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Amazing Instant Pot Macaroni Salad

An Easy to Make Pasta Salad That Has a Surprise in Every Bite

A recipe my mom has always made, this amazingly delicious Instant Pot Macaroni Salad has a surprise in every bite and makes a great side dish for any meal, or can be served as an appetizer at your next get-together.

a bowl with a serving of creamy macaroni salad
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Though my mom made this salad often, it’s not one that I grew up eating because of all the ingredients in it. I was a picky eater, so I didn’t try it until I was a bit older.

Boy, was I missing out!

A Macaroni Salad with a Few Twists

I really wish I would’ve tried this when I was younger, but at least I have been enjoying this macaroni salad for the last 20 years! My aunt used to make it for family gatherings, and my mom got the recipe from her years ago and still makes it often.

Some of the ingredients may not be conventional, and a few of you may even frown upon a couple of them. But when you put it all together, you get such a delicious and tasty pasta salad, it’s sure to please even the pickiest of eaters!

The Perfect Combination

This delicious macaroni salad is very easy to make and is a great complement to any meal. It was easy to make it the traditional way, and now that I make it in the Instant Pot, it’s even easier!

I’ve made it for several of my recent get-togethers and even my super picky eater friend Melanie loves it! The combination of ingredients is perfect. Just the right amount of salty mixed with the sweetness of the peas and the tanginess of the pickles! Yumm!

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a small bowl of macaroni salad
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A Simple Macaroni Salad Everyone Will Love

When I first got the recipe from my mom, of course, it came with no measurements.

That’s her trademark!

So Ryan and I got to work in the kitchen and made at least 4 batches until we got the flavor exactly like hers. My family has now eaten it several times and they all agree we nailed it! The recipe is very easy to make – takes just a little bit of prep, and all the ingredients are easy to find. You probably have most of them at hand already!

making a creamy macaroni salad recipe
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Yes, It Has Spam In It! (And Pickles!!)

Ok, so I know, I know. Spam is bacon’s ugly and unloved cousin. If you absolutely cannot handle Spam, then use another type of ham. But trust me, Spam makes this pasta salad perfect! If you can try it at least once with Spam, I think you won’t regret it.

the best instant pot creamy macaroni salad served and ready to eat
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This macaroni salad also has bread and butter pickles in it (and a little pickle juice!). I chop them so fine with my chopper, no one even knows they’re there. The Spam, peas, pickles, shredded lettuce, olives, and dressing mixture give this macaroni salad a delicious taste that has a surprise flavor in every bite.

Now it’s your turn to try this easy and delicious Macaroni Salad! Here we go!

Kitchen Prep Tools, Utensils & Appliances

Here is a list of the kitchen prep tools, utensils, and appliances I used to make this recipe.

Prep Tools & Utensils

These are the items I used to prep and make this recipe:

  • Some of the items I used for preparing this macaroni salad were: a set of measuring cups, some measuring spoons, a large liquid measuring cup and a silicon spoon for mixing the ingredients into the pasta.
  • A cutting board and a set of knives are also necessary for dicing the Spam and chopping the lettuce.
  • I used a handheld chopper to chop up the pickles. It’s the easiest way to get them chopped up into small pieces.
  • I love to use flexible cutting boards because they allow me to prep the food and then easily move it directly to the pot without dirtying another bowl.
  • To measure the pasta, you’ll want to either use a kitchen scale or a measuring cup. The exact measurements are below, in the recipe.
  • You will be using the trivet in this recipe. Yes, I did say the trivet. So, when removing the trivet from the pot, you will want to make sure and protect your hands because it will be very hot. Read below to find out why I now use the trivet when cooking pasta in the Instant Pot.
  • When allowing the pasta to cool, I just pop this silicon lid on my Instant Pot liner and place the whole liner in the refrigerator for a few hours. And if you need access to the liner before finishing the macaroni salad, it also stores away well in any common glass storage container.
Appliances & Cookware

I cooked the pasta in my 8-quart Instant Pot and, afterward, just mixed in the remaining ingredients right in the pot.

Serving Platters & Dishes

I served this macaroni pasta salad in these beautiful floral mini bowls. They’re too cute!

Making Macaroni Salad In The Instant Pot

Thanks to the Instant Pot, this macaroni pasta salad will be ready in about 15 minutes with a few easy steps.  Plus, there are no extra prep bowls to have to clean up because everything is done directly in the Instant Pot.

a simple macaroni salad made in the instant pot
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Gather Your Ingredients

Like I said before, you’ll need Spam, bread and butter pickles, olives, peas, and lettuce.

ingredients for spam pasta salad
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The creamy dressing uses mayonnaise, sour cream, mustard and pickle juice.

instant pot macaroni salad with sour cream
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Prep The Ingredients

Since the pasta cooks so fast, you’ll want to prep the following ingredients before cooking the pasta.

