Creamy macaroni salad perfect summer meal

If you’re looking for a simple and delicious dish to add to your summer menu, creamy macaroni salad is the perfect choice. This easy cold pasta salad is not only refreshing, but it’s also packed with flavor and can be customized to your liking.

This easy simple macaroni salad recipe is the perfect combination of creamy, tangy, and refreshing flavors that will leave your taste buds wanting more.

This easy creamy macaroni salad is the perfect combination of creamy, tangy, and refreshing flavors that will leave your taste buds wanting more. There’s something about this simple macaroni salad recipe that just screams summertime. Whether it’s serving it as a side dish at a backyard barbecue or bringing it along on a picnic in the park, this versatile dish never fails to impress.

Plus, it’s super quick (20 minutes prep time) and easy to make and can be customized with your favorite ingredients. You can add a variety of ingredients such as diced vegetables, shredded cheddar cheese, or even some protein like chicken or tuna. The creamy dressing binds everything together and adds a rich, tangy taste that complements the pasta perfectly. Whether you’re hosting a barbecue or just need a quick side dish for a family dinner, creamy elbow pasta salad is sure to be a hit with everyone.

How to make creamy macaroni salad

There's something about this Simple pasta salad recipe with mayo that just screams summertime.

Ingredients you’ll need

To make this easy macaroni salad recipe, you’ll need the following ingredients:

  • Elbow pasta: Cooked according to package instructions until al dente.
  • Diced bell peppers (red bell pepper, yellow, and orange): Adds a pop of color and crunch to the salad.
  • Green peas: Use frozen peas for convenience.
  • Celery stalks, thinly sliced: Adds additional texture and flavor.
  • Medium red onion, diced: For a bit of sharpness and bite.
  • Hard-boiled eggs, roughly chopped (about 9-10 minutes): Creamy macaroni salad wouldn’t be complete without some hard-boiled eggs.
  • Fresh parsley for garnish

Macaroni salad dressing

Mix these ingredients in a bowl or mason jar to make the perfect creamy, tangy dressing:

  • Mayonnaise: Use your preferred brand or make your own.
  • Plain Greek yogurt or sour cream: Adds a touch of tanginess and creaminess.
  • Dijon mustard (or honey dijon for a milder flavor)
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Honey: Balances out the tanginess from the vinegar and mustard.
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Sweet pickle relish: Adds a hint of sweetness to balance out the flavors.

Feel free to adjust the ingredients in this simple pasta salad recipe with mayo to suit your personal taste. You can also substitute some of these ingredients with alternatives, such as using ranch dressing instead of mayonnaise or adding in diced pickles or carrots for extra crunch.


To make this creamy macaroni salad, you’ll need the following equipment:

  • Large mixing bowl: For combining all the ingredients and dressing.
  • Pot for cooking pasta: Make sure it’s large enough to hold 1 pound of elbow pasta.
  • Mason jar (optional): If you prefer to mix your dressing in a jar for easy pouring and storing.

Instructions to make cold elbow macaroni salad

Now that we have all our ingredients and equipment ready, let’s get started with making this delicious dish. Follow these simple steps:

  1. Add the pasta to cold water, bring to a boil, and cook according to package instructions until al dente. Drain and let cool.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, prepare all your ingredients (bell peppers, green peas, celery, red onion, and hard-boiled eggs).
  3. In a separate bowl or mason jar, mix together the dressing ingredients.
  4. Pour the dressing over the prepared ingredients in the mixing bowl and toss until everything is evenly coated.
  5. Serve right away or let it sit for a few hours to allow the flavors to meld together even more. Add extra dressing if needed before serving.

Tips for the perfect cold pasta salad

  • To avoid having dry pasta salad after it sits for a while, make some extra dressing to add on top later when ready to serve.
  • For an extra burst of freshness, use fresh herbs like dill or chives as a garnish.
  • To make this dish vegetarian, simply omit the hard-boiled eggs or substitute with tofu or tempeh for added protein.

Whether you're hosting a barbecue or just need a quick side dish for a family dinner, cold elbow macaroni salad is sure to be a hit with everyone.

Recipe variations

Want to switch things up and try different flavors? Here are some tasty recipe variations to try:

  • Mediterranean macaroni salad: Add in diced tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, feta cheese, a bit of garlic powder, and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar or lemon juice for a refreshing twist on this classic pasta salad.
  • BBQ chicken macaroni salad: Toss in some diced grilled chicken and your favorite BBQ sauce for a hearty and flavorful meal.
  • For a healthier option, use whole wheat pasta instead of elbow pasta.
  • Add cooked chicken or tuna for extra protein.
  • Add in diced pickles or olives for additional flavor and texture.

