My mom is well-known for her superbly refreshing and wholesome salads, and her macaroni salad recipe happens to be the best of the best, in my humble opinion. It’s something my whole household loves and craves about every party or gathering.
Tips for making the best macaroni salad
I remember my first tries making the dish myself during my university time, living away from home. It wasn’t that bad, but unfortunately, it never matched my mom’s version. Therefore, I decided to ask for a “private cooking class” immediately when I came back home for a visit.
Although I said it was a “private class” myself, my mom actually didn’t want me to keep anything secret at all. She kept telling me: “Dear, if you see anyone struggling with their salad, tell them how they are doing it wrong. Everybody deserves a truly tasty bowl of macaroni salad.” So, here are mom’s useful tips for perfect macaroni salad:
Cook the macaroni with salted water
It doesn’t matter how tasty your dressing is, macaroni is the foundation of the salad and we build flavor upon it. If the macaroni itself is bland, the entire salad will turn out dull and somewhat under-seasoned.
For that reason, the water has to be salted. No less than 1 1/2 tablespoons of salt is enough for every pound of macaroni. Ah, there’s one more thing you should keep in mind: put your salt in the pot only after the water comes to a boil.
Perfectly cook the macaroni
Mushy or tough macaroni can ruin the whole salad. So, you’ll want it to be cooked just right. However, cooking the macaroni according to the instructions on the package is not enough.
As macaroni will harden and get chewy when it cool down, you should actually overcook it for an extra one minute. This helps the macaroni reach a little bit beyond the al dente point, then firm up just enough to regain that perfect al dente texture when cooled down.
Add enough dressing
Add just enough dressing to give your salad a well-balanced taste and the right consistency to evenly coat the ingredients.
Additionally, because the macaroni and vegetables will absorb some of the dressing, if you make the salad one night in advance, you should add a little more dressing the next day when your salad is ready to be served.
How long can you keep macaroni salad?
Due to the mayonnaise and other protein-rich ingredients, macaroni salad shouldn’t be left out at room temperature for more than two hours or it will need to be discarded.
Therefore, if you don’t plan to consume the dish the same day you make it, it’s best to store the salad in the fridge, in a tightly sealed container for no more than 5 days. If the salad seems dry when you take it out of the fridge, add a bit more dressing.
Can you freeze macaroni salad?
Unfortunately, macaroni salad is not ideal for freezing, because the mayonnaise will make the dish freeze improperly. Not only this macaroni salad, but also other foods that have mayonnaise in them will form ice crystals and lose their creaminess when frozen and thawed.
Well, actually, I don’t see a lot of macaroni salad leftover in my house. Almost every time my mom’s famous salad is placed on the table, the bowl is left empty after only 10 minutes!
I hope you’ll love macaroni salad as much as we do. Happy cooking!
Macaroni Salad Recipe
- 3/4 cup elbow noodles
- 2 oz red onion minced
- 3 oz celery diced
- 1/4 cup frozen peas thawed
- 2.7 oz red bell pepper minced
- 1/8 cup cheddar cheese shredded
- 1 tbsp fresh dill minced
- 1/4 cup Japanese mayonnaise
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 1/2 tbsp sugar
- 2 1/2 tbsp sweet pickle relish
- 1/2 tsp dijon mustard
- 1/8 tsp pepper
- In a large pot of water, cook elbow noodles according to package instructions (ours was cooked for 10 minutes). Rinse with cold water, then drain well.
- While you cook, prep the vegs.
- Transfer the cooked noodles to a large mixing bowl and toss together with onion, celery, peas, bell pepper, dill, and cheddar cheese.
- In a small bowl, mix the mayonnaise, cider vinegar, pickle, mustard, sugar, and pepper.
- Pour dressing over macaroni salad and toss until everything is evenly coated. For best flavor, cover your salad bowl and chill it in the fridge before serving (for about 15 minutes).