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Creamy Macaroni Noodle Salad for a Potluck Recipe

This creamy macaroni noodle salad for a potluck is bursting with flavor and vibrant colors. Are you on the hunt for the perfect dish to bring to your next potluck or family gathering? This salad is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser that will have everyone coming back for seconds.

Whether you’re hosting a backyard barbecue, a picnic in the park, or simply looking for a side dish that steals the spotlight, this creamy macaroni salad is sure to impress. With its harmonious blend of tender pasta, crisp veggies, and a creamy dressing that packs a punch, it’s a dish that embodies comfort and nostalgia with every forkful.

Pasta salad is a classic summer recipe, and a must at all potlucks! This simple recipe has elbow macaroni, sweet peppers, onion, celery, cheese, and peas tossed with the most amazing creamy salad dressing.

This noodle salad recipe is great for bringing to any occasion when you need to bring a dish to pass. I rarely take any home and always have people asking for the leftovers.

Creamy Macaroni Noodle Salad for a Potluck Recipe

Any recipe that is used often is a keeper and this is in the pack. The hardest part is cooking the noodles. Dicing the veggies and other ingredients can be done while the pasta is cooking. This cold pasta salad recipe is loved by the whole family.

There are so many variations of pasta salads, here is a macaroni salad that uses vinegar in its creamy salad dressing for a tangy taste.

How to Make the Best Creamy Macaroni Noodle Salad

Any pasta salad has a few basic components; pasta, vegetables, cheese/meat, and salad dressing.  Here are my tips to make the best pasta salad.

Choosing the Pasta

When looking for pasta to use in this salad recipe, I generally look for a short cut pasta. When using in a pasta salad dish, it easier to eat. For this recipe I usually go with macaroni, but any short cut variety will do.

I’ve seen pasta salad made with longer pasta noodles, like linguine, but I find it’s harder to serve and eat that way.

Here are a few short pasta choices.

When it comes to pasta salad, there’s a wide variety of short pasta shapes that work beautifully. Here are some popular options:

  1. Rotini: This corkscrew-shaped pasta is excellent for pasta salads as its nooks and crannies hold dressing and other ingredients well.
  2. Farfalle (Bowtie): Farfalle’s unique shape adds visual appeal to pasta salads, and its flat surface is perfect for catching bits of veggies and dressing.
  3. Penne: With its cylindrical shape and angled ends, penne is versatile and pairs well with various sauces and ingredients in pasta salads.
  4. Fusilli: Similar to rotini but with tighter twists, fusilli is another great choice for pasta salads, offering excellent texture and bite.
  5. Macaroni: Classic elbow macaroni is a popular choice for pasta salads, offering a nostalgic feel and a great base for creamy dressings.
  6. Orzo: Although technically a rice-shaped pasta, orzo works wonderfully in pasta salads, adding a delicate texture and allowing other ingredients to shine.
  7. Ditalini: These short, tube-shaped pastas are ideal for pasta salads, especially those with a chunky or hearty texture.
  8. Gemelli: With its twisted shape, gemelli adds an elegant touch to pasta salads while providing a satisfying chewiness.
  9. Cavatappi: These hollow, spiral-shaped pasta tubes are excellent for pasta salads, offering a delightful combination of texture and visual appeal.
  10. Radiatore: Radiatore’s ruffled edges and accordion-like pasta shape make it a fun and unique addition to pasta salads, trapping sauces and flavors effectively.
Easy Macaroni Pasta Salad

Using Fresh Vegetables

Today, I just have sweet peppers, onions, and sweet peas in my pasta salad; however, when fresh veggies are in season during the summer months add in all sorts of veggies. Fresh and bountiful options include red onion, Vidalia onion, tomatoes, cucumbers, radishes, corn, and carrots.

Pro tip. When adding onion, if it is too much heat for you, place in a colander and rinse under cold water. This tames the flavor quite a bit.

Quick and Easy Salad Prep.

While you are boiling the pasta, you can save time in this recipe by thawing the frozen peas, dicing the onion, cheese, and any other ingredient you choose to add. Pro Tip. Once the pasta is cooked, drain it in a colander and rinse to cool quickly. This process of rinsing also removes excess starch on the pasta, which helps the noodles not stick together.

