Easy Macaroni Salad

The BEST macaroni salad recipe! Filled with crisp veggies and fresh herbs, it's just as delicious as the classic version, but it's so much lighter.

macaroni salad

This macaroni salad recipe is my fresher take on the kind I ate growing up. If you’re familiar with classic macaroni salad, you know that it’s usually coated in an ulta-creamy dressing made with mayo, sugar, and even sour cream. Though this kind of dressing is too rich for me these days, there’s still a lot that I do like about macaroni salad. Diced dill pickles, vinegar, and mustard give it a tangy, briny flavor, and crisp veggies like bell pepper, celery, and onions add plenty of crunch. So earlier this spring, I set out to make my own macaroni salad recipe, one that would be lighter than, but just as flavorful as, the classic version.

I’m so excited to share the results with all of you! In typical Love and Lemons fashion, this macaroni salad gets a punch of fresh flavor from herbs like parsley and dill. It features a lightly creamy dressing instead of a super rich one, and it’s chock-full of veggies. It comes together in under 30 minutes, and it keeps well if you make it ahead. Add it to your Father’s Day menu this weekend, or pack it for a picnic or a weekday lunch. However you serve it, I hope you love this recipe!

macaroni salad ingredients

How to Make Macaroni Salad

This easy macaroni salad recipe starts with the dressing. A blend of mayo, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, garlic, salt, and pepper, it’s lightly creamy, tangy, and super simple to whisk together. My favorite way to make it is with my homemade vegan mayo, but it works well with regular mayo or store bought vegan mayo too.

Macaroni Salad Dressing in a bowl

Whisk the dressing ingredients together at the bottom of a large bowl. Did I mention that this is a one-bowl recipe?

Red bell peppers, celery, herbs, onion, peas, and noodles in a bowl

Then, toss in everything else! Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Macaroni, of course!
  • Red bell pepper, red onion, and celery – They amp up the savory flavor and add a nice crunch.
  • Peas – For extra green and a little sweetness.
  • Capers – I swap them in for the traditional dill pickles! They give this salad a delicious briny flavor, but if you don’t have them on hand, diced dill pickles will work here too.
  • Fresh parsley and dill – They give the salad a fresh, savory finish. I like to make this recipe with 1/4 cup dill, but if you’re not a dill fan, feel free to start with 2 tablespoons and add more to taste.

Toss the noodles, veggies, capers, and herbs with the dressing, season to taste, and enjoy!

Find the complete recipe with measurements below.

How to make macaroni salad

Best Macaroni Salad Recipe Tips

  • Cook your pasta a little longer than usual. It should be a tad past al dente (but not mushy) so that the pasta stays soft when it cools. I find that the higher time range listed on box instructions is usually just about right for macaroni salad.
  • Rinse the pasta under cold water. If the pasta is still warm when you add it to the salad, it will start to cook and wilt the veggies. To keep them vibrant and crisp, run the pasta under cold water when you drain it. It should be completely cool before you mix it with the other salad ingredients.
  • Taste and adjust. Like most salad recipes, this one is flexible, so taste and adjust it to your liking before you serve it! Squeeze on more lemon juice if you want it brighter, or add extra veggies or herbs. And of course, salt to taste.

Macaroni salad recipe

Easy Macaroni Salad Serving Suggestions

This easy macaroni salad recipe is a perfect summer side dish! Serve it with veggie burgers, portobello mushroom burgers, cauliflower po’ boys, or BBQ jackfruit sandwiches at a backyard BBQ. You could also pack it for a picnic with Caprese sandwiches, chickpea salad sandwiches, or egg salad sandwiches. If you’re vegan, swap crumbled tofu for hard boiled eggs to make a tasty egg salad alternative.

If you’re looking for more side dishes to round out your meal, try one of the suggestions below. Any of them would be fantastic with this macaroni salad recipe:

If you have leftovers, store them in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. Enjoy them at home, or pack them up for lunch!

Bowl of macaroni salad

More Favorite Picnic Salads

If you love this mac salad recipe, check out this post for more of my best picnic food ideas. Then, try one of these salad recipes next:

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Easy Macaroni Salad

rate this recipe:
5 from 19 votes
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Serves 4 to 6
This easy macaroni salad recipe is a perfect summer side dish! Tossed in a lightly creamy, tangy dressing, it's fresh and delicious. Great for cookouts, picnics, or a make-ahead lunch!



  • In a large bowl, whisk together the mayo, mustard, lemon juice, garlic, salt, and freshly ground black pepper.
  • Cook the macaroni in a pot of salted boiling water until just past al dente. Drain and rinse under cold water.
  • Add the macaroni to the bowl along with the red onion, red pepper, celery, peas, capers, dill, and parsley. Stir to combine and season to taste with more salt and pepper.


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Rate this recipe (after making it)

  1. Shanel

    5 stars
    Can i replace mayo with greek yogurt

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      Yes, I think that would be great. I might add a bit more salt after tasting the final dish since mayo is more salty than plain Greek yogurt.

  2. Shanel

    5 stars
    Can i replace mayo with greek yogurt

  3. Terry

    5 stars
    This is so so delicious! Crunch in every bite and the dressing is perfect. I added baked tofu for a one dish summer supper. So so yummy. I used veganese mayo and was able to keep the sodium down to 200mg. This meal will be on repeat! Thank you.

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      I’m so glad you loved it!

  4. Jacqueline

    5 stars
    I have never been a fan of Macaroni salads, but your recipe is a wonderful design in flavours.
    I did add some grated Baldersson Double Smoked Cheddar cheese. Oh man did the flavours dance together! I will make this often! Thank you!

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it!

  5. Yimaor Emmanuel

    What a delicious meal plan
    I love it so much

  6. Sharon

    5 stars
    Really really nice. I didn’t have frozen peas so used edamame instead. Yumm.

  7. Madel Ernemann

    5 stars
    Loved it!! Soooo much lighted then the one with mayo/sour cream. Thanks

  8. doonie

    Made this for a party and it was great! Would you be able to freeze leftovers?

  9. Shannon

    5 stars
    I loved this! I made it with store-bought Vegenase for the mayo and subbed chopped banana peppers for the dill pickles, since that’s what I had in the fridge. So good! I’ll be making this all summer.

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      Hi Shannon, I’m so glad it was a hit!

  10. Esther

    5 stars
    this was delicious. Thank You!
    I used GF brown rice pasta, and cilantro instead of parsley (I’m a cilantro lover). I used a whole red pepper and garlic powder in place of fresh garlic. I also added edamame to increase the protein value.

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      Hi Esther, I’m so glad you loved it!

  11. Deann Allen

    I do not like dill pickles or capers. What can I substitute?

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      chopped olives, sun dried tomatoes, or roasted red peppers would be delicious.

    • Anne Barlow

      I just made a veggie laden pasta salad, but I used your tahini dressing. It was great.

  12. Love this recipe cannot stand bland macaroni salad, the only thing I do a ill different I use Apple cider vinegar instead of lemon juice I use a full can of black olives either chopped or ripped and some of the brine and a bunch of hard boiled eggs the more taste the better, never thought to try dill before thanks!

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      I think apple cider vinegar would be delish!

A food blog with fresh, zesty recipes.
Photograph of Jeanine Donofrio and Jack Mathews in their kitchen

Hello, we're Jeanine and Jack.

We love to eat, travel, cook, and eat some more! We create & photograph vegetarian recipes from our home in Chicago, while our shiba pups eat the kale stems that fall on the kitchen floor.