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This might be a recipe for a Classic Macaroni Salad, but that doesn’t mean it has to be boring! This dish is a staple at picnics and potlucks and for good reason–it’s delicious! Serve it for a crowd, or pair it with protein for a cool, summer dinner.

Bowl of classic macaroni saladClassic Macaroni Salad Recipe

This site is no stranger to pasta salads, having previously made a BLT Pasta Salad, Caprese Pesto Pasta Salad, and Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad. But we realized as summer rolled on in that we were missing the beloved deli style pasta salad! This refreshing Classic Macaroni Salad may look simple, but it’s bright, with crunchy veggies and perfect for any summertime gathering. This creamy pasta salad looks like the same version you can buy in a deli, but obviously OH SO DELICIOUS because it’s homemade with fresh ingredients.

Want to know the best part about this pasta salad? It is a make-ahead dish! So make it a day before that party you’re bringing it to, or combine it with some protein like tuna, hard boiled eggs or shredded chicken and prep yourself lunch for a few days.

Ingredients for classic all American macaroni saladIngredients for our Classic Macaroni Salad

We admit, using the word classic can be touchy because everybody can have their own version of what makes something classic. But we decided on a version that’s creamy and bright (thanks to a hefty addition of apple cider vinegar), with lots of crunchy fresh vegetables and just the right amount of sweetness that brings the whole thing all together.

How to make macaroni salad

Here’s what’s in it:

  • Elbow Macaroni (gluten-free if you need it, of course!)
  • Mayonnaise (we use avocado oil mayo)
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Honey
  • Dijon mustard
  • Salt and pepper
  • Celery
  • Red bell pepper
  • Carrots
  • Red onion
Easy macaroni salad in a bowl

Proteins to Pair to Make it a Meal

This is the perfect side dish to pair with just about any grilled main dish, but it would also make a great summer dinner or lunch meal prep. Pair it with a protein to make it a but more substantial:

Best classic macaroni salad recipe

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5 from 2 votes
This might be a recipe for a Classic Macaroni Salad, but that doesn't mean it has to be boring! This dish is a staple at picnics and potlucks and for good reason--it's delicious! Serve it for a crowd, or pair it with protein for a cool, summer dinner.
Servings 6
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes


  • 12 ounces Gluten Free elbow macaroni
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoons honey optional
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt more to taste
  • Ground black papper
  • 2 celery ribs minced
  • 1 red bell pepper seeded and minced
  • 1 cup carrots grated (about 2 medium carrots)
  • 1/4 red onion minced


  • Cook pasta according to package instructions. Rinse well under cool water and drain.
  • Meanwhile in a large bowl whisk together mayo, apple cider vinegar, honey, dijon mustard and salt and black pepper.
  • To the bowl add the cooked pasta, celery, red pepper, carrots and red onion and mix well. Taste and adjust seasoning.
  • Serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to use. Pasta salad will keep up to 4 days.


  1. Don’t need to be gluten-free? Use whatever pasta you’d like!
  2. We tested this with a few different types of gluten-free pasta. Brown rice pasta is slightly hard when cold, while other brands that contained white rice flour, corn flour or soy flour stayed soft when cold. We’d recommend if you want to use brown rice pasta not making it ahead of time to keep it the correct consistency.


Serving: 1/6 recipeCalories: 339kcalCarbohydrates: 51gProtein: 7.7gFat: 11gSaturated Fat: 1.9gSodium: 517mgFiber: 6gSugar: 6g
Course: Side Dish
Author: Lexi

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Recipe Rating


  1. I love making it because its delicious, easy to make and nutritious.

    thank you for your great recipes. By the way, I love your book.

  2. 5 stars
    This is delicious! It is too hot to cook in Boston today so I meal prepped this and added a few cans of tuna for protein. It’s so easy and the sauce is so good and creamy. Will definitely make again!

  3. What brand of GF pasta did you use that stayed fresh and soft the next day? I need to make ahead and would like the pasta to stat soft.

    1. Hi Andrea. Bionaturae Organic worked the best for pasta salad for us. It’s readily available in most grocery stores. It does use soy flour though in case you don’t tolerate that.