Ensalada de coditos or Mexican macaroni salad recipe is going to become your next favorite pasta salad. This authentic recipe is a delicious main dish or a perfect side dish, it’s easy to make and also budget friendly.
What is Ensalada de Coditos
This is a Mexican pasta salad recipe that is a crowd pleaser, always!
It’s a creamy elbow macaroni salad served chilled or at room temperature and can be enjoyed as a main course or to serve on the side of some of your favorite Mexican dishes. Though you could easily serve it as a side to just about any international dish.
This is one of those Mexican recipes that is a classic one everyone should know how to make.
Mexican Macaroni Salad Recipe with Ham
This cold pasta salad is a popular salad throughout the year in Mexico. I find it specially satisfying during the warmer months when I want a meal that requires minimal effort.
Traditionally speaking it just requires elbow macaroni pasta, some veggies, a creamy dressing and ham. Sometimes you’ll see it in Spanish referred to as ensalada de coditos con jamon.
The ingredients are quite straightforward and are easy to find anywhere, plus they’re budget friendly.
- Elbow Macaroni: I use the smallest ones available. Also the smooth kind not the one with the ridges. Use any brand you like or have on hand and simply follow the package instructions for cooking — just don’t over cook it.
- Ham or Jamon: Of course we’ll be using vegan ham. If you have access to a thick ham you could do thick cubes or use thin slices and chop into small cubed pieces.
- Onion: I personally like to use small green onions or spring onions. They have a mild taste which won’t overpower the rest of the ingredients or flavors. If you don’t have spring onions you can use white or even red onion.
- Tomato: Roma tomato is what I like to use but you can use the regular round type. Just make sure to seed it and add it at the end so it doesn’t turn mushy.
- Jalapeños: They add a little touch of heat and in my opinion Mexican macaroni salad just isn’t’ the same without jalapeños.
The dressing is super important in this Mexican cold pasta salad. But don’t worry it’s incredibly easy to make and you’re going to love it.
- Sour Cream: To be specific, Mexican crema is what you preferably need for this recipe. I used my vegan crema recipe and it works perfectly. If you’re making this pasta salad vegan then use whichever sour cream you can get.
- Mayonnaise: This, just like the crema, adds that creaminess to the pasta. The combination of these both is quite delicious. I used Hellmann’s Mayo but you can use whichever brand of vegan mayonnaise you like, or regular for a vegetarian version.
- Salt and Pepper: Incredibly so you only need to add a little bit of these two spices to give more flavor to the salad.
- Mustard: Yes, mustard. Though not an ingredient we often use in Mexico, in ensalada de coditos it’s a must! Trust me.
- Jalapeño Pickle Juice: Ok hear me out, this not only adds a little bit of heat but also an incredibly amount of flavor that pairs so perfectly with a creamy pasta salad.
Is Ensalada de Coditos Vegan or How to Make it Vegan
So the traditional recipe of course is not because it uses regular ham and also dairy based sour cream and mayonnaise that contain egg.
But don’t worry as indicated above you can easily make a vegan ensalada de coditos or vegan Mexican macaroni salad.
Instead of regular ham use vegan ham. Either small chunks or thin cubes works perfectly. For the dressing use vegan sour cream and vegan mayonnaise — see my notes above for the brands I used.
Other Ingredients and Substitutions
So as always every family has their own way of making this pasta salad. So following are some variations you try if you don’t have everything I have listed in my recipe.
If you don’t have elbow macaroni, even though the salad is called macaroni or coditos, then you could try another small pasta like rotini pasta. Do double check the package directions on it.
Pickled jalapeños add a wonderful flavor but in case you don’t have pickled then you could use fresh. In an absolute pinch you could try using chili powder. Also instead of the pickle juice then add a small splash of a mild vinegar if desired, if not you could use a small squirt of lime juice.
The following are other common ingredients Mexican people use in their ensalada de coditos. Feel free to incorporate any of them if desired.
- canned or frozen peas
- corn, fresh corn or sweet corn
- a little chopped fresh cilantro could be used too if you’d like, but not super common
- some people like to use a mix of canned vegetables
What Mexican Macaroni Salad Ingredients Not to Use
When you google a recipe for this Mexican salad one of the first ones that comes up is Ree Drummond The Pioneer Women’s Recipe…So how does this recipe differ from hers? Well her recipe couldn’t be further from the traditional Mexican recipe! At best it’s a horrible Tex-Mex imitation.
So if you want to stick to real authentic Mexican flavors do avoid using any of the following ingredients.
Black beans or kidney beans, black olives (not sure why people insist that Mexican food has them because we don’t use them…occasionally you’ll see green olives, but black never and not in this recipe!
Additional ingredients not to use are jarred salsa, cumin, taco seasoning mix, or bell peppers.
Though cheddar cheese tastes awesome, it’s not a used in this authentic recipe.
Mexican Macaroni Salad Recipe
The part that will take you the longest in this recipe is waiting for the pasta water to boil and cook. But then after that is to drain pasta and mix in the rest of the ingredients, it’s incredibly easy.
The recipe is quite simple and it’s just a matter of cooking the pasta, chopping the veggies, mixing and making the dressing. You could have this on the table in around 30 minutes or less.
Find the written Mexican macaroni salad recipe below. Do let me know if you try it and how you liked it.
Mexican Macaroni Salad Recipe | Ensalada de Coditos
- 7 oz uncooked elbow macaroni I used small pasta (raw or uncooked it's 1.5 cups pasta)
- water for boiling the pasta
- pinch of salt for cooking the pasta
- 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil or olive oil
- 1 cup vegan ham sliced into small cubes or pieces
- 2 green onions or spring onions thinly sliced
- 3 pickled jalapeños drained and seeded and chopped
- 1/2 cup vegan mayonnaise
- 1/2 sour cream or Mexican crema
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 teaspoons mustard
- 2 roma tomatoes seeded and chopped into small pieces
- Bring the water to the boil and cook the pasta according to package instructions. Rinse under cold water to help cool down faster. Drain then place the cooked macaroni in a large mixing bowl.
- Add the vegan ham, green onion, and jalapenos and mix until well combined.
- Drizzle in the vegan mayo, sour cream, jalapeno pickle juice if using, and mix until well combined. Then sprinkle in the salt and pepper and mix again.
- Next mix in the mustard and then taste and adjust if desired.
- Gently mix in the chopped tomato pieces until well combined.
- Taste the pasta salad for seasoning and adjust as desired. Refrigerate for 20 minutes or until ready to use. Enjoy!
How to Serve Ensalada de Coditos
Mexicans serve it for special occasion or gatherings. It’s great for a picnic or barbecue, a pot luck dinner or just about any holidays you’d like. Below are some great recipe ideas you can pair this salad with.
- Fried Chicken Sandwich | Torta de Milanesa de Pollo
- Chelada | Easy Mexican Beer Cocktail
- Watermelon Agua Fresca
- Pambazos | Potato and Chorizo Pambazos
- A great side to hot dogs or hamburgers too!
More Mexican Pasta Recipes
Pasta isn’t the most common ingredient in authentic Mexican cuisine, but we do have quite a few delicious recipes you should also try.
- Espagueti Verde (Creamy Poblano Spaghetti)
- Easy Sopa de Fideo
- Mexican Shell Pasta Soup (Sopa de Conchas)
I really hope you give this creamy Mexican macaroni salad a try as soon as possible. It makes a perfect cool pasta salad that’s amazing during the summer months.