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Creamy Macaroni Salad Recipe

This creamy macaroni salad is the perfect side dish for almost any meal at any time of year. For one thing, it’s smooth and won’t detract from anything else on the plate.

Easy-to-Make Macaroni Salad

Macaroni salad with celery and greens

This macaroni salad is super easy to make. So you can be the hit of any potluck without too much effort.

It also tastes good and satisfies your hunger in a very pleasant way.

My husband grew up on it, so his mother encouraged me to take her recipe and make it my own.

Basically, creamy macaroni salad is delicious proof that macaroni is good, even without cheese.

In other words, you can mix it with something different to get a dish everyone loves.

This salad is always popular at potluck dinners. It’s certainly one of the first salads to disappear off the salad table.

I think people like it because it complements so many other foods and doesn’t overpower them.

Ingredients in Creamy Macaroni Salad

In order to make this salad, you only need a few ingredients. I’m showing the steps here with the ingredients in directions.

If you only want the recipe, please scroll to the bottom of this post where I have a printable recipe card for your convenience.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 2 cups of cooked elbow macaroni (regular or gluten-free)
  • 1/2 cup of chopped celery
  • 4 tablespoons of sweet pickle relish
  • 2 tablespoons of mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon of mustard
  • Salt and pepper to taste (or seasoned salt)

You can use other forms of pasta if that’s what you have on hand.

Another ingredient you can include is chopped, hard or soft-boiled eggs. One of my daughters didn’t like it with eggs, so I got in the habit of leaving them out.

My mother-in-law used to add a tablespoon of honey for extra sweetness, but I prefer it without.

Macaroni salad with beets

How to Make This Delicious Side Dish

This is extremely easy to make. Start out by cooking the pasta according to the directions on the package.

As I mentioned earlier, I like it done but firm, or al dente. After it’s cooked, rinse in cold water, drain it, and put it in a mixing bowl.

Cooked elbow pasta

Add the chopped celery and sweet pickle relish.

If you prefer dill pickle relish, that’s fine too. I believe in switching things up to suit personal taste.

Cooked elbow pasta with chopped celery and sweet pickle relish

Scoop some mayonnaise and mustard into it. You can use the standard yellow mustard, Dijon, or other special flavored mustard.

If you want to add anything else, this is the time to do it. Mix it well.

Elbow pasta, chopped celery, sweet pickle relish, mayonnaise, and mustard in a bowl

Now it’s ready to serve. I like to add edible garnish like lettuce or beets to make it more visually appealing and appetizing.

Regular or Gluten-Free Pasta

My body doesn’t tolerate gluten, so I have to make this dish with gluten-free pasta.

Eight years ago, it was difficult to find one that tasted good, but manufacturers have improved the process.

In fact, when I make anything with pasta, my husband can’t tell the difference.

I used to have to make separate dishes, which was such a pain. Life is so much easier now.

Gluten-free elbow pasta

I’m delighted that this dish can be made however you need or want—either regular or gluten-free.

They key is to avoid overcooking any pasta–especially when it’s gluten-free–or it winds up mushy. Basically, just keep an eye on it and take it off the burner as soon as it’s done.

Benefits of Pasta

There are so many wonderful things to love about pasta. First of all, it’s delicious and goes with so many different dishes.

You can serve it with Italian food, Greek cuisine, or anything else you want.

Secondly, pasta is filling, so you can make a meal budget stretch when you have a lot of hungry mouths to feed.

For this reason, it’s perfect for a large dinner, potluck, or picnic.

Another thing I like about pasta is that it takes on the flavor of whatever sauce it’s in. In other words, it doesn’t clash with anything.

Although pasta is a starch, it has a low glycemic index.

Therefore, it’s good for dieters, unless you’re on a super low-carb program. Even then, you may be able to eat small quantities of pasta.

Pasta is very low in sodium. For this reason, it’s good for people suffering from heart disease or hypertension.

Finally, it provides energy. Weight lifters, runners, and other athletes often load up on pasta because it keeps them from crashing while they work out.

Other delicious pasta dishes you’ll enjoy are this shrimp fettucine and ground beef stroganoff. Both of these can be made with regular or gluten-free pasta.

There are other things you can put in this salad for more flavor or color. For example, you can add cayenne, Worcestershire, mushrooms, olives, or eggs. You can even add meat if you want more protein.

If you’d like to sample the different additions, do it in small batches.

Scoop a little bit into smaller bowls and add whatever you think might be good. That way, you won’t waste the whole batch.

What to Serve with Creamy Macaroni Salad

There are so many different things you can serve this pasta with. I like it with any type of barbecue. It’s also delicious with these tangy sesame ginger ribs.

A macaroni salad is good with any chicken dish, including this everything-bagel seasoned chicken.

When I go on a picnic, I enjoy having it with a rotisserie chicken from Costco or Publix. Or if you prefer, have it as a side with traditional southern fried chicken.

Macaroni salad with a side of beets

You can also have a salad buffet—some of the salads for sandwiches and others to eat on the side of other dishes.

One good salad that can be eaten either way is this chicken salad. Whether you serve it on a bed of lettuce and eat it with a fork or between two slices of bread, it’s absolutely delicious.

More Recipes

We also enjoy these oven-fried chicken strips. They’re gluten free and just as good as traditional fried chicken … maybe even better.

One of our favorite sides now is this creamed spinach. It’s easy to make and absolutely delicious!

If you like smoothies, you’ll love this banana berry smoothie. It’s creamy, delicious, and nutritious!

Another delicious salad is this chickpea tuna salad that’s perfect as either the main dish or a side dish.

For even more dishes that go with macaroni salad, check this out: What to Serve with Pasta Salad.

Yield: 4 servings

Creamy Macaroni Salad

Creamy elbow pasta salad
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes


  • 2 cups of cooked elbow macaroni (regular or gluten-free)
  • 1/2 cup of chopped celery
  • 4 tablespoons of sweet pickle relish
  • 2 tablespoons of mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon of mustard
  • Salt and pepper to taste (or seasoned salt)


  1. Cook the macaroni according to the instructions on the package. Drain, rinse with cold water, and pour into a medium-size mixing bowl.
  2. Add the chopped celery and sweet pickle relish. Mix well.
  3. Add the mayonnaise and mustard. Stir.
  4. Add salt and pepper. 


Add chopped hardboiled eggs if you want more protein.

You can also add diced onions and minced garlic for more flavor.

Nutrition Information



Serving Size


Amount Per Serving Calories 167Total Fat 6gSaturated Fat 1gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 5gCholesterol 3mgSodium 272mgCarbohydrates 25gFiber 2gSugar 5gProtein 4g

The nutrition information is a product of online calculators. I try to provide true and accurate information, but these numbers are estimates.

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Miz Helen

Friday 17th of April 2020

Your awesome post is featured on Full Plate Thursday,480 this week! Thanks so much for sharing with us and you have a great week! Miz Helen

Miz Helen

Tuesday 4th of June 2019

I love a great macaroni salad and your recipe looks delicious! Hope you are having a good week and thanks so much for sharing with us at Full Plate Thursday! Miz Helen

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