Why I love this homemade macaroni salad
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 in the macaroni salad dressing, and it’s 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.
Here’s what you need to make this easy macaroni salad
How to make macaroni salad with shrimp
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.
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 the best macaroni salad
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
More summer salad recipes:
- Strawberry poppyseed salad
- Tomato salad recipe
- Farro salad recipe
- Grilled peach salad
- Spicy cucumber salad
- Mexican street corn salad
- BLT pasta salad
More shrimp recipes:
1 pound elbow macaroni, cooked and cooled
2 cups mayonnaise
2 tablespoons dill pickle juice, or more to taste
2 6-ounce can medium deveined shrimp, drained
1/2 bell pepper, chopped
1 carrot, shredded
2 stalks celery, diced
1 green onion, green only, sliced
1 teaspoon coarse salt
½ – 1 teaspoon black pepper to taste
- Boil macaroni according to package directions.
- When straining rinse with cold water until cool and refrigerate until ready to use.
- In a large bowl stir the macaroni with the remaining ingredients.
- Refrigerate until ready to serve.
- Category: Pasta Salads
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: American
- Serving Size:
- Calories: 302
- Sugar: 1.8 g
- Sodium: 566.1 mg
- Fat: 16.1 g
- Saturated Fat: 2.2 g
- Carbohydrates: 30.2 g
- Fiber: 1.8 g
- Protein: 8.7 g
- Cholesterol: 39.5 mg
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Published: February 25, 2019. Updated: September 8, 2023.
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