Southern Macaroni Salad is a staple down south, and this classic recipe is the best you'll find for your next picnic or cookout! It's made with elbow macaroni, fresh veggies, mayonnaise, seasonings, and a pinch of sugar for good measure.
Why You'll Love This Salad
There are three cold salads we can't live without in the south which include Red Skin Potato Salad, Creamy Coleslaw, and Macaroni Salad. You'll see all three of these show up at every summer picnic or potluck in town, sometimes alone, but usually together!
Southerners love macaroni in every form, and this old fashioned recipe is a tried and true favorite. Creamy pasta mixed with cheese, veggies and seasonings creates a tangy and crunchy delight.
Southern Macaroni Salad is the perfect side dish for barbecue, hamburgers or hotdogs. You can also serve it by itself, or with other sides as a cold salad plate. The homemade taste is hard to beat!
With just a few easy ingredients, you'll be enjoying a traditional southern side that's delicious when served as a cold pasta salad.
- elbow macaroni - the classic pasta for this recipe
- mayonnaise - Duke's mayonnaise (ad) is the favorite choice
- vinegar - apple cider vinegar provides boldness
- sugar - balances the acid in the vinegar
- celery - adds a hearty crunch
- green onions - flavor enhancer
- cheese - use sharp cheddar for best results
- cucumbers - cools things down
- tomatoes - adds color and flavor
Seasonings: garlic salt, onion powder, ground mustard, celery seed, dried parsley, salt and pepper
Bring salted water to a boil in a large pot. Add macaroni and cook 10 minutes. Drain and cool down by rinsing with cold water.
While the pasta cooks, chop the veggies. In a separate bowl, mix celery, cheese, tomatoes, onion, mayonnaise, vinegar and sugar together. Add seasonings and mix well.
Place macaroni in a large serving dish and mix with dressing. Refrigerate at least 2 hours. When ready to serve, add a tablespoon of mayonnaise to the salad to loosen it up and coat the macaroni. Add salt and pepper to taste.
The sugar balances out the acid from the vinegar. If you like it without sugar, it's fine to leave it out, but be sure to taste it first.
Other veggies are fun to add, but this recipe is a classic just like it is. If you want to mix things up a bit, try adding fresh asparagus, spinach, green peas, peppers, squash, or zucchini. If desired, stir in protein like grilled shrimp, chicken or ham.
Any type of pasta works well with this recipe, but elbow macaroni is the traditional favorite. Other shapes of pasta you could try are bowtie, rotini, or cavatappi.
- Make sure not to boil the pasta past 10 minutes. It will absorb moisture from the dressing, so cooking too long will make it mushy.
- Adding extra mayonnaise just before serving will loosen up and coat the macaroni that has absorbed most of the dressing. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Refrigerating the salad for at least 2 hours before serving allows the flavors to blend together, and it tastes better when cold.
- Since this salad has mayonnaise in it, be sure to keep it cold at all times. It should never be left out in the sun on a picnic without proper chilling.
- Leftovers can be refrigerated for up to 3 days in an airtight container.
What to Serve With Macaroni Salad
There are unlimited dishes to serve with macaroni salad, but here are a few favorite match ups!
- Southern Pulled Pork BBQ
- Crunchy Parmesan Chicken
- Easy Chili Dogs
- Grilled Pork Tenderloin
- The Carolina Burger
- Corned Beef Reuben
- Fall Off The Bone BBQ Ribs
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