Chef John's Classic Macaroni Salad 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.

prep: 20 mins cook: 8 mins additional: 4 hrs 5 mins total: 4 hrs 33 mins Servings: 12 Yield: 12 servings


  • 1 cup mayonnaise (Optional)
  • ¼ cup white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, or more to taste
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon white sugar, or more to taste
  • 1 cup finely diced celery
  • ¾ cup diced red bell pepper
  • ½ cup grated carrot
  • ½ cup chopped green onions, white and light parts
  • ¼ cup diced jalapeno pepper
  • ¼ cup diced poblano pepper
  • 1 (16 ounce) package uncooked elbow macaroni
  • 1 tablespoon mayonnaise (Optional)
  • 1 tablespoon water (Optional)


    Step 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.

    Step 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.

    Step 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.

    Step 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; protein 5.4g; carbohydrates 32g; fat 16.1g; cholesterol 7.4mg; sodium 508.1mg.


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