Macaroni Salad: Messing With Tradition


Whole Wheat Pasta Macaroni Salad - A recipe from


Macaroni salad brings back a lot of memories for me. I think of family gatherings, picnics and BBQ’s. Most of the time, I also think small shell or elbow pasta. For years I’ve eaten “regular” plain egg noodles, but in the past couple years as I’ve become more and more health conscious I’ve added whole wheat pasta into my diet. I have to admit the results have been mixed. Sometimes I’m fine with whole wheat pasta and other times not. Thus, when it came to switching up my macaroni salad I was messing with a long and happy tradition.


Whole grain pasta.

We found these whole wheat pasta shells in the bulk food section at our grocer.

There are a lot of foods that we go to for both taste and mouth feel—in our household we call this comfort food. For me, macaroni salad is a comfort food. I expect a certain type of dressing, certain ingredients and those plain noodles. Thus, if you’re a purist and want to try this recipe you may need to skip on using whole wheat pasta and substitute regular pasta instead.


Now, before you chicken out, consider whole grains are considered “complex carbohydrates” and that means they take longer to process as they go through the digestive track. Since they aren’t converted immediately to energy, blood sugar doesn’t spike. That’s really important if you’re diabetic or pre-diabetic, but it also matters if the goal is long-term weight loss. The sad truth is most of us would do well to cut out more sugar, white rice, white bread and white pasta from our diets. And besides, whole grain pasta really does taste good. It’s generally a little firmer than plain pasta and has a slightly nutty flavor. If you haven’t tried it, it’s worth checking out.


Don’t worry. I’m not one to insist you cook everything a certain way so I’ll leave the great pasta debate up to you and your family.


Let’s Gather The Ingredients


Don't forget to hard boil some eggs first.

Besides pasta, onion and celery you’ll want to gather these ingredients.

This is a simple salad that tastes great, but if you’d like to mix it up we’ll offer several ingredients you can add below. In the meantime, here’s what we’ll need for our basic recipe:


4 cups whole grain pasta cooked (small shells or elbows are best)

3/4 cup chopped celery

3/4 cup chopped sweet onion

2 eggs hard boiled (chopped or sliced)

2/3 cups Miracle Whip

1/3 cup Mayonnaise

1/2 – 1 tablespoon mustard

1/4-1/2 teaspoon ground pepper

1/4-1/2 teaspoon salt

Smoked paprika for garnish


A note on the ingredients: The quantities listed for the Miracle Whip, mayo, mustard, salt, pepper and paprika are guidelines, not rules carved in stone. Every time we cook this, we’ll have a few more or less noodles, a little more or less celery and so on. Thus, getting the quantities right is more about general proportion than exact measurement. For the best end result, start on the low end of the recommendation above and taste as you go. Add more only if needed.




This pasta is almost ready.

Boil the eggs first if you haven’t done so. Then cook the pasta.

This recipe goes together quicker if you precooked the eggs. If you’ve never boiled eggs before, one bulletproof method is to cover the eggs with water in a pan and then bring them to a boil on high heat. Once you’ve got a boil going, turn the stove to medium heat and continue on a low boil for 10 minutes (set the timer). When the timer goes off remove the pan from the heat. Then run some cool water in the pan and allow the eggs to cool several minutes. After cooling, you can store the eggs in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use them.


Next up, boil the pasta according to instructions on the package. I like my pasta “al denta”. That means it’s slightly under cooked. To me, pasta cooked this way tastes better and is less “mushy” than pasta that’s been overcooked.


Now were ready to assemble the salad.

Rinse the pasta in cold water once it’s done. It will help to keep it from sticking together and cool it off faster.

Once the pasta is cooked, drain it in the sink and then cool it by rinsing it with cold water. Allow it to sit a few minutes in the strainer and then place it in a large mixing bowl.


Here I'm chopping onion.

Chop both the celery and onions into small pieces. Use a “sweet” onion variety.

Chop the onions and the celery. I prefer “sweet” onions for my macaroni salad. Sometimes, regular yellow onions will taste too strong and overwhelm the salad, especially if it sits for any length of time. Cut the onions and celery in small pieces.


I'm trying to get the proportions right.

Use Miracle Whip, mayonnaise and a touch of yellow mustard in your dressing.

To me, the dressing is critical. I like it a certain way. For years there was an argument in our household on which was better: Miracle Whip or Mayonnaise. I’m not sure whether that had any impact on the decision to use both in the salad rather than one or the other, but I truly believe the combination tastes best. I’d suggest sticking to a ratio of about 2/3 Miracle Whip to 1/3 Mayonnaise. We usually buy the Miracle Whip Light version, but we shy away from the “Light” mayo as we’ve noticed a definite taste preference for the fully leaded version. Finally, you’ll want to add a touch of yellow mustard. You can easily overdo the mustard so start with just a little and then do a taste test.


Salting the salad.

You can try measuring it, but it’s almost better to add salt and pepper to taste.

We listed a quantity of salt and pepper above, but we recommend adding salt and pepper to taste. Most of us should probably cut down on our salt intake so try adding a little more pepper if the quantity of salt you consume is important to you.


Putting egg in my salad.

I just sliced off chunks of egg directly into the salad, but you can use slices or wedges if you prefer.

After dressing the salad, mix it all together, and then slice or chop the eggs over everything. Some prefer to slice their eggs and others to cube them—it’s really up to you. However, tossing the salad usually does a number on the yolks so less stirring at this point is better.


Garnish the salad with a little paprika.

Try smoked paprika to garnish the salad if you have it.

After gently folding in the eggs, sprinkle some smoked paprika over the top as a garnish. If you don’t have the smoked version you can use the regular version, but smoked paprika is definitely worth trying if you’ve never tasted it before. Chill at least an hour or two in the refrigerator before serving. Chilling the salad allows for the dressing to soak into the noodles and that makes it even better.


Adding Flair


We hope you enjoy this simple salad as much as we do, but should you find it too plain feel free to add bell peppers, your favorite cheese, bacon bits, diced ham, black beans, petite peas or whatever else tickles your fancy.


Salad's ready! Let's eat!

This whole wheat version tasted great. I do notice a slight difference from regular pasta, but I’m pleased with the result.

I think we were all a little skeptical that the whole grain pasta would really work in this salad. Thankfully, our worries were for naught. Give those whole grains a try. They really are better for you. And if you’re like me, you may discover that after eating more whole grains more often  they offer subtle textures and tastes to most any recipe that make them even better.


This salad will make about 6 to 8 servings depending on portion and appetite size. For a print copy of today’s recipe click here.



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