Creamy Macaroni Salad

Total Time

Prep: 20 min. + chilling Cook: 15 min.


16 servings

Updated: Sep. 28, 2023
When we grill, my mother asks me to make this creamy macaroni salad. To make it extra creamy, I like to keep a small amount of dressing separate and stir it in just before serving. —Carly Curtin, Ellicott City, Maryland


  • 1 package (16 ounces) elbow macaroni
  • 1 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons water or 2% milk
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 small sweet yellow, orange or red pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 small green pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 celery rib, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley


  1. Cook macaroni according to package directions. Drain; rinse with cold water and drain again.
  2. In a small bowl, mix mayonnaise, water, vinegar, sugar and seasonings until blended. In a large bowl, combine macaroni, peppers, onion and celery. Add 1 cup dressing; toss gently to coat. Refrigerate, covered, until chilled, about 2 hours. Cover and refrigerate remaining dressing to add just before serving.
  3. To serve, stir in reserved dressing. Sprinkle with parsley.
Creamy Macaroni Salad Tips

Can you use other kinds of pasta to make creamy macaroni salad?

You can make this dish with any short pasta you have on hand. Feel free to have fun with pasta shapes or use this recipe as an excuse to clean out your pantry!

How can you make sure your creamy macaroni salad stays creamy?

Cooking the macaroni just until al dente will ensure that the noodles keep their shape and texture without becoming mushy. Rinsing the noodles in cold water after cooking and draining again also helps by stopping the cooking process and rinsing away a bit of the starch, too. Following these steps will help creamy macaroni salad stay creamy without the noodles absorbing too much of the dressing. The reserved dressing stirred in just before serving will result in a velvety salad. Learn more about how to cook pasta for every recipe, including cold pasta salads.

How can you make creamy macaroni salad your own?

Adding a variety of chopped fresh vegetables, a handful of fresh spinach and some fresh herbs puts a personal stamp on this delicious salad. Looking to kick it up a notch? Add a tablespoon of sriracha to the mayonnaise, or rather a 1/2 teaspoon chili powder and a pinch of cayenne. Top it off with a finely chopped, seeded fresh jalapeno pepper. Whatever your preferences are, this creamy macaroni salad is sure to be a hit.

What can you serve with creamy macaroni salad?

This classic dish is the perfect addition to any barbecue or picnic! Try serving it with fried chicken or baby back ribs and washing it down with some sweet citrus iced tea.

How long will creamy macaroni salad last?

A little time in the fridge before serving will give the flavors of this creamy macaroni salad time to develop. Feel free to mix it up 8 to 12 hours ahead of time. If you’re lucky enough to have leftovers, store in a tightly covered container in the fridge for 3 to 5 days. Just be sure to note how long it has been sitting out unrefrigerated—1 to 2 hours is the maximum time that mayonnaise-based salads can be kept outside the fridge.

Catherine Ward, Taste of Home Prep Kitchen Manager and Ellie Crowley, Taste of Home Culinary Assistant

Nutrition Facts

3/4 cup: 160 calories, 6g fat (1g saturated fat), 5mg cholesterol, 320mg sodium, 24g carbohydrate (3g sugars, 1g fiber), 4g protein. Diabetic Exchanges: 1-1/2 starch, 1 fat.