Satisfy your summer craving with this quick and easy-to-make Hawaiian Macaroni Salad. Featuring macaroni, carrots, celery, and onions tossed in a sweet and tangy mayo-based dressing. This is made with the simplest ingredients yet delivers refreshing flavors to help you cool down this summer.
A bowl or two of this cold Hawaiian Macaroni Salad keeps me full and refreshed in this hot weather. Nothing extravagant, just a simple recipe with basic ingredients that you can make any time for a quick snacking or side dish. Aah! Simply satisfying!
It’s like my happy pill, especially when I eat it with the whole family. We love to pair it with a Shrimp Po’Boy or Grilled Cheese Sandwich and a glass of our favorite juice for the best comfort food lunch combo. Oh yes!
Authentic Hawaiian Macaroni Salad
Hawaiian Mac Salad is an economical version of regular macaroni salad but adapted to suit the budget of the locals. Its simple ingredients, including macaroni, mayonnaise, carrots, and onions, are satisfyingly filling. This salad has become a street food specialty, and you’ll find this Hawaiian classic on the menu of even the finest restaurants.
You can enjoy a hearty and refreshing macaroni salad made with these simple and affordable ingredients below.
- Macaroni – You can also use other varieties of pasta like shells, rotini, or bowtie. However, I strongly discourage using spaghetti or thin noodles for this salad. It just wouldn’t be right. But nah! It still depends on your preference. 😉
- Apple Cider Vinegar – This amazing ingredient added to hot pasta makes it absorb the dressing flavors better. However, you can use rice or white wine vinegar if you don’t have ACV.
- Dressing – This mayo-based dressing made even creamier with a bit of milk and sugar is a creamy delight. Homemade mayonnaise makes it even better, but your favorite store-bought version will work fine. Yogurt and sour cream also work if you don’t have mayo. It looks like a lot of milk, but it makes the dressing is extra creamy.
- Onion – A pungent spice with a strong flavor and aroma. The complex flavor of sweet and spicy notes adds an exciting flavor to this creamy salad. Check out How to Cut Onions for a less stressful event.
- Celery – A pleasantly crunchy vegetable that adds a nice texture to the macaroni salad.
- Carrots – Another crunchy veggie that adds vibrant color and a nice balance to the creamy salad, and it’s good for you. So, yay!
- Green Onions – Often used as a garnish but also adds bold flavors to this Hawaiian macaroni salad.
How to Make Hawaiian Macaroni Salad
Make the Salad Dressing
- Cook the Macaroni according to package instructions.
- Drain and place it in a large mixing bowl. Add the apple cider vinegar while the macaroni is hot. Mix it gently and set it aside.
- Combine – In a separate bowl, combine the dressing ingredients: mayonnaise, milk (start with 1 cup, and add as needed for the desired consistency), sugar, salt, and pepper. Mix until everything is well incorporated. Set aside. (Photos 1-2)
Mixing the Salad
- Add the Veggies – Put the onion, carrot, celery, and green onion in the bowl of macaroni. (Photo 3)
- Dress It – Pour the salad dressing over it and mix until everything is evenly coated. (Photos 4-6)
- Refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving.
- Make it the Meal – Shredded chicken, leftover ham, crispy bacon, and hard-boiled eggs make this salad a satisfying one-salad lunch. Oh, and I can’t forget the Hawaiian passion for SPAM; that would make it an absolute classic.
- Cheese Please – Enjoy cheesy goodness with grated cheddar cheese or crumbled feta cheese. Ohh! Yum!
- Tropical Twist – Yes! Pineapple does belong in this fantastic salad recipe. And I know you’ll agree, too!
- Make it Vegan – Just replace the mayo and dairy with vegan mayo and soy or almond milk. You can also use a healthier alternative to sugar, like coconut sugar or a little agave.
Tips for Perfect Pasta
- It’s better to ever so slightly undercook your pasta than overcook it. The residual heat will continue to steam it and bring it to a perfect finale. However, if you overcook it, it will fall apart when you stir in the other ingredients. Go ahead and try one; not too chewy and not too soft. 😉
- Make sure you have plenty of water in your pot, so your pasta has room to expand. Three quarts of water for every pound of pasta is an excellent place to start.
- Don’t forget to add the salt as soon as the water boils and before adding the pasta. And reserve a cup or two of the water when you drain the pasta. If the pasta absorbs too much of the dressing, then you can add a splash of the pasta water. It will work wonders.
Serving and Storage Instructions
This recipe does better with a little patience. Let it chill about two hours before serving, or you can make it the day before to really let the flavors meld.
Store the Hawaiian macaroni salad in an airtight container to ensure freshness. It should last for four days. I don’t recommend freezing it, though you can do so for a week or two. Freezing changes the texture of the pasta and typically turns raw veggies into mush.
Pro Tip: Once refrigerated, the Hawaiian mac salad tends to dry out. Just add a little more mayo and a splash of milk to moisten it back up.
Hawaiians are experts at creating delicious, economical meals. And these ingredients are very affordable and accessible for a filling and satisfying side dish that can also double as a meal.
It really depends on your preference. However, red onions are my go-to’s if adding them raw to a salad. If you want to sautee them first, go for the white because the red turns a funky grey when you cook it.
Of course! Talk about a Hawaiian classic becoming an even greater tradition. I like frying spam slices first to toast them a little before chopping them into cubes and mixing them into the mac salad.
What to Serve with Hawaiian Macaroni Salad
The traditional street-food lunch menu includes barbecued ribs, rice, macaroni salad, and greens. But you can pair this appetizing Hawaiian mac salad with these mouthwatering recipes to make it more filling and satisfying.
More Satisfying Pasta Recipes to Try
Ahhh, this hearty Hawaiian salad recipe always is the first to disappear at family gatherings. What unique ingredient do you like to add to your standby macaroni salad recipe? Reach out and let me know.❤️
Watch How to Make It
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Hawaiian Macaroni Salad
- Cook the macaroni according to package instructions.
- Drain and place it in a large mixing bowl. Add the apple cider vinegar while the macaroni is still hot, mix it gently, and set it aside.
- In a separate bowl, combine the dressing ingredients: mayonnaise, milk, sugar, salt, and pepper. Mix until everything is well incorporated, and set aside.
- Add the veggies (onion, carrot, celery, and green onion) to the bowl of macaroni.
- Pour in the salad dressing and mix until the macaroni and veggies are evenly coated.
- Refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving.
Tips & Notes:
- Be careful not to overcook your pasta or it will turn mushy.
- Toss the freshly cooked and drained pasta in apple cider vinegar for easy absorption of flavor.
- Mayo-based pasta salad only lasts 1-2 hours at room temperature, so remember to refrigerate the leftovers as soon as everyone is done eating.
- Please keep in mind that nutritional information is a rough estimate and can vary greatly based on the products used.