The Best Macaroni Salad has ham, bacon, eggs, cheese, and plenty of colorful veggies in a sweet and creamy dressing.

Macaroni salad in a wooden bowl.

My first macaroni salad memories are all about the one from Al’s Town and Country Market in Oxford, Wisconsin. My grandparents lived up there, and my grandpa would often grab a small plastic container and stash it in the fridge for our visits. I just loved it.

This macaroni salad reminds me of that one, except it’s even better. When it comes to macaroni salad, more is more. This version has everything you think you want, and more that you didn’t know you needed.

Table of Contents
  1. Recipe ingredients
  2. Ingredient notes
  3. Step-by-step instructions
  4. Recipe tips and variations
  5. The Best Macaroni Salad Recipe

Recipe ingredients

Labeled ingredients for the best macaroni salad in various bowls.

Ingredient notes

  • Elbow macaroni: Or substitute rotini, farfalle, penne, or any small other pasta.
  • Cheese. Shredded cheese means less work for you, but cubes of diced cheese are great too.
  • Ham. Leftover ham works great; just dice it up into bite-sized pieces. Or buy an 8-ounce package of diced ham at the store.
  • Broccoli: If you’d like to blanch the broccoli (optional), bring 2 quarts water and 1 tablespoon salt to boil. Add broccoli and cook until just tender and bright green, about 3 to 4 minutes. Drain and immediately plunge into an ice bath to stop the cooking.

Step-by-step instructions

  1. To make the dressing, in a small bowl whisk together mayonnaise, sugar, vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste (I like ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper).
  2. In a large pot, bring 4 quarts of water and 1 tablespoon salt to a boil. Add pasta and cook until tender, about 10 to 12 minutes. Drain well, rinse with cold water, and drain again.
  3. In a large bowl, add pasta, cheese, ham, bacon, eggs, celery, broccoli, pepper, and scallions. Drizzle with dressing to taste and stir to combine.
Macaroni salad in a wooden bowl.

Recipe tips and variations

  • Yield: This recipe makes a lot: at least 20 servings.
  • Storage: Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
  • Make ahead: The dressing can be made up the day before and stored covered in the refrigerator. The pasta can be cooked, drained, rinsed, and cooled up to 1 day in advance. The ham, bacon, and vegetables can be prepped the day before and stored separately in the refrigerator.
  • More mix-ins: Get creative with diced tomatoes, frozen peas, julienned carrots, black olives, diced cucumbers, or leftover turkey.
  • Food safety: Any mayonnaise-based pasta salad that has been left out at room temperature for 2 hours or longer should be discarded, just to be on the safe side.

More party favorites

Macaroni salad in a wooden bowl.

The Best Macaroni Salad

The Best Macaroni Salad has ham, bacon, eggs, cheese, and plenty of colorful veggies in a sweet and creamy dressing.
5 from 16 votes
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Total Time 40 mins
Servings 20 servings
Course Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine American
Calories 314

Ingredients 

For the dressing:

  • 1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons white vinegar
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the pasta salad:

  • 1 pound elbow macaroni or other small pasta (see note 1)
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (see note 2)
  • 8 ounces ham diced (see note 3)
  • 4 hard-boiled eggs sliced
  • 6 slices cooked bacon
  • 5 ribs celery sliced
  • 1 cup broccoli chopped (see note 4)
  • 1 red bell pepper stemmed, seeded and diced
  • 4 scallions sliced

Instructions 

  • To make the dressing, in a small bowl whisk together mayonnaise, sugar, vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste (I like ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper).
  • In a large pot, bring 4 quarts of water and 1 tablespoon salt to a boil. Add pasta and cook until tender, about 10 to 12 minutes. Drain well, rinse with cold water, and drain again.
  • In a large bowl, add pasta, cheese, ham, bacon, eggs, celery, broccoli, pepper, and scallions. Drizzle with dressing to taste and stir to combine.

