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Sweet Macaroni Salad

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If you are looking for a tangy but sweet macaroni salad, you are in the right place. This recipe is perfect for potlucks, picnics, brown bag lunches, and more.

Lunch size portion of sweet pasta salad with peas, ham, cheese, onions, carrots, and peppers in a creamy tangy and sweet dressing with a fork, ready to eat.

This recipe is built on classic sweet macaroni salad with condensed milk dressing but has extra goodies thrown in, making it filling and flavorful. The sweet but tangy dressing is sure to draw you in.

Feel free to experiment with different mix-ins to make it your own. There are so many different veggies you could try. The possibilities are endless.

It seems as if this summer has turned into the summer of picnic salads. I have been enjoying making a big batch on Sundays and bringing it to work for lunch throughout the week.

Ingredients including cooked macaroni noodles, peas, vinegar, shredded carrots, sweetened condensed milk, sugar, mayonnaise, ham, cubed cheddar cheese, and diced onion ready to be made into sweet pasta salad.

Pasta salad is so versatile, and the flavors are so varied that it’s hard to get tired of them. The enchilada pasta salad, poppy seed chicken pasta salad, peach pasta salad, and this sweet pasta salad are all so different it’s not like you are eating this same thing.

Plus, I love that any of them can be eaten as a side dish or as the meal. They make the perfect lunch on the go because you don’t have to heat them up.

Just grab a fork and dig in.

Pasta Salad With Condensed Milk, Really?!

Yes, really. This macaroni salad recipe uses condensed milk in the dressing.

For a lot of people, if you say pasta salad, this is what they think of. Or at least some version of this recipe, it has been a hit for decades.

The can of condensed milk in the dressing sounds a little bit crazy, but it is so good. It adds a rich sweetness in a way nothing else can.

You know we love recipes that use condensed milk around here, so this is no exception. When you add the vinegar, it gives a nice sweet and tangy base for the dressing.

This is a salad that actually gets better over time. You want to make it at least a couple of hours in advance, but the day before is even better.

That gives the pasta a chance to soak up some of the dressing. Plus, the acid from the vinegar and the condensed milk thicken up after some time in the refrigerator.

It will look like too much dressing at first, and it will be thinner than you would think you want. Trust the process.

If you can, give it a stir a few times while it chills. That will help to make sure all of the ingredients have equal opportunities to chill in the dressing.

Small glass bowl filled with creamy sweet macaroni salad with cheese and ham.

Alterations and Substitutions

If you start with the pasta and dressing, you can change up the mix-ins as much as you would like. There are so many tasty options, and it is hard to go wrong.

You can try different cheeses. You can make it vegetarian by omitting the ham or try adding chopped grilled chicken instead.

Bite of sweet macaroni salad on fork showing peas, onion, and shredded carrots.

It is also great with diced sweet peppers inside. In fact, I added some to this batch on the second day.

Feel free to add celery if you want some crunch. I think cucumbers would be delicious too, but they can water down the dressing over time.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is my macaroni salad so watery?

This recipe makes a thin dressing once the vinegar is added. While you can start eating it after it chills for an hour or two, it is even better the next day. Give it a stir and you will find a thick and creamy pasta salad.

How do you cook pasta for macaroni salad?

Boil your pasta in salty water until it is al dente. That should be the lower end of the cooking time on the box.

Drain the pasta and then rinse with cold water to remove any excess starch to keep it from sticking together.

Dinner plate with sweet macaroni salad, grilled yellow chicken, and a green salad.

We served ours with some grilled yellow chicken and a green salad. It was a delicious meal if I do say so myself.

If you tried this recipe, or any other recipe on my website, please leave a 🌟 star rating and let me know how it went in the comments. Hungry for more?  Be sure to stay in touch on Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram for all of the latest updates.

Lunch size portion of sweet pasta salad with peas, ham, cheese, onions, carrots, and peppers in a creamy tangy and sweet dressing with a fork, ready to eat.

Sweet Macaroni Salad

Servings: 16 Servings
Author: Carlee
Sweet macaroni salad is a perfect side dish for barbecues, family reunions, potlucks, and more. It also makes a great simple lunch. Feel free to experiment with adding your favorite vegetables and mix-ins.
5 from 12 ratings
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Chill Time 2 hours
Total Time 2 hours 25 minutes



  • 16 oz. elbow macaroni
  • cups shredded carrots
  • 1 medium sweet onion diced
  • 12 oz. frozen peas
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 14 oz. sweetened condensed milk
  • cup apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 8 oz. sharp cheddar cut into cubes
  • 2 cups diced ham


  • Cook pasta to al dente. Drain and rinse with cold water.
    16 oz. elbow macaroni
  • In a large bowl, stir together the mayonnaise, condensed milk, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper.
    1 cup mayonnaise, 14 oz. sweetened condensed milk, ⅔ cup apple cider vinegar, ¼ cup granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Add the pasta, vegetables, ham, and cheese. Stir to coat. The dressing will seem too thin at this point. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, but preferably overnight.
    1½ cups shredded carrots, 1 medium sweet onion, 12 oz. frozen peas, 2 cups diced ham, 8 oz. sharp cheddar
  • Stir again before serving.
  • Store in the refrigerator for up to 4-5 days.


Try adding diced sweet peppers or celery for more crunch.
Feel free to leave the ham out if you prefer, or try adding chopped chicken instead.


Serving: 1servingCalories: 369kcalCarbohydrates: 36gProtein: 13gFat: 19gSaturated Fat: 6gPolyunsaturated Fat: 11gCholesterol: 42mgSodium: 542mgFiber: 2gSugar: 24g

Nutritional Disclaimer

“Cooking With Carlee” is not a dietitian or nutritionist, and any nutritional information shared is an estimate. If calorie count and other nutritional values are important to you, we recommend running the ingredients through whichever online nutritional calculator you prefer. Calories and other nutritional values can vary quite a bit depending on which brands were used.

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5 from 12 votes (12 ratings without comment)
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