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Classic Southern Macaroni Salad Recipe
Try this classic salad for your next potluck!
Our Macaroni Salad recipe is loaded with fresh crunchy celery, crisp red onion, tender sweet peas and cubes of sharp cheddar cheese wrapped up in a tangy homemade dressing.
We’re going a little old school today sharing our easy and delicious macaroni salad recipe. It’s well known that every proper southern girl has a favorite way of preparing this easy and classic potluck staple. Some like it loaded with bell pepper, pimento, hard cooked eggs, cubed cheese, peas, pickle relish and occasionally diced ham.
Others prefer the simple approach with just the basics of celery, onion and a simple dressing made of mayonnaise, vinegar or lemon juice.
While macaroni salad recipes are generally easy, they sometimes lack flavor.
Our dressing takes it a step further by using white balsamic vinegar in place of the lemon juice or white vinegar found in many recipes. We also add a tablespoon of Dijon mustard for a lovely tangy bite.
White balsamic vinegar is rich and sweet and adds a depth of flavor to this dish making it something special. Throw in a dash of cayenne pepper for just a hint of heat – perfect!
We like our semi-loaded macaroni salad recipe the best!
My mom made a good macaroni salad recipe and always had a bowl on the buffet table for family picnics at the lake. I don’t believe she added peas and cheese as I’ve done here, but hey, I’m sure most salad recipes are better with peas and cheese!
I have some terrific memories of BBQ’s and picnics at the lake with family and at the center of those events was a table filled with tons of delicious food. We always had a big tray of the Best Deviled Eggs, a casserole dish with Baked Beans, and a tub of Creamy Cole Slaw and Potato Salad. Food memories are special.
Lost recipes and new favorites
I’ve mentioned this before, but I lost many of my mom’s old recipes in a recycling accident. The recipes were all hand written in a small book and must have gotten mixed in with the newspapers and recycled.
I’ve been heartbroken about this for years and have tried to rebuild many recipes by reaching out to family and friends for help.
My sister-in-law Briana has been a lifesaver by helping find and recommend recipes. She also makes many I publish on here on SRFD.
Bri’s mom Margie, also a great cook and baker, was kind enough to share her Macaroni Salad recipe with me. I drew inspiration for this recipe from Margie’s and several others. This cobbled together version is my personal favorite! Thank you Margie and Briana!
Ingredients needed to make our Macaroni Salad Recipe:
- elbow macaroni
- frozen peas
- red onion
- white balsamic vinegar
- Dijon mustard
- cayenne pepper
- sharp cheddar cheese
- salt and pepper
How to make Macaroni Salad:
First cook the macaroni in salted water until almost tender. Add the frozen peas to the cooking water at the last minute to blanch. Drain the macaroni and peas and rinse with cold water.
Add the onion and celery to the cooked macaroni.
In a separate measuring cup combine the vinegar, mustard and cayenne. Pour over the macaroni and allow the mixture to marinate for a few minutes.
Add the mayonnaise to the macaroni mixture and stir gently to combine. Fold in the eggs and cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Transfer to a covered container and refrigerate until ready to serve.
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Classic Southern Macaroni Salad
- 1 pound elbow macaroni
- 1 cup frozen peas
- ½ small red onion, diced
- 2 ribs celery, diced
- 3 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 cup mayonnaise (plus ¼ cup more if needed for desired consistency)
- 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, diced
- 2 large eggs, hard boiled and chopped
- salt and pepper to taste
- Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot. Add 1 teaspoon salt and the macaroni. Cook until almost tender, about 6 minutes adding the peas for the last minute of cooking. Drain the macaroni and peas in a colander and rinse with cold water. Drain briefly, but leave enough water so the macaroni is still moist. Transfer the macaroni and peas back into the large pot.
- Add the onion and celery to the macaroni. Combine the vinegar, mustard and cayenne in a small measuring cup and pour over the macaroni. Toss gently to combine. Leave the mixture to marinate for a few minutes so the macaroni absorbs the flavors.
- Add the mayonnaise to the macaroni and stir gently using a rubber spatula to combine. Gently fold in the cheese and eggs. Add salt and pepper to taste and transfer to a covered container. Refrigerate until ready to serve. May be covered and refrigerated for up to 2 days. Serve cold.
Here are a few more of our favorite recipes you might like to try for your next picnic or BBQ:
Easy Pasta Salad Recipe with a homemade Zesty Italian Dressing ~ it’s our favorite summer potluck classic!
English Pea Salad is a wonderful, hearty side dish loaded with hard cooked eggs, a little bacon, (because everything’s better with bacon) minced red onion, and cheddar cheese all blended together with a creamy dressing.
Super Coleslaw – enjoy this mayo-free simple slaw with a nice bite from the cider vinegar and plenty of flavor from pimentos, onion and chopped green pepper.