Skip to Content

Creamy Macaroni Salad Recipe

Easy Creamy Macaroni Salad is the base for most of my summer pasta salads, and is a simple and crowd-pleasing side dish for any cookout, barbecue, potluck, or gathering you have going on this summer.

Creamy Pasta Salad Recipe

Easy Macaroni Salad

Along with Spring comes a change in the menu! I always start thinking about any excuse I can find to grill something and what sides I can make with whatever food I’ve chosen to fire up my grill for.

This Easy Macaroni Salad will go with almost ANY dish you choose. It’s a little bit sweet so compliments your savory. With mayo and herbs, this is a typical Southern-inspired side that everyone will enjoy!

How do I prepare the pasta for this salad?

Follow the directions on the box of whatever pasta you choose. For cold macaroni salad, I prefer to cook my pasta al dente, which means cooked just enough to retain a somewhat firm texture. Your pasta will absorb some of the moisture from the sauce you’re using and become softer as it chills, so aim for a bit under where you’d normally want your pasta if you were eating it immediately, hot.

I also prefer to rinse my pasta in cold water immediately after dumping it into the strainer. This stops the cooking process and also removes some of the starch which causes the pasta to feel “sticky”.

Click here to save this post for later!

Can I make this salad ahead of time?

The answer is YES!

In fact, is a GREAT idea to do since your pasta salad needs a little time after combining all of the ingredients to soak up and absorb the flavors in the sauce.

If I am not that organized, I at least try to cook the pasta, rinse, drain and place in a bowl in the refrigerator so it’s ready to go the morning of. If you do this, toss in just a little olive oil, this will prevent the pasta from sticking to each other. Then you can simply add your other ingredients, mix, and refrigerate until it’s time to serve.

What should I serve with this salad?

As I mentioned, FIRE UP THE GRILL! I have MANY ideas here for grilling options!

  1. Traeger Grilled Chicken Leg Quarters
  2. Perfect Grilled Filet Mignon
  3. Traeger Grilled Lobster Tail
  4. Reverse Seared Hanger Steak
  5. Foil Packet Fresh Dips

Basically, anything in my Traeger Recipe Collection would work for this. Get it. 

Traeger Grilled Lobster Tail

Don’t worry if you don’t own a Traeger, you can use any pellet grill to make these, and they could easily be adapted for a charcoal or gas grill as well. 

How long can I keep Macaroni Salad?

You can keep your Macaroni Salad refrigerated for 3-5 days, stored in an airtight container.  

Remember not to leave it out at room temperature for too long, since it contains mayo. If left out more than 2 hours it should be discarded.

You can serve your bowl of pasta nesting in a larger bowl filled with ice to keep it chilled, but I would still use the rule of thumb of two hours MAX. Chances are your guests will be done eating within that time so you can pop it in the fridge.

Or if you are attending a longer affair, use two serving bowls and keep one refrigerated and swap them out every 1-2 hours.

Creamy Pasta Salad

What types of noodles can I put in Macaroni Salad?

The fun thing about noodle salads is there are NO rules! You can use ANY pasta you desire here. Here are some different varieties for you to choose from:

  1. Penne
  2. Orzo
  3. Shells (large or small)
  4. Rings
  5. Orecchiette (an Italian ear-shaped pasta)
  6. Farfalle (bow tie pasta)
  7. Fusilli (corkscrew shaped pasta)
  8. Rotini (also a corkscrew-shaped pasta, like Fusilli but with a tighter helix)

This Easy Macaroni Salad will be a refreshing change of pace after months and months of winter food. The potatoes and stews and soups can pop back into your menu at a later date!

Macaroni Pasta salads are a great way to incorporate vegetables into our diets. Versatility is the word to remember while coming up with ideas for your spring & summer menus.

Almost ANY vegetable can work in a salad like this, so feel free to experiment and substitute according to your families preferences, or add in a bigger ratio or vegetables to noodles. The sky is the limit here.

Pin for later!

Yield: 12 servings

Creamy Pasta Salad

Creamy Pasta Salad

Homemade Creamy Pasta Salad is the perfect side to accompany any bbq main you can throw at someone. Super versatile, so throw in any vegetables you have laying around and make it your own!

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Chill Time 4 hours
Total Time 4 hours 20 minutes


  • 1 pound small shells
  • 1 small red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 cup diced celery
  • 1/2 cup diced tomatoes
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 8 sliced bacon, crispy and rough chopped


  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 1/2 cups mayo
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons mustard
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery seed


  1. Salt your water well, and bring it to a boil. Cook the noodles until they are al dente. Rinse with cold water and set aside.
  2. Combine the sauce ingredients and mix well to combine. Stir into the pasta along with the vegetables and bacon.
  3. Chill for several hours before serving.

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 316Total Fat: 26gSaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 19gCholesterol: 25mgSodium: 434mgCarbohydrates: 16gFiber: 1gSugar: 3gProtein: 6g

Nutrition data provided here is only an estimate. If you are tracking these things for medical purposes please consult an outside, trusted source. Thanks!

Love this recipe? Tell your friends!

Follow on Instagram for more!

Skip to Recipe