Pasta, Salad

Macaroni Salad for a Crowd

It’s summer and that means grilling out, picnics, and casual potlucks.  Whip up a bowlful of this macaroni salad for a crowd, and you’ll be all set.  The best part is you can make it the night before, which will give it plenty of time for the flavors to meld.  At most American BBQs and picnics, you’ll see potato salad and macaroni salad.  You’ll find that people will prefer one over the other.  No matter what camp you’re in, this recipe is a winner.

holding a bowl of macaroni salad

How do you keep macaroni salad from drying out?

  • Keep it covered and refrigerated.
  • Since pasta absorbs the dressing while it chills, you’ll need to add more mayo or extra dressing before serving.

veggies and dressing for macaroni salad

Why do you put vinegar in macaroni salad?

The acid in the vinegar, combined with the warm pasta, will make the pasta more absorbent.  This means it will soak up more of the flavor from the homemade dressing and the other ingredients.

dressing ingredients for macaroni salad

What can you do to make macaroni salad more creamy?

  • Add a bit more mayo.
  • Add sour cream.
  • Add whole milk.

whisking the dressing for macaroni salad

Trust me, homemade macaroni salad is so much better than the carton from the deli.  Invest the time and your friends and family will thank you.  This macaroni salad is creamy and savory, so enjoy every bite.

Tempt your appetite with these other classic, crowd pleasing sides.

person holding a spoonful of southern potato salad bowl of broccoli salad with two spoons person holding a white bowl of creamy coleslaw

Share how you enjoyed this macaroni salad by leaving a recipe rating below.

person holding a bowl of macaroni salad

Macaroni Salad for a Crowd

  • Author: Brooke
  • Prep Time: 35 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 50 minutes
  • Yield: 8 cups
  • Category: Salad
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: American


Macaroni salad for a crowd is the perfect side dish for your summer party, potluck, or backyard BBQ.  This easy, classic recipe will be a crowd pleaser with its creamy texture and savory flavors.  Just chop up the ingredients, add the homemade dressing, mix in the pasta, and chill.


For the Pasta

  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 pound whole wheat elbow macaroni
  • 5 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil

For the Salad

  • 1/2 cup crumbled bacon
  • 1 cup celery, finely diced
  • 1 cup black olives, sliced
  • 1 cup green onion, sliced
  • 1/2 cup roasted red peppers, diced
  • 1/2 cup banana peppers, diced

For the Dressing

  • 2 cups mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 5 tablespoons banana pepper brine
  • 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the Garnish

  • sprinkle of paprika


Cooking the Pasta

  1. Cook the pasta according to directions on the package.  Put 1 teaspoon salt in with the water.  You want the pasta a bit firm (al dente).  Drain, rinse with cold water, then toss the pasta with 5 tablespoons of red wine vinegar for more flavor, and 1 teaspoon olive oil so it won’t stick to itself.
  2. Measure out 6 cups of cooked pasta and place in a large bowl.  Set aside the rest of the pasta, roughly 4 cups, for some other use.

Preparing the Bacon & Veggies

  1. While the pasta is cooking, fry 6 slices of bacon in a cast iron skillet over medium-low heat until crispy and browned, occasionally turning the slices with a fork.  Lay the bacon on a paper towel to drain, and reserve the bacon grease for another use.  Allow the bacon to cool, then crumble into smaller pieces.
  2. Cut the roasted red peppers and sliced banana peppers into small pieces.  Drain the black olives, dice the celery, and slice the green part of the green onion.
  3. Add the bacon, celery, olives, onion, red peppers, and the banana peppers to the cooked pasta.

Making the Dressing

  1. Whisk together the mayo, sugar, brine and spices in a medium bowl.  Set aside 3/4 cup of salad dressing to refresh the salad after it’s chilled.  Add the rest of the dressing to the salad and stir to combine.  Cover and place in the refrigerator until chilled, about two hours, or overnight.
  2. Before serving, add the reserved 3/4 cup of salad dressing.  Mix well, then adjust seasonings to taste.  The pasta will absorb the salad dressing, so add more dressing ingredients and spices to make it to your taste.
  3. Transfer to a serving bowl and sprinkle with paprika.  Serve chilled.


  • This salad tastes best when chilled for a minimum of two hours.
  • Reserve some dressing to use just before serving, as the pasta will absorb the dressing while it chills.
  • Adjust seasonings just before serving.

Keywords: macaroni salad, pasta salad

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