posted in 4th of July

Not Your Mama’s Macaroni Salad

Summer officially begins tomorrow here in the USA- though here in San Diego we are in the midst of our infamous “June Gloom,” an icky series of weeks where the marine layer is thick and the sun struggles to make an appearance all day long.  We trudge on with our summer plans anyways.  Over the weekend I grilled up two large slabs of bbq’d ribs and corn on the cob, and served it up with this wonderful Bacon and and Macaroni Salad (otherwise known as Not Your Mama’s Macaroni Salad).

I’m absolutely convinced that bacon makes everything taste better.  Everything.

It starts innocently enough with little pasta elbows.  My Mom never used elbows for her macaroni salad.  She always went with the little short tube ditalini type.

Add a little bit of finely chopped celery.  Just a little.  You want the crunch and the flavor, but you don’t want it to overwhelm the salad with chunky celery.  Mom despises celery, so I’m quite sure she would have never added the stuff to her macaroni salad.

I’m not a huge fan of raw onion and my family isn’t either… but when you soak red onion in cold water for a few minutes and then give it a rinse, it loses that super sharp onion taste and it’ll just give your salad a little more crunch and flavor and color.  Mom definitely doesn’t like onion in her macaroni salad (a little picky, isn’t she??)

Add a little bit of chopped parsley too.  I don’t think Mom used this either.

Here’s the yummy part- add TOMATO.  Good, red, vine-ripened tomato if you can find it.  Mom never did this (but she should have).

Mix it all up in a bowl.

Add a simple mayonnaise based dressing.  If you’re not a fan, mix it with an Italian Dressing instead.  Both ways = good in this salad.

All mixed up and done, right?  Nope… not done.  Although it was good with just these basic ingredients, I found that it was missing just a little something…

…bacon!  With added cooked and crumbled bacon (the smoked hickory kind is what I used here), this macaroni salad is taken to a whole new level.

Mom never made hers with bacon either (but she should have).  Although I’m pretty sure that Mom would most definitely not like the components of my macaroni salad, my family thought it was a big hit.  While I loved the macaroni salad of my youth (and still do!), this one is my grown-up version.  Tomato and the bacon takes plain old macaroni salad to a whole new level.  And might I say that this salad pairs well with barbecued ribs and corn on the cob?  Pretty much your perfect summer evening meal.

Yield: 4 servings

Prep Time: 15 min

Bacon & Tomato Macaroni Salad

Bacon and tomato take plain old macaroni salad to a whole new level...


1 cup dry elbow macaroni, cooked, rinsed and drained
1/3 cup diced celery
1/4 cup minced red onion, soaked in cold water for 5 minutes- then drained
1 Tablespoon minced flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup diced vine-ripened tomatoes
1/3 cup mayonnaise
3 Tablespoons sour cream
1 Tablespoon cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon granulated white sugar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
4 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled


1. In a large bowl, combine macaroni, celery, onion, parsley, and tomato.

2. In a small bowl, prepare the dressing. Mix mayo, mustard, sugar, vinegar, sour cream and salt.

3. Add dressing to the pasta mixture and stir to combine. Season with freshly ground black pepper, to taste. Sprinkle crumbled bacon on top.


*If you don't care for a mayo-based macaroni salad, feel free to substitute an Italian dressing for the mayo dressing.

Source: (Loosely adapted from Food Network)

39 Responses to “Not Your Mama’s Macaroni Salad”

  1. postedJun 20, 2011 8:24 AM

    I’d like a giant bowl for lunch, this looks like the best mac salad I have ever seen 🙂 Have a good one!

  2. postedJun 20, 2011 8:35 AM

    I recently used a recipe for a BLT Macaroni Salad and I was very disappointed. It seriously lacked flavor. This one, however, looks yummy and I can’t wait to try it.

  3. postedJun 20, 2011 8:47 AM

    yummy! bacon makes everything better!

  4. postedJun 20, 2011 9:15 AM

    Bacon! It makes everything better 🙂 And thanks for the tip on the onions – I”ll have to try that sometime.

  5. postedJun 20, 2011 9:22 AM

    I Love macaroni salad in the summer..I am always looking for a fresh, but simple, idea for macaroni salad…and as already said..bacon makes everything better!
    I am definitely trying this one and today

  6. postedJun 20, 2011 9:44 AM

    I absolutely agree that bacon makes everything better. This looks like the perfect salad for a summertime barbecue.

  7. postedJun 20, 2011 9:50 AM

    So what DID your mom put in her macaroni salad? LOL! I love this recipe and can’t believe I’ve never thought of putting bacon in my own! And I also like the tip about the onion and will try it next time I make this. Thank you!

  8. postedJun 20, 2011 10:55 AM

    Neat recipe! This would be so great for a summer picnic.

  9. postedJun 20, 2011 11:18 AM

    Anything that includes bacon is an instant win for me! Yum!

  10. postedJun 20, 2011 11:29 AM

    I really like this and I’m enchanted by macaroni being referred to as “elbows”!

  11. postedJun 20, 2011 11:53 AM

    This looks so good! I’ve used that same trick for onions for a chuncky gaucamole. My husband still won’t touch them, but it takes away enough of the sharpness for me.

  12. postedJun 20, 2011 12:00 PM

    Yay for summer salads!

  13. postedJun 20, 2011 12:10 PM

    Bacon in pasta salad is genious!

  14. postedJun 20, 2011 12:27 PM
    Averie @ Love Veggies and Yoga

    It hasn’t been too gloomy in Hillcrest this June (surprising) but it’s been CHILLY! Like I am wearing layers when I go running in the evenings. In late June. I feel like a dork but I’d rather not be cold 🙂

    And I linked your Man Food post in a post of mine the day before Father’s Day. Thanks for the inspiration 🙂

  15. postedJun 20, 2011 5:02 PM

    This macaroni salad looks awesome! #1: Bacon, of course! And #2: I love the mayo + sugar + vinegar dressings. I get addicted to whatever they’re in!

