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Macaroni Salad

A classic, easy macaroni salad for summer entertaining, potluck-bringing and all around feasting!


a bowl of homemade macaroni salad in a bowl with carrots, celery and green onions

The Only Classic, Creamy Macaroni Salad Recipe You’ll Ever Need

From barbecues to potlucks, picnics to campouts, macaroni salad is one of the great summer side dishes. Creamy, carby, and cold (essential for mayo-based salads in the summer!), we always, always get excited when we see a big bowl of macaroni salad on the table. While plenty of delis make a decent version, our homemade macaroni salad recipe really is so much better than anything you could buy and goes perfect with grilled meats, like our Huli Huli Chicken. Not only is it free of preservatives or stabilizers (of course), it’s also just way better in every way—taste, texture, freshness, you name it! You can cook the macaroni to a perfect al dente so that you know for sure your mac salad will be satisfying to eat instead of mushy. With a sweet, tangy, delicious macaroni salad dressing, our easy macaroni salad recipe will get you rave reviews all season long. If you’re looking for a cold weather macaroni, we have the perfect Dairy Free Mac and Cheese recipe for you!

ingredients for macaroni salad pasta, carrots, green onions, celery, mayonnaise, relish, sugar, salt and pepper

Macaroni Salad Ingredients

Everyone seems to make their macaroni salad in a slightly different way, but elbow macaroni is an obvious must, and it’s just not macaroni salad without mayonnaise. That mayo makes the macaroni salad dressing creamy, but some sort of sweet ingredient—sugar or honey, typically—makes the dressing a bit sweet, too. Some people add mustard as a contrast, but we’ve opted for an allium-based sharpness instead! Onion powder and scallions provide the much-needed lift that this mac salad needs. Carrots and celery for crunch, and you’re pretty much good to go! Sweet pickle relish is another “secret” macaroni salad ingredient for us—it adds so much flavor and all you have to do is open a jar. Here’s your macaroni salad shopping list:

  • Elbow macaroni

  • Mayonnaise

  • Sugar

  • Honey

  • Onion powder

  • Black pepper

  • Carrots

  • Sweet pickle relish

  • Celery

  • Scallions

cooked pasta for macaroni salad in a bowl
mayonnaise, apple cider vinegar, salt, sugar garlic powder and pepper in a bowl for macaroni salad
cooked pasta, carrots, relish, green onions and celery in a bowl for pasta salad
homemade pasta salad in a bowl

How to Make Macaroni Salad From Scratch

Yes, we really do think ours is the very best macaroni salad recipe there is, but that doesn’t mean it’s hard to make! Classic, creamy macaroni salad is so, so easy to make. Some recipes like to get fancy with fresh herbs or vinaigrette dressings—and that’s fine. But as for us? If we’re eating mac salad, it’s got to be classic, all-American, super old-fashioned, mayo-dressed macaroni salad! Here’s how to make a truly classic macaroni salad:

  1. Cook the macaroni and rinse it with cold water to cool it off.

  2. Whip up the macaroni salad dressing! Just stir together the mayo, sugar, honey, onion powder, pepper, and salt.

  3. Chop the vegetables! Shred the carrots, and chop the celery and scallions.

  4. Toss everything together! Cover the macaroni salad and pop it in the fridge to chill.

homemade macaroni salad in a bowl

How Long Does Macaroni Salad Last?

Mayo-based salads like macaroni salad and potato salad are notorious summertime trip points. They really, really need to stay cold! You should keep the macaroni salad in the fridge until you plan to serve it, and once it’s out on the table, follow the “two-hour rule”—if it sits at room temperature for more than two hours, it’s time to toss anything left in the bowl. And, according to the FDA, consider the temperature outside—the FDA says "If the air temperature is above 90°F,, the 'two-hour rule' becomes a one-hour rule.” As for making macaroni salad ahead of time, you do want to give yourself enough time to make the salad and let it chill for 30 minutes to an hour before serving. But beyond that, fresh is best! The prepared macaroni salad will keep for a few days in the fridge before serving, but we like to make it day-of so that everything tastes and looks bright and fresh.

homemade macaroni salad in a bowl

More Summer Salad Recipes to Try

Tools You’ll Need:

homemade macaroni salad in a bowl
a bowl of homemade macaroni salad in a bowl with carrots, celery and green onions

Is This the Best Macaroni Salad Recipe Ever, or What?

We hope that it is! We certainly think so, or we wouldn’t be sharing it! But we’d love to know how it turned out for you—let us know when you served it, who you shared it with, and what you liked about! So, if you make it, let us know how you like it! Share a photo and tag us on Instagram using @themodernproper and #themodernproper so that we can see your stuff! Happy eating!

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Macaroni Salad

  • Serves: 8
  • Prep Time:  15 min
  • Cook Time:  15 min
  • Calories: 340


  • 1 pound elbow pasta
  • 1¼ cup mayonnaise
  • 1½ tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup grated carrots
  • 2 tablespoons sweet pickle relish
  • 1½ cups finely chopped celery
  • 3 green onions, finely chopped


  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat and salt it. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, according to the package directions, about 9-11 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water.

  2. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, sugar, honey, onion powder, pepper, and salt. Add the pasta, carrots, relish, celery and green onions. Toss to combine.

  3. Cover and refrigerate until chilled, about 30 minutes or until ready to serve.

Nutrition Info

  • Per Serving
  • Amount
  • Calories340
  • Protein7 g
  • Carbohydrates48 g
  • Total Fat13 g
  • Dietary Fiber1 g
  • Cholesterol51 mg
  • sodium1204 mg
  • Total Sugars9 g

Macaroni Salad

Questions & Reviews

Join the discussion below.

  • Zoe

    Crispy smashed potatoes would be great with the huli chicken and kale salad. Can’t wait to make these dishes this weekend!

    Thanks Zoe, hope you love them!

  • Kimberly


    Thank you Kimberly!

  • Kaitlin

    Delicious macaroni salad recipe! Another great recipe to add to my list of favorites from Modern Proper!

    Hooray! Thanks Katlin, so glad you loved it!

  • Jenn

    My kids went crazy for this! I served it with teriyaki chicken and rice.

    That's so great, glad everyone liked it!