PastaSaladTropical, Caribbean, and HawaiianVegetarian

Hawaiian Macaroni Salad

This Hawaiian Macaroni Salad Recipe is a delicious blend of creamy, sweet and tangy flavors that makes it a great side dish for summer cookouts and picnics.

Hawaiian Macaroni Salad in two white bowls

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

Mac Salad Hawaii in two white bowls

Is Macaroni Salad a Hawaiian Food?

Mac salad is a dish that originated in Hawaii, but not all of its local dishes can be called Hawaiian. Learn more about the difference between this one and other “Hawaiian” foods here!

The dish called “macaroni salad” can be found all over the world, but it doesn’t have a single origin. This food is made from macaronis (pasta) and vegetables that typically include carrots in some form such as grated or boiled into them – though add-ins like peas wouldn’t necessarily make their way onto your plate should you decide to enjoy one of these bowls while traveling abroad!

Best Hawaiian Mac Salad in two white bowls

How Did Macaroni Salad Get To Hawaii?

Macaroni Salad Has two interesting stories:

  • Some say mac salad came to Hawaii via potato salad from Europe. Before World War II, many hotel chefs in early 1900s Hawaii were brought in from Europe and they got the preparation of this dish into their work ethic because it was common for them at home too- replacing potatoes with pasta when you’re on a tight budget can be done easily enough! It wasn’t until after that war ended though when tourism became more popular than ever before -so much so that cuisine styles began changing all over again. This time around though no one wanted Italian food anymore; everyone wanted “local” flavors instead…and what better way is there?
  • Other said that mac salad came from the sugar and pineapple plantation. However, instead of coming from Asian workers who labored on it for hours each day in a hot environment without pay or appreciation-Mac Salad was created by European managers as an easy way to get rid of leftovers after meals where they could prepare something tasty but not messy with simple ingredients like potatoes while avoiding any messes themselves!

Macaroni Salad Hawaiian in two white bowls

Ingredients

  • 1 pound elbow macaroni
  • ½ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 cups mayonnaise – divided
  • 2 cups whole milk – divided
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 bunch scallions – sliced thin (about 5-7 scallions)
  • 1 ½ cups shredded carrot
  • 1 ½ cups minced celery

How to Make Hawaiian Macaroni Salad

Assemble the ingredients for this recipe. For the exact amounts, see the recipe card at the end of this post.

Hawaiian Macaroni Salad Ingredients in white bowls

Bring a large pot of salted water to a roiling boil. Add the macaroni and cook the macaroni until very soft, 10 to 12 minutes. Drain, return the pasta to the pot and immediately toss with vinegar. (The secret to this amazing recipe is to toss the hot cooked macaroni with vinegar before letting it cool!) Let cool ten minutes.

cooked macaroni in pot

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

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

macaroni in pot with Hawaiian sauce

Once cool, fold in the scallions (green onions), shredded carrots, and celery. Whisk together the remaining 1 cup mayonnaise and ½ cup whole milk and pour over macaroni salad. Toss well to coat. Taste and add more salt or pepper as needed.

Hawaiian Macaroni Salad in a pot with red spoon

Chill in the refrigerator until cold.

Authentic Hawaiian Macaroni Salad in white serving bowls

Serving Suggestions

Hawaiian Macaroni Salad is a great side dish for barbeques, potlucks and picnics. It pairs well with grilled meats, barbequed meats, kalua pork, hamburgers and hot dogs.

Here are a few of my recipes that are great to pair with Hawaiian Mac Salad:

Hawaiian Shoyu Chicken

Char Siu, also known as Chinese BBQ Pork

Thai Cashew Chicken

Thai Mango Chicken Stir Fry

Thai Burger

Storing Leftovers

It is doubtful that you will have any leftovers, but if you do, make sure you keep it and enjoy it again. You can store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for 3 to 5 days.

