This creamy seafood macaroni salad is loaded with shrimp, imitation crab meat, and tender elbow macaroni pasta coated in a tangy dressing. The perfect pasta salad!
Y’all might think that the season for pasta salad is strictly summer… but I am here to prove you wrong! I love easy pasta salad recipes, and apparently, so do a lot of my subscribers! I have been getting many recipe requests asking, “Cousin Rosie, can you post an easy macaroni salad recipe?”
Why You’ll Love This Creamy Seafood Macaroni Salad Recipe
What’s NOT to love about creamy pasta salad? My seafood pasta salad combines some of my favorite things: tender pasta, a delicious creamy dressing, and flavorful seafood… all with MINIMAL effort. Yes, it’s perfect on a hot summer day, but really, it’s the perfect side dish any time. Imagine a large bowl of this seafood salad on special occasions—a family reunion, holiday potluck, or gameday party. You don’t have to wait until the summer months to enjoy this delicious salad!
Ingredients for Creamy Seafood Pasta Salad
Okay, Cousins, let’s get down to business… the ingredients for my seafood salad recipe! Here is everything I use. The beauty of pasta salad is that you can customize it to your tastes (we’ll talk about ingredient substitutions in a little bit). You can find the full ingredient measurements in the recipe card at the end of the post.
- Elbow Macaroni: I used large elbow macaroni pasta, but small elbows also work.
- Cooked Shrimp: make sure to remove the shells and tails.
- Imitation Crab Meat: you can definitely use real crab meat if you have it. Imitation is less expensive, and I LOVE the flavor.
- Diced Veggies: fresh vegetables add color and crunch to the seafood pasta salad. I use a combination of celery, green onions, and sliced black olives. If you don’t like any of these, leave ‘em out!
- Mayonnaise and Yellow Mustard: the base of the creamy salad dressing. Mayo is just slightly sweet and creamy, while the mustard is zesty and tangy.
- Lemon Juice: adds the perfect citrus flavor that goes oh-so-well with seafood.
- Seasonings: this recipe packs a punch with the seasoning! Garlic, Old Bay seasoning, Cajun seasoning, and classic black pepper.
What’s the best pasta to use in seafood macaroni salad?
If we’re staying true to the name, we should use elbow macaroni. I like the large elbows, which fit well with the larger chunks of imitation crabmeat and shrimp in this salad. But regular-size elbow macaroni works too. You could also use shell pasta—small or large shells—or another kind of tubular pasta like cavatappi or ditalini. Even bow-tie pasta would work!
What are some other vegetables that go well in seafood pasta salad?
You can add just about any vegetables you like! Fresh vegetables in pasta salad add crunch, color, and flavor, so the sky’s the limit. Other yummy additions would be bell pepper—red pepper or green pepper diced up into small pieces, red onion, carrots, or peas. We’re staying away from the sweet version of pasta salad—this recipe doesn’t use any sugar, so I would avoid using sweet pickles or sweet relish.
How to Make Creamy Seafood Macaroni Salad
This crab and shrimp pasta salad recipe truly could not be any easier! The only cooking necessary is the pasta! Watch me whip together this quick, easy cold pasta salad in my video tutorial below. Don’t forget to subscribe to I Heart Recipes on YouTube for more easy recipe videos!
- First, boil a large pot of salted water on the stovetop. Cook the pasta according to package instructions until it’s al dente. Drain, rinse with cold water, and set aside.
- Prep the crab, shrimp, and veggies. This step is quick and easy since I’m using imitation crab and already-cooked shrimp! You just have to cut everything up into bite-sized pieces and then set it aside.
- Make the dressing. Combine the mayo, mustard, lemon juice, and seasonings in a large mixing bowl and whisk it together until combined.
- Now, mix everything together in one large mixing bowl until it’s evenly coated with the creamy dressing!
Crab and shrimp macaroni salad is best served cold, so prepare it at least a few hours ahead to give it time to chill in the refrigerator. It’s even better if you can make it the day before—that way, the flavors can marry overnight. The outcome is amazing!
Recipe Variations and Tips for the Perfect Seafood Macaroni Salad
Now, this is already a great recipe; don’t get me wrong, Cousins! It’s a family favorite, and in my house, we don’t mess with perfection! However, I understand that not everyone has the same taste buds, and y’all are always asking me about subbing out this ingredient for that. So, I might as well offer some Cousin Rosie knowledge while I’ve got you here.