What to serve with creamy macaroni salad

This dish pairs well with a variety of summer foods such as grilled meats (chicken, burgers, hot dogs), sandwiches, and fresh fruit. Here are some ideas:

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Can I make this salad ahead of time?

Yes! In fact, it’s recommended to let the flavors meld together for a few hours before serving. Just keep it refrigerated until ready to serve.

  1. Can I use different types of pasta?

Absolutely! While elbow pasta is traditional, you can use any small pasta shape you prefer, such as rotini, farfalle, or shells. Just be sure to adjust the cooking time accordingly.

  1. Is there a way to make this salad dairy-free?

Yes, you can make this dairy-free by using a dairy-free yogurt or sour cream alternative and ensuring your mayonnaise is also dairy-free.

Storing the macaroni salad

If you’re planning to make the salad ahead of time or have leftovers, it’s important to store it properly to maintain its taste and quality. Here are some tips for storing and reheating creamy macaroni salad:

  • Storing: Keep the salad in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Add extra dressing before serving to keep it from drying out.
  • Freezing:  This dish is not recommended for freezing, as the texture of the pasta and vegetables may change once thawed.
  • Reheating: Creamy macaroni salad is best served cold. If you prefer it slightly warm, you can allow it to come to room temperature before serving, but avoid heating it in the microwave as this can affect the dressing and overall texture.

More salad recipes you’ll enjoy

Looking for more delicious recipes to complement your summer meals? Check out these options:

Serving size

This recipe makes about 6 servings, making it ideal for family gatherings, potlucks, or meal prep for the week. If you need to scale the recipe up or down, simply adjust the ingredient quantities accordingly with the help of the recipe card below. For example, doubling the recipe will yield enough salad for a larger party, while halving the recipe is perfect for a smaller family.

With the perfect balance of tanginess, sweetness, and creaminess, this creamy macaroni salad is sure to become a staple at your family gatherings and barbecues. So go ahead, whip up a batch and watch it disappear in no time! Let me know how it turns out for you! Happy cooking!

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This easy simple macaroni salad recipe is the perfect combination of creamy, tangy, and refreshing flavors that will leave your taste buds wanting more.
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Creamy macaroni salad

Enjoy this simple and delicious creamy macaroni salad, perfect for your summer menu. Refreshing, flavorful, and easily customizable!
Prep Time20 minutes
Cook Time0 minutes
Total Time20 minutes
Course: Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Keyword: cold elbow macaroni salad, creamy macaroni salad, simple macaroni salad recipe, simple pasta salad recipe with mayo
Servings: 6 people
Calories: 495kcal
Author: Petro Neagu


  • 1 pound elbow pasta
  • 1 cup bell peppers diced, yellow red and orange
  • ½ cup green peas I used frozen
  • 2-3 stalks celery sliced thin
  • ½ medium red onion diced
  • 3 hard boiled eggs about 9-10 minutes
  • Fresh parsley for garnish
  • Dressing
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • 4 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt or sour cream, or creme fraiche
  • 2 teaspoon dijon mustard for softer flavor go for honey dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoon sweet pickle relish



  • Cook pasta according to package instructions (al dente). Let cool.
  • Mix all the dressing ingredients in a bowl or mason jar.
  • Prepare all your ingredients in a large mixing bowl, top with dressing and serve right away.
  • Pasta will soak up more dressing as the salad sits, I recommend making some extra dressing to top the salad with later.


Serving: 1g | Calories: 495kcal | Carbohydrates: 67g | Protein: 15g | Fat: 18g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 9g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Trans Fat: 0.03g | Cholesterol: 102mg | Sodium: 240mg | Potassium: 326mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 10g | Vitamin A: 1111IU | Vitamin C: 37mg | Calcium: 50mg | Iron: 2mg
Tried this recipe?Mention @easy_peasy_creative_ideas or tag #easy_peasy_creative_ideas!

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about petro


Hi, I’m Petro, author and founder of Easy Peasy Creative Ideas. Sewist, crafter, avid DIY-er, foodie, photographer, homemaker and mommy to one. I’m an expert at coming up with quick, clever sewing tips, recycling crafts and simple, easy recipes! You can find my ideas featured in reputable publications such as Country Living, Good House Keeping, Yahoo News, WikiHow, Shutterfly, Parade, Brit & Co and more. Thanks for stopping by and hope you’ll stay for a while, get to know me better and come back another time. Stick around for real fun projects! Read more…

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