Hawaiian-inspired Macaroni Salad is a creamy, mayo-based pasta salad flavorful with soy sauce and aromatics. It is the accompaniment your meals need. If you’re grilling this summer, this needs to be a part of your menu. It’s so good, it can also be enjoyed on its own.
*This post is an update of a post from 2020. I included new images and metric measurements.*
What is Hawaiian-Style Macaroni Salad?
Like many other colonized island recipes, visitors brought this dish to the Hawaiian islands. Mayonnaise- the dressing’s base ingredient- is a European invention. Pasta, in this form, at least, is Italian. So, we can confidently say this side dish wasn’t born in Hawaii. But, like most islanders, Hawaiians adapted this dish to suit their tastes and the ingredients they had access to. So, the Hawaiian version of Macaroni Salad was born.
If a Hawaiian plate lunch doesn’t have a scoop of this renowned side dish, you can throw it away. This is what you expect to see on your plate when ordering a Hawaiian meal, along with a couple of scoops of steamed white rice. Even people who don’t normally enjoy macaroni salad (my husband) pout when their lunch plate doesn’t include it.
Hawaiian macaroni salad is different because you overcook the pasta slightly. Hawaiians don’t fuss over cooking pasta to al dente, much like us Puerto Ricans. In fact, I find I actually prefer the macaroni to have less crunch in this recipe. The dressing is a vinegar and mayonnaise base which is the best of both worlds, in my opinion, because it’s sweet and acidic. Add-ins like peas, carrots, seafood of various sorts, and eggs create more complex versions of this dish. Here, we will keep it simple.
What are the ingredients in Hawaiian Macaroni Salad?
The ingredients in Hawaiian-inspired macaroni salad are mayonnaise, apple cider vinegar, soy sauce, white pepper, large elbow macaroni, shredded carrots, and finely minced green onions.
Kewpie mayo is a great choice of mayonnaise for Hawaiian macaroni salad if you can find it. Your favorite store brand mayo will also work. I avoid using salad dressing, AKA Miracle Whip, because of its already tangy flavor. It doesn’t pair well with the dressing’s other ingredients.
You can customize your mac salad by adding steamed peas, chopped boiled ham, crab meat, or chopped eggs. This particular recipe is like most islanders: super chill and laid back.
How do I make the dressing?
The trick to making this macaroni salad the creamiest, most flavorful salad you’ve had begins with the dressing.
Instead of using only mayonnaise, Hawaiian macaroni salad has the subtle acidic flavor of apple cider vinegar. It adds a twang to the dressing that blends well with the creamy mayonnaise but not so much that it’s sour. You can replace the apple cider vinegar with white wine vinegar, sweet rice wine vinegar, or, as a last resort, white distilled vinegar.
Add the vinegar and some of the mayo to a large mixing bowl. Save the rest of the mayo to add to the dish later on. Just keep it in a covered container in the fridge until then. Whisk the vinegar and mayo together until smooth.
Season the dressing with soy sauce, kosher salt, and ground white pepper. I prefer white pepper because it looks better. You can use black pepper if that’s all you have, though.
Whisk everything together until smooth, and set this bowl in the fridge to allow the flavors to marry while you prep the rest of the recipe components.
What veggies are in this Hawaiian Macaroni Salad?
Green onions, or scallions, are best in recipes where you want an oniony flavor without overwhelming the dish with pungency.
Cut off the root end, two inches off the tops, and remove the first layer of skin. Finely mince the green onions with a chef knife.
Shred peeled carrots with the large holes of a box grater. You don’t want to finely shred the carrots because they’ll discolor the salad and cause it to become watery.
After you mince the green onion and shred the carrots, you can combine them in the same bowl and put the bowl while you prepare the macaroni.
Can I more veggies to it?
You can add other vegetables to your macaroni salad. Some of my favorites to add are:
- 1 cup of shelled, steamed, and cooled soybeans
- 1 cup of steamed and cooled peas
- 1 cup of grilled corn kernels
Let your imagination go wild with your add-ins.
How long do I cook the pasta?
