Hawaiian Macaroni Salad – GypsyPlate

How many of you know that macaroni salad, aka mac salad, is an iconic side dish in Hawaii?

It’s simply made in a very unique Hawaiian style. Soft and tender macaroni becomes plump and juicy from being soaked for hours in a very unique dressing, allowing all the delicious flavors to be absorbed into the pasta when you serve it…

Hawaiian Macaroni Salad, AKA Mac Salad, is a uniquely flavorful and creamy twist on your classic barbecue side dish.

Hawaiian Macaroni Salad is creamy and full of savory, sweet and tangy comforting flavors. It’s perfect for barbecues, summer cookouts and your famous celebratory luaus. This is a side dish that you will find in every food truck and on the menu of all restaurants on the islands and is a common feature of all plate style lunches.

Learn how to make a classic and authentic Hawaiian macaroni salad and bring the island vibe to your next outdoor gathering.

Lately we’ve been drawn to a lot of Hawaiian classics, like kalua pork, loco moco, and Hawaiian-style chicken. One side dish we found that goes well with just about any roast or grill is this Hawaiian-Style Macaroni Salad.

It’s a very simple and straight forward dish that can feed large crowds. Your guests won’t help but come back for another scoop or two. The secret lies in its dressing and some tips and tricks to make it just perfect.

Hawaiian Macaroni Salad, AKA Mac Salad, is a uniquely flavorful and creamy twist on your classic barbecue side dish.

Creamy macaroni salad is one of Hawaii’s signature iconic side dishes. You’ll find many easy variations of this mac salad, from restaurants to food trucks to homes.

The large bowl of this pasta salad often includes grated carrots, grated onions, or chopped scallions, and sometimes even boiled eggs in the mix.

But what’s always a constant, of course, is macaroni pasta and its creamy, tangy, and sweet dressing concoction. And that dressing sets it apart from the other macaroni salads.

Hawaiian Macaroni Salad, AKA Mac Salad, is a uniquely flavorful and creamy twist on your classic barbecue side dish.

Lunch specials are a popular meal for Hawaiians that are both inexpensive and filling. You can find them all over their street stalls and trucks and in almost every single restaurant.

These lunch dishes can include many different types of protein, such as grilled meats or shredded pork or chicken. But they’re always served with a mayonnaise-based macaroni salad and two scoops of white rice, making the Hawaiian lunch special some serious high-carb food.

The plate lunch concept originated in the 1880s as a midday meal for workers on Hawaii’s sugar and pineapple plantations. Locals and plantation workers from China, Japan and Korea brought their lunches to work in bento boxes. Rice was used as an inexpensive way to fill up on the meat left over from the previous night’s dinner.

In the 1930s, new mobile meal services called lunch wagons appeared to cater to workers and drive-thru customers. The food was served in partitioned paper plates instead of bento boxes, hence the name “platter lunch”. The 1950s saw the end of the plantation era, but lunch fare remains a staple at drive-ins and freestanding restaurants across the islands.

Some believe mac salad evolved from potato salad brought to the island by European chefs who simply substituted pasta for potatoes to make it more economical.

Hawaiian Macaroni Salad, AKA Mac Salad, is a uniquely flavorful and creamy twist on your classic barbecue side dish.

Since Hawaii is a cultural melting pot with immigrants from all over the world, this is reflected in their lunch dishes. A typical plate lunch might include Japanese-style katsu pork or Chinese char-siu-style pork, or Filipino adobo, or very popular native Hawaiian dishes like loco moco, kalua pork, or spam musubi.

From the beginning, rice has been a staple on the plate. Macaroni salad was added some time later when Europeans introduced dry elbow macaroni and mayonnaise to the islands, as something that would appeal to many different palates.

Locals loved macaroni salad because it was affordable, stored well, and was easy to make at home. You’ll find heaping scoops of her beloved macaroni salad at most meals.

Its creamy, delicious flavor balances the bold, bold flavors of Hawaiian BBQ lunch dishes, which are often loaded with teriyaki and BBQ sauces.

ingredients in a bowl
  • Elbow Macaroni – Elbow macaroni are traditional in Hawaiian macaroni salad. Say that any short, small pasta can be used.
  • Apple Cider Vinegar – This adds flavor to the macaroni salad.
  • Vegetables – carrots, celery and green onions.
  • dressing – Mayonnaise (any good quality like Duke’s or Hellman’s), milk, brown sugar, salt and pepper.

1. Make the dressing: A great-tasting macaroni salad starts with a delicious dressing that has the perfect blend of sweet and savory flavors. Combine all the ingredients for the dressing in a medium bowl and stir until smooth. Cover and refrigerate until needed.

2. Cook Pasta: Hawaiian macaroni salad is known for softer macaroni noodles that are not al dente to better absorb the dressing. To do this, add another 5 minutes to the cooking time indicated on the package. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add macaroni and cook until very tender but not mushy, about 10 to 12 minutes.