  16. postedJun 20, 2011 5:27 PM
    Karriann Graf

    This looks to die for and the perfect salad from a luncheon! Happy Cooking!

  17. postedJun 20, 2011 5:49 PM

    I especially loved the picture of the chopped tomatoes. Such a vibrant picture!!!

  18. postedJun 20, 2011 7:13 PM

    I agree, bacon does make everything better! I haven’t had a ton of luck with mayo dressed pasta salad but I have to say, this looks delish!!

  19. postedJun 20, 2011 10:55 PM
    Suzanne B

    Looks soooo good! I wish I had a bowl right now!

  20. postedJun 21, 2011 5:41 PM

    While I’ll hop on the bandwagon with everyone else and agree that bacon makes everything better, what I’m most interested in is your additions to the mayo for the dressng. My mom added a bit of dry mustard to her may for macaroni salad and called it a day. Adding this to my to try list.

  21. postedJun 21, 2011 9:56 PM
    RecipeGirl's Mom

    Ha Ha! Your right. you know your Mom well. I would toss out the celery, onion, and parsley and keep the macaroni, bacon and tomatoes. The dressing however, sounds simply yummy just as it is!

  22. postedJun 22, 2011 5:41 AM

    My mother never put bacon in hers, but after reading this, I’m adding it to the ingredient list, which is old and faded. 🙂
    (Her favorite salad was a pickled beet salad. My kids hated it when I made it for them.)

  23. postedJun 22, 2011 7:01 AM

    I made this last night… DELICIOUS! Onion tip worked GREAT. Forgot to buy parsley, still tasted good. I wanted a cauldron so I doubled the macaroni & the dressing and kept the other ingredient amounts the same. Still worked out very well. I might be a rebel next time and add small cubes of cheddar cheese, too. My hubby, who is more a fan of viniagrette dressings, took THREE helpings of this at dinner. If it were store-bought mac salad, he’d eat one small helping at the most. Thanks for another winner!

  24. postedJun 22, 2011 7:47 AM

    Although I can’t use the bacon, I can always sub for turkey bacon! This looks absolutely incredible…I think my family would fall in love with this! I’m totally Pinteresting this! 🙂

  25. postedJun 22, 2011 8:17 AM

    Awesome! A must try.

  26. postedJun 22, 2011 5:52 PM

    This looks like an amazing macaroni salad- I’ll bet the bacon makes it!

  27. postedJun 23, 2011 12:02 AM
    Lynne @ 365 Days of Baking

    macaroni salad is a staple at our house, but I NEVER thought about adding BACON to it! DIVINE!!!
    Thanks for such a wonderful post!

  28. postedJun 26, 2011 7:20 AM

    Yumm! Just made this and it is delicious!!

  29. postedJun 29, 2011 8:33 PM

    This looks yummy, i love macaroni salad and its easy to make.

  30. postedJun 30, 2011 11:51 AM

    I think I have to try this! Well, without the mayo and meat anyway (I’m a vegetarian). Can I use sour cream instead of mayo?

    • postedJun 30, 2011 2:02 PM

      Sure! Or mix yogurt and sour cream…

  31. postedJul 12, 2011 4:13 PM

    Oh Lordy this is so good! I made it to accompany our dinner tonight. This is now a “go to” dish. Thank you!

  32. postedJul 19, 2011 5:06 PM

    Just tryed this today, without celery though. Not real keen on celery. I must say it was very good. Thanks!

  33. postedMar 27, 2012 10:34 AM

    I’m going to make this at Easter brunch. This looks so good and it had bacon!! Yum and thanks

  34. postedJun 15, 2012 1:53 PM

    I made this for the first time today for a company BBQ. (Yes, I broke the ‘try it first’ rule for a new recipe – I knew it was a winner when I read it.) It was voted 1st place side dish! Now you can call it “Award Winning” Bacon and Tomato Macaroni Salad if the mood strikes! Thank you!

    • postedJun 15, 2012 7:33 PM

      That’s fun to hear- thank you!

  35. postedAug 14, 2012 12:19 PM
    Ronda Statz

    Hi! Found your recipe today and it looks delicious!
    I’m making it for an impromptu picnic tonight with the following alterations:
    1 lb. bacon instead of 4 strips (’cause you can never have too much bacon!)
    1 pt. cherry tomatoes, cut in half, macerated in 1 t. sugar and salt, then spun out in a mini salad spinner (to remove most of water and seeds)

    Used this dressing instead of mayo: 2 cloves garlic, 1/3 c. red wine vinegar, 1 t. sugar, dash Worcestershire sauce, 4 dashes Tabasco sauce, 1/2 t. salt, 1/2 t. pepper, 1 c. olive oil. Blend all ingredients except olive oil in food processor. With processor running, slowly add oil in a steady stream.

    I also like to cook my pasta until al dente, then spread it on a cookie sheet to cool. Then I assemble the salad, pour about 1/2 of the dressing on and let it blend. Pour remaining dressing on before serving. Cooking the pasta to an al dente state and then only adding 1/2 the dressing allows the pasta to soak it up, without becoming “squishy” and then the remaining 1/2 actually “dresses” the salad.

    Bon apatite!

  36. postedAug 2, 2013 8:48 PM
    Tim Parker

    Made this but doubled it for a large gathering. Didn’t have red onion so used green & substituted seasoned rice vinegar for cider. Added a little extra tomato. . . was a big hit.

  37. postedJun 20, 2015 2:07 AM

    I have made this before and loved it! I made it for a church picnic and ended up having to share the recipe with others! I will be making it again in the near future!

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