This is the absolute best ever sweet, creamy Macaroni Salad made with sweet peas, red bell peppers, crunchy celery, fresh parsley, and a creamy sweet and tangy dressing full of flavor!
I’ve always been picky about my macaroni salads and to be 110 percent honest I usually skip it if I don’t know who made it (or take a courtesy scoop if it’s a relative – shhh!!) but this recipe is positively crave-able. It’s the right balance of textures with tender noodles and crunchy veggies, and that dressing is sweet, creamy perfection!
And can I get an “amen” for a pasta salad that actually tastes amazing when it’s made fresh and doesn’t have to sit and marinate for hours to get a bit of flavor going on? I mean if you want to make it ahead of time, you can – but you certainly don’t have to because this salad tastes incredible right after you make it.
Why This Recipe Works
Perfect for potlucks — Are you in charge of bringing a macaroni salad to your next picnic or potluck? Was it a last-minute ask? Well, no worries because this salad comes together in a flash and needs no prep time to make the flavors come together. Plus, it’s made with…
Oh-so-simple ingredients — That’s right, what could be easier than macaroni salad ingredients like elbow pasta, canned peas, bell peppers, onions, celery, parsley and an even easier dressing made with just a few pantry and fridge staples?
Great for meal planning — Sure you can take this macaroni salad recipe to a potluck OR you could make it for yourself on Sunday and pack it for lunches for the week. Add some rotisserie chicken to it for a full, easy meal you’ll be able to grab on your way out the door.
Kid-friendly — These days just about every meal I make needs to be approved by the kiddos because I’m not a short-order cook so I’m making one meal/dish and we’re all going to eat it, know what I mean? Nothing is easier to sell to kids than pasta in any shape, size, or form. Plus, this has veggies in it they won’t even ask to pick out!
Here’s How You Make It
- Boil the macaroni in salted water until it’s tender. Drain the pasta and then run under cold water to cool.
- Add the pasta to a large bowl with the peppers, drained and rinsed peas, onions, green onions, the chopped parsley, and celery.
- Make the dressing by whisking together all the ingredients until smooth. Pour the dressing over the macaroni salad and veggies and stir to combine.
- Serve right away or cover and put in the fridge (or cooler) and chill for 1-2 hours, tossing again right before serving to mix the dressing back around.
Ideas for Customizing This Recipe
- Don’t like peas or another vegetable in this salad? There are many different substitutions that will work just as well. Try some chopped broccoli or cauliflower (chopped small and cooked or blanched first), halved cherry tomatoes, snap peas, or sliced black olives.
- No elbow macaroni? You can substitute any smaller-sized pasta and it will be delicious. Some of my favorites include small shells, rotini, ditalini, and farfalle.
- If you don’t like mayo, you can use all Greek yogurt, or half Greek yogurt and sour cream. Alternatively if you don’t have any Greek yogurt, you can use plain regular yogurt, but it won’t be as thick and tangy.
- Other options for dressings for this macaroni salad recipe include Cilantro Avocado Ranch, Greek Yogurt Ranch, and Sesame Ginger Dressing.
What’s the Difference Between Pasta and Macaroni?
I always thought these two things were interchangeable. But it turns out they are not. Macaroni refers to only pasta that’s in the shape of an elbow, so only elbow macaroni is officially “macaroni.”
Every other pasta is just “pasta” and can be called just that.
What Is the Difference Between Bell Peppers?
Again, the more you know…turns out peppers change color right there on the plant, depending on how long they’ve been ripening. They first start out green, then they go to yellow, then orange, then red. The redder the pepper, the sweeter it will be, whereas green peppers tend to be more bitter.
- This pasta salad will keep in the fridge for up to 4 days. I do not recommend you freeze this pasta salad as cooked pasta salad doesn’t freeze well and will end up all clumpy and mushy upon thawing.
- If you’re worried that keeping your pasta salad dressed in the fridge will make the macaroni too soaked with dressing by the time you go to serve it, then keep the dressing and the pasta/veggie mixture separate until you’re ready to serve it.
- After rinsing the pasta, make sure it’s drained well so that your dressing doesn’t end up too watery. I let mine drain a while (shaking it around every so often) to get excess water off, or if I’m in a hurry, I will sometimes dump the pasta on some paper towels to get off the excess water and starches.
More Amazing Salad Recipes
- Greek Avocado Chicken Salad
- Chicken Salad with Grapes
- Best Broccoli Salad (without mayo!)
- Strawberry Pasta Spinach Salad with Orange Poppy Seed Dressing
Did you try this amazingly easy and tasty grilled chicken recipe? YAY! Please rate the recipe below!
Best Ever Creamy Sweet Macaroni Salad
- 16 ounces Great Value Macaroni Elbows
- 1 15 ounce can Great Value Organic Sweet Peas
- 1 red bell pepper - diced
- ½ red onion - diced
- 3 green onions - chopped
- 3 ribs celery - chopped
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
- ½ cup mayo
- ⅓ cup sour cream - or plain Greek yogurt
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons honey
- ½ teaspoon salt - or to taste
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper - or to taste
- Boil macaroni noodles in salted water until tender. Drain and run under cold water. In a large bowl combine noodles, red peppers, sweet peas, red onions, green onions, parsley, and celery.
- Whisk together all dressing ingredients until smooth. Pour over noodles and veggies and toss to combine. Serve immediately or cover and chill 1-2 hours, then toss immediately before serving.