Hawaiian Macaroni Salad

March 29, 2021
Hawaiian Macaroni Salad is about the simplest, most basic macaroni salad around.  Yet despite its simplicity, it's packed full with fabulous flavor. Made with just a handful of basic pantry staples, authentic Hawaiian Macaroni Salad takes hardly any time to prep, is loaded with flavor, and is always a crowd-pleasing hit.

Serving Spoon of Hawaiian Macaroni Salad Image

Hawaiian Macaroni Salad is about the simplest, most basic macaroni salad around.  Yet despite its simplicity, it's packed full with fabulous flavor. Which makes it a perfect side for most any meal, especially all those spring and summer backyard barbecues.

But just what makes it Hawaiian macaroni salad? 

Well, authentic Hawaiian Macaroni Salad is a basic combination of macaroni noodles, shredded carrot, shredded or grated onion, and apple cider vinegar, coated with a simple milk-thinned mayonnaise dressing seasoned simply with salt, pepper, and sugar. 

But being called "Hawaiian" seemingly has nothing to do with including any Hawaii-specific ingredients.  In doing a little digging about this classic, it appears this specific style of macaroni salad became popular in Hawaii primarily because it's so inexpensive to make.

Despite its simplicity, Hawaiian Macaroni Salad is packed full with fabulous flavor.

Not only is this Hawaiian Macaroni Salad recipe economical, it's also easy to prep, loaded with flavor, and always a crowd-pleaser.  It comes together with just a handful of basic pantry staples, and takes hardly any time at all to prep.

A few hallmarks of Hawaiian Macaroni Salad make it distinct.  First and foremost, the macaroni noodles are fully-cooked, to the point of qualifying as overcooked. These nice plump noodles better soak up the salad's dressing and flavor. 

Second, apple cider vinegar is a must.  Stirring apple cider vinegar into the hot cooked noodles for them to soak up sets the stage for the salad's characteristic flavor.  

And finally, we can't forget Hawaiian Macaroni Salad's signature mayonnaise dressing. -- Mayonnaise thinned with milk, and seasoned simply with salt, pepper, and sugar, creates this salad's creaminess and finishes out its distinct flavor.

Plate of Hawaiian Macaroni Salad Image

Hawaiian Macaroni Salad Ingredients:

One of the defining characteristics of Hawaiian Macaroni Salad is its economical use of a small number of simple ingredients.  There's nothing fancy here! -- Just a delicious mix of basic pantry staples.

To whip up a big bowlful, you'll need:

  • Elbow macaroni - A one-pound package of macaroni forms the noodle base of this classic salad.

  • Apple cider vinegar - A signature ingredient in Hawaiian Macaroni Salad. The cooked noodles absorb the vinegar, setting the stage for Hawaiian Macaroni Salad's characteristic flavor.

  • Shredded carrot - The simple, classic vegetable mix-in for Hawaiian-style macaroni salad.

  • Shredded or grated onion - By shredding or grating the onion, it blends nicely into the macaroni salad and provides the flavor boost it's there for, without having chunks of onion to bite into.  Optionally, you can finely chop the onion if you prefer.

  • Mayonnaise & milk - Simple milk-thinned mayonnaise dressing is another signature element of Hawaiian Macaroni Salad. Many recipes specify that Hellmann's/Best Foods brand mayonnaise is the only brand to use! I have, however, made it with several different brands of mayonnaise, and they've all been tasty.

  • Sugar - A small touch of granulated sugar rounds out the mayonnaise-based dressing.

  • Salt & pepper - Salt and pepper season the salad simply. Stir some into the mayonnaise dressing, and then add more to taste at serving time, if needed.
Hawaiian Macaroni Salad Ingredients Image


How to Make Hawaiian Macaroni Salad:

Whipping up a big bowl of Hawaiian Macaroni Salad is quite easy.  It's a super straightforward pasta salad that doesn't require much prep.

The first step is to fully-cook, or actually almost overcook, the macaroni noodles. Get those noodles nice and plump when you cook them, as that's a signature element of Hawaiian Macaroni Salad.  Plump, fully-cooked noodles better absorb the salad's characteristic apple cider vinegar and mayonnaise-based dressing.

Hawaiian Macaroni Salad is a super straightforward pasta salad that doesn't require much prep.

To create the salad's characteristic tangy base of flavor, stir the hot cooked noodles together with apple cider vinegar, shredded carrot, and shredded or grated onion.  Set this mixture aside at room temperature to cool for about 10 to 15 minutes.

While the macaroni cools, whisk together mayonnaise, milk, a little sugar, and salt and pepper to make the salad's dressing.  Then fold it into the macaroni mixture until the noodles are all good and coated.

Pop the salad into the refrigerator to chill for at least four hours (or overnight) before serving to allow the flavors to meld.  Then you're good to go with digging into the deliciousness!

Easy as can be, right?

How to Make Hawaiian Macaroni Salad Image

What Makes Hawaiian Macaroni Salad "Hawaiian?"

There are a few distinct characteristics that define Hawaiian Macaroni Salad, and no, it's not that it includes pineapple! (Though believe me, as demonstrated in our Pineapple Shrimp Macaroni Salad, pineapple is indeed quite tasty in a macaroni salad.)

