A unique twist on classic macaroni salad, this meaty BBQ version is utterly addicting; its perfect for a potluck, BBQ or a simple meal.

A deliciously unique twist on classic macaroni salad, this meaty BBQ version is utterly addicting and is perfect for a potluck, summer BBQ or just a simple weeknight meal.

The pasta salad, chock full of seasonings, meat (optional for all you non-meat-lovers out there) and crunchy vegetables, manages to be both flavorful and light.

White bowl of barbecue macaroni salad with ham and elbow noodles.

The creamy BBQ/mayo sauce combined with the smoky seasonings coats the noodles with a tangy, sweet blend of flavor and tastiness.

After trying this recipe, I’m not sure I will ever want to get all crazy and venture out to make regular old classic macaroni salad again.

And judging by how this was absolutely inhaled at the church potluck I brought it to – well, I’d say the BBQ version is here to stay.

Top view of a white bowl of macaroni salad with pieces of ham and elbow noodles.

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BBQ Macaroni Salad

4.68 stars (25 ratings)


  • 8-12 ounces turkey kielbasa, diced
  • 1 pound elbow macaroni
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 celery rib, finely chopped
  • 4 green onions, sliced thinly
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • teaspoon garlic powder
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup low-fat mayonnaise
  • ½ cup BBQ sauce (see note)


  • In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 teaspoon canola oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add the chopped turkey kielbasa and cook until browned, about 5 minutes. Transfer the meat to a paper towel-lined plate and let it cool slightly before using in the recipe.
  • In a large pot, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon salt and the macaroni and cook until nearly tender, about 6 minutes. Drain the pasta in a colander and rinse with cold water until cool, draining again briefly. Transfer the moist pasta to a large bowl.
  • Stir in the kielbasa, bell pepper, celery, green onions, vinegar, hot sauce, chili powder, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper. Let the pasta sit for about 5 minutes to absorb the flavors. Stir in the mayonnaise and barbecue sauce. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.
  • The salad can be covered and refrigerated for up to 2 days. Check the seasonings before serving and stir in a few tablespoons of warm water before serving, if needed to bring the salad back to its creamy texture.


BBQ Sauce: here is my favorite homemade version. 
Meat: for a less meaty version, you can leave out the kielbasa entirely. Alternately, you can substitute many different types of meat for the kielbasa: deli ham, smoked sausage, etc.
Serving: 1 Serving, Calories: 383kcal, Carbohydrates: 56g, Protein: 14g, Fat: 11g, Saturated Fat: 3g, Cholesterol: 27mg, Sodium: 924mg, Fiber: 3g, Sugar: 11g

Recipe Source: adapted slightly from The Cook’s Country Cookbook