This easy, creamy macaroni salad is a flavorful pasta salad side dish that is the perfect combination of sweet and tart. The mayo based dressing is simple and not too overpowering, and it’s sure to be a hit at every potluck or BBQ this summer! Made with sweet pickles, red onion, celery and red pepper, it can be made gluten free, dairy free, vegan and in under 30 minutes!
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Why You’ll Love This Creamy Macaroni Salad Recipe
- This macaroni pasta salad is so easy! There’s only 4 ingredients you need to prep by chopping, and the rest are all pantry staple items you likely already have.
- It’s a dairy free and gluten free macaroni salad. You can easily swap in your choice of gluten free macaroni noodle.
- It’s a meat free side dish, but it’s very versatile so you can add baby shrimp, diced ham, diced chicken, or chopped bacon to bulk it up.
- The mayo dressing is thin, so it’s not too overpowering, making it great for family BBQs, grilling, family reunion, or any summer lunch or dinner.
- This creamy macaroni salad is great as leftovers, and is actually better when served the next day!
Macaroni Pasta Salad Ingredients
The pantry items you’ll need to make your creamy macaroni salad include elbow macaroni, red wine vinegar, honey, dijon mustard, sweet gherkin pickles with a bit of juice, mayo and a few spices such as salt, pepper, garlic powder and dried parsley. For the fresh items, you will need just a red bell pepper, red onion, and a few ribs of celery.
Sugar Free Mayo
Primal Kitchen Mayo is my mayo of choice. It is Whole30 Approved, made with avocado oil and cage free eggs, and now comes in a super convenient squeeze bottle! The 17 ounce squeeze bottle is available online, with the code PALEOBAILEY to give you a discount at checkout on their site!
Other recipes to use mayo in: bang bang shrimp, shredded chicken salad, homemade special sauce (burger sauce), blueberry chicken salad, classic grape chicken salad, everything but the bagel chicken wings
Optional Ingredients to Add
There are quite a few additional ingredients you can add to macaroni salad. This pasta salad is so versatile, so you can feel confident adding in the things that sound good to you or that you have on hand!
Some ideas of items that are great in this salad:
- 1/2 cup frozen peas (the peas will defrost on their own once mixed into the salad)
- 2 finely chopped hardboiled eggs
- 8 slices cooked and chopped bacon
- Cubed ham, cubed chicken, or baby shrimp
- 1 cup cubed sharp cheddar cheese
- Cherry tomatoes chopped into quarters
How to Make the Macaroni Pasta Salad
The first step in making macaroni salad is to bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook your noodles to al dente. You don’t want them too mushy. Use the time while the noodles are cooking to add the dressing ingredients to the salad bowl you’ll be using.
It’s easiest to make the dressing right in the same bowl so you don’t use extra dishes. Combine the Primal Kitchen Mayo, vinegar, honey, dijon mustard, pickle juice, parsley, garlic powder and pepper well so the mayo is incorporated into the rest of the dressing ingredients.
Then you can chop up the red pepper, celery, red onion and pickles. At the point that your macaroni noodles are done, remove them from the heat, drain them and rinse them with cool water. Let them sit in the strainer while you finish chopping the vegetables.
Once the macaroni noodles have cooled you will add them into the bowl along with the vegetables. Give it a good stir so that everything is mixed together. Taste, and add additional salt, pepper, parsley – or even honey or vinegar, as needed to suit your tastes.
Serving and Storing Instructions
Prior to serving your macaroni salad, you will want to refrigerate it for at least an hour to let all of the flavors come together and to chill the pasta, dressing and vegetables, as it is best served cold.
To store, make sure you have the salad in an airtight container, and keep it refrigerated. It is good in the fridge for about 4 days. Just make sure to stir it well to mix the dressing back into the noodles before serving or eating again.
Dishes to serve your creamy macaroni pasta salad with:
- Smoked Butterfly Chicken
- Mayo Marinated Grilled Chicken Thighs
- Smoked BBQ Wings
- Honey Balsamic Grilled Chicken Kabobs
- Grilled Lemon Pepper Chicken Breasts
- Asian Sesame Grilled Steak Kabobs
Frequently Asked Questions:
Can you use ditalini pasta for macaroni salad? Yes! You can use the same amount of ditalini pasta in macaroni salad.
Can you use penne pasta for macaroni salad? Yes you can use penne pasta in macaroni salad. You may need to slightly adjust the dressing if it needs a bit more to cover the noodles to your taste.
Can you freeze macaroni salad? You can freeze macaroni salad, however, if you have the option it’s recommended that you only make the salad without the dressing to freeze, and then make the dressing and pour it over the salad fresh once you’ve thawed your salad. Mayo has the potential to separate once frozen, so the taste and texture can vary.
How long is macaroni salad good for? Macaroni salad will be good in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days when you store it in an airtight container. I think this salad tastes even better the second day, so it’s recommended to make it in advance so the flavors can meld together overnight. Stir well before serving every time after it’s been refrigerated.
How to make macaroni salad gluten free? To make macaroni salad gluten free, simply use your favorite gluten free noodles! Cook them according to the package, and incorporate into the salad as per the recipe instructions.
How to make macaroni salad vegan? To make macaroni pasta salad vegan, opt for an egg-free mayo.
Other Salad Recipes You’ll Love:
- Mustard Potato Salad
- Buffalo Ranch Potato Salad
- Caprese Pasta Salad
- Cherry Tomato and Feta Couscous Salad
- BLT Coleslaw
- 2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni
- 1/2 cup mayo
- 1.5 tablespoons red wine vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon sweet gherkin pickle juice
- 1.5 teaspoon dried parsley, or 1.5 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 2 ribs celery, finely chopped
- 1/2 large red bell pepper, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup sweet gherkin pickles, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon black pepper, or to taste
- Salt to taste
- Bring a pot of boiling water to a boil and add in the noodles. Cook until al dente
- While the noodles are cooking, add the mayo, vinegar, honey, dijon, pickle juice, parsley and garlic powder to a large mixing bowl. Stir to incorporate everything together until the dressing is smooth and well combined
- Add the chopped celery, bell pepper, red onion and pickles into the bowl
- Drain the pasta noodles and run under cold water to stop the cooking process and cool them. Add the cooked pasta into the bowl with the dressing and vegetables
- Gently toss everything together until the noodles and vegetables are well coated. Add the salt and pepper, taste, and adjust spices as needed
- Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour prior to serving
- You can easily use gluten-free noodles for this recipe
- For the sweet pickles, I recommend using Gherkins, but any variety of sweet pickle will work
- Optional ingredients to add:
- 1 cup cheddar cheese cubes
- 1/2 cup frozen peas
- 2 hardboiled eggs, finely chopped
- To add a meat: baby shrimp or diced ham
Keywords: vegan macaroni salad, gluten free macaroni salad, creamy macaroni salad, macaroni pasta salad
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