Hawaiian Macaroni Salad Recipe


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If you love Hawaiian food, you’ll love this easy and classic Hawaiian Macaroni Salad recipe! This creamy macaroni salad is the perfect side dish for lunch, a BBQ, or a Luau.

Hawaiian Macaroni Salad

This Hawaiian Macaroni Salad is a classic, crowd-pleasing favorite that’s perfect for your next family gathering or barbecue. With its creamy texture, tangy dressing, and satisfying mix of ingredients, this Hawaiian-style macaroni salad is sure to become a staple in your recipe collection. This comforting, creamy side dish is a staple in Hawaiian cuisine. It’s often paired with plate lunches.

Hawaiian Mac Salad is truly the ideal dish to bring to any BBQ, potluck, or gathering. It’s perfect for snacking on or enjoying as a side dish.

With a rich and creamy dressing made from real mayonnaise, half and half, and flavorful grated onions, this salad is seasoned with salt, pepper, and a touch of paprika. The tender macaroni pasta, tangy apple cider vinegar, and fresh vegetables come together to create a delightful combination that your taste buds and guests will appreciate.

What Is Hawaiian Mac Salad Made Of?

Hawaiian Mac Salad is an island-inspired dish mostly made of elbow macaroni, mayonnaise, and various add-ins for flavor such as onions, carrots, celery, and sometimes pickles or olives. It’s normally seasoned with salt and pepper, and sometimes a touch of vinegar or mustard for a little tang.


Elbow Macaroni: Elbow macaroni is the perfect shape to hold onto all the flavors of the dressing and mix-ins.

Apple Cider Vinegar: This adds tanginess to the macaroni salad, balancing out the creamy dressing and providing a perfect contrast to the other ingredients.

Carrot: Grated carrot adds a touch of sweetness and vibrant color to the salad.

Celery: Chopped celery gives the macaroni salad a delicious crunch and refreshing taste.

Green Onions: These add a mild onion flavor and beautiful green color.

Half and Half: This creamy base is essential to the dressing, giving it a rich and smooth texture. I wouldn’t recommend using milk, because the dressing won’t be thick enough.

Hellman’s Mayonnaise: The classic choice for Hawaiian macaroni salad, Hellman’s mayo provides the perfect flavor and creaminess.

Yellow Onion: Grated yellow onion adds a depth of flavor and slight sweetness to the dressing.

Granulated Sugar: A touch of sugar balances out the tanginess of the vinegar and adds a subtle sweetness to the dressing.

Fine Sea Salt: This enhances the flavors in the dressing and macaroni, bringing everything together.

Ground Black Pepper: A little pepper adds some warmth and spice to the dish.

Paprika: This gives the dressing a hint of smokiness and a beautiful color.

The labeled ingredients for Hawaiian macaroni salad.

Alternative Ingredients

  • Use a different type of pasta, such as rotini, shells, or bowtie pasta.
  • Try adding some diced cucumber, bell pepper, or even peas for some extra color and an additional crunch. Just make sure to chop or grate them into small pieces, so they mix well with the pasta and dressing.
  • Include some cooked and chopped bacon or ham for a heartier salad.
  • Toss in some diced pineapple or mango for a tropical twist.

How To Make Hawaiian Macaroni Salad

Prepare the macaroni: Cook the elbow macaroni for 3 minutes longer than the package instructions indicate, then drain and combine with apple cider vinegar. (See the recipe card below for the full printable instructions.)

Adding the drained macaroni to a large pot and stirring in the apple cider vinegar before covering with a lid.

Make the dressing: In a separate bowl, whisk together the half and half, mayonnaise, grated onion, sugar, salt, pepper, and paprika.

Adding cream, mayonnaise, grated onion, sugar, paprika, pepper and salt into a large mixing bowl and then mixing together.

Combine the macaroni and dressing: Mix the cooled macaroni with half of the dressing, then let it sit for 20 minutes.

Mixing in half the dressing then covering with a lid and letting the macaroni cool.

Remove the lid after cooling and add and mix the the remaining dressing and mix-ins.

Adding grated carrots, onion and celery to the pot with the remaining dressing and then mixing all the ingredients together.

Transfer and cover:  Transfer the mixed macaroni to a serving bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Transferring the room temperature macaroni to a serving bowl then covering with plastic wrap before placing into the fridge.

Chill and serve: Allow the macaroni salad to chill in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours, preferably overnight, before serving. See the recipe card below for the full written instructions, including ingredient amounts, and helpful tips, etc.

After the macaroni has completely chilled, removing the wrap and mixing.

Pro Tips

  • Cook the macaroni longer: Make sure to cook the noodles slightly longer than the package instructions for al dente pasta. This ensures a softer noodle that will better absorb the dressing.
  • Let it rest: For the best results, let the macaroni salad sit in the refrigerator overnight to allow the flavors to meld and the dressing to thicken.

Why Does Hawaiian Mac Salad Taste Different?

Hawaiian macaroni salad has a unique flavor profile due to the combination of tangy apple cider vinegar, creamy mayonnaise, and sweet grated onion. This creates a delicious blend of flavors that sets it apart from traditional macaroni salads.

