Classic Retro Picnic Macaroni Salad

How to make a fabulous Classic Retro Picnic Macaroni Salad! This is the best macaroni salad I've ever made, just like the 1970's versions, with a couple small updates! Delish!
Retro Macaroni Picnic Salad in a white bowl
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Classic Retro Picnic Macaroni Salad in a white bowl

Oh em gee, you guys, have I been craving a retro picnic macaroni salad. I mean the whole full meal deal here guys, white noodles, chunks of cheese, eggs, peas, green onions and more. The classic BBQ salad that graced every table since the 1960’s.

I finally dug around in my recipe box where I have written down my grandma’s recipes and came up with this one. Where it’s from, I have no idea but this is seriously the best macaroni salad ever. There isn’t a store bought salad that can compare to this beauty.

Let’s get in real close and take a look, shall we? Oh baby. The only thing that would make this more retro is ham chunks and I fully encourage you to put ham chunks in it! I used bacon, which is utterly fabulous IF you make sure to let this salad sit for a few hours.

However, chunks of ham? Oh yah. That’s how it’s originally made!

close up Classic Retro Picnic Macaroni Salad in a white bowl

I was kind of clapping my hands with glee making this salad. Sometimes it is so much darn fun to get into the older classics.

You guys.

For the first time EVER on this website – and most likely not the last- I used a dry powder Ranch Dressing packet!

Man, what glorious fun I had making this! Bread and butter pickles….Ranch powder… frozen peas…these things amuse me!

Classic Retro Picnic Macaroni Salad with frozen peas in a white bowl

Now a warning: this is a large and in charge recipe. This is definitely from the days when you were feeding 12-14 people at a picnic. This makes a LOT of salad, we are talking a large Tupperware bowl full! The LARGE bowl that I make bread in! If you are making it for your family, then halve the recipe.

What makes this salad so epic is that you can add whatever you want. Want more eggs? Use 6! Want more bacon? Add it in! This is a base that you can tweak to your liking. I was trying to stay a little healthier so I only used half a pound of bacon in mine, but feel free to use the entire pound, it will make it better!

Also make sure to use the curled Tortiglioni pasta, it’s so much better than elbow pasta for this! It also goes by riccioli pasta, but whatever name it is, it’s a hollow twisted tube pasta and nothing beats it for this salad!

Prepare thyselves for more classic recipes. I’m bringing back the oldies!

Any classic suggestions you’d like to see on here? Porcupine meatballs (oh man, my mom made those ALL THE TIME), meatloaf? Think of something you haven’t eaten for years, I’ll find my mom’s recipe for it!

Happy retro eating! Love you more than the 70’s!


Classic Retro Picnic Macaroni Salad

How to make a fabulous Classic Retro Picnic Macaroni Salad! This is the best macaroni salad I’ve ever made, just like the 1970’s versions, with a couple small updates! Delish!
5 from 3 votes
Retro Macaroni Picnic Salad in a white bowl
Prep Time
20 minutes
Cook Time
20 minutes
Total Time
40 minutes
Karlynn Johnston


  • one 500 grams box Tortiglioni/Rocoli pasta twisted hollow tube pasta like curls!
  • 1 1/4 cups old cheddar cheese cubed small
  • 1 cup bread and butter pickles chopped small
  • 2 cups frozen peas
  • 10 green onion stems chopped
  • 1 pound cooked cooled bacon chopped or 1 cup diced ham cubes
  • 3 -6 eggs hard boiled and chopped depends how eggy you like it!
  • Dressing:br]
  • 1 package dry Ranch salad dressing mix
  • 1 cup real mayonnaise I use Hellmann’s
  • 3 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup sweet pickle juice
  • 2 tablespoons mustard
  • 1 teaspoon seasoning salt
  • black pepper to taste


  • Cook the pasta according to the directions on the box for “firm” pasta. Drain, run under cool water until cold, drain again and place in a large bowl.
  • Combine the rest of the ingredients for the salad in the large bowl.
  • Mix together all the dressing ingredients.
  • Pour the dressing over the pasta and other ingredients; stir to cover the salad entirely with the dressing.
  • Refrigerate until serving. This salad is best if left a few hours in the fridge or even overnight so that the flavors can meld together.

Nutrition Information

Calories: 299kcal, Carbohydrates: 8g, Protein: 8g, Fat: 25g, Saturated Fat: 7g, Cholesterol: 36mg, Sodium: 651mg, Potassium: 148mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 5g, Vitamin A: 420IU, Vitamin C: 8.7mg, Calcium: 118mg, Iron: 0.7mg

All calories and info are based on a third party calculator and are only an estimate. Actual nutritional info will vary with brands used, your measuring methods, portion sizes and more.

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How to make a fabulous Classic Retro Picnic Macaroni Salad! This is the best macaroni salad I've ever made, just like the 1970's versions, with a couple small updates! #picnic #salad #macaroni #vintage

Karlynn Johnston

I’m a busy mom of two, wife & cookbook author who loves creating fast, fresh meals for my little family on the Canadian prairies. Karlynn Facts: I'm allergic to broccoli. I've never met a cocktail that I didn't like. I would rather burn down my house than clean it. Most of all, I love helping YOU get dinner ready because there's nothing more important than connecting with our loved ones around the dinner table!

Learn more about me

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Reader Interactions

Comments & Recipe Tips Share a tip or comment!

  1. Caroline says

    Ms. Johnson, family LOVEs macaroni salad – make it at least 2x month but we don’t love Ranch. Can we substitute Italian dressing mix for the Ranch? Do you think that’s a terrible subsitute?

  2. Patricia says

    This recipe is AMAZING. Loved it so very much especially on a hot day! I am a regular on your site as many of your recipes are similar to the ones my mother used. Brings back so many memories of when I was growing up. We would meet family and friends at a lake and every one had to bring something. We always brought a Macaroni Salad. I like your recipe better than the one I usually make. Many compliments on your salad. I agree.5 stars

  3. Laura Johnson says

    What about the peas? Do you boil them for a while until firm?

    • Mr. Kitchen Magpie says

      You can buy mild, old, strong old cheddar in blocks in the grocery store. At least here in Canada anyways. I’m sure if you check with your deli, they will have some. It’s a stronger taste which is important.

  4. The Kitchen Magpie says

    I made soooooooo much. You guys didn;t eat nearly enough! Karami took the leftovers for her whole office tomorrow!

  5. Michael Suzanne Merrills says

    My favourite 🙂 already made it twice this summer!

  6. Betty Jo Hamilton Grant says

    looks good all put together,love macaroni salad.

  7. Sarah Schultz says

    Making pulled pork sandwiches for supper….this would be great with it, thanks!

  8. Barb Overton says

    Well, let me know if you come across it, please. 🙂

  9. The Kitchen Magpie says

    Not one that I have tried…I know I saw one in a book recently but whew, which one….

  10. Barb Overton says

    Do you have a retro recipe for Tomato soup cake? Had allspice, cinnamon and raisins in it, I think. I tried a recipe I found that was for a loaf cake, but it wasn’t very good. The one my Mom made was a square cake, 8 x 8, or 9 x 9, and it had a white icing too.

    • RaeLynn Cavins says

      I found several tomato soup cake recipes on Pinterest. They all look to me like what you’re looking for. Good luck!!

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