Home Recipes Grandma’s Macaroni Salad (Quick & Easy)

Grandma’s Macaroni Salad (Quick & Easy)

There are so many ways to make macaroni salad, but there’s nothing quite like the one your grandma made!

This classic side dish is perfect for barbecues, roasted meat, or even as a snack. If you’re ready to dig into the perfect macaroni salad, give this simple but extremely delicious recipe a try.

One bite and you’ll feel like you’re right in your grandma’s kitchen!

Homemade Macaroni Salad
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Macaroni Salad Ingredients

If you’re ready to make Grandma’s Macaroni Salad, gather up all your ingredients.

  • Elbow macaroni (cooked and drained) – For perfectly cooked macaroni, make sure to bring your water to a boil first before adding the pasta. Keep the lid off and boil for 9 minutes.
  • Chopped celery – Be sure to use celery that is fresh, firm, and crisp. When buying celery, check that the leaves aren’t wilted and that they are a bright green color.
  • Chopped green bell pepper – Just like celery, this will add a bit of crunch to your salad. If you love the taste of bell peppers, chop them bigger for more bite!
  • Chopped red bell pepper – Red and green bell pepper tastes very similar but using both adds so much more color and flavor.
  • Chopped onion – Red onion works best for this recipe but if it’s too strong for you, you can also use white onion.
  • Mayonnaise – Mayo is what makes up most of the dressing so be sure to use good quality mayonnaise! If you want something slightly sweet, use regular mayonnaise. If you want your dressing extra creamy, go for whole egg mayonnaise!
  • Apple cider vinegar – Apple cider vinegar cuts through the richness of the dressing to create that perfect balance of creamy but slightly tangy.
  • Prepared mustard – You can use regular yellow mustard but if you want a stronger, tangier dressing, go for Dijon mustard.
  • Sugar White sugar works best!
  • Salt You can adjust the amount of salt you use. Table salt or Kosher salt works best.
  • Ground black pepper – Freshly ground black pepper always has better flavor!

Tips & Tricks For the Best Macaroni Salad

For the best macaroni salad to enjoy as a side dish or on it’s own, follow these tips and tricks!

Nobody likes soggy pasta! You want your macaroni al dente so make sure to boil it for no more than 9 minutes.

You’re going to want the macaroni to be coated in dressing so make sure the pasta can hold it’s shape and not get mushy. When it’s cooked, drain thoroughly and let it cool down to room temperature before mixing it in with the wet ingredients.

The best way to enjoy macaroni is when it’s cold! It’s recommended to keep it in the fridge for at least a few hours before serving. If you can, make this the night before and keep your macaroni chilled overnight.

This not only ensures that it’s cool when served, but your ingredients will also have time to blend together for an even better tasting macaroni salad!

Here’s a trick you can use if you want to impress your guests. Make your macaroni salad extra pretty by adding a few bits of chopped red and green pepper on top!

Macaroni Salad Add-Ins

We all love a classic recipe, but if you want to give grandma’s macaroni salad a little twist of your own, here are some delicious add-ins you can try!

  • Cheese – Who doesn’t love a little extra cheese on top of a dish right? Try topping off your macaroni salad with diced cheddar or parmesan! You can even add it in your dressing to make sure every bite is deliciously cheesy.
  • Hard-boiled eggs – You can always use just a bite more protein in your meal so why not try adding some diced hard-boiled eggs?
  • Grated carrots – For more color and extra sweetness, try adding grated or diced carrots! This is also another great topper to make your dish look even more appetizing.
  • Diced ham – Another protein you can add to your macaroni salad is ham! If you want more satiness, this is the way to go.
  • Bacon bits – It’s impossible to say no to bacon bits! If you want some crunch in your salad, you’re really going to enjoy this add-in. Just like ham, this gives your dish more saltiness too.
  • Cherry tomatoes – Tomatoes are a great way to add acidity to your macaroni salad, especially when you’re using extra rich mayonnaise like whole egg or Japanese mayo!
Bowl of Macaroni Salad

How Long Can You Keep Macaroni Salad?

The first rule of macaroni salad is never leave it out at room temperature for too long! Remember, you want to serve this cold. If you won’t be eating it in the next hour, keep it in the fridge.

If you want your macaroni salad to last longer, keep it in an airtight container in your refrigerator.  Do this and it will last for up to five days.

Unfortunately, macaroni salad can’t be frozen because it has a lot of moisture. Don’t worry though, this recipe is too delicious so it won’t last long on your dining table!

How to Make Grandma’s Macaroni Salad

Grandma’s Macaroni Salad



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Prep time






  • 8 ounces elbow macaroni (cooked and drained)

  • 1 cup chopped celery

  • 1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper

  • 1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper

  • 1/3 cup chopped onion

  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise

  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar

  • 1 tbsp prepared mustard

  • 1 tsp sugar

  • 1 tsp salt

  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper


  • In a large bowl, mix in the macaroni, celery, bell pepper, and onion.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, apple cider vinegar, mustard, sugar, salt, and pepper until combined. Pour the mixture into the macaroni and vegetables. Mix well until everything is thoroughly coated in the dressing.
  • Refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving. Preferably overnight.
  • Stir before serving.

Looking For More Quick & Easy Side Dishes?

Ambrosia Salad
Watergate Salad
Amish Macaroni Salad
Picnic Food Ideas

Grandma's Macaroni Salad

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author avatar
Kim - InsanelyGood
Hey there! I'm Kim. I love running, cooking, and curling up with a good book! I share recipes for people who LOVE good food, but want to keep things simple :)

6 thoughts on “Grandma’s Macaroni Salad (Quick & Easy)”

  1. I love your emails and recipes. I am a 72 year old male and some of the recipes remind me of my grandmother and mother’s cooking. The secrets you put in your buttermilk biscuits before the recipe were great. Please incorporate “the secrets” in the Print Recipe portion. Keep up the great work. I am forwarding to everyone I know.

  2. Hi Kim. Mine flopped, put in to many onions. I enjoyed running to the closet for rolaids when the heartburn set in. This is actually fun, do you have a good book to recommend? Thnx, Jayke

    PS Thank you. Got an idea for a IG meatloaf?

  3. I always use Dukes mayonaise for its tangy taste. Makes a big difference.
    Another version is if I want to use as a main dish I put in shrimp and that is delicious also.


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