How to describe this macaroni salad…. Well, it’s like crack.
Once you start, you just can’t stop.
The Best Macaroni Salad Recipe
In all honesty, I’m usually not a fan of macaroni salad. Most of the recipes I’ve tried over the years have been too sweet, too mayonnaise-y, too bland, or too dry and clumpy.
However, recently I was at a barbecue restaurant and decided to give the pasta salad a taste.
I was pleasantly surprised by the zesty flavor and silky texture. It still wasn’t life-changing for me, but it did inspire me to come home and make a version I could appreciate.
The Only Macaroni Salad
Today’s “The Best Macaroni Salad” might be better titled “The Only Macaroni Salad” because it is truly the only version I’ve ever tasted or made that I get excited about.
In fact, it’s hard not to eat it right out of the serving bowl.
Best Macaroni Salad Ingredients
So what’s the secret?
It’s the right blend of ingredients to create a salty, slightly-sweet bite, that is balanced in spice and tang.
Along with the traditional mayo-based dressing, I like to add:
- Roasted red peppers
- Sweet pickle relish
- Cooked bacon
- Hot sauce
- And KALE
Let me explain…
Kale In Macaroni Salad?!
A little hot sauce, scallions, garlic, and rich fatty bacon balance out the tendency for macaroni salad to be too sweet.
However, the roasted red peppers, pickle relish, and kale offer intense flavor and color that has stay-power, making this recipe a marvelous make-ahead and leftover.
Look at the kale. It’s a pop of color that doesn’t wilt down like most fresh herbs.
How To Make Macaroni Salad
- Cook the macaroni according to the package instructions. Then drain and rinse with cold water.
- Mix the mayonnaise, apple cider vinegar, sugar, hot sauce, garlic, salt, and pepper.
- Combine the pasta and dressing. Then add the chopped roasted red peppers, kale, bacon, pickle relish, and scallions.
- Toss well to coat. Then refrigerate until ready to serve.
Can I Make This Recipe Ahead Of Time?
Yes!!! This recipe can be made up to 4 days ahead.
Make sure to cover it well and refrigerate.
Can I Leave Out The Pickles?
If you can’t stand pickles, you can leave them out.
Then if you feel the salad needs a little acidity, add rice vinegar, 1 tablespoon at a time until it tastes right to you.
Try Our Macaroni Salad Recipe
The texture of this salad is creamy-smooth, with little pops of crunch mingled throughout.
My family is nuts over this recipe. It’s a side dish they ask for again and again.
I bet yours will too!
See The Video & Recipe Card Below For How To Make The Best Macaroni Salad Recipe.
Other Pasta Salad Recipes You Might Like:
- Sun Dried Tomato Chicken Pasta Salad
- Tuna Pasta Salad with Olives and Capers
- The Best Italian Pasta Salad Recipe
- Hawaiian Style Potato Macaroni Salad
- Cool Chicken Taco Pasta Salad
The Best Macaroni Salad Recipe
- 1 pound macaroni pasta
- 12 ounces roasted red pepper (1 jar) drained and chopped
- 3/4 cup kale (finely chopped)
- 1/2 cup cooked bacon, chopped
- 1/2 cup sweet pickle relish
- 1/2 cup scallions, chopped
- 1 1/2 cups mayonnaise (could be low fat)
- 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon hot sauce (I used Frank's RedHot)
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- salt and pepper
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the macaroni according to the package instructions, usually 7-10 minutes. Then drain and rinse with cold water.
In a medium bowl mix the mayonnaise, apple cider vinegar, sugar, hot sauce, garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper.
Pour the macaroni in a large bowl. Pour the dressing over the top. Then add the chopped roasted red peppers, kale, bacon, pickle relish, and scallions.
Toss well to coat. Then refrigerate until ready to serve. *Can be made up to 4 days ahead.