Creamy Classic Macaroni Salad

Creamy Macaroni Salad is a combination of pasta with veggies, herbs and aromatics in a simple creamy and delicious dressing. This easy versatile recipe has been a favorite of our pasta salads for years, a staple recipe and a crowd pleaser. No BBQ, pool party, potluck, cookout or picnic is complete without a giant bowl of this macaroni salad – and this creamy slightly tangy loaded one is oh sooooooo good! What’s not to love about tender pasta fully loaded with green onions, celery, bell peppers, grated carrot, red onion in a macaroni salad dressing combination of Greek Yogurt, mayo, fresh herbs, green onions, pickles, and mustard which create a fabulous ranch flavor / dill pickle (or sweet pickle if you wish) flavour which creates a a creamy texture and an irresistible pasta salad. My go-to recipe for classic, zesty, creamy macaroni salad - a great side dish or main dish perfect for make ahead lunches too. You will love every bite!

Creamy Classic Macaroni Salad in a black bowl

Macaroni Salad Recipe Ingredients

  • MACARONI: Of course, you’ll need macaroni noodles! But you could also use fussili, rotini or Cavatappi pasta is what I like to use or any short pasta for this macaroni salad
  • RED & GREEN ONIONS: Add nice flavor to the salad and goes so well with the dressing. Feel free to use shallots or white onion instead of the shallots and chives for the green onions
  • MAYONNAISE: Mayonnaise provides the creamy base of the dressing and binds all of the ingredients together, helps prevent them from separating. Feel free to use regular mayo which is savory and rich or Miracle Whip which is sweeter - feel free to use whichever one you prefer but I always go for the classic savoury creamy mayo in mine. Please adjust amounts to taste
  • GREEK YOGURT: It adds a fabulous tanginess to the dressing. It’s a wonderful addition but if you prefer sour cream to yogurt you could definitely use that as a substitute.
  • MUSTARD: I like to use dijon mustard but you can use whole grainy mustard or regular yellow mustard or a combination of them - feel free to use any type of mustard you like
  • PICKLE JUICE & VINEGAR: I love to use pickle juice and vinegar (usually white vinegar, red wine vinegar, or apple cider vinegar) as I’m also adding chopped pickles but instead of vinegar feel free to use freshly squeezed Lemon juice
  • CELERY, BELL PEPPER, GRATED CARROTS & PICKLES: The pickles add some briny goodness or sweetness if you are using sweet pickles and celery, grated carrots and red bell pepper adds some crunch - all are optional. You can also use sweet pickle relish too.
  • SPICES & SEASONING: I used salt and black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and pinch of paprika - more seasoning options below
  • FRESH HERBS: I used parsley and dill for this recipe. However, you can add other herbs or herbs of your choice like cilantro, basil, mint or thyme or tarragon as well.

Creamy Classic Macaroni Salad Ingredients

Make Your Macaroni Pasta Salad Even Creamier

Love a super creamy pasta salad? The amount of mayo used in this recipe is about ½ the amount of a traditional super creamy pasta salad. So you could say this is a lighter pasta salad - but feel free to make it even creamier. You can add one of two things to this pasta salad to get an even creamier texture: add ¼ cup extra Greek yogurt or sour cream. Only use Greek yogurt if you’re not planning to save leftovers; the texture can become gummy in the refrigerator. Instead use sour cream as the best option or if you don’t really care about calories and want to add more mayo that is totally fine too.

Creamy Classic Macaroni Salad Directions

How Do You Make Macaroni Salad?

Here’s a brief overview of what you can expect when you make homemade macaroni salad:

  1. COOK PASTA: Cook pasta according to package directions - drain, rinse with cold water
  2. PREP THE SAUCE/DRESSING: In a large bowl whisk together the dressing ingredients (mayonnaise, yogurt, mustard, pickle brine, vinegar, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, salt, and black pepper)
  3. TOSS EVERYTHING TOGETHER: Add the pasta, bell pepper, onion, celery, herbs, carrot, and pickles. Mix well, until everything is evenly coated in dressing.
  4. SEASON: Taste and season with salt and pepper, to taste and check for creaminess adding more mayo or sour cream as needed
  5. CHILL: Serve right away if you wish but for best results chill for 30 minutes before serving. Garnish with extra green onions or chopped fresh herbs

Creamy Classic Macaroni Salad

What Can You Add to Macaroni salad?

