/ / / / / Real Hawaiian Macaroni Salad

Real Hawaiian Macaroni Salad

Hawaiian Macaroni Salad is an easy to make pasta salad side dish for any luau, potluck, or Hawaiian plate lunch craving when paired with sticky rice, kalua pork, and spam musubi. 

A black bowl full of hawaiian macaroni salad sitting in front of half a red onion and a carrot

There’s something special about Hawaiian Macaroni Salad that’s hard to explain. For me it’s the unique tangy flavor of the dressing paired with the pure nostalgia of having a Hawaiian plate lunch. I can’t make Kalua Pork or Spam Musubi without my family asking me to make this as well.

You typically get a nice big scoop of this at any Hawaiian restaurant right next to your sticky rice and meat. Some other pairings that would work well other than kalua pork are grilled teriyaki chicken or beef and spam. 

It took a long time to get this Hawaiian Macaroni Salad right but now all I have to remember is to make it the night before. Don’t be tempted to try to make it right before you are going to serve it because it needs that overnight rest for all of the flavors to meld.

Ingredients you need:

  • large elbow macaroni pasta
  • carrots
  • onion
  • pepper
  • salt 
  • sugar
  • apple cider vinegar
  • mustard
  • mayonnaise
  • milk

How to make Hawaiian Macaroni Salad:

  1. Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling water for 1-3 minutes past the al dente time stated on the package.
  2. Drain well and spread onto a cookie sheet or tray to allow the pasta to cool.
  3. Using the small holes on a box grater, shred the carrots and onion straight into a bowl. Add the rest of the dressing ingredients and mix well.
  4. Toss the cooked pasta in the dressing and refrigerate overnight. 
  5. Serve with sticky rice, kalua pork or extra saucy teriyaki chicken.
A glass measuring cup with finely shredded carrots, onion, and mustard on top.

Tips and Tricks

How to get authentic Hawaiian Macaroni Salad?

The key to getting really good Hawaiian Macaroni Salad is using large elbow macaroni and cooking it past al dente. Overcooking the pasta till it’s big and soft allows the pasta to soak up the sauce more and gives it the right texture.

I’ve seen some recipes that dump tons of milk into the pasta to give it that soft texture that is typical of Hawaiian style macaroni but the overcooking of the pasta takes care of that without needing to dump in 3 cups of milk.

How to properly cool pasta for macaroni and pasta salad

After you are done cooking the pasta allow it to cool on a cookie sheet or some kind of tray instead of cooling in a bowl. Not only will it cool faster but it’s less likely to get stuck in a big clump.

If the pasta is not cool enough the pasta will completely soak up the dressing and your pasta will taste kind of bland. It really is amazing how much the pasta can soak up sauce when it’s hot and then have NO flavor.

Tips for making the dressing

When making the dressing I find it easiest to add the shredded carrots to the dressing rather than the salad. I finely shred the onion over the bowl because it gets very juicy as you shred it and you want to keep all that juice and save it for the dressing.

Than add the mustard and after that you can add all the liquid ingredients. That way you aren’t splashing stuff all over the place adding heavier ingredients on top of a bunch of liquid ingredients.

A fork full of macaroni salad in front of a bowl of hawaiian macaroni salad
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Other easy recipes for a Hawaiian potluck

Recipe

A bowl of Hawaiian macaroni salad sitting on top of a white napkin with a fork beside it.

Real Hawaiian Macaroni Salad

Hawaiian Macaroni Salad is perfect for any luau or Hawaiian plate lunch paired with kalua pork and spam musubi.
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Fridge time: 8 hours
Total Time: 40 minutes
Course: Side
Cuisine: Hawaiian
Servings: 12 servings
Calories: 470kcal
Author: Jade Jones

Ingredients

  • 16 oz large elbow macaroni

Salad dressing

  • 2 carrots finely shredded
  • 1/2 onion finely shredded
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp mustard
  • 2 1/2 cups mayonnaise
  • 2 Tbsp milk

Instructions

  • Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling water for 1-3 minutes past the al dente time stated on the package. Drain well and spread onto a cookie sheet or tray to allow the pasta to cool.
  • Using the small holes on a box grater, shred the carrots and onion straight into a bowl.  Add the rest of the dressing ingredients and mix well.  
  • Toss the cooked pasta in the dressing and refrigerate overnight.  Serve with sticky rice, kalua pork or extra saucy teriyaki chicken.

Nutrition

Calories: 470kcal | Carbohydrates: 31g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 35g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Cholesterol: 19mg | Sodium: 418mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 3g
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12 Comments

  1. Could you rinse the pasta in cold water, like you do for some pasta salads, then add dressings?

    1. So the reason you should NOT rinse pasta is because you also rinse off the starch on the outside which is what helps the sauce or dressing stick to it. Laying it out to cool does take a little extra time but I have found the pasta when laid out on a cookie sheet cools generally in just a few minutes.

  2. 5 stars
    This Mac salad is delicious. I have made it a few times now for different BBQ’s and everyone loves it! Amazing flavor!

  3. 5 stars
    This pasta salad came out PERFECTLY! Such great flavor — everyone loved it! I will be making it again for sure.

  4. These sound like such great tips. I have never made Hawaiian macaroni salad, but now i feel like I am armed and ready! I will have to make some for a BBQ this summer just so I can give it a try!

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