Slice and dice the Spam

Slice up the entire can of Spam and then cut it into small cubes. I bought the 25% less sodium can of Spam and it worked perfectly.

slicing the spam for this easy pasta salad recipe
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You can also use any ham as a replacement for the Spam. However, the ham is not going to be as salty as the Spam and will change the flavor a little.

chopping cubes of spam for the best pasta salad recipe
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Chop the pickles

I use bread and butter pickles for this recipe. The sweet, tanginess of the bread and butter pickles really complements the saltiness of the Spam and olives. If you’d prefer not to mix the sweet and salty flavors, you can try using dill pickles.

While I prefer the taste of the bread and butter pickles, I have used dill pickles to make this macaroni salad and it tastes great also.

bread and butter pickles for instant pot macaroni salad
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Make sure to chop the pickles well. I usually use a handheld chopper to make sure I get the pieces small enough.

prepping and chopping pickles for this simple macaroni salad recipe
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Chop the lettuce

I buy pre-shredded lettuce but it is usually too large for this salad so I chop it a little smaller.

finely chopped lettuce is a small part of what makes this the best macaroni salad ever
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Cooking The Pasta

The process of cooking the pasta for this recipe may be a little different than you’re used to seeing.

First, the cook time is VERY fast.

I’ve found that cooking elbow pasta for longer than what’s recommended below always gives me soft, mushy pasta. I like the pasta to be cooked just past al dente. Not too firm, not too soft. I’ve found that following the steps below gives me the perfect pasta for this recipe.

You’ll also learn about a little trick that Ryan and I discovered to help make cooking pasta in the Instant Pot less messy.

Add the pasta to the pot

Add 1 lb or 4 ½ cups of elbow pasta to the Instant Pot. I usually buy the 1 lb box of elbow pasta from Barilla to make things easy.

how to make macaroni in the instant pot
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Add the water

The correct water to pasta ratio for this recipe is 4 cups of water to 1 lb of elbow pasta (or approximately 4 ½ cups of elbow pasta).

instant pot pasta to water ratio
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Add salt

Add one teaspoon of salt to the pot. Just spread the salt evenly across the top of the pasta – no need to mix.

cooking pasta in the instant pot
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The trick to less messy pasta

You know how pasta usually creates a big mess when doing a pressure release?

flip the trivet mess free pasta first comparison without trivet 1
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Well, there is something you can do right before closing the pot to help avoid that mess.

Here is the trick I discovered:

Before closing the pot, use my flip-the-trivet mess-free pasta method. It prevents such a large mess when doing the pressure release.

Set the cook time

Close the Instant Pot and select Manual (Pressure Cook on some models) High Pressure and set the cook time to zero minutes.

how long do you cook pasta in an instant pot
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Release the pressure

For perfect macaroni pasta, you will not allow the pot to sit under pressure for any time at all. As soon as the Instant Pot comes to pressure and the pin has popped up, immediately hit the Cancel button and release the pressure.

Again:  as soon as the pin pops up, release the pressure.

cooking pasta instant pot
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Fully open the pressure release valve to do a quick pressure release. Using my flip-the-trivet mess-free pasta method, you will notice significantly less mess is made when doing a quick release on the pasta.

making instant pot pasta using quick pressure release without a mess
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Open the pot

Once the pressure has been released and the pin has dropped, open the pot.

With a long spoon, carefully mix the pasta around to release steam.

cooking pasta in the instant pot electric pressure cooker
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There will be some excess water in the pot. That’s ok.

Let the pasta sit for a couple of minutes while you gather the mayonnaise, sour cream, mustard, and pickle juice. This will allow the water remaining in the pot to evaporate and be absorbed by the pasta.

Make The Creamy Dressing

This macaroni salad is coated in a mayo and sour cream based creamy dressing that is oh-so-good.

Add the mayonnaise

Measure out 1 ½ cups of mayonnaise and add it to the Instant Pot.

adding ingredients to this mayo based pasta salad for the instant pot
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Add the sour cream

Next, add a ½ cup of sour cream.

making macaroni salad with sour cream and mayonnaise in the instant pot
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Add the pickle juice

Two teaspoons of pickle juice give the dressing a little extra tang.

adding pickle juice to the instant pot macaroni salad
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Add the mustard

Finally, add 2 teaspoons of mustard to the pot.

adding mayo, sour cream, mustard and pickle juice for making creamy macaroni salad in the instant pot
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Mix everything well

Mix the mayo, sour cream, pickle juice, and mustard into the pasta until the pasta is evenly coated.

preparing a classic macaroni salad recipe in the instant pot
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Start Adding The Goodies

Add the Spam

Add the cubed Spam to the Instant Pot.

making a spam pasta salad in the instant pot
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Add the Pickles

Now add the ½ cup of diced bread & butter pickles to the pot.

chopped bread and butter pickles, spam, olives and peas make this the best creamy macaroni salad recipe
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Add the Lettuce and Mix

Next, add the cup of shredded lettuce to the pot.

adding lettuce to this easy macaroni salad recipe
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Give everything a quick mix before adding the final two ingredients.

the best macaroni salad recipe made in the instant pot
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Add the Peas & Olives

Finally, add the cup of green peas…

adding peas to a macaroni salad made with spam and peas
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and a cup of green olives.

adding olives to the macaroni salad
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Give Everything a Mix

Now give everything a final mix.

showing how to make instant pot macaroni salad
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Make sure all the ingredients are mixed together well and evenly coated with the dressing.

macaroni salad in the instant pot
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After everything is mixed, cover the liner and place it in the refrigerator for a few hours to let it cool. I have to admit – I usually can’t wait that long to start digging in.

