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  • Writer's pictureKristin

Hawaiian-Inspired Macaroni Salad

hawaiian-inspired macaroni salad recipe
hawaiian-inspired macaroni salad recipe

This Hawaiian-inspired macaroni salad may look like a simple macaroni salad, but it brings back so many childhood memories for me! My grandfather immigrated from Korea to Hawaii in 1901 and worked on the sugar cane plantations. Then he came to the continental US to work as a coal miner. Also, growing up in southern California, Hawaiian food was straight up comfort food, and the platters always came with mac salad. So Hawaiian food is very sentimental for me.

For several years I’ve been trying to recreate this macaroni salad at home, as there aren’t any Hawaiian restaurants near me. I think I’ve finally got it! I’m really happy with this recipe — I like the acidic punch that it has.

The first thing you want to do is cook your macaroni. This gives it time to cool while you work on the dressing mixture. The macaroni should be fully cooked and not al dente. This will take about 10 – 12 minutes on the stovetop. Once it’s done, drain the pasta from the pot and set it aside to cool.

While the pasta is cooling, it’s time to prepare the dressing mixture. Using the same pot you cooked the macaroni in (there’s no need to wash it first), add 1 ½ cups of mayonnaise. You can use more (I don’t recommend using more than 1 3/4 cups) but wait until the end to add any more to see if the consistency is the way you like it. It may seem like a lot of mayonnaise at first, but remember, we’re adding it to a pound of pasta. Next, add 1/4 cup of rice vinegar, 1/4 cup of milk, 1 teaspoon of salt, 1 teaspoon of pepper, and 2 tablespoons of sugar. Then it’s time to add your veggies: 1/4 cup of a grated onion, 2 stalks of finely diced celery, and 2 grated carrots. Stir everything together and put the pot back on the stovetop to warm up the dressing mixture on low heat for about 10 minutes.

Once your macaroni is cooled, add it back to the pot (once it has been removed from the stove) and toss it together with the dressing and veggie mixture. Now is the time to do a taste test. You may find you want to add more salt or pepper, or even some vinegar to get more of that acidic flavor. It’s up to you! Once you feel like the seasonings are just right, store the Hawaiian-inspired macaroni salad in the fridge for at least 2 hours, or even overnight — it’s best served cold. The salad will stay good in the fridge for a few days.

As you can tell, this recipe is quite simple to make and doesn’t take too much time to prepare. It’s a great choice for a neighborhood gathering or summer BBQ and can easily be made ahead of time. Let me know what you think!

Recipe Card:

Hawaiian-Inspired Macaroni Salad


1 pound elbow macaroni

1 1/2 – 1 3/4 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup milk

1/4 cup rice vinegar

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon pepper

2 tablespoons sugar

2 carrots, grated

1/4 white onion, grated

2 celery stalks, diced


  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

  • Add macaroni and cook fully, about 10 – 12 minutes.

  • Drain macaroni and set aside.

  • In the same pot, combine mayonnaise, milk, vinegar, salt, pepper, and sugar.

Finely grate carrots and onions, finely dice celery.

  • Add veggies to the pot and combine.

  • Cook on low heat for 10 – 15 minutes.

  • Once macaroni has cooled for 20 – 30 minutes, add it into dressing and toss to combine.

  • Taste and adjust salt and pepper to your liking.

  • Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.

  • Enjoy!


  • Wait until the end to add more mayonnaise. At that point you’ll be able to tell if it’s the consistency you want.

  • Make sure the macaroni is thoroughly cooked, not al dente

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