The BEST Macaroni Salad recipe!
The BEST Macaroni Salad recipe! Loaded with fresh carrots, celery, diced bell pepper, red onion, and savory ham, this Simple & Classic Macaroni Salad is the perfect side dish for your next cookout or pot-luck.
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Classic Macaroni Salad
This Classic Macaroni Salad is the ultimate pot-luck or cookout side dish. I’m made and tried several macaroni salad recipes, and many are NOT for me. Some become overly heavy with thick dressing. Others load up on cubed cheese, which also seems to make it thick and heavy. This BEST macaroni salad recipe has the perfect amount of dressing, veggies and savory diced ham. Absolute perfection!
Growing up in rural South Dakota, summer was always a time for getting together with family and enjoying a little time along the Missouri river. South Dakota doesn’t have ocean beaches, and very few lakes, but we do have the beautiful, vast Missouri river. For the July 4th holiday, we often went camping near the river, which is about 20 miles from my home town.
As a kid, going to the river was always fun. My grandparents had a boat, which meant water skiing, tubing and fishing along the banks. At the end of a long day on the water, we would always come back to our campground to a big feast that was typically prepared by my grandma Dona. Burgers, brats, hot dogs and her Classic Macaroni Salad were always on the menu.
Very similar to Grandma Dona’s, this simple macaroni salad has lots of fresh vegetables, savory diced ham and along with the perfect creamy dressing. It’s the ultimate side dish for just about any cookout, potluck or in our instance, riverside feast.
Here’s how this Classic Macaroni Salad recipe comes together:
Step 1: Prepare Macaroni, Ham and Vegetables
The first step to making this easy macaroni salad is cooking the macaroni and letting it cool. Cook the macaroni according to the package directions. Drain, rinse with cold water and let it come to room temperature.
While the macaroni cools, I will chop and shred the vegetables, and dice the ham. You can place these in their own small bowls, or simple add to one large mixing bowl where all of the ingredients will be mixed together.
Step 2: Mix the dressing
This is a very simple macaroni salad dressing. Here’s the ingredients I use in this creamy dressing:
- Light mayonnaise
- Light sour cream
- White vinegar
- Salt and Pepper
Some people add a bit of sugar to this creamy dressing – I actually prefer it without the sugar. Additionally, I like light mayo and sour cream, as the full-fat versions seem rather heavy.
How do I make classic macaroni salad healthy?
The best way to make macaroni salad dressing healthy is to use plain full-fat Greek yogurt instead of mayonnaise and sour crea.
Step 3: Mix the Dressing to Coat All Ingredients
Once the macaroni has cooled, add it along with the vegetables and ham to a large mixing bowl. Top with the dressing. Using a rubber scraper, mix the ingredients and until completely coated with the dressing. Refrigerate the salad for at least 1 hour.
This is a fantastic make-ahead recipe for your next cookout or barbecue. Make earlier in the day, refrigerate and then serve alongside your favorite grilled chicken recipe, burgers, chops and steak. Similar to a deli-style macaroni salad, I really love this with my favorite sandwich or BLT.
Classic Macaroni Salad FAQ’s:
- How long does simple macaroni salad last? Answer: When kept refrigerated in an air-tight container, it can last 3-5 days. If your salad is left out for longer than 2 hours (like at a picnic or cookout), it is best to discard any leftovers.
- Should I rinse macaroni for macaroni salad after it has cooked? Answer: Yes, I do for a could reasons. First, it stops the pasta from cooking, second, it keeps the pasta loose and not stick together.
- Can I add eggs to macaroni salad? Answer: Yes, definitely! If you would like to add eggs, make sure they are hard-boiled and cooled. Then, dice the eggs and stir in with the rest of the ingredients. I would recommend 2-3 large, hard-boiled eggs.
- What goes good with macaroni salad? Answer: I personally love macaroni salad with grilled chicken, pork and even steaks. It’s a great cookout food!
Here’s some of my favorite grilled chicken recipes:
This simple macaroni salad recipe is fantastic to bring to a pot-luck. Be prepared to be asked for this recipe – it’s always a hit with everyone!
If you loved this classic macaroni salad recipe, be sure to check out some of my other side dish recipes:
Here’s the recipe for this Classic Macaroni Salad recipe:
- 2 c. dry elbow macaroni, cooked to package directions
- 1 1/2 c. ham, diced
- 1 c. carrots, shredded
- 1 c. celery, diced
- 1 c. green bell pepper, diced (about 1 pepper)
- 1/2 c. red onion, diced
- 1/2 c. light mayonnaise
- 1/2 c. light sour cream
- 2 Tbsp. white vinegar
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. pepper
- Cook the 2 cups of dry macaroni according to package directions. Drain. Rinse with cold water, and let cool to room temperature.
- While macaroni is cooling, dice ham, shred carrots, dice celery, green pepper and red onion.
- Mix the dressing by whisking together the mayonnaise, sour cream, vinegar, salt and pepper.
- Place the cooled macaroni into a mixing bowl. Add the ham, carrots, celery, green pepper and red onion. Pour the dressing over the top, and mix together until all ingredients are coated with the dressing.
- Refrigerate for at least one hour. Top with some additional ground pepper, if desired. Serve and enjoy!
1 serving is approximately 1/2 cup of macaroni salad.
If red onion is too strong for your taste, feel free to substitute with diced green onion. This is a milder alternative.