Simple but flavorful every bite of this Easy Macaroni Salad for a Crowd recipe is creamy, tangy and delicious!
Perfect for a graduation party, big family parties and cookouts this big batch of Amish style macaroni salad side dish for a crowd is an economical way to feed people.
Macaroni Salad For a Crowd Recipe
Tender pasta with crunchy veggies and a light dressing is always popular. With a high quality taste like a classic macaroni salad you would get from a caterer, this recipe is easy enough for the home cook to make.
One of the best parts of this side dish is that it should be made a day or two ahead time. This gives the dressing time to soak in and help tenderize the vegetables.
Spend a little time chopping veggies 3 or 4 days ahead of time and store them in the refrigerator. Make the pasta, mix up the dressing and stir it all together for a tasty and classic dish.
While this big batch macaroni salad recipe is great all year around, it tends to be more popular in warmer weather.
When planning an entire meal Crock Pot Pulled Pork is a perfect main dish. Our Cheesy Potatoes for a Crowd, Baked Beans for a Crowd, Green Beans for a Crowd are also popular and are recipes that are primarily made the day they are served.
Plan Accordingly for the Party or Picnic
Be sure you have adequate cold refrigerator space. Allow for a single layer of pans until each pan has been thoroughly chilled through to the center.
Allow enough time and energy to finely chop the veggies for the best quality salad.
Stacking pans means the center of the middle pan will take a long time to chill which is not ideal and could be a food safety risk. We also have a smaller drink refrigerator that doesn’t keep perishable food in the safe zone.
I made this recipe for 200 people and needed to use my mom’s refrigerator to safely chill and store the needed 16 plus pounds of macaroni salad.
Stacking pans too high can create a bit of a mess, so shelves may need moved in the refrigerator
I put a few pans in a large reusable grocery bag with sturdy handles, then set the bags in an ice lined cooler to transport them to a school banquet.
The most time intensive portion of this recipe is prepping the veggies. So I like to measure out enough of each for a double batch and store them in reusable containers in the refrigerator a couple days ahead of time.
Allow the time and energy to do it right. Finely chopped will taste the best!
- Elbow macaroni – this is the shape of pasta people expect in macaroni salad and since we eat with our eyes this is the biggest part of the first impression.
- Mayonnaise – makes the rich and creamy flavor people crave and using the full amount will help keep the salad from drying out.
- Distilled White vinegar – gives an extra zing to the sauce and will help tenderize the vegetables, thus making the salad ahead and soaking overnight is helpful.
- Mustard – we like Woeber’s Sweet and Spicy mustard, if that’s not available a plain yellow mustard works best, avoid beer flavored or other fancy mustards.
- Granulated sugar – sweetens the salad and makes it more cravable.
- Salt & Pepper – adds flavor and balance.
- Sweet onion – can also be substituted for yellow, white or red onion. Ensure it’s finely chopped to blend well with all other ingredients.
- Celery – adds a little bitter accent, color and crunch
- Green pepper – adds a little punch in flavor as well as color, crunch and fiber
- Shredded carrots – are optional, but add a different color and natural sweetness that ties everything together.
How Much Salad is Needed For 100 Guests?
The biggest factor affecting how much macaroni salad 100 people will eat is what else is on the menu?
If there are only a few options estimate 1/2 cup for most of the guests. If there are lots of options on a buffet fewer guests are likely to take a scoop of macaroni salad.
How Many People Does 1 Pound of Macaroni Salad Serve?
One pound of macaroni salad creates 7 1/2 to 8 large spoon fulls or 1/2 cup servings. The exact amount is dependent on the shape of the pasta and how many ingredients are added.
When people are being served, as opposed to self-serve, a more standard portion is given to everyone less mac will be needed. Another option is to scoop into pre-portioned small clear cups which can make serving faster and more consistent.
Pictured is one double batch of macaroni salad in two pans. It fills about one and a half pans.
How to Keep Macaroni Salad From Drying Out?
Always stir before serving, keep tightly covered in the refrigerator and use plenty of dressing to keep mac salad from drying out.
Make sure to measure all ingredients properly to keep the proportion of dressing to pasta and veggies as listed in the recipe. I have tried to save money on a big recipes by using less mayo and it was dry and disappointing!
My friend has this super creamy variation of Sweet Macaroni Salad that would work great in a big batch situation too.
