Mom’s Easy Macaroni Salad

Prep the ingredients while the pasta water is coming to a boil.

This recipe can easily be doubled or tripled.

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4


  • 2 cups (about 1/2 pound) dry macaroni pasta (use rice or gluten-free pasta for gluten-free version)
  • Salt
  • 1/4 cup chopped spring onion or green onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice or vinegar
  • 1 hard boiled egg, chopped
  • 1 roasted red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley
  • A generous amount of mayonnaise (1/3 to 1/2 cup)
  • Several pinches of paprika
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste



1 Cook the pasta: In at least 2 quarts of salted water (1 1/2 teaspoons of salt per quart of water), cook the pasta according to package directions until al dente—still slightly firm. Remove from heat, drain and rinse with cool water until the pasta reaches room temperature.

2 Soak the onions: While macaroni is cooking, put the chopped onions into a small bowl and sprinkle the lemon juice or vinegar over them. This will take the edge off the onions.

3 Assemble the macaroni salad: Combine cooked macaroni, onions, and all other ingredients in a large serving bowl. Adjust seasonings to taste.

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  • AnnMc

    I made this salad and it turned out great. I used shallots in place of the red onions. It’s really really good. It was a winner and enjoyed by all at our family get together. Thanks for sharing!


  • Gita

    Just made this salad for dinner and it is soooooo good! Thank you for the awesome recipe :)


  • Deb

    This recipe is BOMB! I used TJs roasted peppers per your recommendation. Fantastic! I also made two boiled eggs and added celery. Thank you!!!


  • Amanda Achtymichuk

    Totally delicious! Would like to make again and bring camping. How many days do you think it would hold up in a cooler? (airtight container obviously)


    • Elise Bauer

      Hi Amanda, your guess is as good as mine.

    • Jada

      Depending on how cold your cooler is and with plenty of ice packs maybe a day. Since this tastes so good for me no worries since there would be no leftovers lol Amanda. Good luck!

  • Janice Valdez

    I also add celery to my salad. IT gives it a little crunch which i like. sometimes i do add tuna. love your recipe. thanks


  • Shreya Sarkar

    I just tried this recipe, and oh boy did it turn out well! It was my first time at tossing a macaroni salad, but your recipe made it really easy. I added diced chicken ham and some croutons too. It was lovely :)


  • Christian

    Elise, if you’re looking to pacify regular onions — or even green ones — so they don’t take over and yet remain crunchy, you might let them rest in a bowl of cold water very lightly salted for about ten minutes after you chop them. Add a teaspoon of sugar, if you like, for extra sweetness.

  • Stephanie Weaver, The Recipe Renovator

    Wow, this totally takes me back to my childhood. My mom made something very similar on hot days, adding canned tuna fish to it.

  • jen

    made this to great reviews! those tj peppers are great too,thanks!


  • katherine stephens

    loved when you said how much you could eat. My recipe similar to your except sweet pickle relish instead of roasted red peppers. SEVERAL times my friend and I after two helpings and eating again out of the refrigerator door simply decided that our diet would be ONLY the salad. IE Breakfast, lunch and Dinner we couldn’t get fat on just that ! I don’t know how we did but I didn’t care then and still don’t !

  • Elena

    I have always warmed up my pasta salad. I find that brings out the flavors in all the vegetables. Just a personal taste.

  • Bella

    To each his own! Thankfully, we each have our own taste buds! :o)

  • Sandy S

    Hey Andy above, I was somewhat of the same opinion about cold pasta. Being gluten free, I wonder if that was my bod trying to tell me something. What I eventually discovered was that using smaller pasta for cold salads was much more appealing. Either the littlest open noodles or ziti or even spaghetti or vermicelli noodles broken into small bits is more appealing for me. They are usually quinoa or rice/corn pastas these days. Obviously there are a few gazillion human beings that are fine with traditional mac salads! Just imagine how many gallons of mac salad are consumed on a hot summer day?! Some of us just need to ‘make it our own’. I will also be adding pickled red onions when I try this recipe! Thanks Elise for helping us find tempting hot weather fare!

  • Ron

    Loved this recipe but I made a couple changes to enhance it for my family. I added 1/2 tsp dry mustard, 1 tsp. sugar and 1/2 tsp celery seed. I also included the vinegar along with the lemon juice.

    Came out yummy!


  • Kelly M.

    Another knock out recipe! I followed your moms macaroni salad recipe to the tee and it is really really good -ok, I doubled it for a party. Also, I found the same jarred fire roasted peppers you mention at the supermarket -they were located in the same aisle as the jarred green olives.
    Thank you SOOO much for your wonderful recipes! Everytime I use one, it is always so good!


  • Jean

    Add sliced green olives to this salad, along with some prepared spicy mustard, and you are in for a wonderful treat. My friends love it.


  • GinnyRED57

    UPDATE: Wow, this came out really well, and the roasted red peppers were the standouts. This is the kind of thing that would be easy to make on vacation, as we generally stay in condos with kitchens… we’re planning our next Maui trip and will definitely take this recipe with us. Mac salad always reminds me of “plate lunch” Hawaiian-style.


  • Sara

    I love this mac salad, but I like a lil chile pepper added to it. Yum yum yum! Thanks Elise!


  • Tracey

    I have fallen in love with the subtle taste of shallots when summer salads call for onions. Shallots are a pretty purple and don’t overwhelm the taste buds if you bite into a piece of it.

  • Jon

    Re: Mayonnaise (Trader Joe’s etc.)

    Five minutes to make your own. And ALWAYS much better than in a bottle.