Recipe Video

Notes

  1. Elbow macaroni: Or substitute rotini, farfalle, penne, or any small other pasta.
  2. Cheese. Shredded cheese means less work for you, but cubes of diced cheese are great too.
  3. Ham. Leftover ham works great; just dice it up into bite-sized pieces. Or buy an 8-ounce package of diced ham at the store.
  4. Broccoli: If you’d like to blanch the broccoli (optional), bring 2 quarts water and 1 tablespoon salt to boil. Add broccoli and cook until just tender and bright green, about 3 to 4 minutes. Drain and immediately plunge into an ice bath to stop the cooking.
  5. Yield: This recipe makes a lot: at least 20 servings.
  6. Storage: Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
  7. Make ahead: The dressing can be made up the day before and stored covered in the refrigerator. The pasta can be cooked, drained, rinsed, and cooled up to 1 day in advance. The ham, bacon, and vegetables can be prepped the day before and stored separately in the refrigerator.
  8. More mix-ins: Get creative with diced tomatoes, frozen peas, julienned carrots, black olives, diced cucumbers, or leftover turkey.
  9. Food safety: Any mayonnaise-based pasta salad that has been left out at room temperature for 2 hours or longer should be discarded, just to be on the safe side.

Nutrition

Calories: 314kcalCarbohydrates: 21gProtein: 11gFat: 21gSaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 66mgSodium: 377mgPotassium: 182mgFiber: 1gSugar: 4gVitamin A: 461IUVitamin C: 12mgCalcium: 102mgIron: 1mg
Tried this Recipe? Pin it for Later!Mention @CulinaryHill or tag #CulinaryHill!
Culinary School Secrets
Pro-level tricks to transform your cooking!

Meggan Hill

I’m the Executive Chef and head of the Culinary Hill Test Kitchen. Every recipe is developed, tested, and approved just for you.

You May Also Like

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating




This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Comments

  1. Will the sugar in the dressing make it sweet? I’m not a fan of sweet. Is there something else I could substitute 

    1. Hi Toni, slight sweet overtones. It’s not a “sweet” pasta salad overall. However, I would say just make the dressing without the sugar and see what you think. You could always add the tiniest amount of sweetness if you wanted, or not at all.

  2. Just made this! Seriously, best macaroni salad ever! Love it! Now I just have to stay court of it until my guests get here. Lol thank you so much!5 stars

    1. Thank you so much Dani! I have to agree though, my grandma’s macaroni salad is the best. :) Enjoy your party and thanks again!

  3. Hi Meggan,
    I have never use shredded cheese in my mac salad before, only cubed.
    My question is:
    If I make the salad the day before, will the shredded cheese go soggy in the salad?

    1. Hi Leslie, in my experience shredded cheese holds up just fine. It doesn’t disintegrate into slimy pieces or anything like that. Having said that, you are welcome to use cubes if you want! But the shreds should work just fine. Even if you make it a day before! Thanks.

    1. Sorry about that Catherine. I would mix the dressing ingredients together (make the dressing) but do not add it to the salad. So, the flavors of the dressing can start to blend with each other, but don’t add it until right before serving. Basically make the dressing and prep all the rest of the ingredients and keep everything separate, then toss it all together right before serving. I’ll re-write my note on that so it actually makes sense! Thanks and I hope you love the salad.

    1. Hey Jenn! I’m such a genius. My grandma always uses bow-tie pasta but I like elbow. Clearly I wrote down her recipe without adding that change. :) I’ll fix it right now. It should really say, “Elbow macaroni or other small pasta” because it doesn’t really matter what you use. Thanks for letting me know about the typo!

  4. This is my first time making this recipe. I doubled the dressing and it still seems too dry for our liking. The flavor is great and I love all the ingredients. 

    1. Hi Kathy, sorry about that!! My Grandma used to thin her dressing with water or milk so I will experiment with that and updated the recipe. Nothing worse than dry macaroni salad. Thanks for the info!