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Easy Macaroni Salad

A simple Macaroni Salad recipe is a must for summer entertaining. This one is easy, uses only basic ingredients, and the flavor is spot on. Serve it at a family cookout or neighborhood potluck and it will be devoured by adults and kids alike.

Easy Macaroni Salad Recipe

This recipe is from Cook’s Country Magazine (Aug/Sept 2010), one of my favorite resources for basic, traditional, and regional recipes that you can always count on to work.

It’s a creamy and delicious pasta salad with just the right amount of mayonnaise and subtle flavor from red onion, celery, parsley, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper.

Easy Macaroni Salad


Seasoning the cooking water with plenty of salt helps ensure that the pasta gets off to a good start as far as flavoring. The salt really works its way into the pasta as it cooks and seasons it in a way that cannot be achieved by adding salt to the cooked pasta. The seasonings get stirred into the pasta before the mayonnaise and this helps the pasta absorb even more flavor.

A classic recipe for Macaroni Salad


If you want to jazz this basic Macaroni Salad up a little, try adding a few peas, some diced ham, a chopped hard-boiled egg, or some diced cheddar cheese.

You can count on it to make every cookout a smashing success. Pair it with some Root Beer Baked Beans and Jalapeno Creamed Corn for a summer meal everyone will rave about.


  • Do not overcook or undercook the pasta. Cook it too long and it will be mushy. Don’t cook it long enough and it will be chewy.
  • Be sure to add salt to the water you cook the pasta in or you risk having bland macaroni salad.
  • Be sure the pasta has cooled before you add the mayonnaise. It will absorb less of it this way and your pasta salad will stay creamy.

A classic recipe for Macaroni Salad


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Easy Macaroni Salad

Easy Macaroni Salad

This classic macaroni salad is simple and easy, but not lacking in flavor.
PREP: 21 mins
COOK: 8 mins
TOTAL: 29 mins


  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 pound elbow pasta
  • 1/3 cup minced red onion
  • 1 celery rib, minced
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups mayonnaise


  • Bring 4 quarts of water to boil in a large pot. Add 1 tablespoon of salt and the pasta. Cook until al dente, about 6 to 8 minutes.
  • Drain pasta in a colander and rinse with cold water until no longer hot. Drain briefly again, leaving a little water on the pasta and transfer to a large bowl. The pasta will absorb this water instead of the mayonnaise which will help it stay creamy.
  • Add onion, celery, parsley, lemon juice, mustard, garlic powder, and cayenne to bowl with pasta and stir to combine. Let sit 2 minutes to allow the flavors to absorb into the pasta.
  • Add mayonnaise, stir to combine, and let sit 5 to 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Serve immediately or refrigerate up to 2 days.


Calories: 394kcal
Author: Christin Mahrlig
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: American

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Recipe slightly adapted from Cook’s Country

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30 thoughts on “Easy Macaroni Salad”

  1. Marsha Taylor

    I’ve made popular Mac salad. But the tips in your recipe are very helpful and will make it even better. I plan to completely use your recipe next time! They will LOVE it! Thanks so much!!!

  2. Shakirah Johnson

    I made this recipe for lunch today, adding some fresh fried chicken wings and some baked beans. Very good.

  3. Kimberly Smith

    I just made this for a Memorial Day party I doubled the recipe. So simple and absolutely delicious I added some sliced jalapeños on top. Tysm for sharing

  4. I usually don’t comment on these recipes. But I thought I needed to because this was great!!! My husband who doesn’t like macaroni salad, loved this! It has a great tangy flavor. It was also super easy to make and I already had all the ingredients at home. Thank you for sharing this great recipe!

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  6. I made this last night for the leadership team I am a member of at our church….I am gluten free and no-one seems to notice the macaroni I used was gluten free. Easy recipe….we liked the zippy flavor of the lemon juice and cayenne….yum

  7. Instead of the usual Christmas party, we’re having Hawaiian luau – which means macaroni salad! Truthfully, I find that traditional version rather bland – and being a displaced southern girl, this is much more my style. Love the hint of spice and our great traditional taste – thanks for sharing this yummy recipe

    1. Christin
      Christin Mahrlig

      Oh wow Carrie! A Hawaiian Luau for a Christmas party sounds like so much fun! I’m sure everyone will have a great time!

  8. Jess @ On Sugar Mountain

    Oh Christin this is just what I needed! I’m thinking of whipping up all sorts of pasta salads for the summer, and I needed somewhere to start. 😀 This looks absolutely splendid!

  9. Karen (Back Road Journal)

    Pasta salad is always a crowd please during a summer cookout and as you say, you can change it but adding other ingredients you have on hand.

  10. Deittra@Bon Appégeechee

    It’s that time of year, and I’m totally craving macaroni salad!! Thanks for reminding me!!

  11. I love macaroni salad. This may sound weird but one of my favorite combinations is macaroni salad, baked beans and grilled hot dog. So yummy!

  12. ela@GrayApron

    yeah…that’s a good one to have it handy in your fridge. Delicious and satisfying!

    ela h.

  13. Melanie @ Carmel Moments

    Easy and delicious! One of my favorite picnic sides for sure.
    Have a lovely Monday!

  14. Gayle @ Pumpkin 'N Spice

    This looks like the perfect, easy macaroni salad! Great for the summer, and I like that it has simple ingredients that you can thrown together.

  15. Shashi @ RunninSrilankan

    Who wouldn’t love diving into a dish like this at a potluck!!! Love the combination of red onion, celery, parsley, lemon juice, and Dijon mustard!

  16. Ashley @ Wishes and Dishes

    I love a good mac salad! It really is my favorite side dish for cookouts.

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