How Many Pounds of Pasta for 100 People?
Make 8 pounds of macaroni pasta to feed 100 people. Stir in some veggies and dressing for a complete side dish. I estimate getting 14 – 16 servings per pound of pasta.
This assumes generous portions and that everyone will take a scoop of macaroni.
Cooking in 2 double batches in a very large pot is easiest. Know that cooking time for a double batch will likely change from a single batch. I use a smaller pot to keep water boiling to make multiple double batches in the big pan faster.
Recipe Tips & Tricks
- Don’t substitute mayo for light mayo or Miracle Whip without testing first – this can make a major change to the recipe.
- Ensure macaroni is properly cooked to a tender, but not gummy consistency.
- Take the time and care to finely and consistently chop veggies for best results.
- Cooking a double batch of pasta will likely alter the cooking time on the box, so stay close and test often.
- Rinse pasta quickly and thoroughly with cold water to stop the cooking and rinse off extra starch.
- We have tested using red bell peppers and green bell peppers side by side and prefer green peppers. There have been some challenges in green pepper availability, so red peppers work fine.
- We find that a long handled metal serving spoon makes it easy to reach all corners of the pan while being sturdy enough to maneuver to the plate.
- Disposable aluminum pans may come with a lid or may be covered with heavy duty aluminum foil. Regular foil will rip easily when pans are stacked.
- For an extended serving period place pans on ice to keep cool.
- There are recipe options with sweet pickles, boiled eggs, cheese and more, but these ingredients are more intensive to prepare and often cost more. After testing several options we like the version in the recipe card below the best.
Step By Step Instructions
To make macaroni salad for a crowd I prepare double batches until I have the appropriate amount.
Bring large pot of water to a boil and generously salt water. Cook a double batch of pasta according to package directions. TEST PASTA BEFORE DRAINING. Pasta should be tender and ready to eat.
There are lots of variables that can change the exact time, but especially in a double batch cooking time will likely increase.
When pasta is done cooking drain immediately and rinse with cold water until all of the macaroni is chilled.
If making double batches at a time a VERY large mixing bowl will be needed.
Add dressing ingredients to extra large bowl and whisk together.
Next add finely chopped vegetables. Take time to ensure evenly sized pieces.
Stir the dressing and vegetables well. Then add macaroni.
This is where having an extra large bowl is important to allow proper mixing without making a mess. A long handled spoon makes this task easier.
How to Store Macaroni Salad For a Crowd
Macaroni salad should be stored tightly covered or in an air tight container in the refrigerator for 3 – 5 days. It does not freeze well
One of the challenges of cooking for a crowd is planning adequately. If guaranteeing that everyone has access to plenty of food is important you will likely have a lot of leftovers. Leftovers should be given away and eaten quickly.
If salad was left out for more than one to two hours it should be discarded for safety.
More Easy Side Dish Recipes:
Linguine Salad also known as Salad Supreme Pasta Salad, the Italian flavors in this dish are excellent!
Crock Pot Mac & Cheese is amazing & easily makes a big double batch in the crock pot.
Loaded Baked Potato Bar makes a great side dish or main dish and gives people lots of options!
Macaroni Salad for a Crowd
- 8 pounds macaroni
- 16 stalks celery finely chopped
- 8 medium onions finely chopped
- 8 green bell peppers finely chopped
- 2 cups carrots shredded
- 64 ounces mayonnaise
- 4 cups granulated sugar
- 1 1/4 cup mustard
- 1/4 cup salt
- 4 teaspoons black pepper
- 2 cups distilled white vinegar
- Boil water in extra large stock pot and salt heavily. Add macaroni and cook until tender. Drain immediately and place under cold running water.
- Cut vegetables into small, even pieces. Can be done ahead of time if desired.
- Measure and stir dressing ingredients well.
- Add vegetables into dressing and stir well.
- Add pasta and stir well. Cover and chill for at least 2 hours, up to 48 hours.
- Stir before serving to keep salad moist and delicious!
- 2 lbs macaroni
- 2 cups or 16 ounces of mayo
- 1/2 cup vinegar
- 1 cup sugar
- 5 tablespoons or 1/3 cup mustard
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 1 1/2 cups onion
- 4 stalks or 2 cups of chopped celery
- 2 cups or 1 1/2 green bell peppers
- 1/2 cup grated carrots
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