Creamy, Lighter Macaroni Salad

I think I have shared before how much I have traditionally despised all kinds of summer salads. The hate has come mostly from my aversion to the thick, globby mayonnaise dressing that so many of these salads sport. From pasta salad to potato and macaroni, I always turned my nose up at them. Until I started making my own. And proving that less is more when it comes to mayonnaise and salads. I gave pasta salad an Italian spin, whipped up my friend’s grandmother’s best ever potato salad, and now I’ve conquered macaroni salad. It’s been an exciting summer! 😉

This recipe starts out as your typical macaroni salad with elbow macaroni, celery, radishes, dill pickle, and hard boiled eggs, but the difference lies in the dressing. Instead of piling on the mayo, the bulk of the dressing is made up of plain yogurt, with a much smaller amount of mayonnaise used as an accent, instead of the main ingredient. It results in a salad that is perfectly dressed – moist and a little creamy but not at all thick or overpowering. Along with the crunch from the vegetables, it’s a wonderfully refreshing summer salad.

One year ago: Oven-Fried Onion Rings, Take II
Two years ago: Chocolate Espresso Semifreddo

Creamy Macaroni Salad

Yield: 6 servings

Prep Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: 25 minutes


½ pound elbow macaroni
2 hard-cooked eggs, whites roughly chopped, yolks left whole
1 cup low-fat or non-fat plain yogurt
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
4 radishes, quartered and thinly sliced
2 celery stalks, thinly sliced crosswise
2 tablespoons finely chopped dill pickle
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives


1. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta according to package instructions. Drain and return to pot.

2. In a small bowl, finely mash 1 egg yolk with a fork (reserve remaining yolk for another use). Add yogurt, mayonnaise, and lemon juice; stir until smooth. Add to pasta, then stir in egg whites, radishes, celery and pickle. Season with salt and pepper.

3. Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Sprinkle with chives just before serving.

(Recipe adapted from Everyday Food, July/August 2011)


31 Responses to “Creamy, Lighter Macaroni Salad”

  1. Katrina on June 16, 2011 at 12:33 am

    I love this lightened up version! Awesome.


  2. Jaime on June 16, 2011 at 1:43 am

    This looks so good. I need a macaroni salad recipe. I just wanted to say that I have become a huge fan of your site. Your one of my top three favorites food bloggers. I especially love when you give a list of your favorites recipes. I love it! Thank you for doing what you do!!! You inspire me to wanna cook more. 😉


  3. Valerie on June 16, 2011 at 4:27 am

    Looks really yummy, that’s a perfect salad for summer!


  4. Apron Appeal on June 16, 2011 at 5:56 am

    I had to re-read this post a couple of times to make sure there really was no cheese in this. Macaroni without the cheese? Then I read the title fully – salad. OH! Now I understand. I should probably start waiting to read my google reader until after I’m fully awake. Oh well, the salad looks tasty just the same, weekend neighborhood BBQ may just be getting a side of macaroni.


  5. Lauren at Keep It Sweet on June 16, 2011 at 6:34 am

    I never loved macaroni salad but my family members did, I bet they’d love this lightened up version!


  6. Heather (Heather's Dish) on June 16, 2011 at 7:35 am

    i’m always down for lightened-up versions of the classics…this sounds amazing!


  7. Ann on June 16, 2011 at 8:46 am

    How wonderful! I am fighting for my health, so I can’t have heavy mayo salads….I just made a Russian Bean Salad as an alternative. Yours looks amazing!


  8. Tara @ Chip Chip Hooray on June 16, 2011 at 9:08 am

    Ohh, this looks perfect! I can’t stand how much mayo goes in those salads, too–I always wind up scraping it off with my fork and then being left with a big ol’ pile of mayo when I’m done.


  9. Maria63303 on June 16, 2011 at 9:16 am

    Thank You! I love to eat cool salads during the summer but hate the overpowering mayonaise that seems to rule them…I’m definitely giving your recipe a try!


  10. Jess on June 16, 2011 at 9:26 am

    This looks delicious! I tend to shy away from these types of salads too, for the same reason, so I love what you’ve done with this version. I haven’t tackled potato or macaroni salads yet, but I have rekindled a love for chicken salad by making them on my own with lighter dressings.


  11. Kelly on June 16, 2011 at 11:45 am

    This recipe looks so yummy!! I recently started the long process of loosing weight, but I love macaroni salad… this seems like a healthy twist… I can’t wait to try it at our next BBQ!!


  12. Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction on June 16, 2011 at 1:02 pm

    This looks great! I’ve been craving some picnic food lately, and I love this lighter version of macaroni salad!


  13. Jennifer Plank on June 16, 2011 at 2:03 pm

    One more reason I love your blog. I, too, HATE mayo. Always looking for a way to replace it. Will surely be trying this one straight away.


