Easy Macaroni Salad Recipe

This easy macaroni salad recipe has a secret ingredient that gives it the best flavor. Plus, this classic recipe is a great addition to any summer gathering and it’s crowd friendly. Makes 12 servings.

shrimp macaroni salad recipe in a large glass bowl on a red and white gingham napkin with forks, green onions, a bowl of pickles and a bowl of chopped green bell peppers on a wooden board

This easy macaroni salad – complete with its secret ingredient – has been floating around my family for a while now. My mom originally got it from a lady she worked with, long before I was born.

Although I’m not really sure why, I hated it when I was growing up, but now it’s one of my favorite summer side dishes. Marc and I have even fought over who gets the leftovers.

The secret ingredient I mentioned is pickle juice – preferably dill. You add it when you add the mayonnaise, and it gives the salad a little flavor punch.

There’s also baby shrimp in this salad, but if you’re not a fan of shrimp, you could easily replace it with chicken, or whatever protein you prefer. I’ve had it with chicken at least a few times, and it’s still great, but I prefer shrimp the most.

close up of shrimp macaroni salad recipe in a large glass bowl on a red and white gingham napkin, on a wooden board

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Here’s what you need to make this easy macaroni salad:

How to make macaroni salad

Cook the macaroni

Prepare the elbow macaroni according to package directions for al dente. When cooked, drain the pasta and rinse with cold water until cool to the touch.

If you need extra time before mixing the salad, stir in a drizzle of olive oil to prevent the macaroni from sticking. You could also stir in a bit of mayonnaise if you don’t have oil on hand.

Prepare the remaining ingredients

While the pasta is cooking, chop and grate your vegetables. Strain the shrimp.

If you want to, you can even measure the mayonnaise and pickle juice, but I usually do this as I’m adding it to the salad.

shrimp macaroni salad recipe in a large glass bowl on a red and white gingham napkin, green onions, a bowl of pickles and a bowl of chopped green bell peppers on a wooden board

Combine your salad

In a large mixing bowl, mix your ingredients together. Adjust the seasoning with salt & pepper, to taste.

Cover the macaroni salad and refrigerate it until you’re ready to serve.

If the salad seems dry when I’m ready to serve, I usually stir in a big spoonful of mayonnaise and an extra splash of pickle juice to bring it back to life.

This is especially important if you’re preparing the salad ahead of time.

FAQs and tips for making shrimp macaroni salad

Can I make this recipe healthier?

To make this a little lighter, I always use canola oil mayonnaise*. It has way less calories than traditional mayonnaise, but it doesn’t have the added sugar of light mayo.

You do not want to use Miracle Whip here. I mean, you can, but it just won’t taste right.

What can I serve with macaroni salad?

We love this macaroni salad recipe with everything in the summer. It would be the perfect side dish for your favorite burgers or even grilled meatloaf.

You could even try pairing it with grilled pork ribs or beer brined chicken.

overhead shot of shrimp macaroni salad recipe in a large glass bowl on a red and white gingham napkin with forks, green onions, a bowl of pickles and a bowl of chopped green bell peppers on a wooden board

How do you keep macaroni salad from absorbing mayonnaise?

I find this pretty much impossible, but I’ve read that if you coat the macaroni with oil before adding your mayonnaise or dressing, it will help a bit.

Normally, I add a bit more mayonnaise before serving to liven up the salad, and this always seems to work well.

How long can you keep macaroni salad in the fridge?

This macaroni salad recipe doesn’t last long in our house, but I would recommend only storing this salad in the fridge for a maximum of 5 days.

Can homemade macaroni salad be frozen?

You should definitely not freeze this recipe. Mayonnaise does not typically freeze well, and the texture of the salad will be unpleasant if you freeze it.

Dairy Free Macaroni Salad | @simplywhisked

Easy Macaroni Salad Recipe

  • Author: Melissa Belanger
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: 12 1x


This easy macaroni salad recipe is the best! It’s made elbow macaroni, shrimp and a secret-ingredient mayonnaise dressing. Perfect for a crowd in the summer. #macaroni #salad



  • 1 pound elbow macaroni, cooked and cooled
  • 2 1/2 cups mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons dill pickle juice (or more to taste)
  • 1 4-ounce can small deveined shrimp, drained
  • 1/2 bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 carrot, shredded
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 green onion, green only, sliced
  • Salt & pepper to taste


  1. Boil macaroni according to package directions.
  2. When straining rinse with cold water until cool and refrigerate until ready to use.
  3. In a large bowl stir the macaroni with the remaining ingredients.
  4. Refrigerate until ready to serve.


  • Calories: 0
  • Sugar: 0 g
  • Sodium: 0 mg
  • Fat: 0 g
  • Saturated Fat: 0 g
  • Unsaturated Fat: 0 g
  • Trans Fat: 0 g
  • Carbohydrates: 0 g
  • Fiber: 0 g
  • Protein: 0 g
  • Cholesterol: 0 mg
Dairy Free Macaroni Salad | @simplywhisked

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