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!
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.
Not a fan of creamy dressings? We have plenty of other pasta salad recipes made with vinaigrette or a light homemade dressing.
RECIPE VIDEO – Watch Us Make It!
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.
Kitchen Tools You’ll Need:
- Large pot and strainer for the noodles
- Quality knives and a big solid cutting board make prepping a breeze and are well worth the investment.
- Large serving bowl – This one is my go-to! It holds enough for large gatherings, and the clear glass allows your creations to shine.
Southern Macaroni Salad FAQ
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
With love, from our simple kitchen to yours.
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Southern Macaroni Salad + Video
- 2 pounds dried elbow macaroni
- 3 large hard boiled eggs
- 3 stalks celery, diced
- ½ medium onion, peeled and diced
- 3 3/4 cups mayonnaise, (a 30-ounce jar Hellman’s) divided (SEE NOTES)
- 1 3/4 cups Miracle Whip, (1/2 of a 30-ounce jar) divided (SEE NOTES)
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper
- 6 ounces water-packed tuna fish, drained
- 1/4 teaspoon paprika, for garnish
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta to al dente according to directions on the package. Pour into a strainer to drain water and set aside (in strainer).
- Meanwhile, dice onion and celery and chop hard-boiled eggs. Add ½ of mayonnaise and ½ of Miracle Whip to the pasta pot. Add tuna (if using), plus onion, celery, and chopped eggs. Stir to combine.
- Add drained pasta and stir until well combined. Add remaining mayonnaise, Miracle Whip, salt and pepper and stir to combine. Taste for flavor and add more seasoning if needed.
- Sprinkle with paprika (if desired). Chill until ready to serve.
- There are large amounts of mayo and Miracle Whip in this macaroni salad; you may want to reduce them.
- If omitting tuna, subtract 18 calories per serving from nutritional info shown.
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.
Originally published June 2014, last updated and republished April 2022
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