Thursday, April 21, 2022

Southern Macaroni Salad + Video

Southern macaroni salad is deliciously creamy, with the perfect crunch and the right amount of tang. Make this recipe for a scrumptious BBQ side dish!

Southern Macaroni Salad in a colorful bowl

This classic pasta salad is exactly what I think of when summer sides come to mind! Passed down from my mom, we enjoyed this recipe at every family gathering for most of my life, and I’m so happy to be able to share it with you.

Each bite contains a creamy dressing with hard boiled eggs for richness, plus celery and onion for crunch. Even better, you can whip up a batch of the easy macaroni salad in less than 30 minutes!

Southern Macaroni Salad

I shared stories of my mom with you when we shared her Southern Style Potato Salad recipe, which is so precious to me. This is another of her famous recipes.  Her southern macaroni salad was on our table at every summer gathering, right next to that potato salad.

In my opinion, this is hands down the best macaroni salad you’ll ever make, but I admit that I may be a bit biased.

Try a taste of the islands with my Hawaiian mac salad recipe instead or indulge your cravings with this version that has the flavors of a McDonald’s Big Mac!

Not a fan of creamy dressings? Find plenty more classic pasta salad recipes made with vinaigrette or a light homemade dressing.

Watch the video in this post to see us making southern pasta salad from start to finish!

Best Macaroni Salad - cutting onion

Simple Macaroni Salad Recipe Ingredients

  • Pasta - It wouldn’t be a mac salad recipe without elbow macaroni! You could get away with rotini or small shells if needed, but I really recommend sticking with the classic shape.
  • Hard boiled eggs - These add a delicious richness to the dish, plus tons of flavor! Try my easy to peel air fryer method instead of waiting for water to boil on the stove.
  • Veggies - Celery and onion add plenty of crunch and won’t water down the dish as other vegetables would. Adjust the size of your dice depending on your preference - larger pieces for more crunch or teeny-tiny bits for picky eaters.
  • Mayonnaise - Nana always used a blend of regular mayo and Miracle Whip. The latter is a bit sweeter and has extra spices mixed in. Watch the consistency as you mix everything up since you may prefer to use less than the recipe calls for!
  • Seasonings - All you need is salt and pepper, but I sometimes like to add a little paprika for color and warmth. If you want a little more heat, try a dash of cayenne as well.
Southern Macaroni Salad - chopping eggs

Kitchen Tools You Will Need
Easy Macaroni Salad - ingredients in bowl

Southern Macaroni Salad FAQ

How do you moisten dry pasta salad?

Be sure to use enough mayonnaise or dressing to thoroughly coat the noodles. It’s going to look like too much when you first make it, but the pasta does absorb some of it as it chills.

If your leftovers seem a bit dry after a day or two, simply stir in a little more dressing or mayo to liven them back up!

Can I halve this recipe?

Absolutely! This macaroni salad recipe serves 16, enough for any potluck or cookout.

Feel free to reduce the amounts for a smaller batch, but you’ll definitely want enough for leftovers — trust me!

Classic Pasta Salad - add celery

Why is my macaroni salad runny?

There are usually two culprits - not draining off wet ingredients and/or adding too many watery vegetables.

For this recipe, cook the noodles first so they have plenty of time to drain. Remember to drain off the package of tuna as well.

Celery and onion won’t release too much liquid when diced, but you may need to reduce the amount of mayo if you add veggies like cucumber, pickles, or tomatoes.

Prep Ahead Instructions 

Southern macaroni salad is best when chilled and tastes even better the next day! Chilling overnight allows the flavors to meld, plus the noodles will soak up some of the dressing.

You can also prep all of the ingredients a day or two in advance to make assembling this easy macaroni salad even quicker. 
Store the chopped veggies, hard boiled eggs, and cooked pasta in separate containers in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use.

Southern Macaroni Salad - stirring pasta salad

How To Store Classic Pasta Salad

Because of the mayonnaise, the southern macaroni salad needs to be kept well chilled to prevent it from spoiling. 
Store it in the refrigerator until it’s time to serve, and don’t leave it out at room temperature for more than an hour or two.

Leftovers will last for 3 to 5 days in the refrigerator. Keep the bowl tightly covered, or transfer to an airtight container instead.


Southern Macaroni Salad - finished

With love from our simple kitchen to yours. 

