I’m thinking that even those of you whose mothers don’t actually make macaroni salad know what I mean when I say that these macaroni salad recipes are not your mom’s. It’s not that our mom’s generation doesn’t know how to make a tasty version, but I’m craving more than boiled elbow pasta with mayonnaise, onion, celery, and (if we’re lucky) some salt and pepper. These fresh takes on the old summer standby give macaroni salad a much needed update and some extra flavor to boot.
Every single one of these delicious pasta salads is something you’d be proud to bring or serve at a cookout this Fourth of July—and the whole rest of the summer, too.
The Cooking Channel claims that this New Macaroni Salad (above) is the “macaroni salad for the new millennium,” and they may just be right. Their adaptation of the classic picnic side uses yogurt instead of mayo and fresh vegetables for a cool crunch. My mom never did that!
Leave it to The Pioneer Woman to keep her Best Macaroni Salad Ever pretty traditional, but still somehow make it really good. For a little kick, she adds olives, red peppers, pickles, and green onions. She keeps it light and tangy, too, with a good balance of mayo and vinegar. A little bit of milk thins out the dressing so it’s not too cloying either.
If you’re vegan or dairy-free, even most updated macaroni salad recipes won’t do you much good. Instead head to the Minimalist Baker for a Vegan Macaroni Salad that uses silken tofu to make a creamy dressing. Chopped red pepper gives this dish a satisfying bite and the dill adds another layer of interest.
If you’re looking to boost the nutritional benefits of your macaroni salad as well as heighten the flavor, go to PBS Food for an interesting Greek Chickpea Pasta Salad. Feta, artichoke hearts, olives, and tomatoes give otherwise bland macaroni a real Mediterranean flair—and chickpeas add extra protein and fiber.
Meat eaters who are looking for a heartier macaroni salad meal should go to The Kitchn for their simple BBQ Chicken and Macaroni Salad that’s a cinch to whip up. The recipe brilliantly mixes barbecue sauce into the dressing. While you’ll find instructions for brining and broiling chicken, go ahead and make use of any leftover grilled chicken you may have or grab a rotisserie bird at the market. Both will work just as well.
You want to know who’s really done wonders with macaroni salad? Chungah at Damn Delicious, that’s who. Ready for this? Bacon and Avocado Macaroni Salad with a Lemon Thyme Dressing. Brilliant. Creamy yet fresh, with smoky bacon to ensure a saltiness that’s missing in many pasta salads.
Here’s the kicker. Damn Delicious has not only redefined macaroni salad once, but twice! While there, you also have to check out this Asian Pasta Salad with Sesame Vinaigrette. This salad uses avocado, mango, red cabbage, and pine nuts for an unexpected twist that’s most definitely—or at least most likely—not your mother’s macaroni salad.