  14. abakersheart on June 16, 2011 at 3:34 pm

    ive been looking around for a good lighter version and this is perfect. It was super yummy!!!


  15. Jessica on June 16, 2011 at 4:10 pm

    This sounds great! I recently got some Himalayan pink salt and organic peppercorns from Sustainable Sourcing and I’ll have to try them out in this recipe. Thanks for sharing!


  16. chris on June 16, 2011 at 7:42 pm

    I am with you…I could never get into the soup salads of summer….the mayo messed with my head. Lol. Love the sound of this. I would leave out the egg but yum!


  17. Sues on June 16, 2011 at 8:08 pm

    Looks delicious! I’ve been using Greek yogurt for all my tuna/chicken/pasta salads lately, with a tiny bit of mayo, too. I love the tanginess and creaminess 🙂


  18. Megan on June 16, 2011 at 10:04 pm

    This looks very refreshing!


  19. Sandy Aldern on June 16, 2011 at 10:52 pm

    Sounds wonderful! Love the “light.” That’s how we eat most of our meals (other than cupcakes). Will be trying it soon!


  20. Taylor on June 16, 2011 at 11:23 pm

    Looks fabulous! I think I’ve bookmarked more of your recipes than any other foodie I follow. 🙂


  21. The Housewife on June 17, 2011 at 1:43 am

    Thank you! I always stay away from macaroni salad while eyeing it longingly! I love that you re did a classic.


  22. Silvia on June 17, 2011 at 4:40 am

    If I may suggest: all rice and pasta salads in Italy are dressed only with olive oil and lemon, no mayo at all. They are so very practical, one can use almost everything, ham, cheese, vegetables (fresh or pickled), olives, even tuna and eggs, and they can be very light and fresh too.


  23. Chung-Ah Rhee on June 18, 2011 at 2:37 pm

    It’s creamier and lighter?! I didn’t know the two could ever co-exist together!

    I can’t wait to give this a try. I might just add some diced avocado. Mmmm.

    Thanks for the recipe!


  24. Baking In Brooklyn on June 19, 2011 at 7:19 pm

    This looks really tasty! I will have to try it soon!


  25. Cheryl on June 19, 2011 at 10:09 pm

    I made this recipe today and it was great! A very light and refreshing add to my cookout. Thank you for sharing the recipe!!


  26. Sharlene Simon on July 4, 2011 at 5:06 pm

    Made the macaroni salad for a party on Sunday which was our Independence Day celebration with 12 family and friends. It was delicious! I doubled the recipe since it said it made 6 servings but that wasn’t necessary. It’s a generous 6 servings! Also would cut back on the celery a little and increase the dill pickles next time. Love that it’s not full of mayo….the low-fat Greek yogurt was perfect to keep it light! The Best Ever Potato Salad was a huge hit at the previous gathering….love these recipes!


  27. Sandy Aldern on July 4, 2011 at 5:34 pm

    Made my salad for today’s holiday barbecue! Perfect light salad to go with ribs, watermelon, and my mother-in-law’s baked beans. Margarita cupcakes for dessert!


  28. Nancy on April 2, 2014 at 7:48 pm

    I really wanted to like this! Made it today and was not happy at all. I tried so many extra things to make it tastier but I just don’t like this at all. Would not make again.


  29. Nancy Long on June 16, 2015 at 8:30 am

    Aha, maybe that’s why I’ve never been fond of macaroni salad. I make pasta salads, but use vinaigrettes for them


  30. Wendy on June 29, 2015 at 12:35 am

    Call me strange but I actually like mayo and Miracle Whip…depends on the salad or sandwich ingredient which one I use. You don’t need to use a lot and you can get lighter versions of both these days. Adding a bit of yogurt is a good idea though to make it more tangy and to cut down on fat although some yogurts are high in fat. It’s all about individual choice and taste.


  31. Mitsuko on June 1, 2016 at 1:12 pm

    I made this for a family barbecue night- it was simple and very fresh tasting. I forwent the dill pickle as no one in the family, besides me, likes dill pickles. Instead I added green onion (just to give it a little more flavor and in Hawaiian Mac salad they use onion. I figured it would go nicely with our teriyaki turkey burgers and grilled corn on the cob). Anyway, it did and all my boys liked the Mac salad! I used a greek yogurt I made myself. I think the success of this dish would greatly depend on the type of yogurt you use. I find too many commercial yogurts to be overpowering in taste when I have used them in other dishes. (Too tangy/sour). you definitely want a really mild, but thick, yogurt. I would recommend brands like: stoneyfield, wallaby, or chobani. And would stay away from fage and dannone. Anyway, thank you for the recipe! We are still munching on the leftovers.


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