Hawaiian Macaroni Salad

Authentic Hawaiian Macaroni Salad has soft noodles, creamy dressing, and lots of shredded carrots. It’s also a crucial component of Hawaii’s “plate lunch.” 

Hawaiian Macaroni Salad is a somewhat specific, non-tropical pasta salad featured heavily at parties, potlucks, and restaurants all over the islands of Hawaii.

If you were expecting pineapple and coconut, you’ll be sorely disappointed! But who wants coconut in pasta salad anyway?

Authentic Hawaiian Macaroni Salad has soft noodles, creamy dressing, and lots of shredded carrots. It's also a crucial component of Hawaii's "plate lunch."

Hawaiian Macaroni Salad is one third of a traditional meal known as a “plate lunch.” Similar to the way a bento box has standard components, a plate lunch has a meat entree, two scoops of sticky rice, and a spoonful of this creamy, luscious macaroni salad. Sounds like lunch to me!

First, the noodles. Cook your macaroni to the point of overcooking it. The noodles should be soft, fat, and ready to soak up lots of sauce.

To get a vinegar bite without curdling the dressing, add vinegar straight to the noodles while they are still hot.

Authentic Hawaiian Macaroni Salad has soft noodles, creamy dressing, and lots of shredded carrots. It's also a crucial component of Hawaii's "plate lunch."

Second, the sauce. Thick and creamy, use full-fat milk and mayonnaise, and lots of it. If you find your dressing dries out before serving time, you can stir in small amounts of warm water to loosen the overall consistency.

Last, the vegetables. Shredded carrots are crucial. Celery and scallions are common but not required. They add a pretty green color and plenty of crunch.

Make this for your next birthday party or barbecue! Or, if you like your Macaroni Salad a little more traditional, try my favorite version.

 

Save this Hawaiian Macaroni Salad to your “Side Dishes” Pinterest board!

And let’s be friends on Pinterest! I’m always pinning tasty recipes!

Authentic Hawaiian Macaroni Salad has soft noodles, creamy dressing, and lots of shredded carrots. It's also a crucial component of Hawaii's "plate lunch."
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Hawaiian Macaroni Salad

Authentic Hawaiian Macaroni Salad has soft noodles, creamy dressing, and lots of shredded carrots. It's also a crucial component of Hawaii's "plate lunch."

Servings 10 servings

Ingredients

  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound elbow macaroni
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and grated
  • 2 stalks celery, finely chopped

Instructions

  1. In a large stockpot, bring 4 quarts water and 1 tablespoon salt to a boil, Stir in pasta and cook until very soft, about 15 minutes, stirring often. 

  2. Drain well, transfer to a large bowl, and stir in vinegar. Cool at least 10 minutes.

  3. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together milk, mayonnaise, brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 2 teaspoons pepper. Pour over cooled noodles and stir until evenly coated.

  4. Fold in scallions, carrots, and celery and stir to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour. 

Recipe Notes

  1. If the pasta salad seems dry, stir in warm water, one tablespoon at a time, to loosen.
  2. Adapted from Best Potluck Recipes.

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Authentic Hawaiian Macaroni Salad has soft noodles, creamy dressing, and shredded carrots. It's also part of Hawaii's

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3 comments

  1. Thanks for this recipe. There is a teriyaki grill near my daughters home, and they serve this salad. We love it. It’s amazing how such simple ingredients combine to make something really delicious.

    • That’s so great to hear, Mimi! I appreciate your kind words. I love how easy this is. The one I always used to make has a million mix-ins – ham, bacon, broccoli, carrots, peppers, cheese, hard-boiled eggs, plus all this stuff. It’s just exhausting after a while! But you can throw this one together in a flash. Thanks again for reading!

  2. This is certainly the kind that would be served on plate lunches, as is a good all-purpose recipe. I just wanted to add, however, that there is also a more substantial recipe that is sometimes found at potlucks and that kind of thing. I first had it when my Filipino roommate made it. It had the basic ingredients, plus chopped ham, chicken and pineapple. I’ve made it many, many times, although I don’t usually add chicken. The pineapple tidbits work the best, although sometimes I just cut up the chunks. I use it more as a main dish, with a green salad, maybe a cooked vegetable, and Asian style rice. My high school, in Hawaii, Waipahu, served a more basic macaroni salad, on a bed of raw watercress, with a few side dishes, for lunch, quite often, and it was one of my favorites!

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