Old-Fashioned Macaroni Salad

This old-fashioned macaroni salad recipe is a classic Southern side dish that’s super easy to make. It’s so flavorful and tasty, thanks to the combination of creamy mayo, spicy brown mustard, pimentos, and sweet pickle relish.

Old-Fashioned Macaroni Salad

Macaroni salad is one of my mother’s favorite dishes but I have to be honest here, until a few years ago, I had never tried it. ~waits for the collective gasp~ I know, I know, I’m a horrible person who has lived a wasted life. Thanks to my sister-in-law, Tina, I can now say that I am a card-carrying member of the macaroni salad fan club. I made this at her house in Georgia for the Fourth of July and I think I ate enough to get a few gold stars on that card, as well!

Reckon why Southerners take such a shining to this dish? Just look at the main ingredient: cheap and filling pasta. This is a traditional meal stretcher if there ever was one. This old-fashioned macaroni salad recipe is so simple and easy to make, which is another reason it gets my tick of approval. All you have to do is cook the macaroni noodles and mix all the ingredients together. It’s that quick and easy.

So, what are you going to find in my classic macaroni salad? Lots of tasty things, I assure you! We’re talking mayo, spicy brown mustard, pimentos, and sweet pickle relish. It’s so tasty, y’all. Just wait until your first bite!

Macaroni salad is a staple at summer gatherings and family reunions in the South. It’s served much like potato salad – cold and a perfect accompaniment to picnics and barbecues. Ready to give this great recipe a go?

Ingredients for Old-Fashioned Macaroni Salad

Recipe Ingredients

  • Macaroni
  • Mayo
  • Spicy brown mustard
  • Pimentos
  • Sweet relish
  • Salt and pepper to taste

How to Make Old-Fashioned Macaroni Salad

Cook and rinse macaroni.

Cook elbow macaroni noodles according to package directions. Drain and run cold water over it to cool it down. This also stops the cooking process.

Shake it around a little so it all gets rinsed in the cold water.

Drain well.

Mayo and mustard in mixing bowl.

In a large bowl, place mayonnaise, mustard, and…

Add pimentos to mixing bowl.

Pimento peppers.

Mix ingredients together.

Stir that up really well.

Remember you left out the pickle relish and put that in next.

Add pickle relish to mixing bowl.

Add in your pickle relish.

Pickle relish (and that pickle juice) is the secret! 

The dressing for this salad is a mayonnaise base in combination with the pickle relish added to the salad. I always use sweet pickle relish but you can use regular pickle relish and it will still turn out great. If you don’t love pickles, you could substitute vinegar or lemon juice. Taste as you go to get the right balance. But for me, I love what the sweet pickle relish adds to the flavor.

Add macaroni and stir.

Add your cooked macaroni and stir.

Old-Fashioned Macaroni Salad

Salt and pepper to taste, stir again, and chill well.

(Sneak and eat a bowl of it now. I won’t tell). Enjoy the best macaroni salad ever!


Macaroni salad will keep for up to 5 days when stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container. I don’t recommend freezing this salad.

This is a great salad to make ahead of time and chill in the fridge for an hour or two. Don’t leave it out in the heat though as it will be sure to go bad.

Recipe Notes

  • Here are some variations you can make to this classic macaroni salad recipe:
    • Add some veggies (1/2 cup of each), like diced celery, garden peas, green onion, grated carrot, olives, red onion, red bell pepper, or green bell pepper.
    • Use a different type of mustard, like Dijon mustard, honey mustard, or yellow mustard.
    • Add 3 chopped hard-boiled eggs.
    • Add onion powder or celery seed for added flavor.
    • Make cheesy macaroni salad by stirring in a cup of shredded sharp cheddar cheese or parmesan cheese.
    • Make it a bit more filling by adding diced ham (a great way to use up leftover ham from the holidays).

Recipe FAQs

What is Amish macaroni salad?

Amish macaroni salad is very similar. However, it usually includes boiled eggs and a dash of paprika, which you can easily add to this recipe.

What do I serve with macaroni salad?