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Creamy Macaroni Noodle Salad for a Potluck Recipe

This recipe is great for bringing to any occasion when you need to bring a dish to pass. I rarely take any home and always have people asking for the leftovers. This recipe is one I use often.
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time20 minutes
Total Time30 minutes
Course: Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Pasta, recipe, salad, vegetables
Servings: 20 Servings
Calories: 157kcal

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  • 1 box elbow macaroni cooked
  • 3-4 mini sweet peppers diced
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion diced
  • 2 ribs celery diced
  • 8 oz colby/jack cheese diced
  • 8 oz sweet peas I normally take frozen peas and break apart and add them

Ultimate Creamy Salad Dressing

  • 2 cups Miracle Whip dressing
  • 3/4 Cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 Cup milk
  • 1 tsp lemon

text ingredients


  • Cook the macaroni according to package directions; drain and rinse and set aside. This is the only cook time needed in this recipe.
    1 box elbow macaroni
  • In a bowl add the celery, onion, sweet peppers, sweet peas, and cheese. Add the macaroni to the bowl.
    3-4 mini sweet peppers, 1/2 medium yellow onion, 2 ribs celery, 8 oz colby/jack cheese, 8 oz sweet peas

Creamy Salad Dressing

  • In a medium mixing bowl, whisk to combine the salad dressing, sugar, milk, and lemon.
    2 cups Miracle Whip dressing, 3/4 Cup granulated sugar, 1/2 Cup milk, 1 tsp lemon
  • You can eat right away, but it gets even better after a few hours as the flavors will be enhanced. Enjoy!

Your Own Private Notes


I have also added diced, cooked ham or sausage to this.
You can change the type of cheese
You can add a variety of vegetables
Note: if you add a lot of extra ingredients to this salad, I would increase the amount of sauce as it will become dry if you don’t.


Calories: 157kcal | Carbohydrates: 24g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 5g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 14mg | Sodium: 277mg | Potassium: 102mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 13g | Vitamin A: 250IU | Vitamin C: 5mg | Calcium: 94mg | Iron: 1mg
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How long to boil macaroni?

Boil macaroni in a pot of salted boiling water for about 8-10 minutes, or according to package instructions, until it reaches your desired level of tenderness (usually al dente). Drain the cooked macaroni in a colander, rinse with cold water if desired to stop the cooking process, then use it in your preferred recipe.

How long does macaroni salad last?

Macaroni salad typically lasts for 3-5 days when stored properly in an airtight container in the refrigerator. However, the shelf life can vary depending on the ingredients used and any perishable components like mayonnaise or dairy products.

To maximize freshness, ensure the salad is well-covered and stored at a consistent refrigerator temperature. Always use your judgment and discard any macaroni salad that shows signs of spoilage, such as an off smell or unusual appearance.

Can you freeze macaroni salad?

While it’s technically possible to freeze macaroni salad, it’s not recommended as freezing can alter the texture and quality of the salad. The mayonnaise or other creamy dressings may separate and become watery upon thawing, and the vegetables may lose their crispness.

However, if you have leftover macaroni salad and wish to freeze it, place it in an airtight container, leaving some space at the top to allow for expansion. Thaw the frozen macaroni salad in the refrigerator overnight before serving, and keep in mind that the texture and taste may be slightly different from when it was freshly made.

pasta salad
Crowd pleasing fresh tasting pasta salad

What to eat with macaroni salad?

Macaroni salad is a great recipe dish that pairs well with a variety of main courses and side dishes. Here are some delicious options to enjoy with macaroni salad:

  1. Grilled meats: Macaroni salad complements grilled chicken, steak, pork chops, or fish beautifully. The creamy texture and tangy flavor of the salad balance the smokiness of grilled meats.
  2. BBQ dishes: Whether it’s ribs, pulled pork, brisket, BBQ chicken, or burgers, macaroni salad is a classic side dish for barbecue fare. It adds a refreshing contrast to the rich and savory flavors of grilled or smoked meats.
  3. Sandwiches and wraps: Serve macaroni salad alongside sandwiches, wraps, or sliders for a satisfying meal. It pairs well with deli meats, cheese, grilled vegetables, and condiments like mustard or mayo.
  4. Picnic foods: Macaroni salad is a staple at picnics and outdoor gatherings. Enjoy it alongside other picnic favorites such as fried chicken, deviled eggs, coleslaw, potato salad, and fresh fruit.
  5. Summer salads: Serve macaroni salad as part of a larger spread of summer salads, including green salads, fruit salads, pasta salads, potato salad, and grain salads. It adds variety and texture to the meal.
  6. Seafood dishes: Macaroni salad complements seafood dishes such as shrimp, crab cakes, grilled fish, or seafood boils. The creamy dressing pairs well with the delicate flavors of seafood.
  7. Vegetarian mains: Pair macaroni salad with vegetarian mains such as grilled vegetables, veggie burgers, tofu skewers, or bean salads for a balanced and satisfying meal.
  8. Potluck favorites: Bring macaroni salad to potlucks, barbecues, or parties as a crowd-pleasing side dish. It’s easy to transport and can be made in advance, making it perfect for sharing.

These are just a few ideas to get you started, but feel free to get creative and experiment with different combinations to find your favorite pairings with macaroni salad!

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I hope that you liked this easy pasta salad recipe. If you are looking for more ideas on what to make, here are a few other recipes that you may enjoy.

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