Hawaiian Macaroni Salad

Experience a taste of the islands with our Hawaiian Macaroni Salad. The perfect mix of creamy, sweet, and tangy, it’s the ultimate side dish for your sunny day gatherings.

Hawaiian Macaroni Salad in a white bowl.

When I made a big batch of my Hawaiian Shoyu Chicken, I decided that it was finally time to nail down my Hawaiian-style mac salad recipe.

I absolutely love bringing a huge bowl of this Hawaiian pasta salad to summertime barbecues. If you’re looking for some other fun side-dish options, try my 10-Minute Veggie Ribbon Salad, my Mediterranean Orzo Pasta Salad, or my Warm Israeli Couscous Salad with Roasted Vegetables.

History of Macaroni Salad

Hawaiian Macaroni Salad, a staple in Hawaiian cuisine, originated from the influx of plantation workers in the 1800s, especially from Portugal and the Philippines. These workers brought their culinary traditions, which melded with local Hawaiian ingredients. The salad gained popularity as a part of the traditional plate lunch in Hawaii, featuring a blend of Asian and Western influences. Its creamy texture and sweet-tangy flavor profile reflect the multicultural heritage of the islands.

Hawaiian Macaroni Salad in a white bowl.

Reasons to Love This Salad

  • Its rich, creamy texture offers a comforting and indulgent experience, perfect for potlucks and cookouts.
  • I love the unique blend of sweet and tangy flavors that create a delightful taste sensation.
  • Hawaiian Macaroni Salad is a versatile side dish. It pairs wonderfully with a variety of main dishes. This dish is often served with Kalua pork and a scoop of rice.

Recipe ingredients

The ingredients for Hawaiian Macaroni Salad are prepared on a table.
  • Mayonnaise: A key component for the creamy dressing that characterizes this salad.
  • Whole Milk: Used to thin out the mayonnaise, adding to the creaminess of the dressing.
  • Apple Cider Vinegar: Adds a tangy flavor that balances the creaminess of the mayonnaise and milk.

See the recipe card for full information on ingredients and quantities.

Variations

  • Tropical Hawaiian Mac Salad: Add some diced fresh or canned pineapple and some cubed ham to create a tropical spin on this dish. This version works well as a standalone lunch.
  • Add-Ins: Enhance Hawaiian Macaroni Salad by mixing in chopped hard-boiled eggs, cooked peas, cubed ham, or tuna. These protein-packed ingredients not only add nutritional value but also bring diverse flavors and textures.
  • Potato-Mac Salad Variation: Add cooked, diced potatoes to the Hawaiian Macaroni Salad for a hearty blend of creamy, tangy macaroni and satisfying potato salad.

How to Make Hawaiian Macaroni Salad

Step # 1: Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add macaroni and cook until very soft, 10 to 12 minutes. Drain, return the pasta to the pot, and immediately toss with vinegar. Let cool for ten minutes.

Adding macaroni  to the pot.

Step # 2: In a large bowl, whisk together 1 cup of mayonnaise, 1 ½ cups of whole milk, brown sugar, salt, and pepper.

Step # 3: Once the macaroni has cooled for 10 minutes, toss with the mixed sauce and let cool to room temperature.

Resting the macaroni to cool.

Step # 4: Once cool, fold in the scallion, carrot, and celery. Whisk together the remaining 1 cup mayonnaise and ½ cup whole milk, and pour over the macaroni salad. Toss well to coat. Taste and add more salt or pepper as needed.

Adding scallions, carrots, and celery to the mix.

Step # 5: Chill in the refrigerator until cold.

A bowl with Hawaiian Macaroni Salad garnished with pepper and scallions.

Expert Tips

  • Pasta Preparation: Make sure to cook the pasta until it’s very soft, which allows it to better absorb the dressing, resulting in a creamier salad.
  • Flavor Enhancement: Toss the hot pasta with vinegar for a unique tangy flavor. This step is crucial and shouldn’t be skipped.
  • Vegetable Handling: Add vegetables after the macaroni has cooled and absorbed the dressing, to keep the veggies crisp. Finely mince or shred carrots and celery for a uniform texture throughout the salad.
A bowl of creamy macaroni salad, garnished with chopped green onions.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do you cook the macaroni until very soft?

Cooking the macaroni noodles until very soft, rather than al dente, is a key characteristic of authentic Hawaiian Macaroni Salad. This allows the macaroni to absorb the dressing better, resulting in a creamier texture that’s traditional for this type of salad.

Can I use low-fat mayonnaise and milk?

While the recipe calls for whole milk and full-fat mayo for optimal creaminess and flavor, you can use low-fat options for a lighter version. However, be aware that this may affect the final taste and texture of the salad.

Can I add or substitute other vegetables?

Absolutely! While scallions, carrot, and celery are traditional, feel free to add other vegetables like peas, diced onion, diced bell peppers, or sweet corn for additional color and texture. However, keep in mind that changing the vegetables may alter the classic taste of Hawaiian Macaroni Salad.

What mayo is best?

