Macaroni Pasta Salad

Macaroni Pasta Salad is a popular American cold salad prepared with elbow macaroni pasta, usually topped with mayonnaise. The salad is known as mac sal or mac salad in Hawaii and is a part of plate lunches where the elbow macaroni is topped with mayonnaise and served without any frills.  It is commonly served as a side dish with fried chicken or barbequed dishes along with other picnic food. There are numerous variations of the pasta salad with the traditional dish often using raw onions and celery as common ingredients. Canned tuna is yet another popular ingredient used to prepare the cold salad.


It is a common dish available in almost all salad bars across North America. Although termed as a spring or summer dish, the salad is consumed throughout the year. It is known as the pasta salad in Australia and is prepared with cooked shell shaped pasta available commercially.


A number of vegetables as well as shredded chesses are used to enhance the taste and flavor of the macaroni salad usually. The dressing varies from the simple mayonnaise to exotic Asian sauces and sesame oil  according to individual preferences.



Origin of Macaroni Pasta Salad

The salad is a typical American dish with the earliest recipe for it being published in 1962. The dish gained in popularity during the early eighties and was touted as a form of Nouvelle Cuisine. Pastas in various shapes and sizes were heaped on a plate and topped with dressings of vinegar, olive oil or mayonnaise. Cream cheese was also used along with a variety of vegetables, herbs and spices which were added to enhance the taste of the bland dish.


The macaroni salad was considered to be an affordable and easily available food. It also served as an ideal dish that could be made within minutes from leftovers.


The dish could be prepared by utilizing a ‘pasta salad box kit’ that began to be widely available in grocery stores across America in the late 80s.


The first published recipe for macaroni pasta sal instructed the readers to cook elbow macaroni according to package directions and prepare it like the traditional potato salad.



Macaroni Pasta Salad Recipe Overview

The simplest form of macaroni salad does not require too many ingredients and can be prepared by adding mayonnaise on top of a mound of cooked, elbow macaroni. However, celery, onion and hard boiled eggs are frequently used as a part of the recipe. The ingredients are usually tossed together and served with a topping of mayonnaise after the seasoning has been adjusted.


Green peppers, broccoli, baby carrots, peas and feta cheese are other ingredients also used to prepare the salad apart from tuna and chicken.



Popular Variations of Macaroni Pasta Salad

Some of the most popular recipe variations for the mac sal include:-

  • Creole Macaroni Salad- The elbow macaroni dish is tossed with garlic, onions, shredded Cheddar cheese, stuffed olives and cayenne pepper. It is usually served on a bed of lettuce leaves.
  • Tuna Macaroni Salad- A can of tuna along with peas, thyme and mayonnaise is mixed with the cooked macaroni and served chilled.
  • Leftover Salad- a salad prepared with leftover ingredients from an Italian meal usually consists of tossing the boiled macaronis with salami, arugula, chives and roasted bell peppers together with some Parmesan cheese.
  • Greek Pasta Salad- This dish is a variation of the American Macaroni salad and is prepared with tomatoes, onions, parsley and limejuice added to the cooked elbow macaroni which is tossed with feta cheese prior to serving.
  • Filipino Macaroni Salad- The dish prepared in Philippines consists of shredded chicken, boiled eggs, pineapple chunks and Dijon mustard mixed mayonnaise, tossed together with elbow macaroni and served at room temperature.  
  • 4th of July Salad- A traditional Macaroni salad eaten by the Americans on the 4th of July consists of pimento, onions, sweet pickles, celery, vinegar and mayonnaise tossed together and seasoned with salt, sugar and crushed black pepper. 



Serving Suggestions for Macaroni Pasta Salad

  • The chicken or seafood macaroni salad can be served as an entire meal by itself whereas the more simpler forms go well with fried chicken dishes and BBQ food.
  • Hot dogs and hamburgers along with other fast food items are also accompanied by the salad especially during a picnic meal.
  • Crackers, crusty bread and garlic bread sticks are often added to the salad variations available in delis and salad bars.




Macaroni pasta salad is sold under the KFC brand name in America.