I don’t recommend freezing Hawaiian Macaroni Salad, because the texture of the pasta and sauce will change. However, it you want to try it, freeze it in an airtight container for up to 3 months. Thaw in the fridge overnight and it will be ready to eat the next day.

Other Delicious Salad Recipes

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.

Okay, I know you just can’t wait any longer to start making a HUGE batch of this stuff, so here is the recipe!

Hawaiian Macaroni Salad Recipe

This Hawaiian Macaroni Salad Recipe is a delicious blend of creamy, sweet and tangy flavors that makes it a great side dish for summer cookouts and picnics.
4.5 from 637 votes
Pin Rate
Course: Side Dishes
Cuisine: Hawaiian
Prep Time: 30 mins
Cook Time: 10 mins
Total Time: 40 mins
Servings: 8
Calories: 525kcal
Author: The Wanderlust Kitchen
Print Recipe

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

Instructions

  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a roiling 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 ten minutes.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together 1 cup of the mayonnaise, 1 ½ cups of the whole milk, the 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 mayonnaise and ½ cup whole milk and pour over macaroni salad. Toss well to coat. Taste and add more salt or pepper as needed.
  • Chill in the refrigerator until cold.

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Nutrition Facts
Hawaiian Macaroni Salad Recipe
Serving Size
 
1 serving
Amount per Serving
Calories
525
% Daily Value*
Fat
 
44
g
68
%
Saturated Fat
 
8
g
50
%
Polyunsaturated Fat
 
35
g
Cholesterol
 
29
mg
10
%
Sodium
 
814
mg
35
%
Carbohydrates
 
26
g
9
%
Fiber
 
2
g
8
%
Sugar
 
7
g
8
%
Protein
 
6
g
12
%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
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About the Author

Anetta

Hi, I'm Anetta! Welcome to The Wanderlust Kitchen, where I share recipes and travel stories 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. I believe that food brings us together as much as it sets us apart. Be brave, try something new!

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Comments:

    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

  1. 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.

  2. 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!!!

  3. I have to admit, I’m pretty wary of “Hawaiian Style” mac salad recipe that has vinegar in it. I was born and raised in Hawai’i and NEVER in my entire 55 years did my mom, aunties, uncles, cousins, not ONE of my ‘ohana ever added vinegar. But, I’m going to try this tonight, and I’ll get back to you.

  4. I was just looking up your recipe again for your Fantastic Mac Salad! Every time my children come for a barbecue they request Huli Huli chicken and your Macaroni salad. They used to request my potato salad, not anymore. This weekend I’m adding your Israeli Salad. That looks simple and amazing. Thanks for the recipes 🙂

  5. I’ve been meaning to thank you for this recipe. I’m from Southern California and grew up eating Hawaiian food. My cousins run a busy Hawaiian restaurant and ever since moving to Canada, I miss it dearly! I’ve been coming to this site for a year now, looking it up everytime I make it. My husband and son also go nuts whenever I make this, and have to kick them out of the kitchen because they love to “sample”!!!! So thank you! It’s amaaaaazing! It’s up there with one of the best Hawaiian mac salad I’ve ever had!!! I’m off to make a huge batch now, it’s become a holiday side dish!

    You make fantastic cocktails too! Happy Thanksgiving!

  6. Very flavorful macaroni salad. I like the use of milk to thin out the mayonnaise. I was thinking that the addition of tuna could take this to a different level. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Anetta, since you live in Portland as well, you need to try the mac salad at Ate-Oh-Ate http://www.ate-oh-ate.com/ . These are the same guys from Simpatica Dinning Hall and Laurelhurst Market. The owners are from the Big Island (BI….the Island of Hawaii) and make the best plate lunch outside of Hawaii. Their Korean fried chicken wings are the best wings in town, and their Kalbi ribs crush it. Fantastic spam musubi and fried saimin! They have Happy Hour and serve cocktails!

