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This is a classic and super Creamy Macaroni Salad Recipe! Filled with all the classic ingredients like macaroni pasta, hard boiled eggs, peppers, and tossed in an ultra creamy mayo-based sauce (with a few “secret” ingredients). This is always a guaranteed hit of a side dish for potlucks and gatherings.
Creamy Macaroni Salad Recipe
I don’t think you can ever have too many pasta salad recipes! One of the things I dislike the most about pasta salads is when they’re dry. You don’t have to worry about that with this recipe.
My ultra Creamy Macaroni Salad has some “secret” ingredients in the creamy sauce that makes this version truly the best. It’s always the first to go at any gathering or potluck and it’s one of those summertime staple side dishes for bbq’s and picnics.
Here are the ingredients that you will need to make this super creamy macaroni salad in your own kitchen. I also share some tips so that you can have success with this recipe.
- Macaroni Salad
- Elbow Macaroni – You will need 3 cups dry elbow pasta. This is equal to one box (12 oz) of pasta. I can’t always find the 12 ounce box, so I just use 3 cups of dry pasta (from a larger 16 oz box). Use gluten-free pasta if needed.
- Hardboiled Eggs – I make Instant Pot Hardboiled Eggs and they are so easy to peel! Roughly chop the eggs to your liking.
- Red & Green Bell Pepper – You need 1/2 cup of each. Make sure to chop the pepper into small pieces so that everything is roughly uniform in size. If you don’t want the two different peppers, simply use one and measure out 1 cup.
- Creamy Dressing
- Mayonnaise – Use full fat mayonnaise for the best taste and creamy texture. Of course, you can use lite mayo if wanted.
- Sour Cream – Same thing, for best taste use full fat sour cream. If you want to use a lite product, I would use lite sour cream rather than lite mayo.
- Half & Half – You want the higher fat content of this milk for that ultra creamy texture in the salad.
- Sugar – Don’t leave this out! If you want less sugar, you can of course add less. Play around with the amount if you want to reduce the sugar. I would maybe start at 2-3 tablespoons.
- Salt – I use kosher salt. If using regular table salt, you will probably need less, because the salt is finer which means you can fit more in the measuring spoon. Start at 1/2 teaspoon and work from there if using table salt (regular iodized salt).
- Garlic Powder
- Onion Powder
- Paprika – You can use regular paprika or smoked paprika. Either one works great, just depends on what you want. I use regular paprika just because smoked paprika can be overwhelming for some. But it does add a great smokey flavor, so use it if that’s what you prefer.
How To Make a Macaroni Salad with a Creamy Dressing
This recipe for macaroni salad is so simple to whip up! Be sure and read to the bottom of the post where there is a recipe card with a printable recipe option, and a detailed ingredient list along with the instructions to make it.
- Elbow Macaroni : Boil the pasta according to package directions. I prefer mine a bit softer so I cook it for 1 minute past the al dente cook time. When the pasta is done, drain the pasta in a colander and run it under cold water. Set aside and let it drain until you need it later.
- Creamy Dressing : In a mixing bowl, add all the creamy dressing ingredients and mix well until combined and smooth.
- Macaroni Salad : Add the drained elbow pasta into a large serving bowl, or serving bowl of choice, and add the creamy dressing. Mix well. Add the chopped hardboiled eggs and bell pepper. Stir to combine.
- Chill : Cover the bowl with a lid or plastic wrap, and allow to chill for at least 2 hours before serving. This allows time for the flavors to develop and for the pasta to soak up all that yummy creamy sauce.
Tips For Success
Here are a few tips for this recipe that will hopefully make it easy to recreate in your own kitchen.
- Mayonnaise : Use a quality mayo because it matters! For the best taste and creamy texture, use a full-fat mayo.
- Make It Lighter! : I don’t personally recommend it, because it is a macaroni salad after all, but you can lighten up this recipe if wanted. Use lite products for the mayo, sour cream, and use whole milk instead.
- Chill Time : Plan ahead because this salad tastes much better after it has been in the fridge for at least 2 hours. I would not make it too far ahead of time because then it will dry out. I have found that 2 hours is the perfect chilling time before serving.
- Chop Peppers Small : I prefer to chop the peppers into small pieces so that you don’t end up with these huge chunks of bell pepper in the salad. I try to chop them about the same small size as the hardboiled egg pieces.
- Kosher Salt : This recipe has been tested and made with kosher salt. If using table salt (regular iodized salt) start at 1/2 teaspoon and add from there. Table salt is a finer salt which means more can fit in the measuring spoon.
- Salt Pasta Water : This is so important! Especially in pasta salads where the pasta is the star of the show. Add salt to the boiling water along with the pasta. I use 1 teaspoon kosher salt.
Creamy Macaroni Salad FAQ’s
- How To Store Leftover Macaroni Salad
- Store leftovers inside a bowl with a lid, in the fridge, for up to 4 days.
- If you find that the leftovers are dry, try stirring it really well to moisten it back up, and if that still does not do it, slowly add half & half or more mayo until it’s at the consistency you want.
- Can I Prepare This Ahead of Time?
- Yes you can, but I would recommend not making it more than 2 hours ahead of time.
- This salad is best served chilled, after it has been in the fridge for 2 hours. If you make it to far in advance the pasta will soak up all the sauce, which will lead to a drier pasta salad.
- Why Do You Run Cold Water over Cooked Pasta?
- Rinsing the elbow macaroni after draining it, stops the pasta from overcooking and becoming mushy. It also cools down the pasta for the salad, because it’s not the best idea to put hot noodles into a cold pasta salad dish.
- Variation Ideas
- No Peppers : If for whatever reason you don’t want to use bell peppers, then simply leave them out. Maybe add an additional egg or something. Bell peppers are a classic ingredient in macaroni salad so I think it’s best with them in it. Gives it a nice crunch.
- Dairy Products : Make it lighter by using lite dairy products for the mayo and sour cream. Use a lower fat milk like whole milk or 2%. I don’t recommend doing this because it will make the salad not as creamy.
- Seasonings : Add or omit any seasoning you want. Add some red cayenne pepper for some spice. Or regular black pepper. You can also add any seasoning you prefer. We love it as is, but it’s easily adaptable to what you want.
More Pasta Side Dishes You’ll Love
- Coleslaw Pasta Salad
- Ranch Pasta Salad
- Dill Pickle Pasta Salad
- Tri Color Pasta Salad
- Easy Italian Pasta Salad
Creamy Macaroni Salad
- 3 cups dry elbow macaroni
- 4 hardboiled eggs roughly chopped
- 1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
- 1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
- 1½ cups mayonnaise
- 1/4 cup sour cream
- 1/4 cup half & half
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- Cook the elbow macaroni according to package instructions. When done, drain the pasta and run it under cold water. Set aside. * Cook to al dente or whatever you prefer. I like mine a little softer than al dente, so I cook it for 1 minute longer. Be sure and add some salt to the boiling water so your pasta is not bland. I add 1 teaspoon of kosher salt.
- In a small mixing bowl, combine all the creamy dressing ingredients and stir with a wire whisk until combined well. Set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, or use your serving bowl of choice, mix the cooked macaroni and creamy dressing together. Add in the chopped hardboiled eggs and bell peppers. Stir to combine well.
- Cover the bowl with a lid or plastic wrap and let refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving. * It can be served right away but it's best served after it has refrigerated. This allows time for the flavors to develop and for the macaroni to absorb the creamy dressing.