Macaroni Salad (Copycat Kraft Pasta Salad)

No barbecue is complete without side dishes to complement the meat. Some of the most popular dishes are salads and one of the most popular traditional salads to serve at a BBQ is macaroni salad. Our favourite easy-to-make macaroni salad has always been Kraft Pasta Salad in the green box. It has been a staple for our barbecues until recently when it became hard to find.

Plated macaroni salad topped with chivesMy family loves this pasta salad with tuna, ham, or chicken added to it so it was disappointing when we could no longer find the green box in stores in our area, even Amazon was sold out. And the ingredients on the box were no help as they listed only spices as the ingredients with dried vegetables.

After a few tries, I believe I got the spices right, made a bowl, and served it to the family. They thought it was the actual boxed pasta this time.

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Spice Mix Ingredients

The package ingredients list salt, dried red peppers, MSG, spices, dried onions, dried garlic, parsley, and whey. It was the ‘Spices’ that I had to figure out.

In place of dried red peppers, paprika is used. It not only adds colour but is made from ground peppers so it is the closest to dried peppers. Sometimes I use smoked paprika which adds just a just of smokiness that pairs well with ribs or any other meat that is smoked.

Granulated garlic and granulated onion are the go-tos in this recipe in place of dried garlic and onions.

The other spices are oregano, basil, ground thyme, celery salt, and black pepper.

A pinch of sea salt is also added. There is enough salt added to the celery salt as well as the salt added to the water to cook the pasta, so you only need a little salt in the salad itself.

Pasta For Macaroni Salad

For the pasta, elbow macaroni is what is used because it resembles the original recipe. You can use other types of shaped pasta if you prefer. I made this recipe with rotini or fusilli when macaroni wasn’t available.

The pasta should be cooked al-dente for this recipe, just like you would for a regular pasta dish. If the pasta is overcooked, it will become mushy when stirring in the mayo and spices.

Rinsing the pasta in cold water once cooked helps to keep the pasta from sticking and also stops the cooking process. The cold water will cool the pasta and rinse some of the starch off which will stop the pasta from sticking together while cooling.

The Dressing

For the dressing, I only use real mayonnaise. Some people prefer salad dressing style mayonnaise such as Miracle Whip but it adds a sweeter taste than real mayonnaise. Salad dressing can be used in place of mayonnaise if that is what you have or prefer.


Depending on what we are serving macaroni salad with, we will add a few extras to the pasta before adding the dressing.

For a summer cold plate, we will add chopped chicken or ham and some diced peppers. Served with crackers, cheese, and fresh raw vegetables, you have a fast lunch on a hot day.

For large BBQs, we add canned tuna, diced red and yellow peppers, diced celery, and green olives.

Looking for more side dishes for your next BBQ, check out our Potato Salad and our Homemade Mac and Cheese recipes.

Plated macaroni salad topped with chives

Macaroni Salad (Copycat Kraft Pasta Salad)

5 from 7 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Chilling Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Course Side Dish
Cuisine American
Servings 12 portions


  • 3 cups elbow macaroni

Dressing Ingredients

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 Tbsp granulated onion
  • 1 Tbsp granulated garlic
  • ½ Tbsp paprika
  • ½ Tbsp dried basil
  • ½ Tbsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp ground thyme
  • 1 tsp celery salt
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • pinch of sea salt


  • Prepare macaroni according to package directions for al dente pasta. (Don't forget to salt the water before cooking the pasta.)
  • Drain pasta and run under cold water for 2 minutes to stop cooking process.
  • Pour pasta into a large bowl and allow to cool completely at room temperature. Stirring occasionally to allow the heat to come out of the bottom.
  • Meanwhile, mix all dressing ingredients together in a small bowl.
  • When pasta is cooled, pour dressing over pasta and stir to coat.
  • Cover a refrigerate until ready to serve.
  • Serve cold.



  1. 5 stars
    Fantastic. Very close to the commercial product. I substituted dill weed for celery salt as I had none on hand. Thanks for sharing this 🙂

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