Not Your Mama’s Macaroni Salad

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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.

Bacon & Tomato Macaroni Salad

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

Yield: 4 servings

Prep Time: 15 min


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)

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  • Sarah wrote:

    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!

  • Tim Parker wrote:

    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.

  • Ronda Statz wrote:

    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!

  • Anne wrote:

    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!

    • Lori Lange wrote:

      That’s fun to hear- thank you!

  • Lori wrote:

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

  • madsam wrote:

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

  • Jan wrote:

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

  • TheCookieBoss wrote:

    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?

    • Lori Lange wrote:

      Sure! Or mix yogurt and sour cream…

  • Relish wrote:

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

  • Erin wrote:

    Yumm! Just made this and it is delicious!!

  • Lynne @ 365 Days of Baking wrote:

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

  • Deborah Dowd wrote:

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

  • Kate Thompson wrote:

    Awesome! A must try.

  • Nourhan @ Miss Anthropist’s Kitchen wrote:

    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! 🙂

  • Jennifer wrote:

    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!

  • Barbara wrote:

    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.)

  • RecipeGirl’s Mom wrote:

    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!