Southern macaroni salad is a classic side dish that's perfect for your next picnic. This cold pasta salad is filled with macaroni, diced vegetables, and eggs coated in a creamy and flavorful dressing.
You're going to love this recipe for southern macaroni salad because it's flavorful, filled with fresh ingredients, and easy to make for parties and picnics.
Celery, bell pepper, and red onion add crunch and fresh flavor that's perfect for summer. Arguably the best part is the creamy dressing made with freshly squeezed lemon juice. The lemon juice adds a bright, fresh flavor that you'll love!
Ingredients and substitutions
- Macaroni - Can be substituted with any other medium sized pasta. Farfalle or shells are great alternatives.
- Mayonnaise - I recommend a creamy, tangy mayonnaise like Duke's brand for best flavor and texture.
- Vegetables - Celery, red onion, and bell pepper add flavor and crunch to the salad. I don't recommend omitting these ingredients entirely. Red bell pepper can be substituted with green, yellow, or orange bell pepper. If you'd like to add an extra southern touch, substitute the red bell pepper with pimientos instead. Red onion could be substituted with a sweet onion or Vidalia onion. For a little heat, add some diced jalapenos.
- Lemon - Lemon juice is added to the dressing for a bright, fresh flavor.
- Hard boiled eggs - If you don't prefer egg in your macaroni salad, they can be omitted without affecting the recipe. Optionally, add two diced eggs to the salad and reserve one for slicing and placing on top as a garnish.
- Dijon mustard - Adds flavor and a bit of tang to the dressing. Dijon mustard can be substituted with yellow mustard.
- Seasoning - Salt, pepper, garlic powder, and paprika add flavor to the dressing. I don't recommend omitting these ingredients.
- Parsley - Optional, adds brightness and visual appeal to the finished salad.
Tips and tricks
Salt your pasta water - This helps flavor your pasta as it boils, adding extra flavor to your macaroni salad.
Drain pasta well - Drain your macaroni and allow it to come to room temperature before combining your salad ingredients. Wet macaroni can make the dressing runny, and hot macaroni can melt the mayonnaise, making it oily.
Pat rinsed vegetables dry - After washing vegetables, pat them dry thoroughly before chopping. Wet vegetables can make the dressing runny.
Dress your pasta at room temperature - This gives your pasta a chance to soak up some of the dressing while it sets. Cold pasta doesn't soak up dressing as well as room temperature pasta.
Frequently asked questions
Macaroni salad will get runny if wet ingredients are added to the salad. This includes freshly boiled macaroni or freshly rinsed vegetables. Drain your macaroni for a few minutes before adding to the salad and pat vegetables dry before chopping.
Yes, mayonnaise can be substituted with miracle whip if desired.
Macaroni salad can sit out for 2 hours before requiring additional refrigeration. If the location is hot (90 degrees Fahrenheit or hotter) or in direct sunlight, I'd reduce that time to 1 hour. Any food that has been sitting out longer than this should be discarded.
Macaroni salad will keep for 3 to 5 days in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator.
Yes, macaroni salad is a great side dish to make a day ahead of an event. Store it in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator until just before serving.
Southern Macaroni Salad
- 8 ounces (226 g) uncooked macaroni
- 3 hard boiled eggs, peeled and diced
- 2 celery stalks, diced
- ½ red bell pepper, diced
- ½ medium red onion, diced
- 1 cup (226 g) mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon paprika
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon fresh parsley, chopped
- In a large pot, bring salted water to a boil. Cook macaroni according to package directions for al dente pasta. Drain, rinse with cold water, and allow to cool to room temperature.
- In a large bowl, add mayonnaise, lemon juice, mustard, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and paprika. Whisk to combine.
- To the dressing add macaroni, onion, celery, bell pepper, and eggs. Toss until evenly coated.
- Pour macaroni salad into a serving dish and top with chopped parsley. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
- Macaroni salad will keep for 3 to 5 days in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator and can be made up to a day ahead of an event.
- Optionally, reserve one hard boiled egg to slice and use as a garnish on top along with a sprinkling of paprika.
- Macaroni salad can sit out for up to 2 hours at room temperature (1 hour if temperatures are 90 degrees F and above) before requiring additional refrigeration.