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Better Than Deli Macaroni Salad Recipe

Updated on July 26, 2016
Cast your vote for Better Than Deli Macaroni Salad

My favorite macaroni salad recipe!

Ok, so a friend of mine gave me this recipe after she brought it to work one day for a special event, and I was totally hooked after trying it. The funny thing about this recipe is that once you start eating it you can't stop! The last time I made this I kept finding my husband holding the bowl and watching tv as a snack! He couldn't stop himself either! I think maybe it is the sweetness to this salad that gives it that something special and the red onions make it so yummy! My husband who hates onions didn't even complain! If you are trying to lose weight you may want to skip this recipe, as it is so good you just can't have one serving! This recipe is different than others as it has a bit of sweetness to it that just makes it magnificent! It is super easy and I guarantee at least one friend will ask you for this recipe once they try it.

This recipe is perfect for backyard bbq's, family gatherings or potlucks. It is super easy to make and is great to make ahead. This recipe actually gets better as it sits. So it is perfect for a make ahead recipe.

Cook Time

Prep time: 10 min
Cook time: 7 min
Ready in: 17 min
Yields: approximately 16-20 servings


  • 1 lb. elbow macaroni
  • 1/2 carrot, shredded (more or less if desired)
  • 1 medium red onion
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, (more or less if desired)
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, (more or less if desired)
  • 1 cup celery
  • 2 cups mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
  • salt & pepper

Boil elbows for 7 minutes and drain.

Chop the celery, peppers and onions and add to the bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix.


  1. Boil salted water and add the macaroni. Boil macaroni for 7 minutes. Drain well. Allow the macaroni to dry long enough so that there is no excess moisture (you don't want to water down your salad so I let mine hang out for about 5 minutes to dry out a bit and make sure it is drained well).
  2. Chop the celery, onions, and peppers. Add the vegetables, including the carrots, to a medium size bowl. Add the sugar, vinegar, sweetened condensed milk, mayonnaise,salt and pepper. Mix well.
  3. Add your macaroni to the bowl and mix well until everything is combined. Refrigerate and serve cold.

Cook's Tips

This recipe is so versatile. You can chose to use all the vegetables or omit any that you like to suit your desire. I don't like carrots so in my recipe I just omit them. I also cut back on the bell peppers as I don't like them as much. I love that you can add more or less of each vegetable to make it to your liking. My friend who gave me this recipe doesn't put onions in hers and uses less celery. She also uses 1 1/2 pounds of macaroni to stretch it further. The key is the basics to this recipe. The vinegar, sugar, sweetened condensed milk, and mayonnaise are your base and you can add whatever you like to this base.

I prefer to use Barilla elbows because I love the lines on the pasta. It helps the mixture stick better to the pasta. Farfalle (bow ties), campanelle or rotini (spirals) would also be fun choices of pasta to use. My friend uses this fun pasta that is like a corkscrew. She finds it at Target. It is called Trottole from Simply Balanced. I have to admit it was pretty fun eating these.

A food chopper or mini food processor may save you time by chopping up the vegetables.

As I mentioned earlier, make sure you drain the pasta very well. This helps to prevent the salad from being diluted. I think this salad tastes best the next day or day after. It gives the flavors, especially the onion, a chance to meld together. The sweetness also cuts down a little bit too as it "rests".


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