Macaroni Salad with Cheddar, Red Onion, & Celery

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Enjoy this classic Macaroni Salad with tender salad macaroni, creamy mayo, savory dill, cubes of cheddar, chopped red onion, and crunchy celery.

bowl of macaroni salad on table with other dishes

Ready for summer? Well, spring is here and that means it’s time to bust out the cold salads. Dishes like pasta salad, Rice and Black Bean Salad, and potato salad are perfect to make for a Sunday meal prep and stash in the fridge for hearty snacks, light lunches, and easy weeknight side dishes.

And this one is a sure-fire favorite.

Macaroni Salad with Cheddar, Red Onion, & Celery

This recipe is a classic from my childhood. I made it while my mom was visiting. She said, “I love your macaroni salad.”

I said, “What are you talking about? It’s your recipe.”

Her response? “It’s better when you make it.” 

bowl of mac salad on a dinner table

What’s the difference between pasta salad and macaroni salad?

Macaroni is a type of pasta, therefore macaroni salad is a type of pasta salad. Typically tossed with a mayonnaise-based dressing, it often features chopped celery, onion, and bell pepper.

A deli staple, variations abound throughout the country, some featuring mustard, tuna, ham, sweet pickle relish, and other interesting mix-ins. Our family standard features cubed cheddar.

Is macaroni salad supposed to be hot or cold?

Macaroni salad is best served cold. Rinse the cooked noodles well with cold water and allow them to cool completely before adding the mayonnaise and other ingredients.

What goes with macaroni salad?

This is a classic side dish. Perfect alongside hot dogs, hamburgers, and grilled meats, it’s a summer favorite. It would be a great accompanient to a simple egg sandwich. It’s also an excellent addition to a salad dinner.

step by step photos for making macaroni salad

How do you make mac salad?

Mac salad is super simple to make, meaning you can enjoy it on the weekly in lunches, for snacks, and as a dinner side dish.

  1. In boiling, salted water, cook the salad macaroni according to package directions. Rinse with cool water and drain well.
  2. Chop the celery and red onion and cube the cheddar. 
  3. Combine all the ingredients well in a large mixing bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Chill well before serving. 
  4. Sometimes the macaroni will absorb quite a bit of the mayo. Add more to taste prior to serving.

What equipment do you need to make this recipe?

This is a pretty straight-forward dish. You don’t need any fancy equipment to cook pasta! However, having some good basic kitchen tools can really make your time in the kitchen more enjoyable. Over time, I’ve honed my collection so that they are perfect for my needs. Here are the tools that I like to use in this recipe.

  • large stockpot – Mine is a Kitchenaid that I’ve had for 14 years!
  • collander – We just bought this one this year to replace a broken plastic one.
  • large pasta bowl – I have one like this and love it!

plate of mac salad and hot dog and veg

Is this dish expensive to make?

Macaroni salad is made from some basic ingredients, ingredients that when bought at regular prices break down as follows:

  • macaroni – $0.65 ($1.29/lb)
  • celery – $0.57 ($1.99/stalk)
  • red onion – $0.19 ($0.75/whole)
  • mayonnaise – $0.83 ($4.19/30 oz)
  • cheddar cheese – $1.20 ($4.79/16oz)
  • dill weed – $0.30 ($5.99/.6 oz)

Altogether, a large bowl of this salad costs about $3.74 at non-sale prices. If you shop the Good Cheap Eats way, that is shopping the best store, the sales, and clearance, you can easily get that price much, much lower.

Here are some of the strategies I use to make this recipe even more affordable:

  • Stock up on ingredients when they are on sale! When I see a great price on cheddar or macaroni, I buy a lot of it. We almost always have a stockpile of noodles in the pantry.
  • Shop at your cheapest stores. This may vary based on where you live and how close you are to great stores. For me, Costco and ALDI are the best game in town, even though I have to drive a town over to get to them. These ingredients are pretty cheap at both places.
  • Make your own mayonnaise. Mayonnaise can be made rather affordably if you’ve got the ingredients on hand.

plate of mac salad and hot dog and veg

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bowl of macaroni salad on table with other dishes
Macaroni Salad with Cheddar
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
10 mins
Chilling Time
1 hr
Total Time
1 hr 25 mins
Stir up these quick and easy macaroni salad in minutes. Studded with celery, red onion, and cheddar cheese, wrapped in a creamy mayo dressing, this pasta's packed with flavor and perfect for picnicking.
Course: Salad, Side Dish, Snack
Cuisine: American
Keyword: creamy pasta salad, macaroni, macaroni salad, pasta salad
Servings: 8
Calories: 276 kcal
Author: Jessica Fisher
  • 1 1/2 cups dry salad macaroni or small shell pasta
  • 3 ribs celery chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onion
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 pound cheddar cheese cubed
  • 1 teaspoon dried dill weed
  1. Cook macaroni according to package directions. Drain well and allow to cool.
  2. In large mixing bowl, combine macaroni, celery, onion, mayo, and cheese cubes. Season with dill weed and salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Chill until ready to serve. Serve cold.
Recipe Notes

Promptly store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator, for up to 3 days.

Nutritional values are approximate and based on 1/8 the recipe.

Nutrition Facts
Macaroni Salad with Cheddar
Amount Per Serving
Calories 276 Calories from Fat 189
% Daily Value*
Fat 21g32%
Saturated Fat 6g38%
Cholesterol 24mg8%
Sodium 224mg10%
Potassium 65mg2%
Carbohydrates 16g5%
Fiber 1g4%
Sugar 1g1%
Protein 6g12%
Vitamin A 170IU3%
Vitamin C 1mg1%
Calcium 110mg11%
Iron 1mg6%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

This post was originally published July 8, 2009. It has been updated for content and clarity.

About Jessica Fisher

I believe anyone can prepare delicious meals—no matter their budget.

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  1. Julie says

    Thanks for posting. I love this recipe! I tried it out last summer and everyone loved it! Making it again this weekend!

  2. Genevieve says

    I like to prepare cheap yet delicious and good looking nutritious foods,,so I love this one

  3. Leslie T says

    This is almost exactly like my recipe, except I use a squirt of yellow mustard instead of dill, and I add sliced olives.

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