Big Mac Pasta Salad

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Big Mac Pasta Salad combines the flavors of the fast food burger with tender noodles. Take this scrumptious hamburger pasta salad to your next potluck or backyard barbecue!

titled: Big Mac Pasta Salad Recipe


 

Big Mac Pasta Salad

This dish has so many layers of flavor and texture!

It’s like a Big Mac in a bowl, with creamy cheese and homemade sauce, sweet relish, crunchy lettuce and dill pickles, and fresh tomatoes.

Finally, lightly seasoned ground beef and tender noodles make this Big Mac pasta salad recipe savory and plenty hearty as well!

It’s easily one of the best pasta salad recipe ideas to come through my kitchen.

big mac sauce ingredients in bowl with whisk

Ingredient Notes and Substitutions

  • Noodles – I love the shape and texture of cavatappi, but feel free to use other varieties like penne or rotini when making pasta salad with ground beef.
  • Ground Beef – I like to prepare a large batch in the crockpot and portion it out for future recipes.

    You only need salt and pepper for this Big Mac pasta salad recipe, but you can add additional seasonings as needed for the other portions when reheating.
  • Veggies – We’ve got all the burger classics: romaine lettuce, tomatoes, red onion, and dill pickles.

    Iceberg is a good lettuce swap, as are sweet pickles, but red onion is the best choice when raw.

    I like to use halved grape tomatoes in pasta salad with meat so the bites are more balanced.

    You’ll also want to thinly slice the onion, shred the lettuce, and finely chop the pickles to get the best mix of textures.
  • Cheese – Cheddar or Colby Jack provides a mild flavor that’s similar to American, which is used on the restaurant burger.

    For something with a little more kick, try Pepper Jack instead!
  • Dressing – The dressing used in this hamburger pasta salad is simply our copycat version of the famous Big Mac sauce!
whisked Big Mac sauce for pasta salad

Tips and Tricks for Making Pasta Salad with Meat

  • Pay attention to how you cook the pasta.

Boil in salted water (about 1 ½ teaspoons per 4 quarts of water) according to package directions. The salt makes a big difference in flavor!

I typically cook the noodles to al dente since they will soften a bit as they absorb some of the dressing. Definitely go this route if you plan on having leftovers.

You’ll also want to rinse the noodles in cold water after draining. This stops the cooking process and prevents the noodles from sticking together.

  • Multitasking is your friend!

While every component of this Big Mac pasta salad can be prepped ahead of time, there’s plenty of time to get it all going at once.

Get the pot of water on the stove while you brown the ground beef, then work on the cheese and veggies while you boil the pasta.

Whisk together the dressing while you drain and cool the pasta, then combine everything in a large bowl and pop it in the fridge. Voila!

  • Customize the ingredients.

The amounts listed in this recipe for pasta salad with meat are balanced so the dish tastes just like the popular cheeseburger.

However, you can certainly make adjustments to any of the ingredients to suit your own flavor preferences.

Swap similar veggies based on what you have on hand, or toss in something new! Avocado, corn kernels, diced red or green bell peppers, and even sautéed mushrooms would be tasty.

overhead: Big Mac pasta salad ingredients in bowl

Prep Ahead

  • Cube cheese
  • Slice tomatoes and onion
  • Chop pickles
  • Shred lettuce

Serving Suggestions

Pasta salad with ground beef, veggies, and cheese covers all the major food groups, so you don’t really need much else!

That said, it’s a great option for potlucks and barbecues when you want something a little different than the same ol’ recipes.

Spoon a smaller amount on your plate with grilled chicken or smoked ribs and some colorful fresh fruit.

Don’t forget the drinks! Have a big pitcher of lemonade or iced tea ready… and maybe even a spiked version for adults!

bowl of hamburger pasta salad tossed with wooden spoons

Kitchen Tools You Will Need

overhead: adding dressing to big mac pasta salad

Storing Leftover Pasta Salad with Ground Beef

Big Mac pasta salad with keep for up to 3 days in the refrigerator when stored in an airtight container.

If you plan on having leftovers, you may want to make a little extra dressing and store it in a jar in the fridge. Use it to freshen up your bowl the next day as the noodles may become a bit dry.

For meal prep, store the lettuce separately — it will start to get soggy after the first day. Simply mix in a handful just before serving.

Hamburger Pasta Salad FAQ

Can I serve Big Mac pasta salad warm?

Yes, but understand that the flavors and textures will be slightly different if served right away.

It really does taste better when chilled. That extra time in the fridge also allows the flavors to meld and the pasta to soak up some of the dressing.

How much sauce will I need?

