Classic Macaroni Salad

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Every summer, as the sun beams its golden rays and the scent of freshly mowed grass fills the air, my family gathers in our backyard for our annual picnic. I fondly remember the excitement and the scurry of activity as everyone would pitch in, setting the table, grilling, and of course, making salads. My grandmother, with her signature apron, would always bring out a large bowl of her macaroni salad, a recipe passed down through generations. A family gathering was never complete without it.

My neighbor, Mrs. Johnson, once tried it at one of our gatherings. She was so in love with it that she requested the recipe. And since then, her family’s gatherings also feature this classic macaroni salad. It’s amazing how a simple dish can bind communities and create beautiful memories. Today, I’m sharing this cherished recipe, with a few tweaks, so you can create your own memories too!

How to Prepare Classic Macaroni Salad

Ingredient for Classic Macaroni Salad

  • 4 cups of elbow macaroni, uncooked
  • 1 cup of creamy mayonnaise
  • 2/3 cup of granulated white sugar
  • 1/4 cup of distilled white vinegar
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons of yellow mustard
  • A dash of salt, about 1 1/2 teaspoons
  • A pinch of ground black pepper, approximately 1/2 teaspoon
  • 2 fresh celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 1 large, crisp onion, finely diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, deseeded and chopped
  • 1/4 cup of freshly grated carrot
  • 2 tablespoons of diced pimento peppers

Directions for Classic Macaroni Salad

  1. Start by assembling all the ingredients in front of you.
  2. Bring a spacious pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the elbow macaroni to the boiling water and cook while stirring occasionally until the macaroni is al dente. This usually takes about 8 minutes. Once done, rinse with cold water and let it drain.
  3. In a separate large bowl, whisk together the creamy mayonnaise, granulated sugar, vinegar, mustard, salt, and black pepper until smooth. Add the drained macaroni and combine.
  4. Fold in the celery, onion, green bell pepper, grated carrot, and pimento peppers. Mix until all ingredients are well-integrated.
  5. Cover the bowl and let the salad chill in the refrigerator. For the best flavors, let it sit overnight.

Can You Prepare Classic Macaroni Salad in Advance?

Absolutely! Preparing the macaroni salad a day in advance gives the flavors ample time to combine beautifully. It’s a great dish for potlucks or family gatherings where you need to prepare dishes ahead of time.

How Long Can You Store Classic Macaroni Salad?

This delightful macaroni salad can be kept fresh in an airtight container and stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. I would advise against freezing, as the texture of the macaroni might change upon thawing, making it less appealing.

Is it Essential to Use White Sugar?

White sugar gives the salad its signature sweetness, but if you are looking for alternatives, you can experiment with honey or agave nectar. Adjust according to your taste.

Any Variations to the Classic Macaroni Salad?

You can always add boiled eggs, tuna, or even cooked chicken to make it heartier. Some also like to add a bit of paprika or cayenne for an extra kick. Let your imagination run wild and make it your own!

How Important is the Chilling Process?

Chilling allows the flavors to meld together. The longer the chilling time, the more flavorful the salad becomes. So, patience is key here!

Can I Substitute the Vegetables?

Of course! Feel free to use vegetables of your choice. Red bell peppers or even some chopped cucumbers could be great additions.

Classic Macaroni Salad

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Refregirate 4 hours
Total Time 4 hours 25 minutes
Course Salad
Cuisine American


  • 4 cups uncooked elbow macaroni
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 2/3 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons prepared yellow mustard
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 stalks celery chopped
  • 1 large onion chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper seeded and chopped
  • 1/4 cup grated carrot
  • 2 tablespoons chopped pimento peppers


  • Gather all ingredients.
  • Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Cook elbow macaroni in the boiling water, stirring occasionally, until tender yet firm to the bite, about 8 minutes. Rinse under cold water and drain.
  • Mix mayonnaise, sugar, vinegar, mustard, salt, pepper, and macaroni together in a large bowl.
  • Stir in celery, onion, green pepper, carrot, and pimentos.
  • Refrigerate salad for at least 4 hours before serving, but preferably overnight.
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