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The best macaroni salad in a white serving bowl.

The Best Macaroni Salad

The Best Macaroni Salad doesn't make you choose between ham or bacon. Use both in this easy pasta salad recipe, along with a creamy, classic Midwest salad dressing. This big-batch macaroni salad is perfect for potluck and party menus.
Course Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine American
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Servings 20 servings (about 3/4-cup each)
Calories 314kcal


For the dressing:

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 chopped
  • 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 other small cut pasta.
  2. Cheese: Since we're not melting it, feel free to pick up a package of pre-shredded cheese. If you prefer, you can also dice up cubes of cheddar to mix into this pasta salad.
  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. Bacon: To quickly and cleanly crisp up 6 strips, I swear by oven-frying it.
  5. 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.
  6. Yield: The Best Macaroni Salad recipe makes a party-sized batch; about 20 servings, depending on what else you're serving this alongside.
  7. Storage: Store leftovers in an airtight container or a bowl covered with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for up to 4 days.
  8. Make ahead: The dressing can be made up the day before and stored covered in the refrigerator. (I like to shake it up in a mason jar, then simply twist on the lid and it's ready to chill out.) 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.


Serving: 1serving (about 3/4 cup each) | Calories: 314kcal | Carbohydrates: 21g | Protein: 11g | Fat: 21g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 8g | Monounsaturated Fat: 5g | Trans Fat: 0.03g | Cholesterol: 65mg | Sodium: 379mg | Potassium: 179mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 461IU | Vitamin C: 12mg | Calcium: 101mg | Iron: 1mg