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This Chicken Macaroni Salad will transform all macaroni salad haters into lovers!
I like to think this recipe converts them over because of the chicken and bacon, because who doesn’t love bacon?! But also because of the dressing. Even my mayo-hating husband loves this mac salad!
You’ll the creaminess and slight sweetness in the dressing from the sweet pickle relish. Plus, with the tartness of the vinegar and the slightly spicy notes of the Dijon mustard it makes this dressing a delicious foundation.
This salad is packed with al dente macaroni noodles, colorful red bell peppers, red onion, celery, fresh parsley, carrots and the crispy crunch of bacon bits. Of course you can’t forget the diced pieces of moist chicken that makes this an over-the-top side dish, or an amazing well balanced meal.
This creamy Chicken Macaroni Salad looks like you put hours into making it, but it is so quick and easy to make, especially if you prep the veggies the day before.
The history of Macaroni Salad dates back to 1914 and there are theories that it comes from the melting of two cultures: Macaroni from Italian immigrants and the mayonnaise based salads from the German immigrants. Whether it’s old fashioned, traditional, classic, Southern, Hawaiian, Shrimp or my Chicken Macaroni Salad, macaroni salad ranks as being one of America’s favorites and my Chicken Macaroni Salad will be one of yours as well!
Reasons Why You Will Love My Chicken Macaroni Salad
- Most important to note: This is super easy to make.
- Just one pan and one bowl = quick and easy clean up!
- Pantry staple ingredients.
- Perfect as a complete side for Spring Holidays, BBQs, busy weeknight meals or a quick snack.
- This is a great salad to prepare the day before. Just remember to keep the dressing on the side until 2 to 3 hours before serving.
For the ingredient measurements and entire recipe, be sure to scroll down to the bottom of the blog post where the recipe card is located.
- Mayo: adds fat, salt and acidity to the dressing.
- Sour cream: Sour cream ads a rich, thick creaminess to the dressing
- Distilled vinegar or apple cider vinegar: Distilled vinegar has a more neutral flavor where apple cider vinegar has a slightly fruity flavor. Either option works great in this salad dressing.
- Sugar: The best dressing has the perfect blend of flavors and sugar helps balance out the acidic bite and saltiness.
- Dijon mustard: Dijon adds a spicy and tangy flavor to the creamy dressing.
- Sweet pickle relish: The best sweet pickle relish adds layers of flavors to your salad.
- Dry elbow macaroni: There are several macaroni options but elbow is one of my favorites for this chicken macaroni salad recipe,
- Carrots shredded: Shredding the carrots adds great texture to the salad.
- Red bell pepper: The vibrant colors and freshness of the peppers, onion and celery add a wonderful crispness to the salad.
- Chicken: feel free to use any leftover chicken or a rotisserie chicken for ease.
- Bacon: The bits of bacon mixed throughout the salad add the perfect crisp and salty flavor to the salad.
Step by Step Directions
For the full recipe instructions, scroll down to the bottom of the blog post to the recipe card.
- Cook the elbow macaroni. Drain and rinse under cold water.
- Whisk together the ingredients for the dressing.
- Add the cooked pasta and remaining ingredinets to a large bowl.
- Pour the dressing on top.
- Stir to combine. Refrigerate prior to serving.
Expert Tips and Variations
- You should always rinse the cooked macaroni with cold water to stop the cooking process. When the pasta is cool, it mixes better with the fresh vegetables in the salad and the cool pasta also helps keep the veggies crisp.
- Best served the day you make it. Serve after chilling for at least 2 hours.
- Shredding the carrots is a great way to get the full flavor of the carrot without having large pieces in the finished salad. It is also visually appealing and adds great texture to the salad.
- For a protein packed version, add 1 cup of diced ham in addition to the chicken in the Chicken Macaroni Salad recipe.
- For a more classic version add in 4-6 hard boiled eggs instead of the chicken and bacon.
What can I substitute for the sour cream?
The best 1:1 ratio substitution for sour cream is full-fat Greek yogurt.
What pasta can I substitute for elbow?
There are several options: Ditalini, Cavatappi, Cellentani, Tubetti, or Fusilli are just a few ideas. Any small shaped pasta will work well.
Can I freeze the Chicken Macaroni Salad?
I don’t recommend freezing this salad. Freezing will alter the textures of many of the ingredients.
How long can I keep the salad in the refrigerator?
Covered in a air tight container, the Chicken Macaroni Salad will last for 3 to 5 days.
How long can I keep the Chicken Macaroni Salad unrefrigerated?
I would not recommend keeping the salad unrefrigerated for longer than 2 hours, and I suggest setting the salad bowl in a bowl filled with ice when not refrigerated.
Before You Begin! If you make this, please leave a review and rating letting us know how you liked this recipe! This helps our business thrive & continue providing free recipes.
For the dressing
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 3 Tbsp. sugar
- 2 Tbsp. sweet pickle relish
- 1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar or distilled vinegar
- 1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. black pepper
For the salad
- 2 cups dry elbow macaroni (1/2 lb.)
- 1 cup chicken, diced (I usually just use rotisserie or any leftover chicken breasts)
- 6 strips bacon, cooked and diced into small bits
- 1/2 cup carrots, shredded
- 1/2 cup red bell pepper, diced
- 1/2 cup red onion, diced
- 1/2 cup celery, diced
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
Last step! If you make this, please leave a review and rating letting us know how you liked this recipe! This helps our business thrive & continue providing free recipes.
- Cook the elbow macaroni according to package directions. Drain the pasta and rinse with cold water. Once cool, place in a large mixing bowl or serving bowl.
- Whisk together the dressing ingredients in a bowl. Set aside.
- Add all of the salad ingredients to the macaroni, pour the dressing on top and stir to mix well. Taste and adjust any seasonings as desired.
- Refrigerate 1-2 hours prior to serving. Garish with more parsley and enjoy!
- Storage: Covered in a air tight container, it will last for 3 to 5 days in the fridge.