How To Make Hawaiian Macaroni Salad


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Close up bowl of Hawaiian Macaroni Salad

If you’re looking for a delicious and easy-to-make side dish, look no further than Hawaiian macaroni salad. This dish is a staple in Hawaiian cuisine and is enjoyed by locals and tourists alike. The creamy and tangy flavor of the dressing combined with the soft macaroni noodles makes this dish a crowd-pleaser.

To make Hawaiian macaroni salad, you will need a few key ingredients such as elbow macaroni, mayonnaise, and grated onions. The preparation of the ingredients is simple, and the cooking method is straightforward. Once you have all of the ingredients ready, you can mix them together and let the flavors meld in the refrigerator for a few hours. The result is a delicious and refreshing side dish that pairs well with a variety of main courses.

Key Takeaways

  • Hawaiian macaroni salad is a creamy and tangy side dish that is a staple in Hawaiian cuisine.
  • The dish requires simple ingredients and preparation, making it easy to make at home.
  • Letting the salad chill in the refrigerator for a few hours allows the flavors to meld together for a delicious and refreshing side dish.

Understanding Hawaiian Cuisine

Influence of Hawaiian Culture

Hawaiian cuisine is a fusion of different cultures that have influenced the Hawaiian islands over the years. The cuisine is a blend of flavors from Polynesia, Japan, China, Korea, and Portugal, among others. The traditional Hawaiian cuisine is known for its use of fresh ingredients, such as seafood, fruits, and vegetables that are grown locally. The cuisine is also known for its unique cooking methods, such as imu, which is a traditional Hawaiian underground oven used for cooking pig and other meats.

Significance of Macaroni Salad

Macaroni salad is a staple in Hawaiian cuisine and is often served as a side dish with plate lunches. The dish has become an integral part of Hawaiian cuisine and is a must-try for anyone visiting the islands. The origins of macaroni salad in Hawaii are unclear, but many believe that it was introduced by the Portuguese immigrants who brought their own version of macaroni salad to the islands.

The Hawaiian version of macaroni salad is unique and different from the traditional macaroni salad found on the mainland. The Hawaiian macaroni salad is creamier and has a tangy flavor due to the addition of vinegar. The dish is made with elbow macaroni, mayonnaise, grated carrots, and sometimes onions or celery. The dish is often served alongside other Hawaiian favorites such as kalua pork, rice, and macadamia nut pie.

In Hawaii, macaroni salad is not just a side dish but is also used as a topping for sandwiches and burgers. The dish is a perfect accompaniment to any meal and is loved by locals and tourists alike. If you want to experience the true taste of Hawaiian cuisine, then you must try the Hawaiian macaroni salad.

Ingredients Needed

To make authentic Hawaiian macaroni salad, you will need the following ingredients:

For the Salad

  • 1 pound elbow macaroni
  • 1 cup grated carrots
  • 1/2 cup finely diced celery
  • 1/2 cup grated onion

For the Dressing

  • 2 cups mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • Salt and pepper to taste

The salad ingredients include elbow macaroni, grated carrots, finely diced celery, and grated onion. You can use any brand of elbow macaroni, but it’s important to cook it 1-2 minutes longer than the package instructions to ensure it’s fully cooked. The grated carrots, finely diced celery, and grated onion add a crunch to the salad and a depth of flavor.

The dressing ingredients include mayonnaise, milk, apple cider vinegar, granulated sugar, salt, and pepper. You can use any brand of mayonnaise, but it’s important to use enough to fully coat the macaroni. The milk adds a creaminess to the dressing, while the apple cider vinegar and granulated sugar add a tangy sweetness. Salt and pepper are added to taste.

When combined, the salad and dressing create a creamy, tangy, and slightly sweet macaroni salad that’s perfect for any occasion.

Preparation of Ingredients

To make a delicious Hawaiian macaroni salad, you need to prepare the following ingredients:

Elbow Macaroni Noodles

The base of the salad is elbow macaroni noodles. You will need to cook one pound (16 ounces) of elbow macaroni noodles according to the package instructions. Once cooked, rinse the noodles with cold water to stop the cooking process and drain them well.


