Nothing beats a traditional macaroni salad for your summer picnic or barbecue. Customize it with your favourite veggies and dressing to please all appetites, whether it’s a creamy mayonnaise dressing or a zesty oil & vinegar one, with your choice of add-ins. This is not so much a recipe, as an easy formula to make a macaroni salad with whatever you’ve got on hand. (Skip to recipe.)

macaroni salad with oil and vinegar dressingmacaroni salad with mayonnaise dressing

I won! I won! I won!

Well, I didn’t really win, but I did win second place and that feels like a win to me!

I’m talking about my Pizza-ghetti Pie recipe that I entered into the Catelli Gluten Free Pastabilitites Challenge (check out the link for all 5 wonderful winning dishes). I had such fun developing that recipe (and so did my family and guests who got to eat all the variations until I came up with the perfect final rendition). I feel thrilled and honoured that Chef John Higgins (of Chopped Canada fame) chose my recipe for the second place win.

Catelli’s gluten-free pasta has changed the pasta meals in our pasta-lovin’ household. No more mushy pasta needing to be camouflaged with sauce. No more pasta that turns hard and breaks apart when chilled in a salad. Just lovely, chewy, flavourful, gluten-free pasta that behaves like pasta should. Simple and good. Simply great.

closeup of macaroni salad with vinaigrette

I grew up eating macaroni salad. Every church social and 4-H potluck dinner sported several bowls of different types of this creamy noodle salad – each version specific to the family that made it. Some people always put pickles in – some wouldn’t hear of it – some added ham – some added shredded cheese – some made their dressing quite sweet – some made it runny – some cut veggies in big chunks – some had hardly any veggies . . .

closeup of macaroni salad with creamy dressing

Well, here are our two favourite ways to make a good ol’ macaroni salad (pasta salad sounds too posh for this humble family favourite).


*Please forgive me for tooting my own horn about winning in this contest – you see, I haven’t won anything since I won a tall chocolate cake covered in gooey pink icing at my Girl Guide fundraising bingo when I was about 12 years old. My winning number was G-60. The fact that I still remember that tells you what a big deal it was for me (being it was a few decades ago and all)!

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Simple Method for Making a Macaroni Salad

Cook up a pot of macaroni, drain it and rinse it in cold water to keep it from sticking. And of course, you don’t have to use macaroni – other pasta shapes work fine, too, although I’d stick with smaller-sized ones. It’s just that macaroni is the traditional noodle used for this type of salad, if you want to be all ‘retro’.

run cold water to cool the macaroni

Chop up your choice of vegetables and herbs; whatever your family likes and what’s in your fridge (I always like to add some chopped pickles for a bit of zip). See the list of veggies in the Notes below.

main ingredients for macaroni salad

Toss ’em with the noodles.

chopped veggies go into the macaroni salad

Then make up your choice of either of the dressings below (either a creamy mayonnaise one, or a tangy oil & vinegar one), toss it with your salad, and you’re ready for your picnic, or barbecue, or dinner tonight.

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Kitchen Frau Notes: Use any combination of fresh diced vegetables you like. I like crunchy vegetables like celery, radish, pepper, and carrot, but you could use cucumber, zucchini, corn, asparagus, thawed frozen peas, sliced snow peas, daikon radish, blanched beans, black olives, etc. Some people like to add diced cooked ham and cheese to their macaroni salad – whatever tickles your pickle!

macaroni salad two ways

Macaroni Salad with Two Different Dressing Options

For the salad:

  • 2 cups (8 oz/250gms) uncooked macaroni, gluten-free or regular (4 cups cooked)
  • 2 cups (500ml) finely diced fresh vegetables (I like ½ cup each of celery, radish, red pepper, carrot)
  • ¼ cup (60ml) finely sliced green onions (about 2)
  • ¼ cup (60ml) finely diced pickles
  • 2 tablespoons minced parsley or dill
  • your choice of one of the following two dressings


Creamy Mayonnaise Dressing

  • ¾ cup (180ml) light mayonnaise (or ½ cup/120ml regular mayonnaise + ¼ cup/60ml yogurt)
  • 3 tablespoons milk, regular or non-dairy
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar
  • ½ tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper


Tangy Oil and Vinegar Dressing

  • ½ cup (120ml) oil (I like grapeseed oil)
  • 3 tablespoons vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard (or horseradish)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper

Cook the macaroni in lightly salted boiling water until al dente – still with a slight chewiness. Don’t overcook it. (The Catelli gluten-free pasta I use takes 6 minutes.)

Drain the pasta by dumping it into a colander set in the sink. Immediately run cold water over the pasta, stirring it with your hand, until the noodles are cold. Shake the colander a few times, and allow it to drain completely.

Finely dice the vegetables (carrot can be shredded for convenience).

Place the drained pasta in a bowl, and add the diced vegetables, green onion, pickles and herbs.

Prepare your choice of dressing and add it to the salad, tossing well to combine.

Allow the salad to rest for 15 to 30 minutes for the flavours to mellow before serving.

Refrigerate any leftovers.

Makes 6½ cups (1.5l) macaroni salad.

Guten Appetit!


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