Food & Nutrition

Macaroni Salad with Cheddar Cheese

macaroni salad text overlay
macaroni salad text overlay
macaroni salad text overlay

This Healthy Macaroni Salad is made with Greek Yogurt and only a little mayonnaise for classic macaroni salad taste! It has additional fresh veggies (carrots, peas and cherry tomatoes) and shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese. Serve it as a side dish for your next barbecue or picnic. With this delicious recipe, you’ll save nearly 200 calories per serving!

healthy macaroni salad in a bowl

I originally shared this Macaroni Salad on June 24th, 2016. I have updated the text and some of the images today.

Table of contents

Why We Love This Healthy Macaroni Salad

Macaroni salad is one of those perennial favorites at summer cook-outs and barbeques, but I’ll often pass it by when making my rounds filling my plate at the picnic table. That’s because oftentimes it’s way too heavy—it has way too much mayo, not enough veggies, and is lacking in interesting flavor.

That’s why I knew I needed to add a healthy makeover of homemade macaroni salad to our collection of healthy Salad recipes. This is the recipe I came up with!

This Healthy Macaroni Salad recipe is teeming with fresh veggies (carrots, cherry tomatoes and peas.) It is also made more healthy because I used whole-wheat pasta giving it more fiber and counts as a whole grain serving. I used shredded cheese in this salad but opted for extra-sharp cheddar so I would be able to get great cheese flavor using only 4 ounces.

The creamy dressing tastes classic, yet is lightened with Greek yogurt and only has a little mayonnaise for authentic traditional Macaroni Salad taste. I also brightened up the flavors by adding in a splash of vinegar, whole-grain mustard, finely chopped shallot and fresh herbs (tarragon or dill work great!)

This salad is a great addition to any picnic or backyard gathering for the summer season. And don’t miss my Healthy Classic Potato Salad and my Healthy Classic Coleslaw too for more healthier takes on classic barbecue sides!

Key Ingredients To Make Healthy Macaroni Salad

the ingredients on a white table with text overlay

Greek Yogurt

To lighten the dressing, but keep it creamy I used non-fat plain Greek yogurt. This helps to shave off nearly 400 calories from the batch of salad!

Whole-Wheat Macaroni

For additional fiber and nutrients, I chose whole-wheat macaroni. While I do like white pasta when it is cooked al dente, I have found that I do not like whole-wheat pasta as much as white pasta unless it is fully cooked. So if your family is resistant to recipes with whole-wheat pasta, try cooking it for a minute or two longer. Of course you can also use white pasta or gluten-free pasta for this recipe if you prefer!

Veggies

To bulk up the serving size and add additional nutrients I added in two shredded carrots and thawed peas. Plus I garnished it with cherry tomatoes for sweet fresh flavor and bright color.

Sharp Cheddar Cheese

I love the addition of cheese in macaroni salad, especially when it is sharp enough to really taste it. That’s why I used extra-sharp white cheddar cheese. Orange cheese works too!

Additional Ingredients

To boost the flavor of the creamy dressing add in:

  • Shallot
  • Whole-grain mustard
  • Dill or tarragon
  • White wine vinegar
  • Salt and pepper

How to Make Macaroni Salad

cook the macaroni then stir together the dressing

Step 1: Cook The Pasta

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil over high heat. Add macaroni, stir and cook until al dente, according to package instructions. Drain and rinse under cool running water. Drain thoroughly.

Step 2: Make The Dressing

Meanwhile whisk yogurt, mayonnaise, mustard, vinegar, herbs, salt and pepper in a large bowl until smooth. Add shallot.

stirring the salad and garnishing the salad

Step 3: Stir Salad Together

Mix the cooked macaroni into the yogurt mixture until coated. Add carrots, peas and cheddar and stir to combine.

Step 4: Transfer To Serving Bowl and Garnish

Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with cherry tomatoes just before serving.

Healthy macaroni salad with tomatoes in a bowl

FAQs and Expert Tips For This Recipe

What’s in traditional macaroni salad?

Macaroni salad is usually made with a mayonnaise-based dressing that can sometimes contain sour cream as well. It sometimes includes celery, bell pepper, onion and chopped pickles. Some recipes include a little sugar in the dressing as well. Many traditional macaroni salads also include peas and cheese.

Is macaroni salad healthy?

