Creamy Macaroni Salad with fresh corn, tomatoes, avocado, and basil tossed in a creamy paprika dressing. Enjoy this easy macaroni salad recipe for picnics, potlucks, and summer cookouts.
Creamy Macaroni Salad – Healthy and Delicious
This creamy macaroni salad features a mix of summer-inspired ingredients such as corn, basil, and juicy tomatoes, along with al dente pasta and a light and creamy paprika dressing. It boasts simple prep and lively flavor, along with major crowd appeal.
I am fully embracing easy pasta salad recipes so far this summer. I’ve grown especially fond of this delicious Healthy Creamy Pasta Salad and this Chopped Greek Pasta Salad on a lazy summer afternoon. Between the fresh, vibrant mix of ingredients, and ease of prep, you just can’t beat this type of recipe.
You can easily make this salad gluten free and dairy free with a few simple subs. It’s rich in antioxidants, fiber, and fueling heart-healthy fats. And truly, one of the BEST ways to hit your daily veggie quota.
Whether you potluck, picnic, or need a reliable side dish for anything hot off the grill, let this creamy macaroni salad be one of your summertime staples too.
- Pasta: Use any small pasta noodle shape you like! Elbows and shellbows are my personal favorites here. If making the pasta salad gluten free, use chickpea pasta, such as Banza brand, or brown rice pasta, such as Jovial brand.
- Corn: During summer months, I suggest using fresh cobs of corn. You can either grill them, sear them in a cast iron, or simply use the kernels raw. Alternatively, you can use canned or frozen/thawed corn.
- Tomatoes: You need one pint of cherry tomatoes for this recipe, which are available year-round.
- Avocado: Make sure your avocado isn’t overly ripe, but just slightly firm to the touch. Otherwise it will turn to mush when you mix it in the pasta salad.
- Basil: This macaroni salad leans on LOADS of fresh basil for brightness and aromatic flavor.
- Arugula: The peppery bite of arugula pairs perfectly with the sweetness of corn. I like tossing in 1 or 2 handfuls, however if you prefer to leave it out, you certainly can.
- Dressing: The dressing is a mix of mayonnaise, olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar, and spices such as paprika and garlic powder. I also like to toss in some fresh shallots for a little sharpness and bite.
Step 1: Boil the Pasta
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente. Drain pasta in a colander, and rinse with cold water.
Step 3: Prepare the Dressing
While the pasta boils, prepare dressing by combining mayonnaise, olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar, garlic powder, paprika, salt, and pepper in a bowl; whisk to combine.
Step 4: Combine all Ingredients
Combine corn, tomatoes, avocado, and basil in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper, and toss to combine. Add cooked pasta, dressing, and feta; toss again to evenly coat. Serve warm, chilled, or closer to room temperature.
What Goes Good with Macaroni Salad?
The beauty of this macaroni salad recipe is that it goes well with just about anything. For example, anything hot off the grill, like burgers, BBQ chicken, or veggie burgers. Additionally, it’s a great match for sandwiches, baked fish, pulled pork, or shrimp kebobs.
Here are a few of my favorites:
- Chili-Lime Tofu and Peach Skewers
- Baja Fish Tacos with Mango Salsa
- Salmon Burgers with Lemon-Caper Spread
Do you eat Macaroni Salad Hot or Cold?
Macaroni salad can be enjoyed warm, chilled, or closer to room temperature. If making macaroni salad in advance, it’s best to leave it out at room temperature for 30 minutes prior to serving.
If making macaroni salad 1 to 2 days in advance, toss it with a drizzle of olive oil prior to serving to help rehydrate the noodles.
Best Pasta Shape for Macaroni Salad:
When it comes to pasta salad, shape actually DOES matter. Avoid any long-strand pasta like spaghetti or linguine, which is harder to scoop up with a utensil. Instead, stick with a shape with plenty of nooks and crannies — like fusilli, rotini, shellbows, or elbows.
Make Ahead and Storage Tips:
- To Make Ahead. Make the dressing and cook the pasta up to 1 day in advance. Toss together up to 4 hours before serving.
- To Store. Place leftover salad in an airtight storage container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. When ready to eat, toss with a drizzle of olive oil to help rehydrate the noodles.
More Pasta Salad Recipes
If you give this macaroni salad recipe a try, snap a pic and tag #dishingouthealth so I can see your beautiful creations. I also really appreciate readers taking the time to leave a rating and review! Lastly, follow along on Facebook and Pinterest for the latest recipe updates!
Creamy Macaroni Salad with Corn and Basil
- Large stockpot or Dutch oven
- Mixing bowls
- 12 oz. dry pasta of choice (such as elbows or shellbows)
- 3 Tbsp. mayonnaise (I use avocado oil mayo)
- 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
- 1 Tbsp. rice vinegar (sub white wine vinegar)
- 3/4 tsp. garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
- 3/4 tsp. kosher salt, divided
- 3/4 tsp. black pepper, divided
- 1 small shallot, very thinly sliced (about 3 to 4 Tbsp.)
- 2 ears of corn, grilled or seared (*see notes below for instructions) sub 1 cup frozen/thawed or canned corn
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 medium avocado, peeled and cubed
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
- 1 to 2 handfuls baby arugula (optional)
- 1/3 cup feta cheese, crumbled (sub goat cheese)
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente. Drain pasta in a colander, and rinse with cold water.While the pasta boils, prepare dressing by combining mayonnaise, olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar, garlic powder, paprika, and 1/4 tsp. each of salt and black pepper in a bowl; whisk to combine. Stir in shallots and let sit at room temperature for at least 10 minutes.
- Combine corn, tomatoes, avocado, and basil in a large bowl. Season with remaining 1/2 tsp. each of salt and black pepper, and gently toss to combine. Add cooked pasta, dressing, arugula (if using), and feta; toss again to evenly coat. Serve warm, chilled, or closer to room temperature.
Preheat grill or skillet to medium-high heat.
Remove husks and silk from corn. Brush each piece with olive oil.
Grill or sear corn for 10 to 12 minutes, turning occasionally, until kernels are lightly charred. Once cool enough to handle, cut corn kernels from cob.