featured image of macaroni salad
Salads, Side Dish, Vintage Meets Modern Recipes

Vintage Easy Creamy Macaroni Salad With Ham And Peas.

Cooks in 8 Minutes Difficulty Easy 0 comments

This creamy vintage macaroni salad has tasty add-ins like smokey ham and rich old cheddar cheese. The fresh spring peas and crisp radish slices add a bit of freshness to the summer pasta salad, making it an excellent side for any potluck or family event. With its generous portion size, you can prepare it in advance and savor its deliciousness all week. Get ready to impress with this quick, easy, timeless recipe that will become a staple in your kitchen repertoire.

I know I have a winning recipe when I can get my 21-year-old ASD kiddo to eat a mayonnaise dish. I was sneaking it in here with the addition of sweet relish and Dijon in the dressing, so the actual flavor of the mayonnaise is offset by the mustard flavor. The combination was a big hit! Even my daughter, who isn’t a pasta salad fan, was gobbling this one up. I had been inspired by the old-fashioned macaroni salads of yesteryear. Recalling some of the ones encountered at various potluck events and family gatherings, I decided to make my own family recipe. 

This makes a really big salad that will last all week if you’re feeding your family or feeding a crowd. Its tangy dressing and al dente pasta make it ideal for both. I like to make at least one salad at the start of the work week to pack in my partner’s lunch. 

Table of Contents

    If you need another potluck salad for your next family BBQ, then be sure to toss together my simple recipe for marinated copper penny salad. It’s another winning vintage recipe!

    recipe card image of old-fashioned macaroni salad

    Why You Will Love This Easy Macaroni Salad. 

    Convenience at Its Best: This old-fashioned macaroni salad is quick and easy to prep, perfect for busy weeknights or last-minute gatherings. With ingredients like frozen peas and pre-cooked ham, you can whip up this old family favorite in under 30 minutes. 

    Burst of Flavor and Texture: Crunchy red radish, creamy old cheddar cheese, tangy Dijon mustard, and sweet green relish create delightful textures and flavors. Each bite perfectly balances savory, sweet, and spicy, making this salad an irresistible addition.

    Versatile and Crowd-Pleasing: This old-fashioned macaroni salad is perfect for various summertime occasions. The recipe can easily be customized to please different tastes and dietary preferences.

    ​Let’s Toss This Easy Macaroni Salad Together. 

    First, we want to have all the ingredients prepped before we cook our macaroni noodles, or if you move quickly, you can prep as they cook. 

    diced cooked ham on cutting board with knife and ham

    Start with the ham. We are using a small pre-cooked ham, but you can also easily use leftover ham pieces. Cut three slices off the small ham approximately half an inch thick. Then, cube it uniformly.

    cubed cheddar cheese

    Next, you want to cube the cheese in much the same way. Ensure your slices off the brick of cheese are even to maintain the size of cubes. The more uniform the pieces, the better the visual appeal of the finished salad. Some people are not big cheese lovers, so you may prefer shredded cheese. That disperses the cheese a little more thoroughly into the salad. 

    halved cherry tomatoes with plastic packaging on cutting board

    After they are sliced, we wash and cut the green onion and cherry tomatoes. If this is your first time purchasing cherry tomatoes, let you in on a little secret. The holes in the plastic packaging (in Canada) are so you can rinse them in the container! How handy is that? Once you’ve rinsed them, you can cut them in half. It doesn’t matter if you cut lengthwise or across the middle, so long as all the tomatoes are cut similarly. 

    green pea and sliced radish

    Next, we will use the mandolin to slice the radish. Radish is small, and sometimes, the guard is only the most effective when using a mandolin slicer. My little tip is to stab the end of the radish with the tines of a fork. This will keep your fingers safe while slicing the radish thinly. 

    mixing the salad dressing

    After the radish, you will want to mix up the dressing. It’s Miracle Whip with the sweet relish and Dijon is pretty straightforward. Some Dijon mustards have a drastically different intensity than others. I used a stronger Dijon. As a cook, it’s always a good idea to taste what you are making and ensure the flavors are well-balanced. So, using a clean spoon, take a wee nibble of the dressing once you’ve mixed it to ensure the mustard isn’t overpowering. It should be notable, though, as it’s paired with the smokey ham in the salad. 

    If you wait to cook the pasta, now’s the time. I use a large stock pot since we are making the entire package. Add half to three quarters of cold water to fill your pot enough to cover the package of pasta for the boil. Follow the package directions for the macaroni to cook it al dente. If you overcook it, it will be mushy and not very appealing. Al dente pasta is the right texture for holding up to the other ingredients. 

