Southern Macaroni Salad + Video

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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!

titled: southern macaroni salad

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 a Hawaiian mac salad, or indulge your cravings with this version that has the flavors of a McDonald’s Big Mac!

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!

Watch the video in this post to see us making our simple pasta salad recipe!

close up: chef\'s knife dicing white 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.
knife chopping hard boiled egg

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.
tuna fish with diced onions in glass 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!

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.

southern macaroni salad ingredients

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!

stirring creamy macaroni salad

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.

classic pasta salad -closeup

Enjoy!

With love, from our simple kitchen to yours. 

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simple macaroni salad recipe in floral serving bowl

Other Easy Pasta Salads

bowl of southern macaroni salad

Southern Macaroni Salad + Video

Donna Elick
Southern macaroni salad is deliciously creamy, with perfect crunch and tangy flavor. Make this recipe for a simply delicious BBQ side dish!
Tried this recipe?Please comment and review!
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Total Time 30 mins
Course Side Dish
Cuisine American
Method Stovetop
Servings 16

Ingredients
 

  • 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

Optional:

  • 6 ounces water-packed tuna fish, drained
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika, for garnish

Instructions
 

  • 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.

Video

Donna’s Notes

  1. There are large amounts of mayo and Miracle Whip in this macaroni salad; you may want to reduce them.
  2. If omitting tuna, subtract 18 calories per serving from nutritional info shown.

Nutrition

Serving: 1 | Calories: 618cal | Carbohydrates: 48g | Protein: 11g | Fat: 42g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Cholesterol: 63mg | Sodium: 888mg | Sugar: 5g | Fiber: 3g | Calcium: 29mg | Iron: 1mg

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 pinterest collage: southern macaroni salad

Originally published June 2014, last updated and republished April 2022

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Disclosure: Posts may contain affiliate links. If you purchase a product through an affiliate link your price will remain the same and The Slow Roasted Italian will automatically receive a small commission. Thank you for supporting us, it helps us keep creating new recipes.

37 Comments

  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. 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 🙂

  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. 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

  10. 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

  11. 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!

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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

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