Classic Macaroni Salad recipe

by | Jul 16, 2018 | All, Side Dishes, Sponsored

No one can resist a Classic Macaroni Salad recipe. This creamy comfort food is the perfect side dish for any backyard BBQ, picnic or potluck!

White bowl filled with creamy, Classic Macaroni Salad recipe on a white countertop with two wooden spoons. There are a lot of ways you can fancy up macaroni salad. Add arugula, toss in tuna, sprinkle it with smoked paprika…You get the idea. But sometimes you just crave the tried and true. And this creamy, Classic Macaroni Salad recipe tastes just how I remember it as a kid – straight up goodness with no fanciness necessary.

(Shout out to recipes from old church cookbooks. There are some real gems in there!)

What ingredients are in a Classic Macaroni Salad?

Now some may disagree with me, but in my opinion, you can’t have macaroni salad without cheese. Those tasty nuggets of cheddar cheese are non-negotiable. Of course, we used our favorite Kerrygold Aged Cheddar Cheese in this macaroni salad recipe for its rich flavor and creamy taste.

Another non-negotiable? Sweet green peas. Not only do they add a lovely pop of color, they are a fantastic pairing with the pasta and cheese. I used frozen green peas from the store. They defrost quickly and there is no shelling required.

The rest of the veggies in this salad are a result of what I had left in the refrigerator, so feel free to add or subtract your favorites. I like shredded carrots, crunchy bell pepper and celery bites and snappy red onion in my Classic Macaroni Salad, but swap in whatever tickles your tastebuds.

Grey bowl filled with creamy, Classic Macaroni Salad recipe. Surrounded by ingredients like chopped red onion, bell pepper, carrots and diced Kerrygold Aged Cheddar Cheese. The secret ingredient to the creamiest, tastiest Classic Macaroni Salad dressing

I tested a number of macaroni salad recipes before arriving at this version, and the dressing was never right for me. There was either too much mayonnaise, too much vinegar or too much mustard.

I swapped in sour cream for some of the mayonnaise, and that helped add some tang to the dressing. But then I hit upon the ingredient that changed it all for me: pickle relish! A nominal amount of pickle relish and pickle juice were game changers for me. It took an average macaroni salad from good to great in a hurry.

(I used sweet pickle relish because that’s what I usually keep on hand for tuna salad in our house so I can’t say for sure what the results would be if you used dill relish. If you try, please leave your thoughts in the comments below.)

What to serve with your Classic Macaroni Salad recipe

The beauty of this Classic Macaroni Salad recipe is it goes with nearly anything off the grill, making it an ideal side dish for any backyard BBQ.

However you serve this Classic Macaroni Salad recipe, rest assured this is crowd-pleasing comfort food at its best.

White bowl filled with Classic Macaroni Salad recipe. Looking for more macaroni salad inspiration? Check out some of these other tasty pasta salads!

Easy Orzo and Chickpea Salad – Garnish with Lemon®

Asian Pasta Salad – Foodie with Family

Bacon Ranch Pasta Salad – Garnish with Lemon®

Southwestern Black Bean Pasta Salad – She Wears Many Hats

Pesto Pasta Salad with Peas – Garnish with Lemon®

Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Kerrygold. We only share products with you that we personally use and love. Thanks for supporting the brands that make Garnish with Lemon possible. 
Yield: 10

Classic Macaroni Salad recipe

White bowl filled with creamy, Classic Macaroni Salad recipe on a white countertop with two wooden spoons.

This Classic Macaroni Salad is perfect for a group!

Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Additional Time 2 hours
Total Time 2 hours 40 minutes


  • 1 pound ditali pasta
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons prepared yellow mustard
  • 4 teaspoons pickle juice
  • 3 tablespoons sweet pickle relish
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 cup frozen peas, defrosted
  • 1/2 cup diced red onion
  • 1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup diced celery
  • 3/4 cup shredded carrots
  • 1 (7-ounce) block Kerrygold Aged Cheddar Cheese


Prepare pasta according to package directions. Immediately rinse with cold water and set aside to drain.

Combine mayonnaise, sour cream, mustard, pickle juice and relish in a small bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Add pasta, dressing and remaining ingredients to a large bowl and stir to combine. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 288Total Fat: 20gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 15gCholesterol: 19mgSodium: 320mgCarbohydrates: 22gFiber: 2gSugar: 5gProtein: 5g

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We're the creative juices behind Garnish with Lemon. In the past 8 years, millions of people have sipped & snacked on our recipes. Need easy, delicious party food and drinks for your next shindig? You’ve come to the right place.

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About Anna

Hi, I’m Anna, a former corporate communications nerd turned food fanatic. Turns out I like cooking for others A LOT more than explaining HR policies to them. C’mon over!


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