BBQ Macaroni Salad

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. 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.

BBQ Macaroni Salad

One Year Ago: Summer Garden Vegetable Soup
Two Years Ago: Foil Packet Chicken with Snow Peas and Carrots
Three Years Ago: Fusilli alla Caprese

BBQ Macaroni Salad

Yield: Serves 8-10

BBQ Macaroni Salad

Note: 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.


  • 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
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup low-fat mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup BBQ sauce (I used my favorite homemade recipe)


  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 it’s creamy texture.

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

38 Responses to BBQ Macaroni Salad

  1. Sara Burnette says:

    This looks so good! Do you think I can sub in Greek yogurt for mayo? Thanks.

  2. Rebecca says:

    I’m looking for a potluck dish for an event that’s 95% guys. This looks delicious! If not this dish, what is your suggestion for a potluck dish that’s always a hit with guys?

  3. Amanda says:

    Is this very spicy? Feeding youngsters at a BBQ today and crossing my fingers for a quick response! Might try Facebook too.

    • Mel says:

      I don’t think it is spicy at all – of course a lot will depend on the flavor of the BBQ sauce you are using. I hope it worked out for you.

  4. Lisa C says:

    I’ve made this TONS of times. It’s amazing!!! It’s always the first thing gone at potlucks. Truly one of my faves. I’ve also made/used your homemade BBQ recipe, I’m realizing that I’m out so I think I’m going to make another batch today. So nice to have that stocked up in the freezer. Thanks!

  5. stephanie says:

    This is DELICIOUS! I used your BBQ recipe as well. Everyone loved it. Thanks.

  6. Heidi H. says:

    This was a super side dish to your Best Sloppy Joes on your French Bread Rolls! It is such a unique and tasty twist on regular mac salad. I was very impressed with how easy it was to sub things, too, based on what was in my pantry. Definitely will make this again!

  7. Jane says:

    I made this for 50 young adults but the day turned cool, so I heated it up, and voila a yummy warm macaroni BBQ casserole!

  8. Jeannie says:

    Just doubled this recipe for feeding the homeless tomorrow and it is delicious. I know it will be a huge hit tomorrow with hamburger.

    Thanks for the great recipe..

  9. Mel says:

    Hadley – it can be served at room temp or chilled.

  10. Hadley says:

    Am I reading this correctly? The pasta salad is to be served cold, yes? I’m planning to try this for an upcoming party and wanted to be sure I served this the way it should be served. Thank you!

  11. […] of warm water before serving to get a creamy consistency again.Print This RecipeRecipe adapted fromMel’s Kitchen Cafe Previous PostBy Ashley Wagner on July 30th, 2012Other Recipes You Might Like Mediterranean […]

  12. Barbara says:

    I think I’ll try this, but with bacon (real, not turnkey!) or some leftover rib meat instead of the kielbasa. I’ve never yet met a pasta salad I didn’t like!

  13. Andrea says:

    Made this for dinner tonite. So easy and yummy! Everyone of us had seconds and there is leftovers. I skipped the celery as we don’t really care for it and threw in some chopped up tomatoes instead. Thank you!!

  14. Mel says:

    April – I haven’t used the dressing on anything other than this salad but sounds like a good test – let me know if you try it!

  15. April says:

    Wow, I can’t wait to try this! Have you ever tried using this dressing for coleslaw?

  16. Barbara says:

    Mel I made this to take to a rainy Labor day bbq, and it was a hit! I was a little unsure, but I’ve never made a bad recipe from you, so took my chances. I wanted something different. Everyone loved it! Thanks for another great recipe!!!

  17. Sonya says:

    I just made this (and your potato salad) for a weekend at the lake. It is super yummy…I had to taste test before packing it in the cooler. I did decrease the mayo and added a little sour cream and skim milk. The kielbasa and bbq sauce make this salad amazing!

  18. Danielle says:

    I made your recipe the other day and it was delicious. I posted a link to your blog on my site.

  19. Brett A says:

    Just made this, and its amazing. Used my favorite BBQ sauce (Dinosaur Bar-B-Que) and slipped the celery, only because I didnt want to buy a whole bunch simply just for a stalk.

    This is so delicious. I’ll never make a “normal” macaroni salad again.

    p.s. Didnt use kielbasa, but instead used Smoked Chorizo Sausage (pre-cooked). Used 8oz since it was already cooked. Adds a hint of smokeyness, which is often offset by the sweeter BBQ sauce. Simply amazing.

  20. grace says:

    look at those hunks of kielbasa–right on, melanie! this is a downright unique and appetizing batch of mac salad!

  21. Katie says:

    This sounds super yummy! I’ll be trying it soon with your delicious barbecue sauce.

  22. Cammee says:

    My picky kids might even eat this. It looks delicious, can’t wait to try it.

  23. Colleen says:

    I am hosting a potluck this weekend with my family and have been trying to decide on side dishes. This looks fantastic. I think I am going to try pulled pork instead of sausage. Thanks!

  24. Mel says:

    Susan – I find kielbasa anywhere from Super Walmart to my local grocery store. It is usually located by the bacon and other sausages.

  25. StephenC says:

    I had to come back for a second look. Okay, I did it. Goin’ to make a version of this with the week.

  26. Susan Proctor says:

    Where is the store do you find the keilbasa? I have a family Picnic next weekend. And I would love to make this salad.

  27. Sara says:

    What a great idea! I love macaroni salad and this looks like a delicious way to mix it up a bit.

  28. Veronica says:

    Thank you! I needed a new idea for my family’s annual reunion. This is perfect! I’m so hungry for it now.

  29. Kim in MD says:

    Wow…this looks so delicious! What a great change from regular macaroni salad! You have done it again, Melanie! πŸ™‚

  30. Mel, it must have been a Mac & Cheese day yesterday, you and three other bloggers (including myself) all did pasta and cheese dishes yesterday.

    I love it when we’re all on the same vibe!.

    Now BBQ is definitely something I can get into. Gosh….now I’m hungry and Mr. Sweet Butter took the rest to lunch. πŸ™

  31. Yum! I love keilbasa. I’m not a fan of “traditional” macaroni salad but I can’t wait to try this one!

  32. Lin says:

    I’ve never heard of salad like this but it sounds amazing. I’ll have to give this a try!

  33. Sieglinde says:

    OMGracious…just YESTERDAY I was copying this recipe from the cookbook so I could take it back to the library! Cannot WAIT to try it…and since it has a glowing recommendation from you, it MUST be a winner!

  34. StephenC says:

    This is truly a unique concoction. Remember when we never used the word “pasta”? It was all macaroni. Didn’t make it taste any different though. Elbows – that and spaghetti were the only two macaronis my mother used – and it was the standard fat spaghetti. I love what you’ve done here and will probably copy and modify it during the remaining dog days of August.

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