Here are a few options…

You may also like these other pasta recipes:

Ham Pasta Salad With Ranch Dressing

Velveeta Bowtie Pasta Salad

Oven-Baked Mac and Cheese (Southern Plate Favorite)

Summer Squash Pasta

Baked Feta and Tomato Pasta

Old-Fashioned Macaroni Salad

This old-fashioned macaroni salad recipe is a Southern side dish featuring mayo, spicy brown mustard, pimentos, and sweet pickle relish.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Course: Salad
Cuisine: American
Keyword: macaroni, salad
Servings: 4
Calories: 390kcal


  • 10 ounces dry macaroni
  • 1/2 - 3/4 cup mayo
  • 1 tablespoon spicy brown mustard can use regular if you have it on hand
  • 2 4-ounce jars pimentos
  • 1/3 cup sweet pickle relish
  • salt and pepper to taste I start with 1/2 tsp of each


  • Cook elbow noodles according to package directions. Drain in a colander and run cold water over it to cool.
    10 ounces dry macaroni
  • Mix all other ingredients together in a large bowl. Add cooked macaroni and mix well. Add more mayo if needed.
    10 ounces dry macaroni, 1/2 - 3/4 cup mayo, 1 tablespoon spicy brown mustard, 2 4-ounce jars pimentos, 1/3 cup sweet pickle relish, salt and pepper to taste
  • Chill. Stir before serving.



Calories: 390kcal
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When life gives you lemons, put them in your sweet tea, and thank God you’re a Southern Belle!

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  1. This is an oldie, but a goody. Believe it or not, I’ve never made my own macaroni salad. I usually let someone else make it, or I occasionally buy the store made ones. So, I finally wanted to try to make it myself today and of course, I came here first.This was so easy, I feel silly for not doing it sooner. It came out great! Thanks, Christy!

  2. Grew up on Mac salad..Grams was the only one to make potato salad.. I make it with boiled eggs( mash the yolks into the mayo) sweet relish, fine chopped onion,chopped celery, touch of garlic powder, and paprika,, Sometime to make it a summer time lunch will throw in a can of tuna(drained) and a hand full of frozen peas(thawed),

  3. Cindy, Celery Seed is the kicker! I have never used pimento, but use elbow macaroni, boiled eggs chopped, homemade sweet pickles chopped, with fine chopped celery, onions, and bell peppers, Mayo only (NO MUSTARD), Celery Seed, and a little sprinkle of Garlic powder. Stir it all up, put it in your serving dish and sprinkle the top with Paprika. Best if made the day before so all the flavors have a chance to mingle really well. Yuuuuum!!

  4. I always put celery seed it in. But you are absolutely right, the pimentos is so good. would like to know more about the lesure pea salad.

  5. Love the mac salad, but I never heard of it until it was served on a chicken salad plate at a local tearoom when they ran out of the pea salad. I would love to try this because the kind I get at the grocery store often has too much dressing.
    Now the pea salad…it’s the little LeSeur peas. The restaurant owner told me she makes it the same as potato salad but with peas instead of potatoes. However…I’ve never been able to make a decent potato salad.
    Love that pea salad! I think Victoria’s Cafe in Huntsville AL still has it.

    1. I would think that if canned LeSeur peas were used, they would be mushy. Now maybe the chef used frozen LeSeur peas. My friend makes a 7 layer salad that she has lone layer of frozen garden peas that do not get cooked, just sprinkled over the previous layer of salad fixings and it is delicious! She says her bowl is so deep that she ends up with more than 7 layers; keeps adding layers but leaves enough room at the top for the mayonaise layer on top. Refrigerates it overnight or for 4 hours I believe she told me. Somehow the mayonaise either sinks through the layers or flavors it somehow. Maybe somebody else make this same salad and can tell us exactly what happens to the mayo or if it is served with the mayo showing on top layer. She plays Bridge today so I can’t ask her about the mayo layer now.

      1. My mother made this for years (God rest her soul) and she always used canned LeSuer peas you just have to fold in and be gentle.

        Go Gators

  6. I MADE macaroni salad for a restaurant many yrs ago in the 60s.the lady taught me how of course as I was young and its so good ,have never made it any other way .in fact we like macaroni salad better than potato…I use potatoes boiled with skins on,cooled and peeled ,diced .then I shred some carrots ,fine diced celery ..
    a little chopped fine onion,sweet pickle relish.
    .. then in a separate bowl mix your mayo,mustard (I use reg yellow mustard ),only tint your mayo pale yellow ..then I add salt and pepper to taste and a spoon of sugar but I usually use the sugar sparingly,less if you like ..taste ..then add to your macaroni base.adjust to your liking I LIKE IT NOT SWEET BUT NOT THE MUSTARDY TASTE .

    1. “I use potatoes boiled with skins on,cooled and peeled ,diced .then I shred some carrots ,fine diced celery ..” Are you combining two different recipes or did you have a stroke?

      1. Alyssa, this is not how we talk to people here. Jean is most assuredly your elder, age wise and mentally, and she was kind enough to share how she makes a dish. She will be shown respect and kindness in my home here on the web. I deleted your other rude comment but decided to let you know that unless you can learn manners, this isn’t the place for you. However, if you’d like to stick around, silently, and glean from the good folks here who know how to behave and be kind, you are welcome to do so.

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