This Easy Macaroni Salad recipe with a creamy dairy-free dressing, savory pickles, and crunchy fresh vegetables is a healthy and quick lunch, dinner or snack.
Are you hungry for some delicious homemade macaroni salad? Then you’re in for a treat! Today’s recipe is one of my favorite ways to enjoy springy al-dente pasta in a creamy dressing with plenty of veggie crunch.
This is the perfect side dish for summertime barbecues, but it’s just as delicious in colder weather too. It’s filling, always satisfying, and packed with tangy, briny flavors from sweet gherkins and diced veggies.
Before we get to the recipe, as always, I’ve included my best tips and tricks to make the best creamy macaroni salad recipe. First of all, if you don’t have all of the ingredients on hand, this is an easy to customize recipe, so read on for how to use what’s already in your fridge and pantry.
I’ve also included tips to make this recipe Paleo and Whole30-compliant, as it’s already naturally dairy-free. Plus, I’ve included my favorite ways to amp up the flavor with seasonings and sides.
Ready to start cooking? Here are my best Tips & Tricks for easy macaroni salad:
How To Make My Easy Macaroni Salad Recipe – Tips & Tricks
1. Which ingredients can be changed in this creamy macaroni salad recipe?
To make this homemade macaroni salad recipe a complete meal, why not add your favorite protein?
If you’re looking to amp up the protein in this dish with delicate seafood, I love cooked or canned shrimp, crab, lobster, salmon, tuna, or imitation crab meat.
For a vegetarian take, try chopped hard-boiled eggs or rinsed white beans.
And if you have leftover chicken, ham turkey, roast beef, or other deli meats, they would also work well! You can even go the extra mile and crisp up a few pieces of bacon to crumble on top for protein and flavor.
You can also add extra veggies and fruits or substitute any of the vegetables already in the recipe with your favorites. For a splash of green, I would add peas, spring onions, cucumbers, kale, or steamed broccoli. For sweetness, apples, shredded carrots, radishes, or cherry tomatoes are great.
And for a kick, why not add minced jalapeño? You can always balance it out with creamy avocado. Or when I’m looking for something more savory, I’ll add in pitted olives (green, black, or kalamata) or capers.
To add a fresh, herby note to your vegan macaroni salad, I especially like dill, parsley, or cilantro.
If you are happy to eat dairy, you can also add your favorite cheese. I love crumbled blue cheese or feta, shredded cheddar or parmesan cheese.
Likewise, non-vegans can swap the plant-based mayonnaise with regular mayonnaise and the coconut yogurt with plain Greek yogurt or sour cream for tang.
When it comes to pasta, short-cut varieties like penne, Ditalini, Conchigliette, Orechiette, Chiocciole are great for soaking up all the savory dressing.
You can make gluten-free homemade macaroni salad with gluten-free pasta, no need to change any other ingredients in the recipe.
2. How to make this homemade macaroni salad recipe Paleo & Whole30?
This is already a vegan macaroni salad recipe. To make it Paleo and Whole30-friendly, you just need to swap out the pasta.
Paleo and Whole30-compliant pasta is often made with almond flour, tapioca flour, arrowroot flour, free-range eggs, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt. These ingredients are pretty clean and diet-friendly. They also taste great with the other ingredients and creamy dressing in this healthy macaroni salad recipe.
Be sure to also check the other ingredients when making this recipe diet-friendly. If the gherkins contain sugar, for example, simply replace them with freshly chopped cucumbers. If you still want that salty flavor, you can add capers too.
Also double-check the dressing ingredients, especially the vegan mayo and mustard to make sure they’re diet compliant.
3. How to make it spicy?
For a spicy and creamy macaroni salad recipe, add as much sriracha or your favorite hot sauce to the dressing.
You can also add crunch and spice with minced chili or jalapeño peppers.
Another way to add spice is with a quick dash of extra crushed red pepper or chipotle powder.
4. Best seasoning for vegan macaroni salad?
I love to add an extra kick of seasoning to my vegan macaroni salad. My absolute favorite seasoning combination for the creamy dressing is garlic powder, crushed red pepper, salt, and pepper. You can also add onion powder, Cajun or Old Bay seasoning. Smoked paprika also adds a nice smokey touch.
5. What to serve with homemade macaroni salad?
This highly versatile dish goes well with your favorite entrees.
For a filling vegan dinner, serve it with cauliflower steaks.
If you’re pescatarian, a fillet of light and healthy baked fish like salmon or any white fillets (like tilapia or seabass) is delicious alongside macaroni salad. Or, for a one-bowl meal, you can even flake the cooked fish and toss it into the salad.
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- Cowboy Caviar With Italian Dressing (Vegan Recipe)
That’s all for today, my foodies! Enjoy this zesty and delicious macaroni salad recipe for lunch, dinner or a satisfying snack!
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Easy Macaroni Salad Recipe
- 8 oz (227g) macaroni pasta
- 5 oz (140g) sweet gherkins - finely diced
- 1 red bell pepper - finely diced
- 2-3 stalks celery - thinly sliced
- 1 small red onion - finely diced
- 1 can (8.75 oz / 248g) corn - drained
Macaroni Salad Dressing Ingredients:
- 3/4 cup (175g) vegan mayonnaise
- 1/4 cup (70g) coconut yogurt
- 2 tbsp pickle juice
- 2 tbsp red or white wine vinegar
- 1 tbsp maple syrup
- 2 tsp dijon mustard
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper - optional
- 1 tsp sea salt - or to taste
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper - or to taste
- Cook the macaroni pasta in salted water according to package directions.
- While the pasta cooks, chop all the ingredients needed for the salad.
- Once the pasta is cooked to al-dente, drain and set aside in a large bowl. Drizzle with a bit of oil and toss to coat. This will keep the pasta from sticking to each other.
- Add the chopped gherkins, bell pepper, celery, onion and corn into the pasta.
- In a measuring cup, combine all of the dressing ingredients. Whisk well, then pour the dressing over the salad.
- Toss the macaroni salad until nicely coated with the dressing.
- You can serve this creamy macaroni salad immediately or let it chill in the fridge for about 30 minutes, to allow the flavors to meld.
- Tip #1 includes ingredient substitutions and swaps.
- See Tip #2 for how to make this homemade macaroni salad Paleo & Whole30.
- Spice lovers, be sure to read Tip #3.
- Tip #4 is all about my favorite seasoning ideas for this vegan macaroni salad recipe.
- And for my serving suggestions, check out Tip #5.
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