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!

Hands holding container of homemade NY deli macaroni salad.

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.

The vinegar brine is the key to this salad, as it is to New York deli potato salad, and coleslaw

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!

Ingredients shown: macaroni, sugar, onion, vegetable oil, mayonnaise, vinegar, bell pepper.

How to make it

Each number corresponds to the numbered written steps below.

  1. 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.

New York deli macaroni salad recipe process shot collage group number one.

  1. 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.
  2. The next day add 3/4 cup of mayonnaise and mix well until you achieve a creamy consistency, adding more mayo as needed. 

Recipe process shot collage group number two.

  1. Taste test and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Enjoy!

Deli macaroni salad in glass bowl with wooden spoon.

Top tips

  • 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.  

Blue bowl with deli style macaroni 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.

If you’ve enjoyed this New York deli macaroni salad recipe or any recipe on this site, give it a 5-star rating and leave a review.

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New York Deli Macaroni Salad

4.95 from 38 votes
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 10 minutes
refrigerator time: 12 hours
Total: 12 hours 15 minutes
Servings: 12
New York deli macaroni salad is a simple side dish that's loaded with flavor and is perfect alongside sandwiches, burgers, and other warm weather food!

Ingredients 

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

Remaining ingredients

  • 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

Instructions 

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!

Notes

  • 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

Calories: 254kcal | Carbohydrates: 38.2g | Protein: 5.2g | Fat: 8.9g | Saturated Fat: 1.5g | Cholesterol: 4mg | Sodium: 355mg | Potassium: 120mg | Fiber: 1.4g | Sugar: 8.1g | Calcium: 13mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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90 Comments

  1. I love this recipe. My question is does it have to sit overnight? I plan on brineing it all day ? But was a spur of the moment decision for dinner.

  2. 5 stars
    Where has this recipe been all my life?! WOW!! So many great memories in one bowl! Thanks guys- you both rock!!

  3. 5 stars
    My second time making this and love it, for such a simply set of ingredients the method really elevates this dish and makes the flavour profile deeper and more nuanced than just dressing on pasta.
    I typically add more capsicum/red pepper – we like our vegetables here.

  4. 5 stars
    My maccaroni salad is usually horrible! Thank you, thank you, thank you for this recipe. I think it is the combination of the vinegar and the sugar that brings it home!

  5. 5 stars
    I just made this recipe and it is simple, easy and delicious. I always wondered how to make a macaroni salad with a tangy flavor and this is the way to go!

  6. 5 stars
    This is a game changer! Midwestern girl here and hotdish/potluck (don’t get me started) party always has a macaroni salad. Always terrible, inedible. I love NYC, been many times and would never order the macaroni salad anywhere because of my history. Now I know what I’ve been missing! This is so good. I’ve made it twice in less than two weeks, and shared your recipe with all my relatives.

  7. 5 stars
    This is a great recipe! . I just added a little lemon juice and celery salt. Better than a Long Island deli because its fresh.