3. Soak Up The Cooked Macaroni With Apple Cider Vinegar: Drain the pasta, return to the pot and immediately toss with the vinegar. Cover and let cool for 10 minutes.

4. Dress the salad and add the vegetables: Pour half of the dressing over the cooked pasta and stir well to coat the macaroni all over. Cover and let sit for another 20 minutes to allow the noodles to absorb the dressing. Add the remaining dressing, scallions, celery, and grated carrots to the pasta and stir well. Season with salt and pepper and taste.

5. Chill in the fridge: Cover and chill in the refrigerator at least 2 hours before serving. Stir gently when serving.

Hawaiian Macaroni Salad, AKA Mac Salad, is a uniquely flavorful and creamy twist on your classic barbecue side dish.
  • Cook the noodles in well-salted water for longer than the package says. This creates tender noodles that absorb the dressing well and are super delicious.
  • Immediately add apple cider vinegar to the drained hot pasta so it absorbs well into the pasta and adds a great flavor to the salad.
  • To make the salad creamier, you can reserve some dressing and add it just before serving.
  • Use good quality mayonnaise.
Hawaiian Macaroni Salad, AKA Mac Salad, is a uniquely flavorful and creamy twist on your classic barbecue side dish.
  1. Add hard-boiled eggs, either chopped or grated.
  2. While not as traditional, you can sometimes find something extra in this mac salad. Add additional ingredients like chopped cooked ham, diced pineapple, cooked and crumbled bacon, cooked potato chunks, tuna, or cooked peas.
  3. make it vegan Simply swap out the mayo for a high-quality vegan mayo, like Hellmann’s Vegan Mayonnaise.

The Hawaiian Macaroni Salad pairs perfectly with grilled meats, braised meats, and all types of grilled dishes. It is purely home cooking along with rice in their lunch dishes.

Serve with loco moco, huli huli chicken, Hawaiian-style kabobs, sliders, Hawaiian shoyu chicken, or smoked ribs. We loved it with Kahlua Pork which we will be releasing very soon.

Mac Salad served with Kahlua Pork

It goes great with Asian-inspired dishes like katsu, char sui pork, or teriyaki chicken.

Serve this Hawaiian-style mac salad with anything you would normally serve with regular macaroni salad.

Hawaiian macaroni salad, like most pasta salads, make great leftovers. Just cover tightly and store in an airtight container for up to 3-4 days. Stir gently before serving. If it seems a little too dry, mix in some mayonnaise and milk to flavor it again.

Hawaiian Macaroni Salad, AKA Mac Salad, is a uniquely flavorful and creamy twist on your classic barbecue side dish.

The next time you’re having a BBQ, the next time you’re invited to a potluck, or the next time you’re throwing a Hawaiian luau party, make a huge batch of this Hawaiian Macaroni Salad.

People will notice the difference and wonder why it’s so much creamier and more delicious than what they’re used to.

We have a feeling you’re going to love this Hawaiian-style macaroni salad so much that you’ll keep coming back to it. This one is a sure keeper for all your future gatherings and parties.

Bowl of mac salad on the gypsy plate

Try these other great cookout sites!
Rainbow Pasta Salad
Mexican corn salad
Mediterranean Quinoa Salad
Creole Coleslaw
Cowboy caviar
peach salsa
Chakalaka

Ingredients

  • 2 cups of mayonnaise

  • 2 cups of milk

  • 2 tbsp brown sugar

  • 1 teaspoon latte

  • 1 tsp pepper

  • 1 pound elbow macaroni

  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

  • 1 large carrot, peeled and grated

  • 2 large sticks of celery, finely diced

  • 4-5 spring onions, finely diced

instructions

  1. In a medium bowl, prepare the dressing by whisking together the milk, mayonnaise, brown sugar, salt, and pepper until smooth. Refrigerate until needed.
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add macaroni and cook until very tender but not mushy, about 10 to 12 minutes. (see note 1)
  3. Drain the pasta, return to the pot and immediately mix well with the vinegar. Cover and let cool for 10 minutes.
  4. Pour half of the dressing over the cooked pasta and stir well to coat the macaroni all over. Cover and let sit for another 20 minutes to allow the noodles to absorb the dressing.
  5. Add the remaining dressing, scallions, celery, and grated carrots to the pasta and stir well. Season with salt and pepper and taste.
  6. Cover and chill in the refrigerator at least 2 hours before serving. Stir gently before serving.

Remarks

  1. Hawaiian Macaroni Salad is known for having softer macaroni noodles that aren’t chewy to better absorb the dressing. To do this, add another 5 minutes to the cooking time indicated on the package.

Nutritional Information

yield 12

serving size 1

amount per serving

calories 342total fat 29gSaturated Fatty Acids 5gtrans fat 0gunsaturated fat 23gcholesterol 19mgsodium 264mgcarbohydrates 17gfiber 1gSugar 5gprotein 4g

Nutritional information calculated by Nutritionix.

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