    In a blender, food processor or any other spinning kitchen device:

    1 Tablespoon lemon juice (or vinegar)
    1 whole egg
    1 – 2 cups liquid oil: I like 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil plus 2/3 cup canola/safflower/corn oil.

    A little Salt / Pepper / optional Herbs (tarragon, marjoram, oregano, onion, garlic…)

    In the food processor, combine everything except the oil. Buzz until smooth. With the machine running, pour in oil in a slow stream. Taste. Adjust salt, herbs, etc. Add more oil if you think it’s needed. Add a bit of water if it needs thinning.

    Enjoy the best mayonnaise you’ve ever eaten. And the next time you make it, it will be better!

    Must be refrigerated, of course.


    • Nadine

      Jon, this mayo is AMAZING!!!! Thanks for the recipe!! I used grape seed oil ;)

  • li

    I have an almost identical recipe, but mine has fresh peas added. I also add diced ham or slald shrimp. Depending on my mood, I’ll drop in a little horseradish as well.

  • Wayne

    I make a simiar recipe without the egg and a few other ingredients, but I do add a few cans of flaked tuna. Makes a great meal or side dish for the summer!

    Yes, we have a tuna macaroni salad too, that we eat all the time. ~Elise

  • teresa

    Do I note a touch of red onion in the picture? It looks wonderful.

    It’s a red spring onion. Regular red onions could be used too. ~Elise

  • Mirescu

    I make something very similar, but I prefer to have some diced raw bell peppers as well to add some contrasting textures (and maybe a little celery as well). Otherwise I feel the salad is a bit too ‘mushy’. I prefer red onions to scallions for this as well, but that’s just me.

    On a side note, you can take this basic recipe, puree the roasted peppers with a little chipotle in adobo (maybe a chili or two with a tablespoon of adobo) add some chopped smoked chicken and you have a killer main dish.

    Great idea, thanks! ~Elise

  • Hannah

    My family makes mac salad unlike anybody else that I’ve ever tried. I’m not really sure how ours ended up so different, but it doesn’t have that slightly sweet flavor that everbody else’s does here in Oregon. We chop up hard-boiled eggs, dill pickles, and black olives, then dump them into the cooked macaroni. Then we put in a very big scoop of mayo, a couple good squirts of mustard (or more if my mom isn’t making it), a drizzle of pickle juice, then salt, pepper, garlic, and sometimes Johnny’s seasoning salt (or Tony’s if we’re not out). Mix it all together and it goes like hot cakes in our house! We also sometimes add diced cheddar cheese and sometimes fresh peas. It makes for a very savory mac salad, and DELICIOUS!

  • Natasa

    Great stuff Elise!
    Personally, for the high summer I prefer something less obviously fat :D so I usually substitute at least half of the mayo with yogurt. Gives that extra bit of freshness.

  • Susan

    Good heavens, I made this today and you would have thought I never fed my family! They gobbled it down like they were starving to death! Excellent salad. I took a cue from your description of “deviled egg marries pasta”. I mooshed up the egg yolks and added a little of the dressing to it, when it was fluffy, I added them (I used 2 eggs) back to the rest of the dressing. Wow! It did give the salad a hint of the deviled egg flavor. I added some mustard that really spiced it up. Thanks, Elise and Ms Elise’s Mom. We loved it.


    • Shirley

      When I make my macaroni salad. I. Use more than 1 egg,slice the egg into salad,I. Also add olives.

  • michael bash

    I used to make mac salad that was great just after you mixed in the dressing stuff. But in a bit the mac soaked up the dressing, and the salad got dry. Solution: add a bit of the dressing and stir to make mac not stick together. Then just before you serve, stir in all the rest.

  • Linda

    This looks wonderful. Just in time for hour picnic later on today. I never thought of red bell peppers in mac salad. I’ll give it a try. You mentioned Trader Joe’s – have you used their unsweetened mayonnaise? It is superior to the regular, off-the-shelf jarred mayo in the grocery stores. I highly recommend it. Thanks for another great sounding recipe.

    Haven’t tried it. Am sort of partial to Best Foods (Hellmans). ~Elise

  • Kathy - Panini Happy

    That’s so funny you mentioned the macaroni-deviled egg connection – a very similar thought came to my mind on the 4th of July when I was preparing potato salad. The flavors in all three dishes are so similar (at least the way I make ’em). The paprika is key. I hadn’t taken it to the “love child” level, but I’m with you on it! :-)

  • Ktbt334

    I make macaroni salad all the time in the summer; put in a can of chicken breast meat or tuna… some frozen peas… and even halves of cherry tomatoes…. mmmmm!

  • jo

    I keep hoping it will finally get hot enough around here to make My Mom’s. Ever so close to yours, however in our family this, and this only, must be made with Miracle Whip instead of Mayo and we add a wee bit of celery seed. Thanks for making me drool at the screen.

  • BW

    From the picture it looks like there are also purple onion in the salad, but I don’t see it in the recipe. Am I misinterpreting what the purple bits in the salad are? Or maybe my screen colors are just way off… In any case, the salad looks so yummy!

    That’s a red spring onion. ~Elise

  • Barbara Julion

    This a great dish, only, I add crushed pineapple.

  • Bill

    I believe I’m seeing red onion in this image accompanying the recipe but the ingredients list spring or green onions? Does it make a more defined taste with the red onion? Is there any reason not to use it? I think I would prefer the stronger accent of the red onion.

    That’s a red spring onion (looks like a giant green onion, but purple-reddish). You can use red onion too. ~Elise

  • Becky

    My sister makes a salad a lot like this, adding cooked baby shrimp. Really good!