  8. I shouldn’t be giving out family secrets, but with seven generations in the islands, sharing is aloha.
    A tsp of curry powder adds a level of spice. For this size of recipe 1/2 to 1 can of tuna is classic local style. The real trick is 3 or 4 hard boiled egg yokes in the mayo. It gives the mayo a better texture and prevents it from being absorbed into the pasta as much. Some families chop up the egg whites and add them in as well.

  9. It was a hit! Everyone wanted the recipe! They are hooked! I lived on Maui for 25 years and never attempted to make it there. Just moved to Florida and host a game day every Friday. Luv your website!

    1. I love hearing this, Cathy! I think I’m going to make a big batch for a get-together this coming weekend. Can’t have too much of that stuff!

  10. Hi Anetta,

    Here in the Philippines we also have our version of macaroni salad, it was bec of the american colonizers, though our version is a bit diffirent, here it goes, 500gms uncooked macaroni, boiled till aldente, 1 chicken breast boiled and cubed. 1oogms sweet pickle relish drained, 250gms chunks or tidbits pineapples, 1 fuji apple chopped, 1/2 cup raisins, 1/4 kilo fresh peeled grapes halved, 1 medium carrot diced, 1 small onion diced, 150 grms cheedar or velveeta cheese cubed, 1 can sweetened condensed milk, 1 can or 250ml all purpose cream, salt and pepper accordance to your liking.

    just simply mix all the ingredients and refregerate for at least 2 hours or 30 mins in the freezer. best served as a side for baby back ribs or chicken bbq

    hope you like it.

  11. Thought I’d throw my rave reviews in as well. Just made this and it turned out INCREDIBLE! Now I’m wondering what other pasta dishes would do well with that vinegar at the beginning!

    Thanks for sharing this. I haven’t ever been able to make decent mac salad! You rock!

  12. I didn’t have apple cider vinegar, used red wine vinegar. I love this salad. Thank you for sharing. Sorry about the comment previous to mine. No need for anyone to take offense.

  13. If you are using vinegar and sugar, please do not try to call this local style, authentic Hawaiian Mac Salad..it’s not. Don’t try to fix what isn’t broken.

  14. WOW. I just tasted a bit out of the bowl after mixing it up – been meaning to try this recipe for a while now. I’m in love – the vinegar made the difference! Would have never in a million years thought to try that. Now, for the part where I told you what I did differently – used whole wheat pasta, cause that’s what I had, and was out of scallions. Just finely diced some yellow onion. Also, only a tiny bit of real mayo (Dukes, cause I’m a southerner) and lots of 0% greek yoghurt, Fage, to lower the calories a little. This is amazing, thanks so much! Now I’ve gone and added a little red pepper and paprika, and I don’t think I’m going to share this with anyone, lol. MINE.

  15. Good island comfort food is hard to find…so glad you shared this recipe.
    Apple cider vinegar IS THE KEY!!!
    Ono grinds brah!!!
    Mahalo

  16. Thanks so much! I made this for a nye party and it was yummy! I made it exactly as written. I wonder if I could substitute the milk with a lower fat yogurt. Anyone try that?

    1. Yes, I just did! Instead of the mayo & whole milk called for in the recipe, I used a tiny bit (couple tablespoons maybe?) of real mayo, lots of 0% Greek yogurt (Fage) and fat free skim milk – sorry, I just kind of eyeballed everything. Then I stood over the kitchen sink and ate it out of the bowl I’d just mixed it in, in-between type a good review for the recipe.

  17. Thank you, Anetta! This macaroni salad is fantastic – I made it to go with some Huli-Huli chicken I grilled up, and they both complimented each other nicely. I’ll have to dig around in your recipes, you seem to have the same tastes as us. Thanks again!

  18. I thought the vinegar was too overpowering in my final product – does it make a difference whether it is tossed into the pasta while it is hot vs. after it’s been cooled?

    1. Hi, Pam! Yes, the vinegar needs to be added while the pasta is still hot. It gives the vinegar a chance to absorb into the pasta, which helps neutralize some of that bright acidity.

