The Best Macaroni Salad: A Classic Side Dish

This recipe for The Best Macaroni Salad is a delightful take on a classic side dish. Combining the tender bite of elbow macaroni with the creamy richness of mayonnaise and the crunch of fresh vegetables, it’s a balanced and flavorful salad perfect for any occasion. Adding sweet relish, dry ground mustard, and a dash of paprika gives this salad a unique flavor profile that sets it apart from your standard macaroni salad. I made this for a family picnic, and it was a standout dish – easy to make, yet packed with taste. It’s a versatile recipe that pairs well with grilled meats, sandwiches, or can be enjoyed on its own.


  • 2 cups elbow macaroni, uncooked
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped celery
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped carrot
  • 1 hard-boiled egg, chopped
  • 1/4 cup finely minced onion (dehydrated onion can be used)
  • 2 tablespoons sweet relish
  • 3/4 teaspoon dry ground mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 dash paprika
  • 3 quarts water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt (for boiling macaroni)


  1. Boiling Macaroni: In a large pot, bring 3 quarts of water to a rolling boil. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt. Gradually add the elbow macaroni and return to a boil. Boil uncovered for 6-8 minutes.
  2. Drain and Rinse: Drain the macaroni well, rinse with cold water, and drain again to cool it down quickly.
  3. Mixing Ingredients: In a medium bowl, combine mayonnaise, chopped celery, carrot, hard-boiled egg, minced onion, sweet relish, dry ground mustard, salt, black pepper, and a dash of paprika.
  4. Combining with Macaroni: Place the cooked macaroni in a large bowl and toss well with the prepared mixture.
  5. Chilling: Cover the salad and refrigerate. This allows the flavors to meld together beautifully.

Nutrition Facts

Servings: Approximately 6 servings

Calories per Serving: Approximately 350-400 calories (Varies based on the type of mayonnaise used and serving sizes)

Preparation Time

Total Time: About 20 minutes (10 minutes for preparation and 10 minutes for cooking)

Additional Tips

  1. Mayonnaise Alternatives: For a lighter version, use Greek yogurt or a mix of yogurt and mayonnaise.
  2. Vegetable Variations: Feel free to add other vegetables like green peas, bell peppers, or diced cucumber.
  3. Flavor Enhancements: For extra tang, add a splash of vinegar or lemon juice to the salad.
  4. Serving Suggestion: Serve as a side with BBQ, grilled chicken, or sandwiches.
  5. Storage: Store the salad in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

FAQ Section

  1. Q: Can I use whole wheat macaroni?
    A: Yes, whole wheat macaroni can be a healthier alternative.
  2. Q: Can I make this salad vegan?
    A: Use vegan mayonnaise and omit the hard-boiled egg.
  3. Q: Can I add protein to this salad?
    A: Yes, diced ham, chicken, or tuna make great additions.
  4. Q: How can I make this gluten-free?
    A: Use gluten-free macaroni.
  5. Q: Can I prepare this salad a day ahead?
    A: Yes, it actually tastes better when the flavors have time to blend.
  6. Q: Is it necessary to rinse the macaroni in cold water?
    A: Yes, it stops the cooking process and keeps the macaroni from getting mushy.
  7. Q: Can I use a different type of pasta?
    A: Yes, pasta like fusilli or penne can be used, but elbow macaroni is traditional.
  8. Q: How do I store leftovers?
    A: Keep in an airtight container in the fridge.
  9. Q: Can I add more spices?
    A: Certainly! Adjust the seasoning to your taste.