- Some people like more dressing, some like less. If you like less mayo in your seafood pasta salad, use less! Ain’t nothing wrong with that.
- Dijon mustard works perfectly well in place of yellow mustard. I prefer the classic tang of yellow mustard, myself.
- If you don’t like a lot of heat, switch out the Cajun seasoning for seasoning salt. That way, you’ll get the flavor boost without the heat kick.
- If you do like some heat to your seafood pasta salad, use your favorite Cajun seasoning. Y’all already know I use Tony Chachere’s. You can also toss in some red pepper flakes or top your own serving with hot sauce.
- If you want smaller chunks of seafood in your salad, chop everything up finer. You can use baby shrimp in place of large shrimp—just make sure you’re using peeled and deveined shrimp for ease.
- Feel free to add crumbled hard-boiled eggs to your seafood salad! It’s not my vibe, but you do you, boo boo!
Should you rinse macaroni when making seafood macaroni salad?
Yes! In fact, making cold pasta salad is the only time I should catch y’all rinsing your cooked pasta! Giving the pasta a rinse in cold water will prevent it from sticking together, as well as help it cool down quicker. A little drizzle of olive oil will also prevent clumping.
Is it better to use cooked or raw seafood in seafood salad?
The seafood should definitely be cooked, but whether you buy raw or pre-cooked is totally up to you. If you have leftover real lump crab meat, use that! If you have raw shrimp on hand, go ahead and cook them, then cool them off in an ice bath for quick cooling. You can swap out (or add) canned tuna in this recipe (just make sure to drain it before adding to the salad). Because seafood macaroni salad is usually left out at room temperature when served, it should be very chilled ahead of time, and don’t let it sit out for more than a few hours (especially outdoors or in the heat).
What goes well with seafood salad?
Whether you’re serving seafood pasta salad as a tasty side dish or as the main dish (it’s perfect for lunch or a light dinner), you can pair it with plenty of other options for a complete, delicious meal. Here are some ideas:
- A simple green salad
- Fried chicken—try my Southern Fried Chicken, Spicy Keto Chicken, or easy Oven “Fried” Chicken
- Surf & turf—pair seafood salad with steak dishes, like a juicy Wagyu steak, a garlic steak date night dinner, or steak and pepper kabobs
- Classic grill-out foods like hamburgers, hot dogs, or sausage and peppers
How to Store Seafood Macaroni Salad
Seafood salad isn’t a long-lasting fridge salad, so once it’s ready, you want to enjoy it soon! Plus, it’s such a favorite that you’ll unlikely have leftovers anyway! Store any leftover seafood pasta salad in an airtight container or covered with plastic wrap in the fridge for up to two days. I would not suggest making it more than a day ahead of time for the best flavor.
More Easy Cold Salad Recipes
Want more pasta salad recipe ideas? Here are some favorite salads I’ve posted before:
- Southern Tuna Macaroni Salad
- Italian Pasta Salad with Salami and Parmesan
- BLT Macaroni Salad
- Deviled Egg Macaroni Salad
- Dill Pickle & Ranch Pasta Salad
- Crab Louie Salad Recipe
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Seafood Macaroni Salad Recipe
- Boil the pasta in lightly salted water (boil in a medium-sized pot, with 1 tsp of salt) until it's al dente.3 cups dry elbow macaroni pasta, 1 tsp salt
- Drain the pasta once done, and rinse it under cold water to stop the cooking process.
- In a large bowl. combine the mayonnaise, mustard, and lemon juice. Mix until well combined.1 cup mayonnaise, 2 tbsp yellow mustard, 1/4 cup lemon juice
- Now sprinkle in the cajun seasoning and old bay seasoning. Mix well.1 tsp cajun seasoning, 1 tsp old bay seasoning
- Add in the minced garlic.1 tsp minced garlic
- Add in the seafood, and toss or stir in the bowl until it's covered with the dressing.1 lb cooked shrimp, 1 lb imitation crab meat
- Add in the onions, celery, and olives.1/4 cup chopped green onion, 1/2 cup sliced black olives, 1/3 cup diced celery
- Next add in the elbow macaroni pasta, and fold all of the ingredients.
- Sprinkle in the dried parsley flakes and fold the ingredients.1 tbsp parsley flakes
- Cover the pasta, and refrigerate until it’s nice and cold.
- Serve and enjoy!