      1. I messed that up to and didn’t add it to the pasta while hot… Will do next time but it still was very good!

  19. So I’m Filipino an Samoan and nobody at my house knows how to make this stuff the right way. Being the chef I am it irked me that I don’t either and I have to say this is the best Mac salad ive had. I think the only thing was that I doubled the recipe and the vinegar was just a little too much but other than that it was perfect! Thank you

    1. Hi, DD! This Mac Salad tastes great the next day. You might save a bit of the dressing to toss with it before serving so it doesn’t get too dry!

  20. Thanks so much for sharing this! I can’t stand traditional Mac Salad, but I absolutely love Hawaiian Mac, and I have never been able to figure out what the difference is in the ingredients. This recipe is a definite winner. The steaks are still on the grill, but the Mac is already going fast 🙂

  21. Delicious! First attempt at Hawaiian food. Used 1% milk only for the last step. Did not affect the taste at all, in my opinion. Thanks.

  22. This recipe sounds delicious. Can you sub anything else for the whole milk? I only use almond milk or 2%. I always seem to have all the other ingredients on hand.

    1. Hmm that’s a tough one! I’ve never tried anything but whole milk… I’d worry that 2% wouldn’t be thick enough. Maybe if you cut some of the milk and increased the mayo? Give it a try and let me know!

      1. I made it with 2% milk… Cut the amount and used a little more mayo… Thickened right up!! Great idea!

  23. Any thoughts on making this vegan? I was thinking about omitting the milk and using vegenaise instead of mayo. Same everything else. I hope it turns out ok!

    1. Hi, Jen! I haven’t tried it, but you might swap the milk for a dairy substitute (soy/almond/coconut milk) and use the veganaise. Let me know how it turns out!

  24. What kind of mayo do you use? I eat tons of fat lol all the time, but for some reason I lean towards Miracle Whip because of the fat. Makes zero sense I know! May as well go full on with this one, what do you recommend?

    1. Happy to help! I still haven’t been to Hawaii, but the husband has and he gave his stamp of approval 🙂

  25. Haha, but where’s the spam?! I thought spam was a delicacy in almost every hawaiian recipe 😛

  26. OMG. That tip about mixing the vinegar with the hot pasta? GAME CHANGING! Thank you so much for sharing!!!!

    1. I know, right!? I was so excited with how this turned out. I’ll never make it any other way again!

      1. I have to ask if your husbands college was oregon state? Because there is a hawaiin restaurant next to it that I think has the best mac salad!

      2. Haha, YES! He (and all of his friends) were completely obsessed with Local Boys.

      3. I went to Local Boys about six months ago (my girlfriend grew up in Corvallis) and it was indeed amazing! Up here in Portland the best mac salad is at AteOhAte on Burnside and I probably eat twenty pounds a year.

      4. So I just wanted you to know that I am an alumni of Oregon State, and yes, Local Boyz (very important that is’ spelled with a z, lol) is ThE BEST hawaiian I’ve ever tasted…and I’ve tried a lot. “Da Sauce” is a secret recipe that I’ve tried and tried to nail for years to no avail. the only thing I can pinpoint is the delicate use of ginger in their recipes. I’m gonna try the mac salad tonight and store overnight, will definitely try the vinegar trick. Thanks for sharing your recipe!

      5. OMG, this is the same question I want to ask her….indeed Local Boys has the best mac salad on earth. I miss the Hawaiian Ribs, too. Thanks to your hubby, now I can replicate the mac salad.

      6. I was just thinking this exact same thing…my now husband actually lured me to Corvallis to propose (at the place we met on campus) by asking if I wanted to road trip for some Mac and Da Sauce and just hang in Corvallis for the day…I guess it probably says something that I was willing to drive a couple hours to get my fix!

  27. I’m always looking for the next great macaroni salad since I CRAVE it all summer. I can’t wait to try the vinegar tip!!