Impress your family and friends at your next picnic or luau with this classic Hawaiian Macaroni Salad recipe. It pairs perfectly with any mixed plate meats!
One of my favorite things about a Hawaiian Mixed Plate is the sides! I absolutely love the brown calrose rice and Hawaiian Macaroni Salad. They are the the perfect parings for all the rich meats. Plus, they are delicious on their own. So, I knew I would have to figure out how to do both at home! I’ve found out how to make a great Hawaiian Mac Salad at home, and I can’t wait to share it with you.
Additionally, this recipe for Hawaiian Macaroni Salad is perfect for potlucks, luaus, or other entertaining. Watch it be one of the first things to disappear! It’s so flavorful, rich, and creamy!
While this recipe calls for a short list of ingredients, for best flavor, it requires a few hours of chilling time. So, be sure to plan ahead when bringing this to your next gathering.
Hawaiian Macaroni Salad Ingredients
For this recipe, you will need the following ingredients:
- Elbow Macaroni
- Apple Cider Vinegar
- Onion Powder (Optional)
- Brown Sugar
- Salt and Pepper
Even though there are many variations of Hawaiian Macaroni Salad, my version keeps it simple and classic. Consequently, there are no celery, peas, or other add-ins found in other recipes. You will only find carrots in this recipe. That’s not to say you couldn’t add those add-ins, but I only add carrots.
Truth be told, I despise raw onion. They make me gag! However, I do like the flavor of onions. So, I substitute onion powder for the raw onion. That way, I still get the onion flavor without the raw onion bite that makes me gag. However, if you like raw onions, substitute the onion powder for 1/4 cup of grated or finely diced onion.
For the best tasting Hawaiian Mac Salad, you need to use Best Foods or Hellman’s mayonnaise. Trust me! Nothing else will taste as good. So, splurge and go for the good stuff.
If you want to make this recipe dairy-free, you can use non-dairy milk. However, when I used almond milk, my mac salad was much more watery. So, keep that in mind when making this recipe.
Hawaiian Macaroni Salad Preparation
Preparing this Hawaiian Macaroni Salad is really easy. In fact, there’s only 3 simple steps: preparing the mayonnaise-based dressing, cooking the noodles, and assembling and chilling the pasta salad.
Mixing the Dressing
To prepare the salad dressing, add mayonnaise, milk, and brown sugar to a large mixing bowl. Then, whisk the ingredients together until smooth and creamy. Set the mixture aside for future use.
Eventually, the pasta will be added to the same bowl. By mixing the dressing in a large bowl, only one dish is dirtied. I’ll always opt for less dishes to clean!
Cooking the Pasta
Cooking the pasta well will make or break your pasta salad. In a large pot, bring 4 quarts water to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon salt and pasta and cook for 9-12 minutes.
In this recipe, it’s especially important to cook your macaroni noodles until they are very soft. However, you don’t want to overcook them your so they become mushy either. The best way to do this is to cook your pasta until it is al dente (has a slight chewiness). Then, cook the pasta for an additional 1-2 minutes.
The reason we cook the pasta until it is very soft is because pasta hardens as it cools. If you leave some bite in your pasta, it will become even harder as it cools. So, to prevent it from being too tough and chewy, overcook the pasta slightly. That way, it will still be soft and firm.
Once your noodles are cooked, drain the pasta and return the pasta to the pot. Do not rinse pasta because this will remove the salt. Salt = flavor!
Another key to great pasta, is adding vinegar after the pasta is cooked and drained. The acid in the vinegar and the residual heat from the cooking pasta make the noodles more absorbent. Therefore, they’ll really soak up the flavor from the mayo-based dressing. Plus, the vinegar adds a nice tang that balances out the richness of the dressing.
At the same time I add the vinegar, I add the carrots and onion powder (if using). This allows the carrots to soften slightly, and it allows the pasta to soak up the onion flavor. Be sure to gently toss everything together to keep the noodles in tact. Then, allow the pasta to cool to room temperature for about 10-15 minutes.
Assembling the Salad
For final assembly, using a rubber spatula, gently fold the macaroni into the dressing until all the noodles are evenly coated. Then, add salt and pepper to taste.
Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 2 days. Chilling the Hawaiian Macaroni Salad allows the pasta to absorb the flavors of the dressing.
Prior to serving, gently toss pasta again. If the pasta is dry, add up to a tablespoon of milk to hydrate the pasta.
Hawaiian Macaroni Salad Serving Suggestions
This Hawaiian Macaroni Salad is perfect served with these other mixed plate dishes:
- Slow Cooker Kalua Pork and Cabbage
- Low-Carb Baked Katsu Chicken
- Hawaiian Teriyaki Chicken Thighs
- SPAM Musubi Rolls
- Air Fryer Grilled Pineapple
To complete your luau, add some fresh pineapple water to serve with your Hawaiian mixed plate.
Although, it doesn’t only have to be paired with Hawaiian food. It’s perfect with grilled steak, chicken, hot dogs, or burgers. If you try it, be sure to leave me a comment and let me know what you like to serve it with!
Hawaiian Macaroni Salad
- 16 oz Elbow Macaroni
- 1/4 cup Apple Cider Vinegar
- 2 large Carrots Shredded
- 1 tsp Onion Powder Optional
- 2 cups Mayonnaise
- 1/4 cup Milk
- 2 tsp Brown Sugar
- Salt To Taste
- Pepper To Taste
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, milk, and brown sugar. Set aside.
- In a large pot, bring 4 quarts water to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon salt and pasta and cook until pasta is very soft (but not mushy), about 9-12 minutes.
- Drain the pasta and return to pot. Add vinegar, carrots, and onion powder (if using) and gently toss until vinegar is absorbed. Allow the pasta to cool to room temperature, about 10-15 minutes.
Assembling the Salad
- Using a rubber spatula, fold the macaroni into the mayo mixture until all the noodles are evenly coated. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 2 days. Prior to serving, gently toss pasta. If the pasta is dry, add up to a tablespoon of milk to hydrate the pasta.