Easy Chicken Macaroni Salad Recipe
Are you in need of a delicious side dish for that upcoming cookout? Try this easy chicken macaroni salad recipe. It only takes a few ingredients and about 20 minutes of prep time. Made with chopped chicken, macaroni, and veggies, this flavorful salad is sure to be a hit.
This classic chicken macaroni salad recipe is a crowd-pleaser that’s sure to satisfy everyone’s taste buds. Today we’re going to show you how to make chicken macaroni salad step-by-step and provide some helpful tips so you get the best results every time.
Note: This post may contain affiliate links. That means if you click on a link and make a purchase we may receive a small commission. Thank you!
Why Chicken Macaroni Salad is a Great Dish
Chicken macaroni salad is a popular dish for several reasons. First, it’s easy to make, even for beginners. If you can boil noodles and chop up cooked chicken you’ve got this!
Second, it’s versatile and can be served as a side dish or a main course making it a great addition to family dinners, picnics, potlucks, and summer BBQs.
Last but not least it can be made ahead of time. That means you can make it 1-2 days in advance and then take it to a party or serve it to the family on a busy weeknight.
Ingredients You’ll Need
- Elbow Macaroni – traditionally you use macaroni pasta for this recipe but you can substitute with fusilli or rotini if you prefer.
- Cooked chicken – Chop up or shred cooked chicken breast for this simple pasta salad.
- Mayonnaise – this adds fat and creaminess to the dressing.
- Sour cream – sour cream mixes with the mayonnaise to make a creamy, tangy dressing.
- Lemon juice – I love the zing of lemon juice in the dressing. You could substitute with white vinegar or apple cider vinegar if needed.
- Dijon – this spicy mustard adds a little extra flavor to the dressing.
- Sugar – Don’t skip the sugar. It balances out the acids in the dressing.
- Spices – Onion powder, garlic powder, salt, and pepper are combined for seasoning.
- Vegetables – Green onion, red bell pepper, celery, and red onion add flavor and texture to the salad.
What Chicken to Use
The great thing about this pasta salad is you can use any type of cooked chicken you like. Some popular options include boiled chicken breast or grilled chicken breasts, rotisserie chicken, or leftover chicken from a roast.
We have great recipes for shredded Crock Pot chicken or Instant Pot shredded chicken that are perfect for this dish!
You can also use canned chicken if you don’t have access to fresh chicken.
Just be sure to shred or chop the chicken into bite-sized pieces before adding it to the salad. The type of chicken you use will affect the flavor and texture of the salad, so choose one that you enjoy and that complements the other ingredients in the salad.
How to Make Chicken Macaroni Salad
Step 1 – Cook the pasta. Cook elbow macaroni according to package instructions. Make sure to salt your water for added flavor.
Once the pasta is al dente, drain the water and rinse pasta under cold water. Let the pasta drain thoroughly before proceeding to the next step.
Step 2 – Make salad dressing. While the elbow macaroni is draining combine the mayonnaise, sour cream, lemon juice, sugar, dijon mustard, onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper in a small bowl and whisk together.
Step 3 – Put it all together. Add the cooked macaroni, cooked chicken, green onion, red bell pepper, celery, and red onion to a large bowl.
Pour the mayonnaise mixture over everything and gently toss together until well-coated.
Step 4 – Chill. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour to let it chill. Once it is chilled you can serve it immediately or store until ready to use.
Tips to Make the Best Chicken Macaroni Salad
- Use quality ingredients for the best taste and texture.
- Cook the macaroni al dente to prevent it from becoming mushy.
- Use a mixture of vegetables to add flavor and color to the salad.
- Mix the dressing separately to ensure all ingredients are well combined.
- Chill the salad for at least 1 hour before serving to allow the flavors to meld together.
Variations of Chicken Macaroni Salad
Want to add your own twist to this classic recipe? Here are some variations you can try:
- Add chopped boiled eggs for a creamier texture.
- Use different types of pasta, such as penne or fusilli, for a unique texture.
- Add diced apples or grapes for a sweet and fruity flavor.
- Substitute Greek yogurt for the sour cream to reduce calories and fat.
- Use a different type of meat, such as ham or tuna, for a different flavor or skip the meat with this vegan pasta salad.
Other Amazing Pasta Salads!
- Italian Pasta Salad
- Steak Fajita Pasta Salad
- Buffalo Chicken Pasta Salad
- Mexican Pasta Salad with Creamy Chipotle Lime Dressing
- Classic Macaroni Salad
- Greek Spaghetti Salad
How to Store It
To store chicken macaroni salad, transfer it to an airtight container and store it in the refrigerator. It can be stored for 2-4 days.
Before serving, give it a quick stir and add more dressing if needed. If the salad looks dry, you can also add a little bit of mayonnaise or sour cream to moisten it up.
Just be sure to discard any leftovers that have been left at room temperature for more than 2 hours, as bacteria can grow quickly in food that’s not properly stored.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, chicken macaroni salad can be made ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Just be sure to give it a quick stir before serving to redistribute the dressing.
You can substitute sour cream, Greek yogurt, or even avocado for mayonnaise in chicken macaroni salad. These alternatives will give the salad a different flavor and texture, so you may need to adjust the other ingredients accordingly.
Yes, you can use any type of pasta for chicken macaroni salad, but small shapes like elbow macaroni or fusilli are typically used. These shapes hold the dressing well and make it easier to eat.
Yes, it’s a good idea to rinse pasta with cold water for cold salads like chicken macaroni salad. Rinsing the pasta removes the excess starch and cools it down quickly, which prevents it from continuing to cook and becoming mushy. After rinsing, be sure to drain the pasta well to remove any excess water before adding it to your salad.
To prevent chicken macaroni salad from getting watery, be sure to drain the pasta well after cooking and rinse it with cold water to stop the cooking process. You can also add the dressing to the salad just before serving to prevent the pasta from absorbing too much liquid.
Macaroni salad sauce is typically made with mayonnaise, sour cream, vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper. The exact proportions of each ingredient can vary depending on personal preference and the recipe being used. Some recipes may also call for additional ingredients like mustard, garlic powder, or onion powder to add more flavor to the sauce. The sauce is usually mixed with cooked macaroni noodles and other ingredients like chicken, vegetables, and herbs to make a delicious macaroni salad.
Chicken Macaroni Salad
- 1 pound Elbow Macaroni
- 12 ounces Cooked chicken, cut into bite-szied pieces or shredded
- ¾ cup Mayonnaise
- ¼ cup Sour cream
- ¼ cup Lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons Dijon
- 2 teaspoons Sugar
- 1 teaspoon Onion powder
- 1 teaspoon Garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon Salt
- ¼ teaspoon Pepper
- 1 Green onion, chopped
- 1 cup Diced Red Bell Pepper
- 1 cup Sliced Celery
- 1/4 cup Diced Red Onion
- Cook elbow macaroni according to package instructions. Make sure to salt your water for added flavor.
- Once the pasta is al dente, drain the water and rinse pasta under cold water. Let the pasta drain thoroughly before proceeding to the next step.
- While the elbow macaroni is draining combine the mayonnaise, sour cream, lemon juice, sugar, dijon mustard, onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper in a small bowl and whisk together.
- Add the cooked macaroni, cooked chicken, green onion, red bell pepper, celery, and red onion to a large bowl.
- Pour the mayonnaise mixture over everything and gently toss together until well-coated.
- Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour to let it chill.