Pasta Salad & Macaroni Salad: Are They the Same Thing?


Pasta salad and macaroni salad are both made with pasta so that makes them the same thing, right? Our customer service receives this comment/question a lot so we decided to answer the burning question (and of course give you Blue Ribbon recipes).

Both are summer side dishes essential for a BBQ and the names are used interchangeably, but they are actually two different things.

Pasta salad has an oil and vinegar base (think Italian dressing) and not typically creamy. It's made using any type of short, dried pasta but the best ones are farfalle (bow tie), fusilli, penne, or rotini.

Ingredients could include veggies like cucumbers, black olives, corn, peas, spinach, and tomatoes. Small pieces of meat can also be added, like grilled chicken or salami. Shredded or cubed cheese is also delicious. There can be a wide array of ingredients in pasta salad and, once assembled, tends to be lighter than macaroni salad.

Macaroni salad is actually a type of pasta salad that's creamier and sweeter. Elbow macaroni is traditionally used and tossed with a sweetened mayonnaise dressing. Ingredients in this deli staple typically include shredded carrots, green bell peppers, celery, and chopped pickles.

The one thing we can all agree on, though, is whatever you call it they're both delicious. So which do you prefer - pasta salad or macaroni salad? Let us know in the comments!

Blue Ribbon Pasta Salad and Macaroni Salad Recipes


Lite Tri-Color Pasta Salad"This to me is one of the perfect summer...

Lite Tri-Color Pasta Salad

"This to me is one of the perfect summer salads. Not only does it tastes and look delicious. It has less fat and fewer calories than most pasta salads yet you still get the wonderful full flavor you expect. I did not have any frozen broccoli to add but it is great in addition to the corn." - Sue

Mom's Macaroni Salad"Elbow macaroni, celery, sweet relish, and hard-boiled egg make up...

Mom's Macaroni Salad

"Elbow macaroni, celery, sweet relish, and hard-boiled egg make up my mom’s macaroni salad. Light and flavorful, you think you will eat just one scoop on your plate, but then you find yourself going back for seconds and thirds. Backyard barbecues would not be the same without pairing a macaroni salad with a grilled steak, hamburger, or hot dog." - Darci

Pasta Salad"Whenever I make this pasta salad everyone always asks me to...

Pasta Salad

"Whenever I make this pasta salad everyone always asks me to make it again. It is always a big hit that's for sure. And you can alter it however you like with your favorite items." - Belinda

Deli Mac Salad"This is a family recipe from my husband's family. They...

Deli Mac Salad

"This is a family recipe from my husband's family. They owned a deli in NJ many years ago, and this is the mac salad that they made. Yummm! Very big hit too!" - Helene

Southwest Pasta Salad"This simple pasta salad recipe is bursting with flavors. There's...

Southwest Pasta Salad

"This simple pasta salad recipe is bursting with flavors. There's spice from the Rotel and tomatoes, a slight sweetness from the corn, and a wonderful crunch from the veggies. The best part is the homemade salad dressing recipe. It has the perfect balance of tang and spice." - The Kitchen Crew

Macaroni Salad"This is my great aunt's recipe. Every holiday, she would send...

Macaroni Salad

"This is my great aunt's recipe. Every holiday, she would send a jar of this to our house because she knew I liked it so much! Come to think of it, I'm pretty sure I ate the whole jar!" - Liz

Ranch Pasta Salad"This is one of my most requested pasta salads at...

Ranch Pasta Salad

"This is one of my most requested pasta salads at my house. There are few ingredients and kids always like it. If you don't like the tomato, replace it with another veggie such as red bell pepper, green onion, radish, or zucchini. Or leave it out! It's still really good and really simple." - Dawn

Sweet Macaroni Salad"Nice change to traditional macaroni salad. Always have to double...

Sweet Macaroni Salad

"Nice change to traditional macaroni salad. Always have to double the recipe and never have leftovers." - Barbara




2 Comments
GlitterGirl777
Gayle Gohdes - Aug 23, 2019
I just love both kinds, One of my favorite things to eat....Macaroni salad with ham & cheese in it, then again, tomato, olives, parmesan cheese, I've really got a thing for Italian dressing lately. LOL
isthisretirement
Donna Schulz - Aug 22, 2019
I would like a serving of each of these, please. Maybe an extra helping of the macaroni salad and seconds on the tricolor pasta.
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