The macaroni in Hawaiian macaroni salad should be cooked a little past al dente. I describe it as pleasantly plump.
To prepare the pasta:
- Bring a gallon of water to a rapid boil over medium-high heat. Once the water begins to boil, salt it with 1 tablespoon of kosher salt.
- Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook for 11 minutes, stirring the noodles occasionally to prevent them from clumping together.
- Drain the pasta in a colander and rinse it under cold water to slow the cooking process.
Unlike other pasta salad recipes, Hawaiian macaroni salad is best dressed while the pasta is still warm. That’s the other trick to a flavorful mac salad. The pasta wants to absorb anything it’s covered in when it’s warm. Add the warm pasta to the dressing now, so it absorbs as much flavor as possible.
Can I make this Gluten-Free?
Yes! Just to make gluten-free macaroni salad, replace the soy sauce with tamari and the wheat pasta with a gluten-free elbow macaroni, like Barilla.
How far ahead can I mix the Macaroni Salad?
Toss the pasta into the bowl of dressing, along with the shredded carrots and the minced green onions. The pasta is already beginning to absorb the dressing and its flavor, which means that, instead of being coated in the dressing, the dressing is absorbed into the pasta.
Fold the pasta, carrots, and onions into that dressing using a large spoon. After mixing, cover the bowl and refrigerate it for 1- 1 1/2 hours (or a few hours). You can make macaroni salad 3 days ahead and store it in the fridge.
How do I make a creamy Hawaiian Macaroni Salad?
Reserving a portion of the mayonnaise and folding it into the macaroni salad just before serving it is how to make the creamiest Hawaiian macaroni salad ever. The macaroni absorbs as much of that mayo dressing as it can as it sits. As a result, it will look drier than when you first mixed the two together.
Adding the remaining mayo to the macaroni salad will make it creamy again. Give it a taste for seasoning and add more salt or white pepper to your liking. If you like your salad really creamy add a up to a cup more mayonnaise.
What other ingredients can I add to this recipe?
Add one or two of the following to customize this recipe to your tastes:
- shredded cheddar cheese
- diced spam or deli ham
- chopped hard-boiled eggs
As always, explore more ingredients that suit your fancy and add them as desired, but only up to one cup.
How do I serve Macaroni Salad?
My favorite way to eat this Hawaiian-inspired macaroni salad is with Moco Loco (over steamed white rice) with a fried egg on top.
I typically leave the macaroni salad in a nice dish and let my family serve themselves. If you’re taking this to a BBQ, transfer it to a disposable aluminum pan and cover it with plastic wrap. Ensure you or the host keeps the pan on ice to prevent the mayonnaise from going bad.
How do I store it?
Keep macaroni salad in the fridge or on ice as much as possible since it contains mayonnaise. If you’re storing it on ice, give it a stir periodically to keep the entire dish of salad cold. Keep it out of direct sunlight if you’re serving it at an outdoor function since that’s like holding it under a heat lamp.
Discard any leftovers that weren’t kept cold, especially if the salad was held for more than 1 hour in the heat. Just keep it refrigerated in a food storage container when you’re not serving it if you’re serving it at home for lunch or dinner.
Prepared macaroni salad can be kept in a covered container in the refrigerator for 3 days.
Can I freeze Macaroni Salad?
You can’t freeze macaroni salad because it contains mayonnaise. After thawing, the salad is watery, and the mayonnaise is curdled, so I don’t recommend it.
Again, you can make macaroni salad 3 days ahead and store it in the fridge. The longer it sits, the better the flavor gets. Just remember to stir it well before serving it.
What goes well with Macaroni Salad?
You can Hawaiian macaroni salad on its own, but it goes especially well with grilled meats. You can also serve it as a vegetarian dish and scoop it onto bibb lettuce leaves. I’ve eaten it on its own straight from a bowl.
Give this Hawaiian-inspired Macaroni Salad a try for your next cookout or luau. Don’t forget to pin it to your side dish boards and share it with your world!
Please see more list about Hawaiian macaroni salad cooks country