Traditional Macaroni salad can be incredibly calorie-dense at more than 400 calories per cup. Furthermore, white macaroni pasta is made with refined semolina or durum wheat flour which lacks fiber and trace nutrients. While most macaroni salads do have vegetables added to them, there is often not enough vegetables to make a serving. Plus many recipes also contain eggs and cheese which are also calorie dense. This recipe for Macaroni Salad packs more than 3 cups of veggies into it, and is great for folks watching their macros or paying attention to their calories. It has only 210 calories per serving, 8 grams of fat and 4 grams of fiber!

Variations To Try

  • Instead of shallot, add finely chopped onion or scallions.
  • Add crumbled cooked bacon before serving.
  • Add 1 cup diced red or green bell pepper instead of the tomatoes.
  • Add 1 tablespoon minced pickle or relish to the dressing and a pinch of celery seed for classic Amish macaroni salad taste.
  • Chop 2 ribs celery and stir into the salad instead of one of the carrots.

Make-Ahead Tips and How to Store Creamy Greek Yogurt Macaroni Salad

Healthier salads made with Greek Yogurt instead of mayonnaise can dry out when they are stored in the fridge for a day or so. The same thing happens with my Mexican Pasta Salad. That’s why I prefer this Greek Yogurt Macaroni Salad salad when it is freshly made. If you want to make this ahead you have two options:

  1. Make the salad and when you do set aside some extra dressing. After refrigerating, add the extra dressing to the salad if it is too dry.
  2. Cook the pasta, make the dressing and prep the carrots. Then keep all of the ingredients separate and stir them together just before serving. Just make sure to toss the macaroni with a little oil to keep it from clumping together.

For make-ahead I recommend adding the cherry tomatoes just before you’re ready to eat.

Healthy macaroni salad

More Easy Cookout Recipes:

Thanks so much for reading. If you are new here, you may want to sign up for my free weekly email newsletter where I share weeknight meal plans delivered right to your inbox. Or follow me on Instagram. If you make this recipe, please come back and leave a star rating and review! It is very appreciated. Happy Cooking! ~Katie

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Description

This Healthy Macaroni Salad is made with Greek Yogurt and only a little mayonnaise for classic macaroni salad taste! It has additional fresh veggies (carrots, peas and cherry tomatoes) and shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese. Serve it as a side dish for your next barbecue or picnic. With this delicious recipe, you’ll save nearly 200 calories per serving!


Scale

Ingredients

  • 2 cups dry macaroni, preferably whole wheat
  • ½ cup Greek yogurt, fat-free if desired
  • ¼ cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon coarse grain or brown deli mustard
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons chopped tarragon or dill
  • ¾ teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and shredded
  • 1 cup peas, fresh or frozen and thawed
  • 4 ounces extra-sharp cheddar cheese,  (about 1 cup)
  • 1 cup halved cherry tomatoes for garnish

Instructions

  1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil over high heat. Add macaroni, stir and cook until al dente, according to package instructions. Drain and rinse under cool running water. Drain thoroughly.
  2. Meanwhile whisk yogurt, mayonnaise, mustard, vinegar, herbs, salt and pepper in a large bowl until smooth. Add shallot.
  3. Mix the cooked macaroni into the yogurt mixture until coated. Add carrots, peas and cheddar and stir to combine.
  4. Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with cherry tomatoes just before serving.

Notes

Variations To Try

  • Instead of shallot, add finely chopped onion or scallions.
  • Add crumbled cooked bacon before serving.
  • Add 1 cup diced red or green bell pepper instead of the tomatoes.
  • Add 1 tablespoon minced pickle or relish to the dressing and a pinch of celery seed for classic Amish macaroni salad taste.
  • Chop 2 ribs celery and stir into the salad instead of one of the carrots.

Make-Ahead Tips and How to Store Macaroni Salad

This Greek Yogurt Macaroni Salad salad when enjoyed within an hour or two or the pasta will absorb too much of the dressing. If you want to make this ahead you have two options:

  1. Make the salad and when you do set aside some extra dressing. After refrigerating, add the extra dressing to the salad if it is too dry.
  2. Cook the pasta, make the dressing and prep the carrots. Then keep all of the ingredients separate and stir them together just before serving. Just make sure to toss the macaroni with a little oil to keep it from clumping together.

For make-ahead I recommend adding the cherry tomatoes just before you’re ready to eat.


Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 3/4 cup
  • Calories: 210
  • Sugar: 5 g
  • Sodium: 542 mg
  • Fat: 8 g
  • Saturated Fat: 4 g
  • Carbohydrates: 26 g
  • Fiber: 4 g
  • Protein: 12 g

Healthy macaroni salad on a spoon
Healthy macaroni salad

Source: healthyseasonalrecipes.com

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