The dressing amounts in this Big Mac pasta salad recipe make just enough for the dish as written. It coats everything fully without too much excess.

If needed, the sauce can be made 2 to 3 days in advance and stored in a jar in the refrigerator. This will allow the ingredients to meld together for a bolder flavor.

Don’t worry if the color changes over time — it will naturally darken from the turmeric. Just give it a good stir before using.

Can I make pasta salad with meat ahead of time?

For guests, it would be best to make this the day of your event. You could certainly prep everything the night before, then combine with enough time to chill before they arrive.

pasta salad with ground beef on a fork

Enjoy!
With love, from our simple kitchen to yours.

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close up: creamy pasta salad with hamburger meat, cheese, and veggies

big mac pasta salad in glass bowl

Big Mac Pasta Salad

Donna Elick
Big Mac Pasta Salad combines the flavors of the fast food burger with tender noodles. Take creamy hamburger pasta salad to your next potluck!
5 stars from 4 reviews
Tried this recipe?Please comment and review!
Prep Time 30 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Course Salad
Cuisine American
Method Mixed
Servings 10

Ingredients
 

Salad

  • 16 ounces cavatappi pasta, cooked, drained, and rinsed in cool water
  • 1 1/2 cups cheddar or Colby-jack cheese, cubed
  • 1 1/2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cup red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 pound ground beef, browned
  • 1 1/2 cups romaine lettuce, shredded
  • 1 cup dill pickles, chopped

Big Mac Sauce

  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons French dressing
  • 1/4 cup sweet pickle relish, plus 2 tablespoons
  • 2 teaspoons classic yellow mustard
  • 1 tablespoon onion, finely minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons distilled white vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Instructions
 

  • In a large salad bowl, toss together cooled pasta, cubed cheese, tomatoes, red onion, ground beef, romaine, and pickle chunks.
  • In a small mixing bowl, whisk together all of the Big Mac Sauce ingredients. Pour dressing over the pasta salad ingredients and stir to coat evenly with the sauce.
  • Serve immediately or cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours before serving.

Nutrition

Serving: 1 | Calories: 513cal | Carbohydrates: 41g | Protein: 20g | Fat: 30g | Saturated Fat: 10g | Cholesterol: 65mg | Sodium: 499mg | Sugar: 6g | Fiber: 2g | Calcium: 172mg | Iron: 2mg

All nutritional information is based on third party calculations and is only an estimate. Each recipe’s nutritional value will vary depending on the ingredients used, measuring methods, and portion sizes.

Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
titled image (and shown): big mac pasta salad recipe

Originally published June 2021, updated and republished May 2024

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9 Comments

  1. Wondering if there's a sub for the French dressing? Nobody here eats it and it seems wasteful to buy a whole bottle only to use 2 tsp.

  2. 5 stars
    I was looking for a new salad to make using cavatappi pasta and while scrolling past the basically same kinds over and over, I came across this recipie 🙂 I made it not expecting a cold version of a big Mac to be all that great (although the pic. Of it looks good) but I was wrong. This is officially my favorite type for this kind of pasta now- and I make tons of diffrent kinds of cold salads for my salad bar where I work. I can’t wait for our customers to try it too. I did cheat a little bc I also make my own tartar sauce, so I used that in place of a few of the sauce ingredients, but it has most the same stuff called for in the recipie.i also added toasted sesame seeds, not that it needed it but just felt right. Thank you for sharing, will be making again and again.

    1. Hi Jessica,
      We are so happy to hear that you loved the pasta salad, it is a favorite here too!
      TSRI Team Member,
      Holli

  3. 5 stars
    Thanks for sharing this delicious recipe! I have made this several times with loads of compliments. I highly recommend doubling the dressing recipe: within 20-30 minutes, the pasta soaks up the dressing and leaves the pasta very dry. Another option if you want to serve this pasta for a weeknight side, cut the pasta amount in half and use the dressing recipe as-is above. Next time I make this, I am going to double the ground beef as well to make it more hearty. Thanks again!

    1. Hi Sarah!
      We’re SO happy you enjoy the pasta salad recipe. Thank you for your comments and especially for rating the recipe – that is very helpful for other TSRI readers.

      TSRI Team member,
      Becca

  4. 5 stars
    Just made this for work lunch this week. Sampled along the way. Very tasty! I doubled the dressing, using half now. Will add additional if it needs it.

  5. 5 stars
    This is unique and delicious! My family flipped over it! I did not double the sauce; thought it was the perfect amount. The only tweak I made was the 1/4 tsp of salt; I used seasoned salt. Reminded me of how old fashioned burgers were cooked. Also, right before serving, I added a little more chopped lettuce for the crunch.

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