Mayonnaise is the main ingredient that gives the salad its creamy texture. You will need between 2 to 2 ½ cups of mayonnaise, which is about 16 to 20 ounces. You can use your favorite brand of mayonnaise, but many recipes recommend using Best Foods or Hellmann’s mayonnaise.


Shredded carrots add a nice crunch and sweetness to the salad. You will need about 1 cup of shredded carrots, which is roughly equivalent to 3 medium carrots. Make sure to shred the carrots dry and not wet to avoid adding excess moisture to the salad.

Yellow Onion

Finely grated yellow onion adds a mild, sweet flavor to the salad. You will need about ¼ cup of finely grated yellow onion, which is about half a medium onion. Make sure to grate the onion finely to avoid biting into large chunks of onion in the salad.

Apple Cider Vinegar

A dash of apple cider vinegar adds a tangy flavor to the dressing. You will need about 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar.


A sprinkle of sugar helps to balance out the tanginess of the vinegar. You will need about 1 teaspoon of sugar.

Salt and Pepper

Salt and pepper are essential for seasoning the salad. You can add salt and pepper to taste, but many recipes recommend using about 1 teaspoon of salt and ½ teaspoon of black pepper.

Once you have prepared all the ingredients, you can start making the salad by mixing them together in a large bowl.


Cooking Method

To make Hawaiian macaroni salad, you will need to cook the macaroni first. Cook the macaroni according to the package directions until it is tender but not mushy. Drain the macaroni and rinse it with cold water to stop the cooking process.

Next, add 1 tablespoon of vinegar to the macaroni and toss it to coat evenly. This will give the macaroni salad a tangy flavor.

In a separate bowl, mix together the mayonnaise, milk, grated onion, brown sugar, salt, and pepper until well combined. You can also add grated carrot and chopped celery if you like.

Add the mayonnaise mixture to the macaroni and mix well until all the macaroni is coated. You can adjust the amount of mayonnaise to your liking. If you want a creamier salad, add more mayonnaise.

Cover the macaroni salad and refrigerate it for at least 2 hours or overnight. This will allow the flavors to meld together and make the salad taste even better.

Before serving, garnish the macaroni salad with chopped green onions. Enjoy your delicious Hawaiian macaroni salad!

Tips and Variations

If you want to put your own spin on Hawaiian macaroni salad, there are a few tips and variations you can try. Here are some ideas:

For a Healthier Version

If you want to make a healthier version of Hawaiian macaroni salad, try these substitutions:

  • Use whole wheat macaroni instead of regular macaroni.
  • Use Greek yogurt instead of mayonnaise to cut down on calories and fat.
  • Add more vegetables, like diced bell peppers or cucumbers, to add more nutrients to the dish.

For a Vegan Option

If you’re vegan or just want to avoid animal products, here are some substitutions you can make:

  • Use vegan mayonnaise instead of regular mayonnaise.
  • Use a plant-based yogurt instead of Greek yogurt.
  • Omit the ham and use a vegan protein substitute, like tempeh or tofu, instead.

No matter how you make it, Hawaiian macaroni salad is a delicious and easy side dish that’s perfect for any occasion. Try these tips and variations to make it your own!

Serving Suggestions

Now that you’ve made your delicious Hawaiian macaroni salad, it’s time to think about how you’ll serve it. Here are a few suggestions:

  • As a side dish: This macaroni salad is a perfect side dish for any meal, especially when paired with grilled meats or seafood. You can also serve it with other Hawaiian dishes like kalua pork or lau lau.
  • In a sandwich: Use the macaroni salad as a filling for a sandwich. Add some sliced ham or turkey, lettuce, and tomato for a delicious and filling lunch.
  • At a potluck or picnic: This macaroni salad is a crowd-pleaser and is perfect for sharing. Bring it to your next potluck or picnic and watch it disappear.
  • With fresh fruit: Pair the macaroni salad with some fresh fruit like pineapple or mango for a refreshing and tropical meal.
  • In a bento box: Pack the macaroni salad in a bento box with some grilled chicken or fish, steamed rice, and some sliced cucumbers for a complete meal.

