macaroni salad

The Real Macaroni Salad

by thestarvingartistfood

macaroni saladI rarely meet anyone who loves macaroni salad. And really I can’t blame them. When they hear “macaroni salad” they likely conjure an image of the soupy, colorless horror they scoop out of giant bowls behind the deli counter at the grocery score. Or, they’ve come across one-too-many homemade variations with pimento-filled green olives and a sickening amount of mayo. If you have been a victim of this, I am sorry. It’s really a shame because when done properly (i.e. the way I do it) macaroni salad is a vibrant, fresh, and downright craveable side for any summer cookout, family gathering, or just right out of the container at 2am any time of year (not that I would know).

Let me show you how it’s done.

In order to achieve the pinnacle of macaroni salad, there are two rules that absolutely must be adhered to:

  1. Chill your cooked macaroni completely before you make the salad. That is, do not put everything together when the noodles are still hot. When you put mayonnaise on warm noodles, what happens? It melts. And because mayo is an emulsion, not a solid fat like butter, it does not reassemble once it’s chilled again: it stays melted. And melted mayo is just gross oily mess. Hence the horrid, slimy, soupy texture we all too often see in grocery stores and on cookout picnic tables. Instead, I put just a spoonful of mayo on the noodles when they are warm to coat them and prevent sticking, then I chill them, then I assemble the salad. When you add cold mayo to cold noodles, the mayo retains its desirable texture, which allows you to accomplish the second unimpeachable rule…
  2. Use as little mayo as possible. For a full pound of elbow pasta, I use maybe ⅔ at most of a small 15oz jar of mayo. The trick is to start with about ½ or less of the jar, mix it all together, then taste it. If needs more, add a little bit, mix, taste again. It’s amazing just how little is needed for just that right, pleasantly dressed consistency. And do not make me tell you it needs to be full-fat real mayonnaise – do NOT use light!

tiny shrimpIn addition to these two rules, I have a secret ingredient that gives it that something, that umami zip that makes you really crave it. The fresh veggies give it irresistible crunch, the fresh dill and paprika wakes everything up, the olives give it zing, the eggs give texture, but none of them will live up to their full potential without the big secret: tiny shrimp. From a can. I know, it sounds crazy, but hear me out. The shrimp are so tiny that when you fold them in, they will break up completely – you won’t even know they’re in there. Unlike tuna, they are not fishy at all, in fact they’re really mild. All you’ll know is that it tastes amazing and you’ll want to eat it all.

If you’re on the fence or if you already love macaroni salad, I’m telling you this salad will rock your world. If you decide to try it, I want to hear all about it! Tweet me, instagram me, tell me!

macaroni salad

The Real Macaroni Salad

I rarely meet anyone who loves macaroni salad. And really I can’t blame them. When they hear “macaroni salad” they likely conjure an image of the soupy, colorless horror they… Featured Salad, macaroni, pasta, summer European Print This
Serves: 8 Prep Time:
Nutrition facts: 200 calories 20 grams fat


1 lb large elbow macaroni (sometimes called casserole elbows)
1 15oz jar Best Foods Mayonnaise, chilled
2-3 ribs celery, finely diced
½ large red onion, finely diced
2 cans Geisha tiny shrimp, lightly rinsed and thoroughly drained
3 hard boiled eggs, finely chopped
1 small (2.25 oz) can sliced black olives, thoroughly drained and roughly chopped
7-8 fresh radishes, quartered and sliced thin
1 bunch fresh dill, chopped
1 tbs (or to taste) paprika
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste


1. Prepare macaroni to package directions in very salty water. Do not overcook - al dente is the goal. Strain, rinse with cold water, drain thoroughly. Transfer to large bowl and toss with one spoonful of mayonnaise (this is just to coat the pasta and prevent sticking). Let cool to room temperature, then place covered in the fridge to chill completely, at least 1 hour.
2. Once pasta is chilled, add celery, red onion, tiny shrimp, egg, black olives, radish, dill, paprika, several turns of black pepper and a good pinch of salt to bowl.
3. Add in about half the remaining mayonnaise, then gingerly fold everything together using a rubber spatula.
4. Once everything is thoroughly combined, taste. Add additional mayonnaise, salt, pepper, and paprika as desired. Serve thoroughly chilled.


Salad can be served immediately once assembling, but it will get even better if you let it chill in the refrigerator.

Also, my measurements are always approximate - put in whatever works for you!

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