Hawaiian Macaroni Salad

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Hawaiian macaroni salad is a deliciously creamy, meatless side dish with tangy and sweet flavors. An easy pasta salad recipe for summer!

hawaiian macaroni salad

At the heart of any Hawaiian lunch plate is the humble macaroni salad. 

The concept of noodles and vegetables tossed in dressing can be found around the world, but the combination of flavors used is unique to this string of islands.

Incredibly tasty and budget-friendly, this is one easy pasta salad recipe that you’ll want to make again and again!

ingredients in bowls for hawaiian mac salad

Hawaiian Macaroni Salad

Creamy homemade dressing with a touch of brown sugar adds a delightful sweetness to this Hawaiian mac salad. And tiny bits of red onion, celery, scallions, and carrot add texture and crunch for one delicious bite!

There’s one secret ingredient that you won’t want to miss — apple cider vinegar! It adds just the right amount of bite without leaving an unpleasant aftertaste.

I love the sweet and tangy flavor of so many Hawaiian-style dishes. From ham and beef kabobs to BBQ pulled pork sliders, there are plenty of options to have you dreaming of sandy beaches.

hawaiian macaroni salad dressing ingredients in bowl

Recipe Tips and Tricks

  • Don’t skip the apple cider vinegar! Tossing the hot, drained noodles with this ingredient allows them to really soak up that tangy flavor. For extra zip, you can add some to the dressing as well.
  • Follow the steps carefully. The noodles need time to soak up the ACV while you prepare the dressing. Also, mixing the warm pasta with a portion of the dressing and the firmer vegetables helps create a nice creamy dish.
  • Chill well before serving. Allow 1 hour in the refrigerator before adding the last of the ingredients, then chill again for 3 to 4 hours for best results.
  • Time saving tip: Look for pre-grated carrots in the produce department of your local store. Or, get thick grated carrot pieces by putting whole, peeled carrots through the grater attachment of your food processor.
easy pasta salad recipe ingredients in bowl

Serving Suggestions

Hawaiian macaroni salad is a staple of the traditional “plate lunch” that is common across the islands.

It includes this creamy side, a big scoop (or two) of rice, and some sort of protein, while a “mixed plate” has an additional entree for a heartier meal.

Pulled pork or teriyaki chicken are great choices, or try smoked salmon for something a bit lighter.

Kitchen Tools You Will Need

  • Large Pot and Strainer for the pasta
  • Mixing Bowls – I like to have a variety of sizes on hand, and this set has them all.
  • Quality Knives and a big solid Cutting Board make prepping a breeze and are well worth the investment.

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vegetarian pasta salad

Hawaiian Macaroni Salad FAQ

What is Hawaiian macaroni salad made of?

It’s a very simple dish that combines tender pasta and diced or shredded vegetables.

Apple cider vinegar is used to create a tangy flavor, which is balanced with a sweet dressing made with mayonnaise, milk, brown sugar, and spices.

There are plenty of ways to customize it too! Add in some chopped ham or bacon, pineapple chunks, or green peas. Some canned tuna or imitation crab would be delicious as well.

Can I double this recipe?

You sure can! As written, it feeds 8-10 people, but you can increase the amounts to feed a crowd. Mixing in extra veggies or meat is another great way to stretch your servings.

How do you store Hawaiian mac salad?

Keep this dish refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

Because the noodles will continue to soak up all of the flavors, you can also make this easy pasta salad recipe the night before! Just add a little more mayo or ACV if it seems dry.

overhead: vegetarian pasta salad in wooden bowl

Enjoy!

With love, from our simple kitchen to yours. 

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meatless side dish with pasta

Other Easy Pasta Salad Recipes



hawaiian mac salad, close up

Hawaiian Macaroni Salad

Donna Elick
Hawaiian macaroni salad is a deliciously creamy side that’s the perfect balance of tangy and sweet. Try this easy pasta salad recipe today!
Tried this recipe?Please comment and review!
Prep Time 20 mins
Chill Time 4 hrs
Total Time 4 hrs 20 mins
Course Side Dish
Cuisine Hawaiian
Method Stovetop
Servings 8 -10

Ingredients
 

  • 1 pound elbow macaroni
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, or Himalayan sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/4 red onion, diced small
  • 1 1/2 cups carrots, grated
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 3 scallions, sliced

Instructions
 

  • In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the macaroni noodles until they are very plump (several minutes longer than recommended cook time).
    Drain pasta. Sprinkle apple cider vinegar over the pasta and toss to combine.
  • Place the pasta in a large mixing bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Allow the apple cider vinegar to soak into the pasta for about 15 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, whisk together mayonnaise, milk, pepper, salt, and brown sugar. Taste mixture and adjust seasoning to taste. You can also add additional apple cider vinegar to this dressing mixture for a bit of extra zing.
  • Pour half of the dressing mixture over the pasta and add the red onion and carrots. Toss together (the pasta should still be warm). Cover with plastic wrap (or a lid) and refrigerate for about 1 hour until pasta has cooled completely and the dressing mixture has soaked into the pasta.
  • Toss salad with remaining dressing, celery, and scallions. Refrigerate, covered for 3-4 hours longer.
  • Serve pasta alongside traditional Hawaiian mixed plate dishes.

Donna’s Notes

  1. Serve pasta alongside traditional Hawaiian mixed plate dishes.
  2. Keep refrigerated in an airtight container for 3-4 days.
  3. We use pre-grated carrots from the produce department at the grocery store. You can also make matchstick carrot pieces by putting whole, peeled carrots through the grater attachment on your food processor.
  4. Tossing the hot pasta with the apple cider vinegar allows the noodles to really soak up the flavor. Mixing a portion of the dressing and some of the vegetables with the warm pasta aids in making a nice creamy salad.
  5. Adjust the seasonings to your personal taste. You can also vary the add-ins. Some diced ham and pineapple and a little extra brown sugar in the dressing would be delicious! Bacon or kahlua pork would also be yummy.

Nutrition

Serving: 1 | Calories: 526cal | Carbohydrates: 48g | Protein: 9g | Fat: 33g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Cholesterol: 19mg | Sodium: 447mg | Sugar: 5g | Fiber: 3g | Calcium: 53mg | Iron: 1mg

All nutritional information is based on third party calculations and is only an estimate. Each recipe’s nutritional value will vary depending on the ingredients used, measuring methods, and portion sizes.

Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
titled pinterest collage for easy pasta salad recipe

Originally published March 2022

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7 Comments

  1. We mother-in-law used to make somethi g line this, but no onions or scallions in it. She put a can of drained pineapple chunks, added small chunks of cheddar cheese and small chunks of ham and frozen peas uncooked also added some plain Greek yogurt with the mayo mixture. Mixed it all up with other ingredients and put in frig for 8 hours or overnight we'd eat it the next day. It was soooooo good.

  2. How is it Hawaiian? There is no pineapple or anything making it anything but plain old macaroni salad, unless you count a tablespoon of brown sugar. Did you forget something?

    1. Shirley, I lived in Hawaii for several years, and this is indeed Hawaiian Macaroni salad. It has brown sugar in it, and they actually cook the noodles over the amount of time. This is the actual way they serve it. It isn't hawaiian because it has "hawaiian ingredients" in it, but the process they use to make it.

  3. Like the other posters, if a recipe has Hawaiian in the title, then I expect to see pineapple and/or coconut in the recipe. The recipe itself does sound good and I will try it for our next cookout. The recipe ingredients do seem to lend themselves well to pulled BBQ pork or teriyaki chicken. But I think putting Hawaiian in the title is a little misleading.

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