No matter how you choose to serve it, this Hawaiian macaroni salad is sure to be a hit. Enjoy!

Storing and Reheating Instructions

Once you have made your Hawaiian macaroni salad, it is important to store it properly to maintain its quality and freshness. Here are some tips on how to store and reheat your macaroni salad:


  • Store your macaroni salad in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
  • Make sure to refrigerate the salad within two hours of preparing it to prevent bacterial growth.
  • Properly stored, macaroni salad will last for 3 to 5 days in the fridge.
  • If you need to store the salad for longer than 5 days, you can freeze it in an airtight container for up to 4 months.


  • To reheat your macaroni salad, remove it from the fridge and let it sit at room temperature for about 20-30 minutes.
  • You can also reheat it in the microwave or on the stovetop.
  • If you are reheating in the microwave, use a microwave-safe dish and cover the salad with a damp paper towel. Heat on high for 30-second intervals, stirring in between, until heated through.
  • If you are reheating on the stovetop, place the macaroni salad in a saucepan and heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until heated through.

Remember that the quality of the macaroni salad may deteriorate after reheating, so it’s best to only reheat what you plan to eat. If you have any leftovers, store them in the fridge immediately.


What is macaroni made from?

Macaroni is a type of pasta made from durum wheat and water. The dough is typically extruded or stamped into its classic elbow shape, then dried. Some variations may include eggs for added richness.

What is the difference between macaroni and pasta salad?

Macaroni refers to the type of pasta used, which is usually elbow-shaped. Pasta salad, on the other hand, is a dish made with cooked pasta (which could be macaroni or any other type) mixed with various ingredients like vegetables, proteins, and dressing. Macaroni can be used as the base for a pasta salad, but pasta salad is not limited to just macaroni.

Why does Hawaiian food come with macaroni salad?

Macaroni salad became a staple in Hawaiian cuisine as a part of the traditional plate lunch, influenced by the multicultural heritage of the islands. It provides a creamy and tangy contrast to the rich and savory flavors of other dishes like teriyaki beef or kalua pork. The salad’s popularity can be attributed to its simplicity, affordability, and the comfort food aspect it brings to the meal.

How do you make macaroni salad so it doesn’t dry out?

To prevent macaroni salad from drying out, make sure to:

  • Cook the macaroni properly: It should be cooked al dente (still slightly firm) as overcooked pasta can become dry and mushy.
  • Cool the pasta quickly: After cooking, rinse the pasta in cold water to stop the cooking process and remove excess starch.
  • Use enough dressing: Ensure there is ample dressing to coat the pasta. The pasta will absorb some of the dressing as it sits, so it might need a bit more than you think.
  • Store properly: Keep the salad in an airtight container in the refrigerator. If it does start to dry out, you can rejuvenate it by adding a little bit of the dressing and mixing well before serving.


Congratulations! You have now learned how to make authentic Hawaiian macaroni salad. With this recipe, you can bring a taste of the Aloha State to your plate and impress your friends and family with your culinary skills.

Remember to use Best Foods mayonnaise for the best results, and don’t skimp on the mayo – it’s what makes this salad so creamy and delicious. If you’re watching your calorie intake, you can substitute some of the mayo with Greek yogurt, but keep in mind that this will change the flavor of the salad.

To achieve the perfect texture, be sure to cook your macaroni until it is fully cooked and slightly overcooked. This will help it absorb the mayo and other flavors in the salad.

You can also add local ingredients like ‘ulu (breadfruit) and kamaboko (fishcake) to give your macaroni salad a unique Hawaiian twist. And don’t forget to toss the macaroni with apple cider vinegar while it’s still hot to give it a tangy flavor.

So go ahead and give this recipe a try – we’re confident you’ll love it!

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