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Yield: 16
Author: Donna Elick
Southern Macaroni Salad

Southern Macaroni Salad

Southern macaroni salad is deliciously creamy with the perfect crunch and the right amount of tang.
Prep time: 15 MinCook time: 15 MinTotal time: 30 Min


  • 2 pounds dried elbow pasta
  • 3 large hard boiled eggs
  • 3 celery stalks, diced
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • 1 (30 ounce) jar Hellman’s/Best Foods mayonnaise
  • 1/2 (30 ounce) jar Miracle Whip salad dressing spread
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper
  • Optional: 1 (6.4 ounce) pouch chunk light tuna, in water
  • Optional: paprika


  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta (al dente) according to directions on the package. Pour into a strainer to drain water and set aside (in strainer).
  2. Meanwhile: Dice onion and celery. Chop hard-boiled eggs. Add ½ of mayonnaise and ½ of Miracle Whip to the pasta pot. Add tuna (if using), onion, celery, and eggs. Stir to combine. Add drained pasta and stir until well combined. Add remaining mayonnaise and Miracle Whip. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir to combine.
  3. Sprinkle with paprika (if desired). Chill until ready to serve.
  4. Serve and enjoy!
  1. Best if chilled overnight.
  2. If you don't like tuna, you can leave it out. Watch the mayo and Miracle Whip, you may want to reduce it.

Southern Macaroni Salad closeup

Originally published June 2014, updated and republished April 2022

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  1. This is just SO good! Takes me back to my childhood. My Mom always put tuna in and I loved it. Thanks so much for posting. Everyone should try this one.

  2. Thanks for the recipes, the pics all look just delicious. This peach cobbler desert will cost me (my 1st launching) in pounds on me!xxxx but I will make sure that I start sharing with my frends this episode.

  3. This recipe is so very similar to how my mom made her pasta salad. With or without tuna.I think the secret is the Miracle Whip.

  4. Sounds delicious, but my god, almost a quart and a half of mayo/Miracle whip? I love them both but that sounds like overkill !!!

    1. It serves 16 people, it needs to be a lot lol

    2. that is 2 pounds of pasta, that is a lot of pasta.

    3. You can halve the recipe if that is what you need.

    4. Shouldn't the pasta be cooled down before adding the dressing so it doesn't get absorbed by the noodles????

  5. We've always used miracle whip and it's just so much better! No tuna for me though... just not my taste :)

    1. Did you use the same measurement of all ingredients without the tuna?

  6. 2 bags of pasta? This must make a TON! Sounds good though! Personally I'd add at least a dozen eggs to that much pasta. :)

  7. I just made it with half of the noodles and 3 eggs and 3 celery and 1/4 of a onion but I only put in about 7 oz of may and 7 oz of whip that is enough and a can of tuna to don't know why so much mayo and whip it to much

  8. in your picture it looks like more celery is used with 2 lbs of noodles to me it could use more eggs in even have of it and more celery

  9. Yum. Love a great pasta salad in the summer. Thanks!

  10. If I omit the tuna should I use the same amount of the rest of the ingredients ?

  11. Regardless if I'm making potato salad, macaroni salad, deviled eggs, tuna salad.......etc. I always use half mayo and half Miracle Whip. Everyone always asks me for my recipe & can't figure out just what it is that makes the salad.....LOL

  12. My mom used to make her Macaroni salad with boiled chicken and pineapple in really is good..

  13. would I can of chicken be good instead of tuna?

  14. Yummy! Can't wait to try this!

  15. When the salad sits it soaks up the mayo, as I've used less and then had to add more. I don't make that much as there is only 2 of us, but I have been making it for years ! Lo

  16. Would pickle relish work with the pasta? Then there is the question of sweet or dill! I have always made mac and cheese with tuna!

    1. Yes sweet pickle relish will make any maccaroni salad taste great

  17. I imagine you have to let it sit in the fridge for a few hours to cool the pasta and let it soak up the mayo mix.

  18. Is there a difference between Miracle Whip dressing and spread ?

  19. Almost like my recipe but I add in yellow mustard, a few more eggs, cucumbers and a little garlic powder

  20. I agree, we've always used Miracle Whip for that little extra zip. But the salad is a misnomer...nowhere in you story or description does it ever mention tuna fish until you see it listed in the recipe. I love tuna, but not in my macaroni salad. I'll try it without.

  21. That's a small amount of tuna for so much pasta! I skip the eggs & add cut up cheddar cheese...yum!!! This is a family favorite, but have just used Miracle Whip. May have to add some mayo next time.

  22. It's funny how everyone has their own take on this recipe. Mine is very similar but I don't use onions. I have added cucumber and have used shrimp instead of tuna. Anyway you make it - it's yummy.

  23. I use canned chicken and it’s great doesn’t have that fishy tuna taste, that’s what my family says. Instead of miracle whip I’ve used a little rasbeeey vinaigrette to get that little sweet tang and it works well but I always put peas in mine as well

  24. This is great especially in hot Summer with drained, canned salmon ....fresh tomato slices and crackers on the side!

  25. Sometimes I add a tad of home made relish

  26. Hi, I'm in Scotland, we don't really have miracle whip??? is there something I could substitute for it? Not really sure what it even is :D

    1. Miracle Whip is similar/ same as Mayonnaise but has a little tang to it like more vinegar. Not spicy hot at all.

    2. Mayo or Mayonaise would work and add a tsp of apple cider vinegar

  27. Our family always added iced green olives!! MMMM


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