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?
Everyone is different when it comes to vinegar, but I just want you to have a dish that you’ll make again and again, because you love it so much. (You’ll see in the comments that some readers find the original recipe way too vinegary, while others think it’s just perfect!)
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.
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.
Hawaiian Macaroni Salad
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 pound elbow macaroni
- 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar (see notes)
- 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
- 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.
- Drain well, transfer to a large bowl, and stir in vinegar. Cool at least 10 minutes.
- 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.
- Fold in scallions, carrots, and celery and stir to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour.
- I love the vinegar flavor in this recipe. I personally think it tastes great. BUT. If you think 1/2 cup vinegar sounds like too much, feel free to use less. Perhaps add 1 tablespoon at a time. A couple of readers have suggested this had way too much vinegar and they were disappointed. I want you to love the recipe!
- If the pasta salad seems dry, stir in warm water, one tablespoon at a time, to loosen.
- Adapted from Best Potluck Recipes.
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