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.

Original recipe makes 12 servings


1 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup white vinegar
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons kosher salt, or more to taste
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon white sugar, or more to taste
1 cup finely diced celery
3/4 cup diced red bell pepper
1/2 cup grated carrot
1/2 cup chopped green onions, white and light parts
1/4 cup diced jalapeno pepper
1/4 cup diced poblano pepper
1 (16 ounce) package uncooked elbow macaroni
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 tablespoon water

  • PREP

    20 mins

  • COOK

    8 mins


    4 hrs 33 mins


  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.


Calories: 295 kcal
Carbohydrates: 32 g
Cholesterol: 7 mg
Fat: 16.1 g
Fiber: 1.9 g
Protein: 5.4 g
Sodium: 508 mg