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Creamy Cheddar Macaroni Salad

This Creamy Cheddar Macaroni Salad is the perfect summer pasta salad. It’s loaded with peppers, celery, onions, chunks of cheddar cheese and elbow noodles, all covered in a tangy sour cream dressing. Simple, quick and so delicious!

When I think about summer foods and dishes served with barbecued meats, I immediately think of pasta salads. Pasta salads are the quintessential summer side dish. I love the flexibility of the ingredients you can add to them, I love that they’re easy and quick to make, and you can’t beat the fact that most people happily eat them. I know whenever there is a pasta salad on the table my family is guaranteed to eat it.

a top down close up of a bowl of macaroni salad

A classic macaroni salad recipe

This Creamy Cheddar Macaroni Salad is a simple as it gets. The ingredients are readily available, you probably have them already, making it a great last minute side dish. And like I always try to promote, this dish can be tailored to your tastebuds. Add broccoli if you like, or some cubes of cooked ham, or grape tomatoes. Experiment and enjoy!

a close up of a bowl of macaroni salad

Meal suggestions:

Tonight I’m serving this with grilled chicken, but it would be great with steak, hamburgers, kabobs, ribs or any barbecued meat that you like. This recipe is great for a backyard BBQ, potlucks, picnics, and camping (just make it ahead of time and bring it with you).

Macaroni Salad Recipe Tips

  • Pasta: This recipe calls for 4 cups of COOKED elbow macaroni pasta, which equals about 2 cups dried pasta.
  • Make it your own! Add your favourite pasta salad ingredients. Here are some examples: chopped broccoli or cauliflower, cubes of cooked ham, grape tomatoes, pickles (dill pickles or sweet pickles), sliced boiled eggs…the possibilities are endless!
  • Mayonnaise: Real mayo is what I usually use, but Miracle Whip is tasty too!
  • Mustard: I like to use regular prepared yellow mustard, but if you love the taste of Dijon mustard, feel free to use that instead.
  • Vinegar: I prefer to use regular white vinegar, but if you love the flavour of apple cider vinegar, feel free to use that. Option! If you have sweet pickle juice, you can use that instead…it makes for a sweet and tangy dressing that’s delicious!
  • Bell Peppers: You can use any colour of pepper: red bell peppers or orange, green or yellow.
  • Sour Cream: I use sour cream for this recipe, but it can also be substituted with Greek yogurt.
  • Let it rest! Make sure to let this salad rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes (1 hour or more is best), before serving. This allows for the flavours to come together. And it’s also handy to be able to make it ahead of time.
  • MAKE AHEAD TIP: You can make this pasta salad the night before you wish to serve it (just make sure to store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator). Just make sure to give it a good stirring before. I like to keep a little bit of the dressing back and stir it in right before I serve this salad…so for example, keep about 1/3 back and stir it in later. If the salad seems too dry, stir in a little milk.

I hope you enjoy this easy macaroni salad recipe!


Creamy Cheddar Macaroni Salad

This Creamy Cheddar Macaroni Salad is the perfect summer pasta salad.  It’s loaded with peppers, celery, onions, chunks of cheddar cheese and elbow noodles, all covered in a tangy sour cream dressing.

  • Author: Jo-Anna Rooney
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Resting Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 50 minutes
  • Yield: 6 servings 1x
  • Category: Salad


Units Scale

Pasta Salad:

  • 4 cups of cooked elbow noodles (about 2 cups dried)
  • 1 bell pepper cut into small chunks
  • 2 celery sticks cut into small chunks
  • 2 tbsp chopped red onion
  • 1/23/4 cup cheddar cheese chunks

Creamy Macaroni Salad Dressing:

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 tbsp vinegar
  • 1 tbsp prepared mustard
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground pepper


  1. In a large pot, boil the elbow macaroni according to package directions. Drain in a colander, then rinse with cold water.
  2. Blend together the mayo, mustard, sour cream, vinegar, sugar and salt and pepper.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the noodles and chopped vegetables, then toss the macaroni salad ingredients with the dressing.
  4. Let rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes (1 hour or more is best).
  5. Serve and enjoy!

Keywords: cheddar macaroni salad, pasta salad, macaroni salad

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Recipe adapted from the Talk About Good Cookbook

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Creamy Cheddar Macaroni Salad {A Pretty Life}

I hope you enjoy this recipe, it really is the best macaroni salad recipe! Have a delicious day!

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  1. Hi, love this pasta salad! So colorful, and lots of great flavors. I own the Talk About Good cookbooks, 1 and 2, if it’s the same one you’re talking about. Love them! Thanks for sharing!

  2. This salad looks scrumptious. Thank you for linking up on the #HomeMattersParty this week. Looking forward to seeing what you link up with next week.

  3. I have to try this salad. It looks yummy! Plus I love the bowl its pictured in! My late Mother has the same set of bowls which I used last week when I visited my Father. She bought them when I was a child. Thanks for the picture!

  4. This macaroni salad looks really good! It’s a must make for this summer! I want to also tell you how much I love those bowls! They are beautiful, I love vintage Pyrex. Might just have to search to find where I can buy a set! Thank you!

  5. Love the old school bowl. My grandmother had those same bowls years ago (30+). Thanks for the yummy looking recipe. I plan on making it tonight. It might as well be summer in Dallas…it is 80 today.

  6. This salad looks delicious! And that bowl..instantly brought back memories. My mother had this very same one! Seeing it made me smile:)

  7. This salad is wonderful. I’ve been looking for something just like this. Thank you for sharing.

  8. 5 stars
    I forgot to give it a 5 star rating. Tastes even better than the deli style offerings in my area.

  9. 5 stars
    My husband picked this out for his Father’s Day cookout. It is delicious! Wouldn’t change a thing.

  10. 5 stars
    Made this but substituted sweet peas for the bell pepper. It is delicious!! Thanks for the great recipe!

  11. Hi Jo-Anna,
    I made this for a gathering last summer and got lots of compliments on it. Can I make it the night before or would it not hold? Thank you for your awesome blog!

    1. Hi Natali! You can definitely make it the night before. Just make sure to give it a good stirring before you serve it. Sometimes I will even keep a little bit of the dressing back and stir it in before I serve it.

  12. I made this for my husband because Macaroni and Cheese salad is one of his favs. He loved it!! It is really creamy but with a slight sharp taste. Next time I may add a bit of Franks Red Hot in place of the vinegar just to kick it up a notch.

  13. Question–I have made this twice, and both times it was awfully dry…even when I added more mayo and sour cream. It does not look nearly as creamy as in the photo. Is the amount of measured macaroni meant to be 4 cups AFTER it’s cooked? People generally measure before cooking in order to know how much to cook, of course. I don’t normally have problems with recipes, but it seems that there just isn’t enough of the “dressing” component. I followed it exactly…

  14. I typically don’t care for cold pasta or mayonnaise sauces but this salad is really good! I was very pleasantly surprised. I particularly enjoy how the slightly sour sauce brings out the sweetness in the crunchy veggies. Both my daughter and I give this recipe 4.5 stars.

  15. I made this today. I used miracle whip light, added some celery seed, ground mustard and fresh ground pepper. I put tuna fish with it. This was a great hit in my house. Thank you. Mary