There are so many flavor possibilities and combinations for this pasta salad. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Hot Sauce
  • Red Pepper Flakes
  • Cubed or shredded cheddar cheese
  • Peas
  • Corn
  • Tuna
  • Hard-Boiled eggs
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Beans - white beans for extra protein
  • Chopped cooked chicken
  • Cucumber
  • Other add-ins: mix and match from, Kalamata or black olives, avocados, chopped pepperoncini, artichokes, radishes, sundried tomatoes, etc.
  • Use different seasonings: you can season the macaroni salad with virtually any spice blend such as Italian seasonings, Cajun seasoning, Old Bay seasoning, Everything Bagel seasoning etc.
  • Make it vegan: Just swap in your favorite vegan mayo and yogurt to make this a vegan macarini salad recipe.
  • Sugar: many macaroni salad recipes call for adding 1-2 teaspoons of sugar to the dressing. I usually do not add this as I don’t like a sweet macaroni salad - if I’m using sweet pickles and sweet pickle juice that is enough sweetness for me but feel free to add a little sugar if you prefer some extra sweetness to the pasta salad - or if you are using dill pickle and dill pickle juice and want a hint of sweetness.

Creamy Classic Macaroni Salad

Macaroni Salad Storage & Make Ahead

  • How long Can Creamy Pasta Salad Last outdoors or out of the fridge? If you plan on serving this macaroni salad at an outdoor gathering I recommend keep it in the refrigerator or cooler until right before serving. It is not recommended to eat this type of salad that has been sitting out or at room temperature for one - two hours, even less depending on how warm it is outdoors.
  • How long can I store Macaroni Salad In the Fridge? Macaroni salad should always be stored in the fridge in an airtight container. When properly stored, it’s good for up to 3-5 days, but at its best within the first 24 hours because the veggies will get a bit soggy and the pasta will get a bit waterlogged
  • Can I Make Macaroni Salad Ahead of Time? Yes this creamy macaroni salad can be made 24 hours ahead of time.

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Servings: 4-6
Prep Time: 15 mins
Cook Time: 7 mins
Non Active Time: 30-60 min for chilling
Total Time: 1 hr 20 min


  • 250 g / ½ lb elbow macaroni pasta
  • 2 stalks celery, finely diced
  • ½ small red onion, finely diced
  • ½ red bell peppers, finely diced
  • ½ cup grated carrots
  • 2 green onions, finely sliced
  • ¼ cup finely diced sweet pickles or dill pickles


  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • ½ cup Greek yogurt or sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon pickle juice
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup fresh herbs, minced (I usually use a mix of parsley and dill)
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • ⅛ teaspoon Paprika


  1. Cook the Pasta: Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook the pasta to al dente, according to package instructions, stirring occasionally. Drain the pasta and rinse well with cold water until the pasta comes to room temperature.
  2. Make the Dressing: Add the mayo to a large bowl with the yogurt, mustard, pickle brine, vinegar, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, salt, and black pepper, to taste. Whisk well, until combined.
  3. Combine: Add the cooled pasta to the bowl with the bell pepper, onion, celery, herbs, carrot, and pickles. Mix well, until everything is evenly coated in dressing.
  4. Serve & Store: Serve immediately, or place in the refrigerator and chill for 30 minutes before serving. Leftovers will keep in the fridge for up to 2-5 days.

Recipe Notes

  • The dressing may seem too thin when you first pour it in, but it’ll thicken as it chills, so don’t skip that step! I also start with just three-fourths of the dressing. You can always add more if you think the salad needs it, once it’s is all mixed up.
  • Please adjust amounts to your liking - if you like your tuna pasta salad more loaded add more veggies, creamier adjust amounts of mayo and yogurt etc.

Creamy Classic Macaroni Salad