A Spicy Perspective

The Best Macaroni Salad Recipe

The Best Macaroni Salad Recipe: Classic southern macaroni salad with surprise ingredients to give it that perky, super-addictive flavor we all know and love.

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The Best Macaroni Salad Recipe

How to describe this macaroni salad…. Well, it’s like crack.

Once you start, you just can’t stop.

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.

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The One and Only Macaroni Salad Recipe

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.

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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 – Slightly acidic, with a smoky-sweet taste.
  • Sweet Pickle Relish – If you hate pickled anything, you can leave this out.
  • Scallions – The perfect amount of oniony taste.
  • Cooked Bacon – Salty bacony goodness goes well with anything.
  • Garlic – Who doesn’t love garlic? It enhances any dish.
  • Hot Sauce – Choose your favorite kind!
  • KALE – Let me explain…

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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.

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How To Make Macaroni Salad

  1. Cook the macaroni according to the package instructions. Then drain and rinse with cold water.
  2. Mix the mayonnaise, apple cider vinegar, sugar, hot sauce, garlic, salt, and pepper.
  3. Combine the pasta and dressing. Then add the chopped roasted red peppers, kale, bacon, pickle relish, and scallions.
  4. Toss well to coat. Then refrigerate until ready to serve.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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See The VIDEO & Recipe Card Below For How To Make The Best Macaroni Salad Recipe. 

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The Best Macaroni Salad Recipe

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Classic southern macaroni salad with surprise ingredients to give it that perky, super-addictive flavor we all know and love.
Servings: 12 servings

Ingredients

Instructions

  • 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.

Video

Nutrition

Calories: 362kcal, Carbohydrates: 34g, Protein: 5g, Fat: 22g, Saturated Fat: 3g, Cholesterol: 12mg, Sodium: 689mg, Potassium: 163mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 5g, Vitamin A: 750IU, Vitamin C: 20mg, Calcium: 31mg, Iron: 1mg
Course: Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Author: Sommer Collier

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35 comments on “The Best Macaroni Salad Recipe”

  1. I made this and was hit can I ask what is better to use far as mayo hellmans mayo or miracle whip??

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  3. This is a good recipe. I’m not a fan of the kale, but did use it. I’d prefer grated broccoli. I feared the 1 1/2c of mayo would be too wet. It isn’t. I mixed the relish into the dressing, rather than mixing with the fresh toppings and bacon. Fresh chopped red pepper and a tsp of lemon juice could give this recipe a little more needed acid. But these are my preferences. It’s a good recipe as written.

  4. This recipe is a potluck favorite! So, so yummy!

  5. What a perfect summer potluck dish! Definitely going to be adding this to the rotation!

  6. Macaroni salads are my favorite!! They are the perfect side to any dish & always a hit!

  7. I love your use of relish in this recipe; it looks delicious! Will make a perfect side at a party!

  8. Perfect for summer bbqs! So easy and always a crowd pleaser!

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  10. Going to be making this all spring and summer long!

  11. Exactly what I needed with all the picnic and summer gatherings coming up. Thanks for sharing Sommer.

  12. This was a winner! My husband didn’t even notice the kale….win-win!!

  13. This has to be the best pasta salad ever!!! YUM

  14. Hi! Could I substitute the mayo with olive oil? Or would that be disastrous?

  15. This macaroni salad looks so delicious, I will cook this for my girl tonight. Thank you for sharing this nice recipe.

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  17. This salad was delish!! I would have used kale if my hubby didn’t see the recipe, haha but added celery for an added crunch! Used a little more Franks too because we love that on a lot of things! Def a keeper!

  18. looks so yummy, and I just love kale.. cant wait to try this recipe out..

  19. Really dislike pickle anything. Can I leave it out or would I need to substitute it?

    • Hi Maria! You can leave it out. Then if you feel the macaroni salad needs a little acidity, add rice vinegar, 1 tablespoon at a time, until it taste right to you. :)

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  21. Sounds delicious, however, can I substitute Spinach instead of Kale?
    My husband hates Kale.

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  23. omg…made this tonight and it was unbelievable! Never thought I would say that about pasta salad. Very different and silky and full of flavor with the kale and bacon and peppers. So so good! Made it with grilled chicken and a side of your zesty onion rings and this was a dinner to remember! Thanks!

  24. A perfect pasta salad for summer meals!

  25. Sounds like the perfectly balanced macaroni salad!

  26. LOVE macaroni salad in the summer!  So good!

  27. Best Macaroni Salad. Ingredient: Franks Redhot sauce – what can I use in the UK??

  28. I like to use Japanese mayo with regular dill pickles because I dislike sweet pickle relish. Other than that, I do it very similar, just no bacon.