What makes Hawaiian Macaroni Salad "Hawaiian" is the sheer fact that it is this specific style of macaroni salad that's very popular in Hawaii. -- It has nothing to do with including any Hawaii-specific ingredients. The key elements of this Hawaiian-style staple are:

  • Simple, inexpensive, economical ingredients - Hawaiian Macaroni Salad comes together with just a few basic pantry staples.

  • Fully-cooked macaroni noodles - The macaroni noodles are fully-cooked, to the point of qualifying as overcooked. These nice plump noodles better soak up the salad's signature dressing. 

  • Apple cider vinegar - The cooked noodles absorb the vinegar, setting the stage for Hawaiian Macaroni Salad's characteristic tangy flavor.

  • Milk-thinned mayonnaise dressing - Mayonnaise thinned with milk, and seasoned simply with salt, pepper, and sugar, creates this salad's creaminess and finishes out its distinct flavor.

  • Shredded carrot - Sticking to the first element of simple and inexpensive ingredients, shredded carrot is the sole texture- and color-adding mix-in for this Hawaiian Macaroni Salad recipe.

Fork Bite of Hawaiian Macaroni Salad Image

So if you'd like to whip up an easy, flavorful, and crowd-pleasing pasta salad, give this Hawaiian Macaroni Salad a try.

Made with just a handful of basic pantry staples, it takes hardly any time to prep and is loaded with fabulous flavor.

Hawaiian Macaroni Salad Image
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basic macaroni salad recipe, Hawaiian macaroni salad, Hawaiian macaroni salad recipe, how to make Hawaiian macaroni salad
Salads
Hawaiian
Yield: about 8-10 servings
Author: Tracey | The Kitchen is My Playground
Hawaiian Macaroni Salad

Hawaiian Macaroni Salad

Hawaiian Macaroni Salad is about the simplest, most basic macaroni salad around. Yet despite its simplicity, it's packed full with fabulous flavor. Made with just a handful of basic pantry staples, authentic Hawaiian Macaroni Salad takes hardly any time to prep, is loaded with flavor, and is always a crowd-pleasing hit.
Prep time: 20 MinCook time: 20 MinInactive time: 4 HourTotal time: 4 H & 40 M

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. elbow macaroni (about 3 1/2 c. uncooked noodles)
  • 3 T. apple cider vinegar
  • 2 large carrots, shredded
  • 1/4 c. shredded or grated onion (1 small onion)
  • 2 1/2 c. mayonnaise
  • 1/4 c. milk
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. pepper

Instructions

  1. Cook elbow macaroni in salted water, according to the package directions.  Drain and place in a large bowl.
  2. Immediately while macaroni is hot, add apple cider vinegar, shredded carrot, and shredded onion; toss to combine.  Set aside to cool for 10-15 minutes.
  3. While macaroni mixture is cooling, whisk together mayonnaise, milk, sugar, salt, and pepper.
  4. Combine mayonnaise mixture with the macaroni mixture and fold together until macaroni is well coated.
  5. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight to allow flavors to meld before serving.  Stir macaroni salad before serving. Adjust salt and pepper, to taste, if needed.
TRACEY'S NOTES:
  1. Fully cook the macaroni noodles, or go to the point of overcooking them for truly authentic Hawaiian Macaroni Salad. The very-cooked noodles better absorb the salad's signature apple cider vinegar and mayonnaise-based dressing.
  2. By shredding or grating the onion, it blends nicely into the macaroni salad and provides the flavor boost it's there for without having chunks of onion to bite into. Optionally, you can finely chop the onion if you prefer.
  3. I use a food processor to quickly and easily shred the carrots and onion.
  4. If the macaroni salad seems at all dry at serving time, stir in a tablespoon or two of milk or mayonnaise to "refresh" it.
  5. It's probably important to note many Hawaiian Macaroni Salad recipes specify that Hellmann's/Best Foods brand mayonnaise is the only brand that should be used! I have, however, made it with several different brands of mayonnaise, and they've all been tasty.
Created using The Recipes Generator

Hawaiian Macaroni Salad ~ About the simplest, most basic macaroni salad around! Yet despite its simplicity, it's packed full with fabulous flavor. Made with just a handful of basic pantry staples, authentic Hawaiian Macaroni Salad takes hardly any time to prep, is loaded with flavor, and is always a crowd-pleasing hit.  www.thekitchenismyplayground.com


This post is linked with Weekend Potluck.

7 comments

  1. I love macaroni salad, I am going to have to try and make this.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I have to admit I was expecting pineapples in this recipe just because of the name of course. But you explained it very well and it looks so delicious as it is. I love macaroni salad in the summer so thanks for sharing it. #HomeMattersParty

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks for sharing at the What's for Dinner Party! Enjoy the rest of your week!

    ReplyDelete
  4. What are the bits of green in the salad pictured? I don't see any green ingredients???

    ReplyDelete
  5. What are the bits of green in the salad in the photo? Chives? I don't see any green ingredients listed in recipe???

    ReplyDelete
  6. Oh, I'm so thankful for this! I'm planning to do a kalua style pulled pork shoulder in the slow cooker this week and your macaroni salad will make a perfect meal! Love the secret ingredient - vinegar. Had no idea! Happy week! Best, Jen

    ReplyDelete

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