My Healthy Macaroni Salad is a surprisingly modern twist on the Southern favorite with tender pasta, hard-boiled eggs, crisp veggies, fresh herbs, and a bright and creamy Greek yogurt dressing. This colorful and flavorful summer pasta salad will have everyone coming back for seconds. It's perfect for your next potluck, party, bbq, or summer picnic.
Healthy Macaroni Salad
A Healthy Macaroni Salad? YES! Most Macaroni salads are filled with a high-fat mayo-based dressing and no veggies. This is my modern twist on the classic deli Macaroni Salad that's so fresh and vibrant it just jumps off the plate with texture and color. If you love a smooth and creamy Macaroni Salad but are looking for something a bit better for you and a little more interesting, this is it.
I make my version with a light greek yogurt-based dressing AND pack the salad with fresh, crisp vegetables like chopped red bell pepper, celery, red onion, and fresh peas. Plus, some hard-boiled eggs for texture and protein. It has all those fun extras BUT it still gives you that same crave-worthy taste from the traditional pasta salad.
In fact, since this dish is packed with all those extras it can be served as a side dish for any summer picnic or potluck OR as a vegetarian main course for a light summer dinner. This is actually a super versatile recipe that can be served on many different occasions.
The flavors pop off this plate and it will have you rethinking getting that boring deli macaroni salad again.Healthy Macaroni Salad Click To Tweet
What is Macaroni Salad?
Macaroni Salad is a party and cookout staple. It's great because it's made with elbow pasta, which is pretty inexpensive, making it a great way to serve a crowd. It originated in the early 60s and the dish gained popularity during the '80s when pasta salad was very popular. It's known as mac sal or mac salad in Hawaii where it's a staple of plate lunches.
Traditional Macaroni Salad is made with mayonnaise and is pretty simple - mainly just the macaroni noodles and dressing. My Healthy Macaroni Salad is a fun twist on the classic with added vegetables and a healthier but still creamy dressing.
Can you substitute greek yogurt for mayonnaise?
YES! Greek yogurt is a great substitute for mayonnaise in recipes like healthy macaroni salad. Greek Yogurt boosts this dish's nutrition and flavor. The creamy texture is similar to mayo but is done in a healthier way.
Is greek yogurt healthier than mayonnaise?
Greek yogurt is so much healthier than mayonnaise. On the surface, greek yogurt is a fraction of the calories and fat as mayo.
Beyond the first stats, greek yogurt is also healthier for you. It's a fermented dairy product that contains special bacteria like probiotics. In comparison, mayonnaise is an emulsified sauce made of egg yokes. Greek yogurt is naturally higher in protein, calcium, and vitamins. Making the swap in dishes like this Healthy Macaroni Salad is a no-brainer if you are looking to eat a bit healthier.
Keep scrolling for the exact ingredient amounts and directions for my Healthy Macaroni Salad in my printable recipe card below.
For the Salad
- Macaroni Noodles: I like to use protein-enriched elbows or whole wheat elbows to enrich the nutrition levels, but you can just use plain pasta too for my Healthy Macaroni Salad. While elbow noodles are traditionally used in macaroni salad, you can also use any other type of short pasta you have including penne or bow-tie.
- Peas: I like to use cooked frozen peas for ease of use. Peas add a great texture, nutrients, and plant-based protein to this pasta salad. You can also use fresh if you have them.
- Red Bell Pepper: I use a crisp red bell pepper to add color, texture, and nutrition to this dish. The crunch adds a lot of flavors.
- Celery: Celery is a more traditional ingredient used in Macaroni Salad, so I wanted to add it. I love the way celery stalks add crunch and bright green color.
- Red Onion: A bold red or purple onion adds a savory profile to the dish. I love the color it brings to the salad too.
- Hard Boiled Eggs: Chopped hard-boiled eggs are another classic ingredient that adds an essential flavor to the pasta salad. I love adding them for the unique texture, taste, AND how they add extra protein to this dish.
- Garnish: Fresh Parsley or Dill
For the Dressing
- Greek Yogurt: You'll want to use plain greek yogurt for this dish. Depending on your dietary preferences you can use full-fat yogurt or low-fat yogurt. The full-fat version will be a bit richer and creamier, but I have tested it with low fat and it also tastes good.
- Mustard: Use dijon mustard. It's a great addition to the dressing and adds a vibrant flavor.
- White Wine Vinegar: You'll need a bit of vinegar to give the dressing that classic flavor.
- Water: Use a touch of water or even pasta water to thin the dressing to the correct consistency.
- Spices: I use traditional macaroni salad spices like garlic powder, onion powder, dried dill, and paprika. The familiar spices give this pasta salad that flavor you love.
- Salt & Pepper
Full instructions for my Healthy Macaroni Salad are in the printable recipe below.
- Over high heat, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the macaroni or elbow noodles and cook them according to package instructions to al dente. Drain and rinse the noodles with cold water. You'll want the noodles cooled before adding the other ingredients.
