Southern Deli-Style Macaroni Salad

This Southern-style Macaroni Salad combines fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, celery, bell pepper, and onion with elbow pasta in a lightly sweetened mayo-based dressing. Just like the kind from the country store gas station! Vegetarian and uses no added eggs. Makes 12 servings.

I really wanted to call this “Southern Gas Station Macaroni Salad” because that’s honestly what it is 🙂 The is the type of macaroni salad found at the little restaurant attached to the “country store” gas station. Seriously, all the best foods come from those kitchens!

Macaroni salad is one of those foods I never really had to make because it always appeared at cookouts and family get-togethers. I didn’t make it at home because there are only 2 of us and if I really wanted macaroni salad, I could get it at the diner with a sandwich. But this summer has been so different and it’s made me miss our family cookouts (and of course the foods usually at those cookouts). So here’s my recipe for macaroni salad– it fills my sense of nostalgia and I’ll have it on hand for a (hopefully soon-ish) family potluck.

Highlights of Southern Deli-Style Macaroni Salad:

  • Has the right balance of classic elbow pasta to garden veggies to lightly tangy dressing (it’s not swimming, you know?)
  • Has cucumbers and tomatoes–Macaroni salad just isn’t the best if it doesn’t have that tomato-mayo magic and the coolness from the fresh cucumber.
  • Is ready in 15 minutes (but needs a good 4 hour chill)
  • Is the perfect side dish for summer cookouts, holidays, game days, and more!

This recipe is made without eggs. Some southern diners use hard-boiled eggs in their recipe, so if that’s something you like feel free to add them! We personally use Hellmann’s vegan mayo in our home so this is a vegan version but whatever mayo you love will definitely work!

Macaroni Salad with tomatoes and cucumbers

Southern Deli-Style Macaroni Salad

Emma J. Watling
Macaroni salad loaded with veggies and tossed in a lightly tangy dressing. Perfect for cookouts, game day spreads, and potlucks. Makes 12 servings. Vegetarian/Vegan.
5 from 5 votes
Prep Time 15 minutes
Chilling Time 4 hours
Total Time 4 hours 15 minutes
Course Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine American, Holidays, Southern
Servings 12
Calories 339 kcal


  • 16 oz elbow pasta
  • 1 c cucumber, peeled and diced
  • 2/3 c celery, diced small
  • 1/2 c white or yellow onion, minced
  • 1/2 c green bell pepper, minced
  • 1 c Roma tomatoes, diced
  • c mayonnaise or vegan mayo
  • 1/4 c apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 4 tsp prepared yellow mustard
  • 1 tsp salt, to taste
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper, to taste


  • Cook pasta al dente, according to package directions. Drain and rinse cooked pasta and pour into a large bowl.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together dressing ingredients: mayo, vinegar, sugar, mustard, salt, and pepper.
  • Add cucumber, celery, onion, and bell pepper to pasta bowl. Stir in dressing to coat mixture. Fold in tomatoes. Cover macaroni salad and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight. Stir before serving with extra salt and pepper, if desired.

Leftover storage:

  • Keep refrigerated, covered, and enjoy within 4 days.


  • To help keep the salad creamier longer, reserve 1/3 c dressing separately and stir in just before serving (optional)
  • Calories calculated with traditional ingredients: using light or lower calorie options will lower calorie totals


Calories: 339kcal
Keyword Classic Macaroni Salad, Cucumbers, Pasta, Southern Macaroni Salad, Tomatoes
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

I hope y’all have a great weekend and do something fun! Even if it’s a local walk in a park, hitting up the farmer’s market, or checking out a new restaurant to-go menu– find something new to do 🙂 I’ll be working on some more baseball-watching recipes because that’s what we’ve been doing together lately–so stay tuned!


8 thoughts on “Southern Deli-Style Macaroni Salad”

  • 5 stars
    Quite nice. A little Vermont Cheddar, grated, was a fine step up but it was good without it too. Simple, you really can’t screw it up and none of the measurements really matter so long as you get it roughly right.

    Wife was thinking olives, but not so much for me. This will be a favorite.

    • Thank you for the review, Alex! My family adds shredded cheddar sometimes, too, and it’s delicious. I bet olives would be good as well. Glad y’all liked this recipe!

    • 5 stars
      I absolutely LOVE this recipe. I’m from Southern Virginia so this is definitely my preferred way of making macaroni salad. I made this last night (minus the celery as I didn’t have any on hand). One of my favorite ingredients in this recipe is the apple cider vinegar, just brings it all together for me. Simply delicious. I can’t wait for my family to eat this delicious macaroni salad this weekend. Thanks for sharing.

      • Thank you so much for the kind words, Christina! I’m from Smith Mountain Lake 🙂 If we didn’t make the macaroni salad from scratch we bought it at the country store gas station haha. Hope you and your family have a great weekend!


  • 5 stars
    My husband and I loved this Macaroni salad! This is now my go-to pasta salad. And so easy to make. Thank you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.