An angled shot of a large mound of flavorful macaroni salad in a glass ditch with carrots and green onion throughout.

Hawaiian Macaroni Salad VS Regular Macaroni Salad

While both types of macaroni salad feature pasta and a creamy dressing, Hawaiian macaroni salad incorporates apple cider vinegar for a tangy twist, as well as grated onion and carrot for added flavor and texture.

Why Do Hawaiians Love Macaroni Salad?

This tasty side dish is a staple at Hawaiian gatherings, as it pairs well with popular local dishes such as teriyaki chicken, grilled meats, and rice. The creamy, tangy flavors of the macaroni salad are a perfect complement to the bold flavors found in Hawaiian cuisine.

A fork full of creamy macaroni salad with red napkin in the backgrond.

What To Serve With It

Hawaiian macaroni salad pairs wonderfully with grilled meats, such as barbecue chicken, pork, or even Spam. You can also serve it alongside rice, potato salad, or a fresh green salad for a complete meal.

Can You Make It Ahead Of Time?

Yes! In fact, making it ahead of time allows the flavors to meld and the dressing to thicken, resulting in an even tastier macaroni salad. Just be sure to refrigerate it and give it a good stir before serving.

An overhead image of a large bowl of macaroni salad next to a small serving of a macaroni salad.

Storing Leftovers

Store any leftover Hawaiian macaroni salad in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Can You Freeze Hawaiian Mac Salad?

I don’t recommend freezing it, because the texture of the dressing will likely change. The creamy dressing may separate, and the macaroni could become mushy. Instead, store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Keep In Touch

I’d love to hear what you thought of this recipe in the comments or on Instagram! @KeyToMyLime #KeyToMyLime

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A Pinterest pin image with a picture of Hawaiian macaroni salad, with title text at the top.

Summer Side Dish Recipes

If you like this recipe, be sure to check out all of our other side dishes. Some reader favorites that are perfect for BBQs, potlucks, and picnics are:

Yield: 10 servings

BEST Authentic Hawaiian Macaroni Salad Recipe

The best Hawaiian macaroni salad recipe.

If you love Hawaiian food, you’ll love this easy classic Hawaiian Macaroni Salad recipe! It’s the perfect side dish for a lunch, BBQ, or Luau.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 13 minutes
Additional Time 4 hours
Total Time 4 hours 23 minutes


Hawaiian Macaroni Salad Dressing:

  • 2 cups half and half
  • 1 1/2 cups Hellman's mayonnaise
  • 1 medium yellow onion, grated (1/3 cup)
  • 1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon paprika

Macaroni Salad:

  • 1 pound dry elbow macaroni (3 cups, 450 grams)
  • 3 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and grated (1/2 cup)
  • 1 medium celery stalk, cut horizontally and sliced thin (heaping 1/3 cup)
  • 3 green onions, white and green parts, sliced thin (1/3 cup)
  • Garnish with extra fresh grated carrot and sliced green onion (optional)


  1. Start by bringing a large pot of salted water to a boil. While waiting for the water to boil, prepare the dressing by combining the half and half, mayonnaise, grated onion, sugar, salt, pepper, and paprika in a bowl. Whisk the ingredients together until well combined and set aside.
  2. Once the water is boiling, add the macaroni and cook for the time indicated on the package for al dente pasta, plus an additional 3 minutes. This will result in a softer noodle that will better absorb the dressing. Stir the pasta occasionally to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pot. When the pasta is cooked, drain it in a colander.
  3. Transfer the drained pasta back to the pot and mix in the apple cider vinegar. Cover the pot with a lid and let the pasta cool for 20 minutes.
  4. After the pasta has cooled, add half of the prepared dressing to the pot and stir until the pasta is fully coated. Cover the pot again and let it sit for another 20 minutes.
  5. Next, add the remaining dressing, grated carrot, celery, and green onions to the pot. Mix everything together thoroughly, cover, and let the pasta cool to room temperature, which should take about 20 more minutes.
  6. Once the pasta has reached room temperature, give it another stir and transfer it to a serving bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, but preferably overnight, to allow the pasta to fully cool and the dressing to set.
  7. Before serving, garnish the salad with additional grated carrot and sliced green onion, if desired.


The pasta may still be a bit runny after 2 hours, but it will mostly absorb the dressing after about 3-4 hours. For the best results, let the pasta sit in the refrigerator for 8-12 hours or overnight. The dressing will be thicker and the pasta will be plumper. However, the salad will still be delicious after 3-4 hours of refrigeration.

Nutrition Information:

Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 469Total Fat: 31gCarbohydrates: 38.9gFiber: 2gSugar: 5.4gProtein: 8g

Nutrition information isn’t always accurate.


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So there you have it – a delicious, authentic, and easy Hawaiian macaroni salad recipe that’s perfect for your next gathering or family meal. Give it a try and see why this dish has become such a beloved favorite in Hawaiian cuisine.

The best Hawaiian macaroni salad recipe.

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