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 13 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
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Comments

  1. Awesome recipe! This was so tasty and everyone enjoyed it and I had no leftovers!
    I also just love how you show the ingredients of all your recipes in a picture!5 stars

  2. This salad is amazing. I will always make it. I usually cut the recipe in half because it makes a lot. Or I give half to my daughter. Thank you5 stars

  3. I love this recipe!! Have made it several times and everyone raves about it!! This will probably be the last time this year because winter is coming but it is beautiful, sunny and warm out today so it is a perfect day for a cold, delicious salad1 Thank you for sharing this gem!!5 stars

  4. I made this for 40 at a community service dinner held weekly for my church and had absolutely none left over. every one loved it. thankyou for such a good recipe.

  5. Want to make this this weekend! Do I need to add mustard? For some reason I always hear macaroni salads always have mustard in them but not sure why.

    1. Hi Krysia! I think macaroni salad is like potato salad – there are different styles. This version doesn’t have mustard, it has a sweet & sour dressing from sugar and vinegar (sort of like the dressing on a broccoli and cheese salad, if you’ve ever had one of those). You could definitely add it. I use mustard in my coleslaw dressing and so many other salad dressings. It will be great if you add it. I haven’t tested it that way, but I just really feel like you won’t have any issues adding mustard to this dressing. If you have any other questions, just let me know! Thank you! -Meggan

  6. Hi- I just have a question. Do you not blanch the broccoli? It just goes in completely raw? I can’t wait to try this and you other salads- they sound delicious! =)5 stars

    1. Hi Yvette, I have never blanched the broccoli for this (my grandma never did, the recipe is from her ) BUT I think that is a great question and a totally reasonable thing to do. I should have it listed as an option/suggestion because it’s a good idea. Not necessary, but a good idea! I do that for one of my other pasta salads, I blanch the broccoli. Good call. Thank you for the suggestion! I’ll update the post. -Meggan

  7. This was delicious, best macaroni salad recipe ever! I made it for the 4th of July and making it again this weekend!5 stars

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