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Chef John's Classic Macaroni Salad

Classic macaroni salad like you'd get at a deli, but less sweet. This crowd-pleaser is full of colorful veggies and a perfect side for picnics or cookouts.
Makes:12 servings


  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • ¼ cup white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, or more to taste
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 0.125 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon white sugar, or more to taste
  • 1 cup finely diced celery
  • ¾ cup diced red bell pepper
  • ½ cup grated carrot
  • ½ cup chopped green onions, white and light parts
  • ¼ cup diced jalapeno pepper
  • ¼ cup diced poblano pepper
  • 1 (16 ounce) package uncooked elbow macaroni
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 tablespoon mayonnaise


Prep:30 mCook:15 mReady:5 h
  1. Whisk mayonnaise, vinegar, Dijon, salt, black pepper, and cayenne together in a bowl until well blended. Whisk in sugar, then stir in celery, bell pepper, carrot, green onions, jalapeño pepper, and poblano pepper. Cover and refrigerate until macaroni is ready.
  2. Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. Cook macaroni in the boiling water, stirring occasionally, until tender but firm to the bite, about 8 minutes. Drain but do not rinse.
  3. Let macaroni drain in a colander for about 5 minutes, shaking out the moisture from time to time. Pour macaroni into a large bowl; toss to separate and let cool to room temperature, 10 to 15 minutes. Macaroni should be sticky.
  4. Pour dressing over macaroni and stir until evenly distributed. Cover and refrigerate until macaroni absorbs the dressing, at least 4 hours or overnight if possible.
  5. Stir salad before serving. Mix water and remaining mayonnaise into salad for a fresher look.

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