How to Make Macaroni Salad

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Whether you are having a late-afternoon barbecue or you want some comfort food on a picnic, a macaroni salad does the trick. It is a side dish that complements fried chicken, barbecued ribs, tuna, burgers and BLTs. It's best served cold, which makes this pasta salad convenient to prepare ahead of time. Follow this classic macaroni salad recipe and you'll have a crowd-pleaser at your next cookout.


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Things You'll Need

  • 4 cups macaroni

  • 1 cup mayonnaise

  • 2 green onions, finely chopped

  • 2 red peppers, chopped

  • 2 celery stalks, sliced

  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

  • 1 tablespoon yellow mustard

  • 1 tablespoon sugar

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

Start to Finish: 25 minutes Servings: 6 Difficulty Level: Beginner

Step 1

Bring a saucepan of slightly salted water to a boil and cook the macaroni for 10 minutes or according to the directions on the packaging. Transfer the cooked macaroni in a colander; set aside.


Step 2

In a large bowl, mix in the macaroni -- while it's still warm -- with the mayonnaise, green onions, red peppers, celery, balsamic vinegar, yellow mustard, sugar, salt and black pepper. Toss until all the ingredients are mixed; taste to determine if you want to add any more herbs or spices, such as basil, chives or cilantro.

Step 3

When the macaroni salad is cool, cover in cling wrap and refrigerate for 3 hours before serving.


Versatile macaroni salad lends itself to several variations.


  • Pair macaroni salads with grilled chicken, barbecue ribs or steaks.
  • Saute the macaroni salad with green peppers, a teaspoon of five-spice powder and a splash of soy sauce for an Asian variation.
  • Add feta cheese, black olives, red onion and tomatoes for a Greek-inspired variation.


  • Refrigerate ahead of time. Macaroni salad tends to taste for flavorful when it sits for longer.
  • Toss the salad before serving to spread the dressing that sinks to the bottom of the bowl.
  • Macaroni salad does not freeze well. Refrigerate and eat within three to four days.