Home Recipes Creamy Macaroni Salad (Old-Fashioned Recipe)

Creamy Macaroni Salad (Old-Fashioned Recipe)

This easy macaroni salad is an oldie but a goodie that’s crowd-worthy!

Tender pasta and fresh veggies get smothered in a creamy dressing. It’s a timeless classic full of nostalgic flavors everyone adores.  

Creamy macaroni salad in a bowl with wooden spoon.
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Serve it at potlucks, picnics, cookouts, and more. Everyone is guaranteed to gobble it up!

Classic Macaroni Salad 

Macaroni salad is a Southern staple you can guarantee will be a hit at a potluck. There are many variations of it, but I just love this one the best.

The macaroni melds with the irresistible creamy dressing featuring mayo, sour cream, and sweet relish. Celery, bell pepper, and carrots also add a refreshing crunchy texture. 

And let’s not forget those hard-boiled eggs!

As a bonus, it’s budget-friendly and easy to make ahead. So it’s perfect when you need a crowd-pleasing dish. 


This classic creamy macaroni salad recipe calls for simple, common ingredients. Here’s what you need:

  • Mayo – A must for the creamy dressing. Use real, full-fat mayo for the best flavor.
  • Sour Cream – Another key ingredient for the dressing. It adds a delightfully tangy and creamy flavor.
  • Apple Cider Vinegar – For balancing the richness of the dressing.
  • Dijon Mustard – It gives the dressing a little bit of bite. 
  • Seasoning – Sugar, salt, pepper, and garlic powder flavor the dressing.
  • Sweet Relish – The tangy, sweet flavor is the perfect contrast to the creaminess of the dressing.
  • Macaroni – Elbow macaroni is classic, but other pasta shapes work too. Just be sure to cook it al dente. The pasta absorbs the dressing as it sits. 
  • Vegetables – Chopped celery, red onion, bell pepper, and carrots add more flavor and texture.
  • Parsley – Fresh parsley makes the dish pop!
  • Hard-Boiled Eggs (Optional) – Hard-boiled eggs are optional. I love them for their classic, old-fashioned touch. But you can skip them if you prefer.
Macaroni salad tossed in a glass bowl.

How to Make Macaroni Salad

You can make this easy macaroni salad in just four simple steps! 

The prep takes less than 30 minutes. Just remember you need plenty of time to let the dish chill. So plan ahead for making it in advance. 

Here’s the process:

1. Cook the pasta. Cook al dente according to the instructions on the package. Drain, rinse, and set aside.

2. Make the dressing. Whisk the mayonnaise, sour cream, cider vinegar, mustard, sugar, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Add the sweet relish and stir until well blended. 

3. Combine all the ingredients. Combine the dressing with the cooled macaroni, celery, red onion, bell pepper, shredded carrot, parsley, and hard-boiled eggs. Mix until well-coated. 

4. Chill. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Stir, serve, and enjoy!

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Macaroni salad tossed with a wooden spoon in a white bowl.

Tips for Success

Macaroni salad is an easy side dish anyone can make. Still, there’s a difference between the good and the best. 

So here are my tips to ensure success:

  • Don’t overcook! The macaroni will absorb the dressing once coated. So if it’s too soft, the pasta salad will become mushy.
  • Give it a good rinse. It will help cool the pasta down quicker. It also removes some of the starch.
  • Give the onion a soak. Let the onion sit in cold water for 5 minutes. Then, drain and mix with the salad. This will mellow the sharp bite without changing the flavor. 
  • Swap out the relish. No relish? You can substitute 1-2 finely diced sweet pickles and 2 tablespoons of pickle juice.
  • Dice nice and even. I recommend chopping similar-sized veggies the best you can. That way, you get a little of everything in each bite.

How Long Can You Keep Macaroni Salad?

Macaroni salad lasts in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Be sure to keep it in an air-tight container to maintain optimal freshness. 

Watch how long it sits out when serving, too. The dairy can go bad, especially when left out in the heat!

Also, I don’t recommend freezing this dish. The dressing contains sour cream and mayo, which doesn’t defrost well. The noodles will also become mushy when thawed out.

Lucky for you, this recipe is always a hit. So I doubt there will be leftovers!

Closeup of a white bowl with creamy macaroni salad.

More Pasta Salad Recipes

Easy Healthy Greek Pasta Salad

BLT Pasta Salad

Dill Pickle Pasta Salad

Ina Garten Pasta Salad

Creamy Macaroni Salad (Old-Fashioned Recipe)

Course: SidesCuisine: American


Prep time


Cooking time




Chilling time



This traditional macaroni salad is creamy and delicious! The blend of sour cream, mayo, relish, mustard, and seasoning makes it a true classic.


  • For the Dressing
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise

  • 1/4 cup sour cream

  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

  • 1 teaspoon sugar

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

  • 2 tablespoons sweet relish

  • For the Macaroni Salad
  • 2 cups dry elbow macaroni

  • 1 cup celery, diced (about 2-3 stalks)

  • 1/2 medium red onion, diced

  • 1/2 red or green bell pepper, seeded and diced

  • 1/2 cup grated carrot (about 1 medium carrot)

  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

  • 2 hard-boiled eggs, chopped (optional)


  • Cook the pasta to al dente per the instructions on the package. Drain and rinse it under cold water, then set aside.
  • In a large bowl, whisk the mayonnaise with the sour cream, cider vinegar, mustard, sugar, salt, pepper, and garlic powder until smooth. Add the sweet relish and stir until well blended.
  • Add the cooled macaroni, celery, red onion, bell pepper, shredded carrot, parsley, and hard-boiled eggs, if using. Mix until everything is well-coated.
  • Cover the bowl and place the macaroni salad in the fridge for at least 1 hour to allow flavors to meld.
  • Stir the macaroni salad before serving and enjoy!
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 :)

11 thoughts on “Creamy Macaroni Salad (Old-Fashioned Recipe)”

  1. This Mac salad is the absolute best I have ever had. It is out of this world good. You have got to try this one!

  2. Best macaroni salad I’ve ever tasted, and I don’t usually like macaroni salad. This is a keeper. Delicious.

  3. With the exception of pickle relish, this is my mother’s EXACT recipe! I love it. I will try it out the next time I make it. So many people are on diets that I can’t make it often enough.
    Thanks for the suggestion of pickle relish it sounds good.

    • Hi, Jan. The approximate yield of this recipe would be between 7 1/4 and 7 1/2 cups. Typically, that feeds 8 to 10 people as a side dish. As for serving size, it doesn’t come out exactly even. But I’d say a little less than a cup.

  4. Well it’s made and chilling in the fridge. From what I tasted so far it’s pretty darn good. Can’t wait to dig into this in a couple of hours. Thank you for sharing this recipe. Also my son who isn’t a fan of macaroni salad tried it before it went in the fridge and he said “that’s money “


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