Instant Pot Macaroni Salad

A pasta salad with pickles, green olives and Spam.

5 from 3 votes
DifficultySuper Easy
Cooking Method(s)
  • Instant Pot
IP Pressure LevelHigh
IP ProgramManual / Pressure Cook
Prep Time
10 minutes
Cook Time
5 minutes
Pressure Release
Total Time
15 minutes
Recipe by: Valerie Cooper
This macaroni salad has a delicious surprise in every bite! Serve as a side dish for any meal or as an appetizer at your next get-together.
Cuisine: American
Course: Appetizer, Salad, Side Dish
Category: Pastas, Salads


for the Pasta

  • 1 lb elbow pasta or approximately 4 ½ cups
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 tsp kosher salt

for the Dressing

for the Salad

  • 1 cup shredded lettuce chopped
  • 1 cup peas or one small 8.5 oz can
  • 1 can Spam diced
  • ½ cup bread & butter pickles chopped
  • 1 cup green olives


  • Dice the Spam and chop the pickles and lettuce.
  • Add the elbow macaroni, water, and salt to the Instant Pot. Set the Instant Pot to Manual High Pressure for 0 minutes. As soon as the Instant Pot comes to pressure and the pin pops up, do a quick pressure release. If you want to learn how to avoid a big mess when doing a pressure release on pasta, make sure to check out my flip-the-trivet mess-free pasta method.
  • Once the pressure has been released, open the pot, and carefully mix the pasta around to release the steam and let it to sit for a couple of minutes to allow any excess water to evaporate and absorb into the pasta.
  • Mix in the ingredients for the dressing - mayonnaise, mustard, sour cream, and pickle juice. Ensure that the pasta is evenly coated.
  • Add the Spam, pickles, lettuce, peas, and olives to the pasta and mix everything together very well.
  • Cover and allow to chill in the refrigerator for a few hours before serving.

Nutrition Facts

While every effort is made to correctly calculate these nutritional facts, they should be used as general guidance as they may not be 100% accurate.

Calories: 466kcal | Carbohydrates: 32g | Protein: 10g | Fat: 32g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Cholesterol: 36mg | Sodium: 1035mg | Potassium: 267mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 255IU | Vitamin C: 5.1mg | Calcium: 36mg | Iron: 1mg

Tips & Tricks

Here are a few tips and tricks to help you make this Instant Pot Macaroni Salad recipe your own.

Replace the sour cream with the Hispanic version. While this salad tastes great with sour cream, I’m partial to the taste and consistency of the Hispanic version of sour cream. It’s much richer and thicker than American sour cream. Each country’s version of sour cream is slightly different. I, of course, prefer the Honduran version but it’s harder to find. Salvadorian sour cream is the closest in taste and texture and is usually much easier to find. This is the one that I get at my local grocery store: La Vaquita Crema Salvadoreña. If you have a chance to try it, I highly recommend it.

Replace the mayo and sour cream with Greek Yogurt. For a healthier option, replace the mayonnaise and sour cream with Greek Yogurt. I’ll be honest, I haven’t tried this and I likely won’t try it. It would change the taste too much for me. However, if you are looking for a healthier alternative to the mayo and sour cream, then Greek Yogurt is your best option.

Replace the Spam with ham. I prefer the taste of Spam in this salad but if you have issues with eating Spam, then any diced ham is a great replacement. Just be aware that the ham will not be as salty as the Spam and will change the flavor of this macaroni salad.

Replace the bread & butter pickles with dill pickles. I have done this – while I prefer the taste of the bread & butter pickles, the normal dill pickles also taste great. So, if all you have are dill pickles on hand, then don’t hesitate to use them.

Serving Suggestions

Here are a few ideas for serving your Instant Pot Macaroni Salad.

Serve as a side. This salad makes for a terrific side to just about any dish. You can try it along with my pulled pork sandwiches.

Makes for a great lunch. While this macaroni salad is a great companion to other dishes, it’s also hearty and tasty enough to be a meal all its own. I love grabbing a bowl of it for lunch.

Serve as an appetizer for a party or get-together. My mom used to serve this at just about every family get-together and I’ve started to do the same. It is always a big hit at every party.

a small bowl of macaroni salad
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  • Lou De Mers says:

    Love this salad!

  • Lori says:

    I have to be honest, this was not that great. Way too big of a batch and dry. Flavors don’t seem very good together. Not a hit with anyone.

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