This easy macaroni salad recipe is loaded with classic ingredients including crispy red pepper, celery, onion, and chunks of cheddar cheese. It’s sauced in a sweet and creamy mayonnaise-based dressing that’s sure to impress friends and family at any picnic, cookout, or potluck! This macaroni salad is also one of my favorite sides for hamburgers!

pasta salad in a bowl

Before I rave too much, I also want to point you to my incredible broccoli salad our tasty Amish potato salad, and my favorite coleslaw recipe.

Both of these recipes are SO. GOOD.

Best Easy Macaroni Salad Recipe

So, you’ve been asked to bring a covered dish to a gathering this weekend. What are you going to take?

For me, it’s an easy choice! I’ve become known for my AMAZING sweet macaroni salad recipe. My friends and family tell me it’s the best EVER—and I totally agree.

How to Make Macaroni Salad

I sourced this recipe originally from the back of a can of Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk. While I did make a few small changes, I’m happy to give credit where credit is due!

Macaroni salad ingredients include:

  • Elbow pasta
  • Onion
  • Red pepper
  • Celery
  • Cubed cheddar cheese
  • Sweet and tangy mayo-based dressing!

I kept on making this particular recipe, because of the delicious sweet and tangy sauce paired with the delicious cheese and crispy red peppers in every bite.

FIRST: To start this easy macaroni salad recipe, cook pasta to al dente according to directions on the box, then drain and rinse with cool water. Don’t forget to put a little salt in your pasta water!

SECOND: Next, in a large bowl, stir together the drained pasta, diced vegetables and the cubed cheddar cheese.

THIRD: In another bowl stir together all ingredients in the dressing until smooth.

FOURTH: Pour the macaroni salad dressing over the pasta, vegetables and cheese; stir until evenly coated.

FIFTH: Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight before serving.

macaroni salad in a bowl

Our Best Tips

  • Do you need enough to feed a large crowd? Just double the recipe to serve up to 20 people!
  • How long should macaroni salad be chilled before serving? While I recommend chilling any pasta salad for at least one hour prior to serving, overnight is best. Making this recipe ahead of time is also a great time-saving hack for the day of your event!
  • Can I use different vegetables? Of course! If you don’t like onion, drop it. Prefer carrots to red pepper? That works great as well! You can also use a different cheese, or drop the cheese all-together.
elbow macaroni salad with cheese

How to Store Macaroni Salad

Storing macaroni salad is pretty straightforward, but there are a few key tips to ensure it stays fresh and delicious.

1. Cool it down: Before even thinking about storage, make sure your macaroni salad has had a chance to cool down to room temperature. You don’t want to trap heat in the container, as that can lead to bacterial growth.

2. Choose the right container: Opt for an airtight container with a secure lid. Glass or plastic containers work well, as long as they seal tightly to keep air out.

3. Cover it well: Before sealing the container, cover the macaroni salad with a layer of plastic wrap or aluminum foil. This extra layer helps prevent moisture loss and keeps the salad from drying out.

4. Refrigerate promptly: Macaroni salad is a perishable item, so it should go into the refrigerator as soon as possible. Ideally, it should be stored at temperatures below 40°F (4°C).

5. Keep it on the top shelf: Store your macaroni salad on the top shelf of the refrigerator, where it’s coldest. This prevents cross-contamination with other foods and ensures it stays at a safe temperature.

6. Consume within a few days: Macaroni salad is at its best within the first 3-5 days of refrigeration. Beyond that, the texture and flavor may deteriorate, and it could become unsafe to eat.

7. Give it a stir: If you notice any separation or moisture accumulation on the surface, give the macaroni salad a gentle stir before serving. This helps redistribute the dressing and maintains consistency.

8. Add fresh ingredients later: If you’re planning to store macaroni salad for several days, consider adding more delicate ingredients like fresh herbs, tomatoes, or avocado just before serving. This will help maintain their freshness and texture.

Can you freeze macaroni salad?

Macaroni salad contains mayonnaise and other ingredients that don’t freeze well. Freezing can alter the texture and flavor, so it’s best to enjoy it fresh from the refrigerator.

easy macaroni salad

While macaroni salad is a classic summer side dish, this recipe can (and should) be enjoyed all year long. In fact, it’s a great side dish that you can make ahead and keep in the fridge to serve with different main dishes for 2-3 days in a row! Believe me, no one in my family complains when we have this delicious sweet macaroni salad on the menu! Cheers!

More Cookout Side Dishes

Macaroni Salad

Our perfect macaroni salad is easy to make and tastes delicious!
4.37 from 41 ratings

Ingredients

  • 1 16 ounce box elbow pasta
  • ¼ cup onion, diced
  • ½ cup red pepper, diced
  • ½ cup celery, diced
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese, diced

Dressing

  • 2 cups mayonnaise
  • 1 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • cup white vinegar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

Instructions
 

  • Cook pasta to al dente according to directions on the box. Drain and rinse with cool water.
  • In a large bowl, stir together the drained pasta, diced vegetables and the cheese.
  • In another bowl stir together all ingredients in the dressing until smooth.
  • Pour dressing over the pasta and vegetables and cheese, stir until evenly coated.
  • Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight before serving.

Notes

Recipe from Eagle Brand.
Serving: 1g, Calories: 406kcal, Carbohydrates: 13g, Protein: 4g, Fat: 37g, Saturated Fat: 8g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 29g, Cholesterol: 32mg, Sodium: 422mg, Sugar: 8g
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