In this delicious Turkish Macaroni Salad Recipe; vegetables, pickles and pasta come together with a light and tangy mayo-yogurt dressing to carry your picnics, potlucks and parties to perfection. It is quite customizable too.
Macaroni pasta salad is a very popular summer side in Turkish cuisine along with Turkish Potato Salad and Turkish Bulgur Salad Kısır. Here as well it’s a classic. You can find tons of recipes online. But what’s the best macaroni salad? For me, it is the question of the balance of the ingredients. The right amount of creaminess and tanginess of the dressing and right cooked pasta makes a great difference. Of course, I do not talk about a box of macaroni salad from the supermarket when I talk about the best. Pre-packed cold macaroni salad is usually too heavy with lots of mayo in it or too much starchy and dull with overcooked pasta in it. What a disappointment to have on a nice summer picnic! No worries. With this super easy recipe, you will put your own homemade elbow macaroni salad on your summer table.
How do you make macaroni salad? It is no big deal, at all. Seriously, it is soooo simple to make. You literally need a 15-minute work; the same amount of time you would take to go get your salad from a supermarket. So why not having your own tasty and healthy homemade salad?
This old fashioned macaroni salad with pickles has the following 4 vegetables:
- Fresh dill
All the vegetables except fresh dill are cooked. I cook them in a small pot while cooking the pasta in another pot.
You can always add in other vegetables or take out some of them, as well. For example, if you only like peas among the vegetables mentioned, make your macaroni salad with peas only. And leave the others out. For the dressing, I use a simple yogurt and mayo mixture. Very similar to the dressing we use in our Low Carb Chicken Salad with Herbs recipe.
As far as I know, typical American version of macaroni salad with mayo does not have yogurt in it. However, we use a combination of mayo and yogurt in this recipe. Yogurt and mayo make the salad even creamier when they come together in a dressing. You don’t need to mix them in a separate bowl. You can add them both on the other salad ingredients and stir them all together.
For this recipe, you can also add pickle juice (just use the juice in your pickle jar) or lemon juice to make the dressing tarter. And of course you can add in any spice you want.
If you are a vegan, you can substitute yogurt and mayo with avocado. Please go check out our Healthy Avocado Dressing to get an idea.
A Word On Thick Yogurt
Turkish strained yogurt, also known as Greek yogurt, is a staple ingredient in many Turkish dishes. It has a very thick consistency but it can easily get creamy. You just need to thin it out with some water. There is no right ratio for this. It really depends on the thickness of yogurt and on how thick or thin you want your dressing. So whisk in water gradually and decide it yourself.
For me, 2-3 tablespoons of water for 1 cup of yogurt is fine.
Related: Homemade Greek Yogurt
We have a good reason to eat so much yogurt. It is very rich in protein, calcium and probiotics. But this is not the real reason of so much yogurt consumption in our kitchen. The real motivation is that it is simply sooooo delicious and light. It is much lighter than mayo or sour cream. And it goes great on top of almost everything from vegetables to meat or chicken.
We usually combine yogurt and little mayo in salad dressings to make them lighter. And it makes a difference in this macaroni salad calories too when compared to a pasta salad dressing with mayo only.
Just think about how much calories a tablespoon of mayo has. 57 calories for 1 tablespoon. On the other hand, 1 tablespoon yogurt has 18 calories. Yogurt seems like a better option, right?
How To Make
There are three super easy parts of this recipe.
First, cook elbow macaroni according to package instructions. It is very important to follow the instructions correctly to have a perfect bite. Overcooked pasta will be too mushy to mix with the vegetables. Please follow the duration given in the package directions. When the cooking time is over, drain and rinse your pasta immediately under cold water. This is another important tip not to overcook the pasta because cooking stops under cold water. Remember to drizzle 1 tablespoon olive oil over it and stir gently so that they don’t stick one another when you are preparing the other ingredients.
Second, bring a small pot of water to boil and cook diced carrots and potatoes for 15 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Carrots don’t need to be super tender. Add in the frozen peas in the last 2 minutes. Again, rinse them immediately under cold water and drain after cooking.
Third, put cooked macaroni and cooked vegetables, chopped fresh dill and dill pickles in a large bowl. Drizzle over 1 tablespoon olive oil and add in salt, mayonnaise and yogurt. Toss until the ingredients are well combined.
If the Greek yogurt you are using is too thick, thin it out with 2-3 tablespoons water before adding it on your salad.
What Else To Add
Traditionally this is our basic macaroni salad. However, it has plenty of room for modifications. You can easily play around the ingredients. If you like, add green onions or red onions, garlic, different herbs or nuts like walnuts. You can add diced cucumbers or celery sticks to have extra fresh crunch.
You can make this salad with shrimps or diced ham or salami or cheese if you crave for more protein.
You can also have this salad with tuna but when I have it with tuna, I do not use this yogurt & mayo dressing. I go for a mix of lemon, olive oil and vinegar.
What To Serve With
No Greek yogurt left at home. No worries. You can prepare a pasta salad dressing with mayo, sour cream, cottage cheese, cream cheese, vinegar or pickle juice. If you use cottage cheese or cream cheese, just taste as you prepare your dressing so you do not have too much of it.
It is not really a good idea. Cold pasta salad with mayo is not the best dish for freezing due to the ingredients in mayo. It loses its creamy texture when it is thawed and it also changes the consistency of the macaroni salad. What you can do is to freeze the salad without the dressing. You can add the dressing after you thaw the salad in the refrigerator for a few hours.
I would actually recommend to cook the amount you will consume. You can make a rough calculation and put ½ cup of pasta per person. But if you end up with more macaroni than you need, you can freeze it up to 2 weeks. Thaw it in the refrigerator overnight before consuming it.
You can keep your macaroni salad in fridge for 3 or 4 days. I usually have them for lunch the next day, which is really practical.
Yes, absolutely. If you do not do that, your pasta will continue cooking with its own heat so you will end up with sticky and overcooked pasta.
More Pasta Salads
- Summer Vegan Pasta Salad
- Pasta Salad Without Mayo
- Cowboy Pasta Salad
- Pesto Pasta Salad
- Springtime Pasta Salad
Turkish Classic Macaroni Salad Recipe
An easy cold pasta salad with vegetables, pickles, fresh dill and a yogurt&mayo dressing.
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 10 minutes
- Total Time: 20 minutes
- Yield: 6 1x
- Category: Salad
- Method: Cooking
- Cuisine: Turkish
- 1 pound elbow macaroni
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 cup carrots, diced
- ½ cup potatoes, diced
- ½ cup frozen peas
- ½ cup fresh dill, chopped
- ¼ cup dill pickles, chopped
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup greek yogurt, thinned with water (see the note below)
- ¼ cup mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Cook elbow macaroni according to package instructions. Drain and rinse immediately under cold water. Drizzle 1 tablespoon olive oil over it and stir gently so that they don’t stick one another when you are preparing the other ingredients.
- Meanwhile, bring a small pot of water to boil and cook diced carrots and potatoes for 15 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Add in the frozen peas in the last 2 minutes. Rinse immediately under cold water and drain.
- In a large bowl, put cooked macaroni and cooked vegetables, chopped fresh dill and dill pickles. Drizzle over 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add in salt, mayonnaise and yogurt. Toss until well combined.
If the yogurt you are using is too thick, thin it out with 2-3 tablespoons water before adding it on your salad.
Keywords: pasta salad, yogurt dressing, potluck salad, macaroni salad, vegetarian macaroni salad