New York deli macaroni salad is a creamy side dish that’s found in nearly every deli in the NY metro area. It’s perfect with sandwiches, burgers, and barbecue and is sure to stand out at any backyard gathering!
Macaroni salad can get a bad rap at times.
Homemade versions are often a clumpy mess with little to no flavor, but anytime I’ve eaten New York deli macaroni salad, it’s been awesome!
I’ve worked in a number of delis in my life and this is the real-deal, tried and true way to ensure a tangy, creamy macaroni salad.
While many deli mac salads include just macaroni, or macaroni and a touch of celery, I added just a bit of red and green bell pepper to mine for texture and flavor.
Serve this mac salad with burgers, barbecue, or alongside an Italian hero/sub for the full NY deli experience!
How to make it
Each number corresponds to the numbered written steps below.
- In a large bowl whisk together 1/3 cup of white vinegar, 3 tablespoons of water, 1/3 cup of sugar, 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil, a 1/2 cup of grated or pureed onion, 1 1/4 teaspoons of fine sea salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of white pepper. Finely dice half of one small green or red bell pepper and 1 rib of celery.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to boil and cook 1 pound of elbow macaroni to al dente. Drain and run the pasta under cold water to cool it off and stop the cooking process. Whisk the brine again and add the macaroni along with the bell pepper and celery. Mix well to coat, cover with a lid or plastic wrap, and refrigerate the macaroni overnight to allow the flavors to absorb.
- The next day add 3/4 cup of mayonnaise and mix well until you achieve a creamy consistency, adding more mayo as needed.
- Taste test and season with salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!
- The brine. Brining the macaroni 1 day in advance yields maximum flavor, and the longer it sits in the brine the better it will taste. This is the key to the quintessential New York deli flavor! Most delis (all of the ones I worked at) will leave macaroni, potato, and cabbage for coleslaw in the brine overnight or longer. Then the next day they can mix up a perfect smooth batch for customers. This works for presentation but also for taste.
- Pepper. I used white pepper in the brine to keep everything uniform in color, but you can certainly use black pepper. In fact, I used some black pepper at the end to season it to taste.
- Vegetable oil. I get a lot of comments about vegetable oil and some folks prefer to not use it. This is the oil that’s being used in most delis. Using olive oil here will change the flavor. If you don’t want to use vegetable oil, something with little taste, like avocado oil, would be an ok substitute. The only use for the oil is to aid in the smoothness and creaminess of the mac salad.
More summer side recipes
This NY deli-style macaroni salad is great all year long but is especially good in the summer. Here are a few more side ideas for warm weather.
- Sun-Dried tomato pasta salad – with mozzarella and artichoke hearts.
- Cucumber salad – with onions, dill, and a sweet vinegar brine.
- Italian cauliflower salad – with capers and lemon.
- Chicken Pesto Pasta Salad – with homemade pesto.
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New York Deli Macaroni Salad
For the brine
- 1/3 cup white vinegar
- 3 tablespoons water
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup onion grated or pureed
- 1 1/4 teaspoons fine sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
- 1 pound elbow macaroni
- 3/4 cup mayonnaise plus more to achieve a smooth consistency
- 1/2 small green or red bell pepper finely diced
- 1 rib celery finely diced
For the brine
- In a large bowl, whisk together all of the brine ingredients and set aside.
For the macaroni salad
- Bring a large pot of salted water to boil and cook elbow macaroni to al dente. Drain and run the pasta under cold water to cool it off and stop the cooking process.
- Whisk the brine again then add the elbow macaroni along with the bell pepper and celery. Mix well to coat. At this time it is best to refrigerate the macaroni overnight so that the flavors absorb.
- The next day, add the mayo and mix well again. Add more mayo as required to get a creamy consistency. Taste test and season with salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!
- The key to getting that New York deli macaroni salad flavor is the brine. If you can wait let the macaroni sit in the brine for 1-2 days before mixing with mayo. This is how most delis do it.
- White pepper can be used for appearance.
- Leftovers can be saved for up to 5 days and taste even better after a few days.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.