around. The dressing will seem thin at this point, but as it chills later, it’ll thicken up a bit! You can add the rest of the dressing later, after you toss in the other ingredients, if you think it needs it. (Amount of dressing is a personal preference!)

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Now add the olives, red peppers, pickles, and green onions…

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And toss it all together. Add more of the olives, peppers, pickles, and onions if you think the salad needs more stuff! The point here is not to have any macaroni that isn’t decorated with at least one of the ingredients. If you see even one macaroni noodle without something on it, the entire macaroni salad will be totally ruined!

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At the end, taste the whole thing and add more of what it needs, which will probably include another good splash of pickle juice! This is where you can add the rest of the dressing if you think it needs it.

Then—this is important—chill the macaroni salad for at least a couple of hours.

Because you’re worth it.

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Pile it into a bowl and serve it at your next barbecued/picnic/cookout/grilling party!

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Or just have it for lunch today, by itself or with a piece of grilled chicken.

It’s the best macaroni salad ever!

How to Make the Best Macaroni Salad Ever (2024)
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