    While cooking the macaroni, you may also cook the frozen peas. They simply need to boil for a few minutes in a small saucepan until they are no longer frozen. When the peas are done, you will want to rinse them under cold water to stop them from cooking and to cool them down before adding them to the salad. 

    The same must be done to the pasta. You can add the pasta to a colander and run it under cold water for a few minutes, stirring as you do. This process also keeps the pasta from sticking to itself. 

    Now, add everything to your large salad bowl. Give it a good toss and put it in the fridge uncovered if the pasta is still warm or partially covered. Never fully cover a dish in the fridge if it’s still steaming, as the condensation can drip back into the food and breed bacteria. 

    Let your macaroni salad, with its chunks of ham and cheese, chill for at least one hour before serving. The flavors of this great side dish will meld the longer you allow it to sit. Once thoroughly cooled, remember to cover any uneaten portions to keep the air away. 

    old fashioned macaroni salad in small glass bowl


    Elbow Macaroni: The classic choice for macaroni salad, elbow macaroni provides a perfect base with its tender texture and ability to hold onto the creamy dressing, ensuring every bite is flavorful.

    Frozen Peas: Bring a little sweetness and vibrant color, balancing the savory elements of the salad. Their tender texture contributes to a pleasant contrast with the other ingredients.

    Red Radish: With its crisp texture and peppery flavor, red radish adds a refreshing bite that complements the richness of the salad dressing and cheese.

    Cooked Ham: Providing a savory, smoky flavor, cooked ham adds a satisfying protein component that enhances the overall heartiness and depth of the dish.

    Old Cheddar Cheese: The sharpness of old cheddar cheese contributes a rich, salty flavor that pairs perfectly with the creamy dressing, adding complexity to the salad.

    Green Onion: These add a mild, zesty kick, bringing a subtle onion flavor that enhances the overall seasoning without overpowering the other ingredients.

    Cherry Tomatoes: Bursting with juicy sweetness, cherry tomatoes add a fresh, tangy element that cuts through the richness of the salad, creating a balanced flavor profile.

    Miracle Whip Salad Dressing: This provides a creamy, slightly tangy base that ties all the ingredients together. Its unique blend of flavors ensures the salad is moist and flavorful.

    Sweet Green Relish: Adding a touch of sweetness and tang, sweet green relish enhances the overall taste, complementing the savory and creamy components with a hint of brightness.

    Dijon Mustard: Dijon mustard brings a gentle heat and a hint of sharpness, elevating the flavor complexity of the salad and providing a sophisticated edge to the creamy dressing.

    forking up some macaroni salad a slice of radish is seen

    Substitutions and Add-Ins For This Pasta Salad Recipe.

    Elbow Macaroni: Substitute whole wheat or gluten-free pasta to accommodate dietary preferences or add a nutty flavor. You can also switch up the shape of the pasta. If you wish, try experimenting with small shells or wagon wheels. 

    Frozen Peas: For a slightly different taste and texture, use fresh peas or edamame. Alternatively, try corn kernels for a sweeter, crunchier option.

    Red Radish: Substitute with sliced cucumbers or bell peppers for a milder flavor and similar crunch. Carrots can also add a bit of sweetness and vibrant color.

    Cooked Ham: For a vegetarian version, replace the ham with tofu. You can also try cooked turkey or grilled chicken. For a twist on traditional ingredients, try using smoked salmon or crispy bacon bits.

    Old Cheddar Cheese: For a different cheese experience, swap with feta cheese, Monterey Jack, or mild gouda. Vegan cheese can also be used as a dairy-free option.

    Green Onion: For a mild, zesty flavor, substitute chives, shallots, or finely chopped red onion.

    Cherry Tomatoes: Use grape tomatoes or diced heirloom tomatoes. Alternatively, you can use sun-dried tomatoes for a different texture and taste. Roasted red peppers can also add a sweet and smoky flavor. (Note: Only some people are fans of roasted red peppers, so be sure to enquire if you are making them for a gathering.

    Miracle Whip Salad Dressing: Replace with mayonnaise for a classic taste, or try Greek yogurt or sour cream for a tangy, creamy alternative. Vegan mayo is also a good option.

    Sweet Green Relish: For a tangier flavor, substitute with dill pickle relish or use finely chopped pickles. Capers can add a briny, slightly tart note.

    Dijon Mustard: Try whole grain or spicy brown mustard for different heat and texture. Honey mustard can add a touch of sweetness for a different flavor profile. In a pinch, you can use regular yellow mustard. You can omit and add a splash of white vinegar if you have an allergy to mustard. 

