Last Updated on October 9, 2021 by Anne-Marie
This seafood pasta salad is a tasty side dish to bring to potlucks. This seafood pasta salad recipe is made with elbow macaroni and baby shrimp.
Why this recipe works
This Seafood Pasta Salad is the perfect side dish to bring to a picnic or backyard barbecue.
I originally made this for a fish fry party we held for my husband’s coworkers. I wanted a super easy macaroni salad recipe that would go well with the fried fish.
Seafood pasta salad inspiration
My Seafood Pasta Salad recipe is made with Blue Plate Light Mayonnaise with Greek Yogurt.
Blue Plate is a popular brand of mayonnaise in the South. But you can now find it throughout the U.S.
Blue Plate Light Greek has half the fat of regular mayo (and 1 gram of protein per serving). It also has a wonderful tart, almost lemony flavor unlike other mayonnaise brands. It’s nice and thick, too, and ideal for this recipe.
But how could I make a classic macaroni salad recipe different enough for my fish fry party?
First, I decided to add some tiny shrimp to my pasta salad since I knew the tangy taste of the mayo would compliment the shrimp.
Then I added Old Bay Seasoning blend, which is basically celery seed, salt, red pepper, black pepper, and paprika.
(No need to get five bottles out of the cupboard when you can get one tin down, right?)
For a bit of crunch, I added minced onions, chopped celery, and orange bell peppers. I love the contrast of the fresh vegetables with the tangy mayo.
What gives this seafood macaroni salad recipe its uniqueness
Finally, I added three important ingredients to make this Seafood Pasta Salad a success.
First, there had to be fresh dill to compliment the shrimp and seafood seasonings. Don't you love the smell of dill?
Second is a secret my husband shared with me when he makes tuna melts – sweet relish!
Adding sweet relish to this seafood macaroni salad offsets the tartness of the mayo. Not too sweet, not too tart – it’s just right.
Third, cook the macaroni only until it’s al dentei (firm). No mushy pasta, please!
How to cook up this seafood pasta salad
Cooking the pasta:
First, don’t forget to salt your pasta water. It makes the noodles taste better, so the macaroni salad taste even better. Seriously, it makes a difference, especially if you’re using gluten free or whole wheat pasta.
Start testing your pasta noodles three minutes before the directions on the box say the noodles will be done. Then when you think the macaroni noodles are cooked al dented (firm), quickly drain the noodles in a colander.
Then run cold water over the macaroni in the colander so you immediately stop the cooking process.
You can use gluten free, whole wheat, or regular pasta for this seafood macaroni salad recipe.
For fun, use unusually shaped noodles. I like little shell shaped ones, which are fun to use with shrimp or crab for a nautically themed pasta salad recipe. Bow tie or ditalini noodles, would be cute as well.
Tips for making perfect seafood macaroni salad
I find using canned tiny shrimp is both convenient and economical since you can always keep a few cans in the pantry for salads, omelets, quiche, or other recipes.
Instead of shrimp, you can use imitation crab or lobster as both are very tasty and there are several gluten free brands available now. Plus, you can keep imitation crab or lobster in the freezer to use anytime.
Of course, fresh bay shrimp or crab can also be used, especially if you find it on sale!
You can use orange, red or yellow bell peppers in this recipe. I find that green peppers are somewhat bitter and the other varieties are sweeter.
Some folks like to put peas in their macaroni salad recipes. If you like peas, use defrosted frozen peas not canned peas, which can be mushy and flavorless. Yuck!
If there’s someone in your family who says they hate dill, just chop it up until it’s so fine that don’t see it.
I like using a Vivant Food Chopper to chop up herbs – much easier than using a knife. I especially love using it to chop onions as I don’t get all teary eyed. (I’m not crying. You’re crying!)
Leftover dill can be used as a garnish or in other recipes like quiche, chicken soup, and omelets. Or chop it up and use it in a salad.
If you like lots of mayo in your seafood macaroni salad, feel free to add more. Other people may like making their seafood pasta salads with less mayo. Totally up to you!
Main dishes to serve with macaroni salad
Wondering what goes with a seafood pasta salad?
Here are some suggestions:
● Brined & Smoked Chicken Quarters
Seafood Pasta Salad Recipe
- 1 box elbow macaroni (to make at least 6 cups cooked macaroni)
- 2 cups Blue Plate Light Mayonnaise with Greek Yogurt
- 1/4 cup sweet relish
- 1 tablespoon Old Bay Seasoning
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons minced onion
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh dill
- 2 4-ounce cans baby shrimp, drained
- 1 cup diced celery
- 1/2 cup diced bell pepper (orange, red or yellow)
- Cook macaroni as directed until al dente. Drain and rinse in cold water to stop the cooking process. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl, combine mayonnaise, relish, Old Bay Seasoning blend, lemon juice, minced onion, and dill. Stir until combined.
- Add baby shrimp, celery, and bell pepper. Gently stir until combined.
- Gently fold in 6 cups cooked macaroni until macaroni is combined with other ingredients. Cover and chill for 4 hours.
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Serving Size:1 cup
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 230Total Fat: 14gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 11gCholesterol: 70mgSodium: 1075mgCarbohydrates: 16gFiber: 1gSugar: 6gProtein: 10g
Nutritional information is automatically calculated per the ingredients list. Serving size may not be accurate. Please double-check with your preferred nutritional app for the most accurate information.
Originally published on April 23, 2016 and March 31, 2017. Updated with new photos and information.
I loved Macaroni Salad as a child! It was always my favorite at summer picnics. As an adult I love the option to lighten it up; thank you!
I love these tips! Definitely going to be using a few of them. When I make macaroni salad I don’t use sweet relish, I use the dill. Gotta love dill!
Any excuse to use dill…and you can always add a little more!