Macaroni Salad

A simple, creamy macaroni salad loaded with pasta, peas and ham. It’s perfect for parties, family dinners, and potlucks!

There are a few salad recipes that I always make in the summertime, including this Macaroni Salad! My favorite savory salad is probably Egg Salad, and my favorite sweet salad is by far Ambrosia Salad!

Macaroni salad with peas and ham in a white serving dish

Quick + Easy Macaroni Salad

In search of a great pasta salad dish to bring to your next family dinner? This easy macaroni salad is it! It’s also great for picnics, BBQs, showers, brunches, and all of the holidays. I like to make a big batch of this macaroni salad because it always serves a ton of people. It’s super yummy served on the side of other main dishes or it can be served by itself as a lunch or dinner dish.

Pasta Shape: Aside from the different mix in options you can also use different pasta shapes. Anything that is bite sized and has grooves that will cling deliciously to the dressing will work. Some ideas include:

  • Shell any size
  • Wagon wheel
  • Bow tie
  • Penne
  • Rotini

Cooking macaroni for macaroni salad recipe

How to Make Macaroni Salad

MACARONI. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add in the noodles of your choice and the salt. Cook until the macaroni is tender and then drain the pasta.

MIX. In a medium sized bowl, add the drained macaroni, peas and ham. In a separate bowl, mix the milk, mayo and ranch dressing together. Add the sauce to the pasta and mix until everything is coated. Season with salt, pepper and paprika.

Tips:

  • Making this for a crowd? I would plan for ½ cup which is about 5oz per person. 
  • Rinse the noodles after draining: this helps cool them off and keeps them from clumping together.

Classic macaroni salad ingredients in a mixing bowl

Variations + Additions

Mix Ins: I like to keep my macaroni salad simple especially when I’m serving it for a large crowd. However, there are so many delicious mix in ideas that you can use for your family. You can even have the mix ins on the side for people to add themselves. 

  • Diced celery
  • Diced pickles
  • Chopped red onion or scallions
  • Boiled egg
  • Cheese chunks-cheddar is yummy
  • Diced tomatoes
  • Diced bell peppers
  • Tuna
  • Sliced radishes

Macaroni salad dressing

Storing Tips

Keeping it cool: Macaroni salad is perfect picnics and potlucks, but this means often leaving it out for awhile and sometimes in warm temperatures. It’s not recommended for any food to be left out for longer than 2 hours at room temperature and less in the heat. Here are a couple tips to help when serving: 

  • Only set out a little at a time and leave the rest in a cooler with ice.
  • Set the bowl of macaroni salad inside a large bowl with ice in it. 

Storage: Macaroni salad can be made ahead of time. In fact, I like to make mine the day before and let all the flavors blend. If you do make this the day before I suggest leaving a little dressing out so that you can freshen it up if it gets a little dry.

Leftovers can be stored, covered, in the fridge for up to 5 days. If it gets dry, mix up  a little bit more dressing and retoss.  

Complete Your Picnic:

Close up of easy macaroni salad recipe

For more Pasta salad recipes, try:

 

Macaroni Salad Recipe

5 from 14 votes
A simple, creamy macaroni salad loaded with pasta, peas and ham. It's perfect for parties, family dinners, and potlucks!
Course Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine American
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 8 minutes
Total Time 18 minutes
Servings 15
Calories 328.56 kcal
Author Lil' Luna

Ingredients

  • 24 oz macaroni
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • 1 1/2 cup ham cubed
  • 1 bag frozen peas
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 cup light mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup ranch dressing
  • salt, pepper, paprika to taste

Instructions
 

  • Add noodles and salt to a boiling pot of water. Cook until the macaroni is tender. Drain
  • In a bowl add the drained macaroni, peas and ham.
  • In a separate bowl mix the milk, mayo and ranch dressing
  • Add the sauce to the pasta and mix until coated.
  • Season with salt, pepper and paprika

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About the Author

Kristyn Merkley

My name is Kristyn and I’m the mom of SIX stinkin’ cute kids and the wife to my smokin’ hot hubby, Lo. My mom’s maiden name is Luna, and I’m one of the many crafty “Lil’ Lunas” in the fam. On this site I like to share all things creative - from recipes to home decor to gifts and home decor ideas. Welcome!

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Comments:

  1. 5 stars
    This is one of my favorite summer/spring salads to take anywhere! It is very simple to make & tastes great!

  2. 5 stars
    Adding ranch dressing really makes a delicious difference. I like adding Chinese noodles for a bit of a crunch.

  3. 5 stars
    We definetly have our favorites and this is one of them. Its always at our barbecues because its so good.

    1. Nope 🙂 You can cook them, if you prefer them that way, but this is perfect without cooking them.

  4. 5 stars
    Wonderfully easy! So full of great flavor! I whipped this up in no time and let it sit in my fridge overnight. The flavor of this was fantastic and I loved how easy it was to get prepped ahead of time! I only needed a tiny bit of extra dressing to freshen it up. Perfect.

  5. 5 stars
    It is such a simple and very easy-to-make macaroni salad recipe. Very delicious and highly recommended!

  6. Help!! This salad sounds amazing, but I only have about 1/4 a cup of ranch & I don’t have time to run & get more! Any suggestions for a substitute for the rest of the called for 1/2 cup??

    1. You could improvise a bit and add to the ranch dressing you already have by combining together about 2 Tbsp mayonnaise, 2 Tbsp sour cream and a little bit of milk until smooth. You could also add dill, parsley, chives, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, and pepper if you have any on hand. Hope this helps!

  7. Very tasty but the milk made it too “loose”. I think minus the milk it would be perfect. I also added some hard boiled eggs and onions. Thanks for the delicious recipe!

    1. You’re welcome! The addition of the eggs and onions sound tasty! Thanks for giving the recipe a try.