    You can add to the original recipe by incorporating some additional ingredients, such as chopped hard-boiled eggs, sliced black olives for a briny kick, diced bell peppers to add crunch and color, chopped pickles for extra tanginess, and finely chopped celery for a refreshing bite. These extras will enhance the flavor and texture of your macaroni salad while maintaining its classic appeal.

    cheese and macaroni salad on fork from small glass bowl

    Expert Tips, Serving And Storing Suggestions For This Easy Macaroni Salad Recipe

    Tip #1: Cook Pasta Just Right: Ensure your elbow macaroni is cooked al dente to prevent mushiness. Rinse under cold water after cooking to stop the cooking process and avoid sticking.

    Tip #2: Chill Before Serving: Allow the macaroni salad to chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour before serving. The longer it sits, the more the flavors will meld together. It also allows the salad to reach the ideal temperature.

    Tip #3: Garnish for Visual Appeal: Sprinkle the salad with parsley or dill before serving for flavor and color, making your macaroni salad visually appealing and even more irresistible.

    Serve this macaroni salad as the perfect side dish at backyard cookouts and summer gatherings. Its creamy texture, vibrant colors, and tangy flavors make it a great recipe for complementing grilled meats. Watch as guests return for seconds of this crowd-pleasing favorite, making your outdoor gatherings memorable and delicious.

    To maintain the freshness of your salad and prevent spoilage, be sure to cover it well and refrigerate it. Consume within 3-4 days for optimal taste and quality. Enjoy it as a quick and convenient lunch or side dish for future dinners, or take it along on your next picnic. 

    Have you tried this macaroni salad recipe? We’d love to hear about your experience. Leave a comment below the recipe card, and let us know how it turned out for you. Your feedback helps us improve and inspires other readers to try it, too!

    recipe card image of old-fashioned macaroni salad

    Vintage Easy Creamy Macaroni Salad With Ham And Peas

    Amber Bondar
    This old-fashioned creamy macaroni salad with cubed ham and frozen peas makes a delicious lunch or side for your summer cookouts. It's easy to prep and quick to make. Full of smokey flavor from the pre-cooked ham and sweet bursts of popping peas. The addition of crunchy sliced radish and red cherry tomatoes makes a vibrant summer salad with a creamy, easy dressing. It's a winning combination everyone loves.
    Prep Time 20 minutes
    Cook Time 8 minutes
    Course lunch, Side Dish
    Cuisine American, Canadian
    Servings 10


    • Stock Pot
    • measuring cup
    • knife
    • Cutting board
    • Colander
    • Mandolin
    • Teaspoon
    • X-Large Salad Bowl


    The Macaroni Salad

    • 900 Grams Uncooked Italpasta Elbow Macaroni (Canadian brand) This is one regular package. If in US/UK use one regular package of your favorite brand.
    • 2 Cups Pre-cooked Ham Cubed
    • Cup Old Cheddar Cheese Cubed
    • 2 Cups Frozen Peas Cooked
    • 3 Lrg Red Radish Thinly Sliced
    • Cup Cherry Tomatoes Halved
    • 2 Green Onion Sliced

    The Macaroni Salad Dressing

    • 1 Cup Miracle Whip Salad Dressing Or Other Mayo
    • 2 Tsp Sweet Green Relish
    • 2 Tsp Dijon


    • Cook the pasta according to package for it to be al dente. Approximately 8 minutes.
      900 Grams Uncooked Italpasta Elbow Macaroni (Canadian brand)
    • Drain it when cooked in a colander and run it under cold water to cool it off quickly and prevent it from sticking.
    • While pasta is cooking cook the frozen peas at rolling boil for five minutes. Drain and set aside.
      2 Cups Frozen Peas
    • Cut the pre-cooked ham in approximately half inch thick sliced and cube. Set aside.
      2 Cups Pre-cooked Ham
    • Cut the old cheddar cheese in the same manner as the ham so the pieces are uniform. Set aside.
      1½ Cup Old Cheddar Cheese
    • Using the mandolin slice the radish very thin. Set aside.
      3 Lrg Red Radish
    • Cut up the green onions and set aside.
      2 Green Onion
    • Wash the cherry tomatoes and cut in half. Set aside.
      2½ Cup Cherry Tomatoes
    • In a measuring cup add the Miracle Whip, green relish, and Dijon and mix well.
      1 Cup Miracle Whip Salad Dressing, 2 Tsp Sweet Green Relish, 2 Tsp Dijon
    • In an x-large salad bowl add all the ingredients including the cooled macaroni.
    • Add the dressing and toss the salad.
    • Refrigerate uncovered for half an hour or until the salad is no longer warm.
    • Cover salad with plastic wrap or salad bowl lid until ready to serve.
    Keyword macaroni salad, old-fashioned recipe, pasta salad, summer salad, vintage recipe

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