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Chef John's Classic Macaroni Salad

Chef John

"Whether it's sitting next to some smoky ribs or just a humble hot dog, this deli-style macaroni salad will always be a crowd favorite, as long as you pay attention to a few key details."
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4 h 33 m servings 295 cals
Original recipe yields 12 servings

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  1. Whisk 1 cup mayonnaise, vinegar, Dijon mustard, salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper together in a bowl until well blended; whisk in sugar. Stir in celery, red bell pepper, carrot, onions, and jalapeno and poblano peppers. Refrigerate until macaroni is ready to dress.
  2. Bring a large pot of well salted water to a boil. Cook elbow macaroni in the boiling water, stirring occasionally until cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain but do not rinse. Allow macaroni to drain in a colander about 5 minutes, shaking out moisture from time to time. Pour macaroni into large bowl; toss to separate and cool to room temperature. Macaroni should be sticky.
  3. Pour dressing over macaroni and stir until dressing is evenly distributed. Cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least 4 hours or, ideally, overnight to allow dressing to absorb into the macaroni.
  4. Stir salad before serving. Mix 1 tablespoon mayonnaise and 1 tablespoon water into salad for fresher look.


  • Chef's Notes:
  • You can use the tops of the green onions to chop up and use as a garnish.

Nutrition Facts

Per Serving: 295 calories; 16.1 g fat; 32 g carbohydrates; 5.4 g protein; 7 mg cholesterol; 508 mg sodium. Powered by the ESHA Research Database © 2018, ESHA Research, Inc. All Rights Reserved

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Read all reviews 111
  1. 146 Ratings

Most helpful positive review

Chef John, you never disappoint! In my opinion, this is one of the best macaroni salads I've ever tasted. My favorite part is the addition of the jalapeno and poblano peppers. Don't be scared to...

Most helpful critical review

Rather bland and pretty dry. I did like the mixture of the veggies, but it needed more dressing and something to add more flavor to the dressing. My problem is that I can't figure out what that ...

Most helpful
Most positive
Least positive

Chef John, you never disappoint! In my opinion, this is one of the best macaroni salads I've ever tasted. My favorite part is the addition of the jalapeno and poblano peppers. Don't be scared to...

Today's email contained an announcment that this recipe is The Most Viewed New Recipe in 2015. Way to go Chef! I've made this recipe 3x, as written. Excellent each time. Like s...

I sauteed the onions in little butter until they slightly browned over low heat. Then I add the bell peppers, jalapeno and poblano peppers, continuing to cook over low heat until tender and tas...

This was possibly the best macaroni salad I have ever had, and I made it. Mind blown. The peppers give it a little spice, so if you are serving it to anyone sensitive to spice, you might want to...

I guess even one tablespoon sugar was a bit much for us. Next time maybe just a pinch. But I liked the technique (making sure the pasta was completely drained and sticky to the touch before dres...

Delicious pasta salad!! The best I've ever had! Usually pasta salads are a bit bland, but this recipe has great texture, great crunch and wonderful flavor. The bit of heat from the peppers, a...

So I made this huge side for a lake party I went to and everyone was very pleased with how it turned out. I thought at first the poblano and jalapeño would be too much for the wimps there but it...

Made this as written and it is delish lots of veggies nice and crisp.

Zippy, tasty, tangy. No changes