Many people prefer Best Foods or Hellman’s mayonnaise for this dish.

Can I make this salad ahead of time?

Yes, Hawaiian Macaroni Salad is an excellent make-ahead dish, especially for summer cookouts. Making it a day ahead allows the flavors to meld together more, enhancing the overall taste. Just be sure to give it a good stir before serving, as the pasta may absorb some of the dressing while sitting.

What are some good recipes to pair with Hawaiian Mac Salad?

Hawaiian Mac Salad pairs well with a variety of dishes. Consider Hawaiian Shoyu Chicken, Char Siu (Chinese BBQ Pork), Thai Cashew Chicken, Thai Mango Chicken Stir Fry, and Thai Burger for flavorful combinations that complement the salad’s creamy taste.

Storage Info

Store leftovers of your Hawaiian Macaroni Salad in an airtight container in the fridge to keep it fresh for up to 5 days. Freezing is not recommended, as it can negatively affect the creamy texture.

Did you try this recipe? Leave a ⭐️ rating below and share it on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest!

A bowl with Hawaiian Macaroni Salad.

Hawaiian Macaroni Salad Recipe

Experience a taste of the islands with our Hawaiian Macaroni Salad. The perfect mix of creamy, sweet, and tangy, it's the ultimate side dish for your sunny day gatherings.
4.5 from 645 votes
Pin Rate
Course: Side Dishes
Cuisine: American, Hawaiian
Diet: Vegetarian
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Servings: 8
Calories: 651kcal
Author: Linda
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Ingredients

  • 1 pound elbow macaroni
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 cups mayonnaise - divided
  • 2 cups whole milk - divided
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 bunch scallions - sliced thin (about 5-7 scallions)
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded carrot
  • 1 1/2 cups minced celery
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Instructions

  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add macaroni and cook until very soft, 10 to 12 minutes. Drain, return the pasta to the pot, and immediately toss with vinegar. Let cool for ten minutes.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together 1 cup of mayonnaise, 1 ½ cups of whole milk, brown sugar, salt, and pepper.
  • Once the macaroni has cooled for 10 minutes, toss with the mixed sauce and let cool to room temperature.
  • Once cool, fold in the scallion, carrot, and celery. Whisk together the remaining 1 cup of mayonnaise and the ½ cup of whole milk, and pour over the macaroni salad. Toss well to coat. Taste and add more salt or pepper as needed.
  • Chill in the refrigerator until cold.

VIDEO

NOTES

Store leftovers of your Hawaiian Macaroni Salad in an airtight container in the fridge to keep it fresh for up to 5 days. Freezing is not recommended, as it can negatively affect the creamy texture.

Nutrition

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 651kcal | Carbohydrates: 50g | Protein: 10g | Fat: 45g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 25g | Monounsaturated Fat: 10g | Trans Fat: 0.1g | Cholesterol: 31mg | Sodium: 851mg | Potassium: 379mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 8g | Vitamin A: 4247IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 113mg | Iron: 1mg

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About the Author

Linda

Hi, I'm Linda! Welcome to The Wanderlust Kitchen, where I share recipes and travel adventures from all around the world. Here you'll find a world of recipes you can have confidence in. These recipes celebrate authentic food heritage as well as modern techniques and ingredients. Be adventurous and try a new recipe and travel somewhere you have never been before.  Bon Appétit! Bon Voyage!  

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Comments:

  1. 5 stars
    Love this. I’ve made it a dozen times. My question is how big is a serving. The nutrition facts are meaningless without a serving size.

    1. Hi there, there are 8 servings in this dish and the nutrition is for 1 serving or 1/8th of the recipe. The serving size is about 1 1/2 cups.

    1. Hi Christine,

      I think the flavors are better the next day. If it gets a little dry, mix in a little more milk and mayo to get the right consistency back before serving.

      – Linda

  2. My husband LOVES Mac Salad! My additions:

    White pepper instead of black
    A scant tsp of MSG*
    A hefty tsp of garlic powder**

    If you aren’t a vinegar freak, this recipe might be too much… personally I absolutely am. And adding the bare, hot noodles to the vinegar is crucial! And full fat mayo. If I am up for burning money, Kewpie mayo is the BOMB in this, but the strong ACV does make the difference somewhat subtle. (Oddly, I didn’t love homemade mayo in this- it just was not the “right” flavor profile.)

    *Don’t fear a small bit of MSG! Promise, it is safe and delicious in small quantities.

    **probably not “authentic” but very yummy! Don’t overdo it tho. I add it and the MSG to the vinegar.

    1. Many people are allergic to msg and don’t even know it. It will s banned in many countries and it shouldn’t be used.

  3. The ACV taste was wayyyyyyy too strong! Had to throw out the whole pot because my family didn’t like the taste. Maybe next time I’ll try 1/4C of ACV and up the amount of sugar and salt as they said it was bland despite the strong taste of ACV.

    1. I found your recipe a couple years ago. It is the only one I use. I make it about once a month for my husband. He is pretty picky about Hawaiian Mac but he loves this one. Thank you for an awesome recipe!!!