The Best Macaroni Salad

The Best Macaroni Salad

This classic macaroni salad recipe is guaranteed to be a hit at your next barbecue, potluck or picnic. It comes together quickly with easy-to-find ingredients. What sets this macaroni salad apart is its perfectly balanced dressing. With just the right amount of tang and creaminess, it lightly coats each elbow macaroni and vegetable without getting soggy or drowned.

The Secret’s in the Dressing

The dressing is truly what makes this salad stand out. A combination of mayonnaise, apple cider vinegar, sugar, mustard and pickle relish, it has the ideal amount of flavor, tang and creaminess. Using stone ground Dijon mustard gives the dressing extra zing. Fresh dill or parsley adds a pop of color and herby flavor. Toss the dressing with cooked macaroni, crisp vegetables and cheddar cheese cubes until everything is evenly coated. The salad only gets better after an hour in the fridge allowing the flavors to meld together. Just give it a stir before serving this bright, crunchy salad. It’s sure to be the most requested dish on any menu.

Can I prepare the macaroni salad ahead of time?

Yes, you absolutely can prepare this crowd-pleasing salad up to 1 day in advance. Simply cook the pasta until al dente, drain, rinse and cool as directed. Add in all the chopped vegetables and cheese and prepare the dressing as instructed. Pour the dressing over the top and toss everything together. Cover tightly and refrigerate until ready to serve. Right before serving, give it a good stir to evenly distribute the dressing and veggies again. Preparing it ahead helps the flavors develop as it chills.

What type of onion should be used?

Red onions are ideal for this recipe as they add a pop of color and are meant to be eaten raw. Their mild onion punch is perfect. Sweet onions like Vidalia are too overpowering. Yellow or white onions can work also but may lose that vibrant red onion color.

Can I use regular Dijon mustard instead of stone ground Dijon?

You can use regular Dijon in a pinch, but the stone ground variety does have more texture and flavor from the mustard seeds. The stone ground gives it a little more tangy zip. But smooth Dijon will still taste delicious if that’s all you have on hand.

How long will the macaroni salad last in the fridge?

This salad will keep well for 3-5 days properly stored in the refrigerator. Be sure to place it in an airtight container within 2 hours of serving to prevent bacterial growth. Give it a quick stir before serving to redistribute the flavors again.

Can I substitute the dill weed for something else?

Absolutely! If dill is not your favorite flavor, you can use chopped parsley instead or omit the herb completely. The fresh dill does provide a nice herby flavor, but parsley will also pair well with the other ingredients. Feel free to customize it to suit your tastes.


  • 1 pound elbow macaroni noodles
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sweet pickle relish
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard (stone ground recommended)
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup fresh chopped dill weed (or parsley)
  • 4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, diced into 1/4 inch cubes
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 4 ribs celery, diced
  • 1 cup frozen sweet peas, thawed
  • 1 small red bell pepper, diced

Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook the 1 pound of elbow macaroni according to package directions until al dente. Drain and rinse under cold water until cooled.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, apple cider vinegar, sweet pickle relish, Dijon mustard, sugar, salt and pepper. Stir in the fresh dill.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the cooked and cooled macaroni, cheddar cheese, onions, celery, peas and bell pepper.
  4. Pour the dressing over the macaroni mixture. Gently toss until evenly coated. Recipe by
  5. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving to allow flavors to develop.


  • Use stone ground Dijon for the best flavor. Regular Dijon or whole grain Dijon can be substituted.
  • Substitute parsley for the dill if desired.
  • Make sure the vegetables are diced into 1/4 inch pieces so there is a bite in every forkful.

This crowd-pleasing macaroni salad has the perfect balance of flavors and textures. The tangy dressing soaks into the elbow macaroni, binding it all together. Crunchy fresh veggies give a wonderful crunch and pop of color in every bite. It’s guaranteed to be a hit at your next picnic or potluck!

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