How to Make Macaroni Salad (Recipes Kids Should Know How to Make Before Leaving Home)
Macaroni salad is a great staple recipe to know how to make and will come in super handy, both for cooking at home and for sharing at potluck parties. Macaroni Salad is especially perfect for picnics and barbecues. Like potato salad and coleslaw, macaroni salad is traditionally served alongside foods like fried chicken, barbecue chicken, ribs and smoked meats like pulled pork, but of course you can eat it with whatever you like!
We think it’s one of those recipes kids should know how to make before leaving home.
So, what makes a macaroni salad?
This type of salad is made with cooked “elbow macaroni” and has a mayonnaise-based dressing, mixed with small-diced vegetables for extra color and flavor. Once you know the basics of how to make macaroni salad, you can get creative and try using different mix-ins and flavored dressings.
I learned this recipe is from my sister-in-law Cora, who is a great cook and makes a mean macaroni salad.
Classic Macaroni Salad Recipe
Makes one large salad for a crowd
- 1 pound boxed elbow macaroni
- 3/4 cup mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons vinegar (whatever kind you have on hand!)
- 5 teaspoons sugar
- A few splashes of pickle juice straight from the pickle jar – our family likes to use the sweet pickle juice, but the dill pickle juice is good, too
- Milk (any type, as needed)
- Salt and Pepper, to taste
- 3 sweet pickle slices, diced small
- 3 dill pickle slices, diced small
- 4 whole roasted red peppers, diced small
- 3/4 cup black olives, diced small
- Optional mix-ins, all diced small and in equal proportion: fresh bell pepper instead of roasted red pepper, celery, pimentos, green onion
- Optional: dry mustard (1-2 teaspoons) or dijon mustard (1-2 tablespoons) to add a tangy taste to the dressing
HOW TO MAKE CLASSIC MACARONI SALAD:
- Cook the elbow macaroni according to the package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water. Place macaroni in a large mixing bowl and set aside.
- In a medium mixing bowl, mix together mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar and pickle juice. If dressing seems too thick, add a splash of milk (about 1 teaspoon), stir, and add more if necessary. The consistency should be like a creamy salad dressing. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt, stir well, taste, then add more salt (1/4 teaspoon at a time) until it tastes good. Do the same thing with black pepper.
- Add the diced sweet pickles, roasted red peppers and black olives to the bowl of macaroni. Pour the dressing over the macaroni and mix-ins and stir well.
- Cover the bowl and refrigerate the macaroni salad for at least 2 hours before serving. Serve chilled, straight from the refrigerator.