- While the noodles are cooking, whisk together the Greek yogurt, white wine vinegar, mustard, and spices. Add a touch of water until you get a nice and smooth consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- In a large bowl, mix together the cooled and cooked macaroni noodles peas, red pepper, celery, and red onion.
- Carefully fold in the chopped egg.
- Serve cool or chilled.
I love this Healthy Macaroni Salad recipe as written, but here are some fun ways to mix it up.
- Change the Pasta: You can use traditional elbow macaroni or swap it out for your favorite type of pasta.
- Change the Veggies: Other fun veggies to add or swap are carrots, green onions, chopped pickles, or green onions.
- Make it Creamier: To get more of the traditional dressing texture swap ¼ of a cup of the greek yogurt for mayonnaise.
- Make it Sweeter: Add a touch of honey to the dressing.
- Make it Dairy Free: Use a dairy-free yogurt.
- Make it Vegan: Use a dairy-free yogurt AND leave out the eggs to make a Vegan Macaroni Salad.
- Make it Gluten-Free: Use gluten-free pasta.
How do I store the healthy Macaroni Salad?
Store any leftovers for this Healthy Macaroni Salad in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
How long does pasta salad good for?
Pasta salad can generally stay in the fridge for up to 3-5 days. Since this pasta salad contains dairy don't leave it for long in the hot sun. You shouldn't have it out of the fridge for more than an hour.
Can Macaroni Salad be made in advance?
Yes! It actually tastes great made in advance. However, the pasta salad can dry out a bit, especially with the greek yogurt-based dressing. If making the Healthy Macaroni Salad ahead of time for an event or more than a few hours, I'd prepare all the pasta and veggies. Add a touch of oil to the pasta to keep it from sticking. Then make the dressing on the side and stir it all together before serving.
Can I freeze this?
No. This would not hold up to freezing well.
What to Serve with Healthy Macaroni Salad:
This versatile Healthy Macaroni Salad is hearty enough for a vegetarian main course but is traditionally served as a side dish with classic cookout recipes. Here are a few ideas of what to serve it with.
- Vegetarian Black Bean Burgers
- Portobello Mushroom Burger
- Buffalo Chickpea Burgers
- Cajun Shrimp Burgers
- Grilled Shrimp Pineapple Kabobs
- Greek Yogurt Coleslaw
- Healthy Grilled Shrimp in Foil
This Healthy Macaroni Salad is the perfect recipe for summer!
This Healthy Macaroni Salad is really the best pasta salad for summer. You can't beat the classic flavor with the added bonus of veggies! I love this unexpected dish and it's a crowd favorite for any party.
You'll also love that this healthy pasta salad for summer is only 200 calories per serving.
As always, give it a try and let me know what you think.
Healthy Macaroni Salad Click To Tweet
More Healthy Pasta Salad Recipes:
- Crab Pasta Salad
- Bruschetta Pasta Salad
- Caprese Pasta Salad
- Tex Mex Pasta Salad
- Greek Tortellini Pasta Salad
- Pesto Tortellini Pasta Salad
More Cookout Favorites Using Greek Yogurt Instead of Mayo:
- Greek Yogurt Potato Salad
- Low Carb Cauliflower Potato Salad
- Healthy Coleslaw
- Cilantro Lime Coleslaw
- Healthy Broccoli Slaw
If you make this Healthy Macaroni Salad recipe, I’d love to hear what you think! Leave a comment and a star rating ★ below. Make sure to follow me on Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook too!
Healthy Macaroni Salad
For the Salad:
- 2 cups macaroni
- 1 cup peas
- 1 cup red bell pepper, chopped
- 1 cup celery, chopped
- 1 cup red onion, chopped
- 4 hard boiled eggs, chopped
For the Dressing:
- 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- ¼ teaspoon dried dill
- ⅛ teaspoon paprika
- 2 tablespoons water
- salt & pepper, to taste
- garnish: chopped parsley or dill
- Over high heat, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the macaroni noodles and cook them according to the package instructions to al dente. Drain and rinse the noodles under cool water.
- While the noodles are cooking, whisk together the Greek yogurt, white wine vinegar, mustard, and spices. Add a touch of water until you get a nice and smooth consistency. Salt and pepper to taste.
- Mix together the cooled cooked macaroni, peas, red pepper, celery, and red onion. Add the dressing and stir together well.
- Carefully fold in the chopped egg. Add more salt and pepper, if desired.
- Serve cool or chilled.
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I LOVE macaroni salad. this sounds absolutely PERFECT! Can't wait to make it.
Love this healthy version of macaroni salad. so perfect with bbq. Need to try this weekend.
I am such a sucker for a good summer salad and macaroni is my go-to! Even better to be able to pick some of the ingredients fresh from the garden.
Jen @ JENRON DESIGNS says
Yum I love that you are using yogurt instead of mayo such a better choice and the tangy adds a nice greek flavor.
Beautiful macaroni salad Julie! As always, you know how to please me, thanks!
These salads are amazing for summer! I need to try your version