This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy.
Southern Macaroni Salad is a classic side dish that’s perfect for your next picnic. This cold side dish is filled with macaroni, bell peppers, onions, celery, and eggs, coated in a creamy and flavorful dressing.
What’s a picnic without a bowl of macaroni salad? You’re going to love my recipe for southern macaroni salad because it’s flavorful, filled with fresh ingredients, and easy to make for parties and picnics.
The side dishes at a picnic are the best part, am I right? Who doesn’t love a Classic Pasta Salad or Dill Potato Salad. Yes, these side dishes are all caloric and indulgent. But I say – everything in moderation!
My favorite part about this recipe is that it’s packed with fresh ingredients and flavor. For my recipe, I added red onion, celery, and red bell pepper. These vegetables add crunch and fresh flavor to an otherwise plain macaroni salad.
The kicker though? The dressing is made with freshly squeezed lemon juice. The lemon juice adds a brightness and fresh flavor to this macaroni salad that I have a hard time finding in other recipes (or store bought deli salads).
I used red bell pepper in my version, but you’re welcome to substitute with pimientos or another color of bell pepper if you have them available.
How to Make Southern Macaroni Salad
First, cook your macaroni according to package directions. Drain, rinse with cold water, and set aside to finish cooling to room temperature. During this time, you’ll also want to hard boil, cool, and shell your eggs.
It’s important to start with room temperature (not hot) macaroni, because hot macaroni will melt your mayonnaise and leave you with an oily dressing.
While your macaroni and eggs are cooking, this is a great time to chop up your vegetables: red onion, celery, and bell pepper. You can also gather your dressing ingredients: lemon, mayonnaise, mustard, salt, pepper, paprika, and garlic powder.
Also grab a few sprigs of fresh parsley to use as a garnish. A pop of green color on top of this macaroni salad will make it look finished and eye catching.
Next, we can go ahead and mix together our salad dressing. Add your mayonnaise, lemon juice, mustard, and spices to a small bowl and whisk until combined.
Next, add your macaroni, celery, eggs, bell pepper, and onions to a large bowl.
Top with your prepared dressing.
Stir to fully coat all of your ingredients with the dressing.
Pour your southern macaroni salad into a serving dish or bowl, sprinkle with some chopped parsley and a dash of extra paprika. If not serving immediately, cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Your macaroni salad can be made the same day, or the day prior to serving. I’d recommend an hour to chill in the refrigerator to allow the ingredients to cool and flavors to meld, but it can be served immediately.
Macaroni Salad Substitutions
The great part about macaroni salad is that it’s easy to substitute ingredients you don’t like or don’t have on hand. For example, I used red bell pepper in my recipe, but you’re welcome to use a green, yellow, or orange bell pepper if that’s what you have on hand.
If you’d like to add an extra southern touch, substitute the red bell pepper with pimientos instead. What else can you make with pimientos? Check out Southern Living’s recipe for Basic Pimiento Cheese. Another great side dish for a picnic – serve with crackers and celery sticks.
Don’t like eggs? Feel free to omit them completely. Or, save one of the three eggs and slice it to use as a decoration on top.
Want to add a bit of heat? Feel free to add jalapenos to your macaroni salad.
The great part about macaroni salad is that if you don’t like an ingredient, feel free to omit it from your dish. There is no baking involved, so adding or removing an ingredient will not adversely affect this recipe.
Did you make our macaroni salad for an event or party? Let us know how it went in the comments below!
Southern Macaroni Salad
- 8 ounces macaroni uncooked
- 3 hard boiled eggs peeled and diced
- 2 celery stalks diced
- 1/2 red bell pepper diced
- 1/2 medium red onion diced
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon paprika
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon fresh parsley chopped
- In a large pot, bring 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 small bowl, add mayonnaise, lemon juice, mustard, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and paprika. Whisk to combine.
- In a large bowl, add macaroni, onion, celery, bell pepper, and eggs. Add dressing and toss to evenly coat all ingredients.
- Pour macaroni salad into a serving dish and top with chopped parsley. Serve immediately, or cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
- Your macaroni salad can be made the same day, or the day prior to serving. I'd recommend at least an hour of chilling in the refrigerator to allow all of your ingredients to cool and flavors to meld, but it can be served immediately.
- Red bell pepper can be substituted with green, yellow, or orange bell pepper, or pimientos instead.
- Optionally, sprinkle extra paprika on top as a decoration.