Go Back
+ servings
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.
Course Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine American
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Servings 20 servings
Calories 314kcal


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


  • 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.



  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.


Calories: 314kcal | Carbohydrates: 21g | Protein: 11g | Fat: 21g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 66mg | Sodium: 377mg | Potassium: 182mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 461IU | Vitamin C: 12mg | Calcium: 102mg | Iron: 1mg