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Southern Macaroni Salad

Get a taste of the South in just 20 minutes with our easy Southern Macaroni Salad recipe! Made with simple ingredients and a perfect blend of spices, this delicious dish is perfect for quick meals, potlucks, family reunions, or barbecues.

elbow macaroni pasta salad

Southern Macaroni Salad Recipe

Want the perfect side dish to bring to your next picnic? Check out this new recipe!

In just a few easy steps, you’ll have a creamy, mouth-watering macaroni salad that’ll have your taste buds dancing.

This classic side dish is one of my favorite recipes for summer barbecues, church socials, and potluck dinners.

The tender macaroni and crisp veggies that add a nice crunch, all brought together in a creamy dressing.

Best part is that this easy macaroni salad is ready in 20 minutes.

If you like this recipe, check out this Chicken Macaroni Salad, Tuna Macaroni Salad and my Amish Pasta Salad. Both make great additions to any gathering!

ingredients for cold pasta salad in individual bowls

Ingredients Needed:

Macaroni noodles – Elbow macaroni is the classic shape but use any small pasta noodle.

Hard boiled eggsBuy or hard cook your own eggs.

Vegetables – Celery, red bell pepper, onion, green peas.

Mayonnaise – Duke’s is my favorite. Don’t use Miracle Whip as the flavor isn’t the same.

Mustard – Dijon mustard is best but substitute yellow mustard if needed.

Lemon juice – Fresh is best. A touch of lemon zest is great too!

Spices – Garlic (fresh or powder), paprika.

Garnishes – Fresh chopped parsley if desired.

Looking for more leftover worthy dishes? Follow LTB on Pinterest and pin to a board!

How to make Creamy Southern Macaroni Salad

First: Cook pasta noodles al dente, according to package directions. Rinse in cold water to stop the cooking process. Drain completely.

Second: In a mason jar or medium bowl, mix the mayo, mustard, lemon juice, and spices. Stir or whisk to mix completely. Chill until ready to use.

Third: Chop all the vegetables and place in a large bowl. Add the cooked macaroni and top with dressing.

Chill for 15-30 minutes for best flavor.

Fourth: Garnish and serve cold. Enjoy!

For the full recipe and detailed baking instructions, please see the recipe card at the end of this post.

easy side dish in a ceramic bowl with grey napkin

Classic Southern Macaroni Salad Recipe Variations:

  • Try different pasta shapes! I love rotini, ditalini, or small shells.
  • Add sweet pickle relish or dill pickle relish. Or a splash of pickle juice.
  • Leave out the hard-boiled eggs.
  • Try red onion or sliced green onions instead of white.
  • Add in some crispy cooked bacon.
  • Toss in some shredded sharp cheddar cheese.

How long does it last?

Once you serve it, don’t leave out for more than 2 hours at room temperature. If possible, serve on an ice pack or chilled serving bowl.

Store this cold salad for 3 days in the fridge in an airtight container or covered with plastic wrap.

Can you freeze it?

I do not recommend freezing southern macaroni salad.

The pasta will become mushy and the vegetables will break down, leaving a watery mess.

bowl of cold pasta salad

What to Serve with Southern Macaroni Salad:

Why is my macaroni salad not creamy?

The key to a creamy macaroni salad is using the right amount of mayonnaise.

Additionally, using full-fat mayonnaise, allowing the salad to chill in the refrigerator, and stirring the ingredients regularly can help make your salad creamy.

If your salad still isn’t creamy, try adding a touch of milk or sour cream.

spoon of pasta salad with parsley on it

Why does macaroni salad soak up mayonnaise?

When pasta is cooked, it becomes more porous, making it easier for liquids to be absorbed.

Additionally, if the pasta is still hot when the dressing is added, it will continue to absorb the liquid and make the salad less creamy.

To prevent this, allow the pasta to cool completely before adding the dressing and consider chilling the salad in the refrigerator to allow the flavors to meld and the dressing to thicken.

Five mistakes when making pasta salads

  1. Accidentally overcooking the pasta. To avoid it being mushy always undercook the pasta (al dente) a bit.
  2. Not enough dressing. I always make 1 1/2 batches as the salad will absorb it as it sits. Stir in the extra right before serving.
  3. Dressing it too soon. If you dress it while the pasta is still warm, it will absorb more dressing and be too mushy and the salad not creamy.
  4. Using the wrong pasta. Use small, bite-sized pasta noodles that hold their shape and have texture so the dressing clings to it.
  5. Not seasoning properly: Pasta salad is a blank canvas that needs to be seasoned properly with salt, pepper, and other herbs and spices to bring out the flavors. Neglecting to season can result in a bland, unappetizing salad.
bowl of elbow macaroni with vegetables and a wood spoon

Tips for No Leftovers

  • Elbow macaroni is traditional but use your favorite small shape.
  • Be sure to salt the water properly when cooking the pasta.
  • Can’t find red pepper? Substitute a green bell pepper.
  • Add a splash of apple cider vinegar if you don’t like pickles.
  • Buy already hard boiled eggs for easier prep.
  • Refrigerate for 15-30 minutes before serving for maximum flavor.
  • Don’t overcook the pasta and chill it immediately to avoid it being mushy.

If you love this recipe as much as I do, please write a five-star review in the comment section below (or on Pinterest with the “tried it” button – you can now add pictures into reviews, too!), and be sure to help me share on facebook!

bowl of southern macaroni salad with yellow banner and red text

This Southern Macaroni pasta salad is the perfect make-ahead side dish that you can easily customize. The fresh ingredients in a tangy dressing make the most delicious flavor! Add grilled chicken or tuna to make it a complete meal!

classic recipe for macaroni salad in a bowl

Southern Macaroni Salad

Yield: 6 servings
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes

This creamy Southern Macaroni Salad is the perfect side dish for any meal! Tender pasta and crunchy veggies all in a creamy, tangy dressing!

Ingredients

Pasta Salad

  • 2 1/2 cups uncooked pasta noodles
  • 2 hard boiled eggs (peeled, diced)
  • 2 stalks celery (diced)
  • 3/4 cup diced bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 1/2 cup diced sweet onion
  • Chopped fresh parsley or sliced green onions for garnish

Dressing

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon minced garlic or garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Cook pasta al dente according to package instructions. Drain, rinse under cool water. Set aside.
  2. Mix all the dressing ingredients in a small bowl or shake in a mason jar.
  3. Combine the pasta and chopped veggies in a large mixing bowl.
  4. Top with dressing. Chill for 15- 30 minutes for best results.
  5. Garnish with fresh parsley and serve chilled with your favorite dishes. Enjoy!

Notes

  • Elbow macaroni is traditional but use your favorite small shape.
  • Be sure to salt the water properly when cooking the pasta.
  • Can't find red pepper? Substitute a green bell pepper.
  • Add a splash of apple cider vinegar if you don't like pickles.
  • Buy already hard boiled eggs for easier prep.
  • Refrigerate for 15-30 minutes before serving for maximum flavor.
  • Don't overcook the pasta and chill it immediately to avoid it being mushy.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 397Total Fat: 31gSaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 24gCholesterol: 109mgSodium: 338mgCarbohydrates: 22gFiber: 2gSugar: 3gProtein: 8g

This nutrition information was generated via a third party, Nutritionix, and we can not be held liable for any discrepancies in the information provided.

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