Hawaiian Macaroni Salad is an amazing chilled side dish to enjoy at all your warm weather gatherings. Pairing perfectly with grilled chicken, steak, or fish, this versatile cold side dish is always a family favorite.

Wooden bowl full of macaroni salad with small bowls of salad and a bowl of chopped green onions

If you saw my Huli Huli Chicken recipe, you already know where I’m headed with this Hawaiian mac. 

In keeping with the Hawaiian plate theme, I’m here with a somewhat lightened up version of classic Hawaiian macaroni salad to pair with our delicious Hawaiian chicken, or any main dish for that matter.

Traditional Hawaiian macaroni salad is a crucial part of any Hawaiian BBQ plate. It is often served alongside grilled Hawaiian chicken, kalua pork, scoops of white rice, and often coleslaw. 

If you’ve been to the Hawaiian islands, A Hawaiian food truck or Hawaiian local restaurants, you’ve likely experienced the pure glory of authentic Hawaiian mac salad.

I love that macaroni salad is one of those go-to easy side dishes everyone loves at warm weather gatherings.

The way I see it, chilled salad recipes like this are perfect comfort food to balance out lighter grilled main dishes and offer up a source of carbohydrates.

While there is a whopping 1.5 cups of mayonnaise in the recipe, believe it or not, this is the lightened up version of Hawaiian macaroni salad. 

Traditional macaroni salad is essentially just macaroni, mayo, and some fresh grated carrot. 

I add some goodies to liven up the flavor a bit but the authentic version is much more mayo-forward.

What is the difference between Hawaiian macaroni salad and regular macaroni salad?

Regular macaroni salad can feature all sorts of additions, like chopped red bell peppers, onions, celery, hard-boiled eggs, and sometimes bacon or salami. 

a classic Hawaiian macaroni salad recipe, on the other hand, is much more simple with very few thrills. Look at it more like a fantastic celebration of noodles and mayonnaise.

While some may want to convince you there should be ham (or spam) and pineapple in Hawaiian macaroni salad, the reality is the authentic version doesn’t include these additions.

Nevertheless, if you’d like to go off script and add them, feel free to do so!

If you’re looking for a lightened up version of macaroni salad, try my Mayo-Free Macaroni Salad which uses a Greek yogurt dressing. 

Wooden bowl of macaroni salad with a blue napkin to the side.

Let’s discuss the simple ingredients for Hawaiian Macaroni Salad.

Hawaiian Macaroni Salad Ingredients:

Elbow Noodles: The reason we’re all here! We need one pound of elbow macaroni to make macaroni salad. I use gluten-free elbow noodles but you can use any kind of noodle you love.

Mayonnaise: The creaminess that makes this shindig such a hootenanny. Pick your favorite kind of mayo, although I’m told Best Foods mayonnaise is the only acceptable one in true Hawaiian macaroni salad;)

Rice Vinegar: Adding a touch of tangy flavor to the dressing, a splash of vinegar brings some nuance to the otherwise rich and creamy dish.

Honey: Similar to vinegar, we use honey to round out the flavor profile. A little sugar adds an imperceptible sweetness that complements the tangy dressing.

If you prefer using regular cane sugar or brown sugar, feel free to make the switch.

Full-Fat Canned Coconut Milk or Regular Milk: To mix in with the mayo dressing, we need a little milk. I like using coconut milk because it contributes more island vibes to the dish, but regular whole milk is great here too.

Grated Carrots (optional): Sometimes people include grated carrots in with their Hawaiian macaroni salads and sometimes they skip them. I enjoy the added texture but the world won’t end if you skip the carrots.

Green Onions (optional): Similar to carrots, finely chopped onions are sometimes added. I like using chopped green onion for a subtle onion flavor with less bite, but yellow onion, sweet onion, or white onions work too.

Sea Salt and Black Pepper: Season this easy macaroni salad recipe with salt and pepper to your personal taste.

Recipe Adaptations:

  • ​Use apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, or white vinegar instead of rice wine vinegar.
  • While miracle whip works in place of mayonnaise, I have read authentic Hawaiian macaroni salad uses mayo strictly. 
  • Rather than using green onions, use finely grated onion (white, yellow or red all work).

Now that we’ve covered the basic ingredients for Hawaiian macaroni salad, let’s make it!

How to Make Hawaiian Macaroni Salad:

Heat a large pot of salted water on the stove top and bring it to a full boil. Add in the uncooked pasta noodles and follow the package directions for cook time.

The gluten-free pasta noodles I use require about 15 minutes, but I tend to cook them for 12 to 13 minutes for al dente noodles.

Strain the pasta noodles into a colander and immediately run cold water over the hot pasta to cool noodles off and stop the cooking process. Set noodles aside while you prepare the macaroni salad dressing.

Cooked macaroni noodles in a colander, ready to use,

Combine the mayonnaise, rice vinegar, honey, and milk in a small bowl or measuring cup and stir to combine. Be sure to stir until the dressing is smooth and any lumps of mayo are out.

Hawaiian macaroni salad dressing in a measuring cup, mixed up and ready to use.

Transfer the cooled cooked pasta into a large bowl or the same pot you used to cook the noodles.

Add in the grated carrots and chopped onions, along with the creamy dressing.

Mixing bowl with cooked noodles, carrots, and onions.

Use a wooden spoon or a rubber spatula to gently fold the dressing into the noodles. Season the macaroni salad with salt and pepper to your personal taste.

Pouring creamy dressing into a mixing bowl with noodles and veggies to make macaroni salad.

Store macaroni salad in an airtight container in the refrigerator until you’re ready to serve it. Macaroni salad is best when served chilled.

Macaroni salad in a mixing bowl.

Give the salad a good stir before serving with your main dish, and enjoy!

Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Macaroni salad tastes even better the next day and the 2-3 days following preparation. For this reason, feel free to make it in advance.

Wooden bowl of macaroni salad, ready to serve.

The perfect side for grilled chicken, kalua pork, ribs, and even fish, the whole family will love this simple recipe on their lunch plate.

Bring this simple macaroni salad with you for the perfect side dish at your next warm weather gathering!

If you’re looking for summer side dishes to enjoy at your summer BBQs, also try these reader favorites.

More Side Dish Recipes:

Enjoy this Hawaiian-style macaroni salad for an authentic Hawaiian plate lunch or any summer cookout.

This mac salad recipe might just be the most popular side dish at your next gathering!

Wooden bowl full of macaroni salad with small bowls of salad and a bowl of chopped green onions

Hawaiian Macaroni Salad

5 from 1 vote
Lightened up creamy Hawaiian Macaroni Salad is the perfect addition to your Hawaiian plate lunch! Serve it with Huli Huli Chicken, Kalua Pork or your choice of main dish for a delicious meal.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Servings: 10 Servings

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Heat a large pot of salted water on the stove top and bring it to a full boil. Add in the uncooked pasta noodles and follow the package directions for cook time. The gluten-free pasta noodles I use require about 15 minutes, but I tend to cook them for 12 to 13 minutes for al dente noodles.
  • Strain the pasta noodles into a colander and immediately run cold water over the hot pasta to cool noodles off and stop the cooking process. Set noodles aside while you prepare the macaroni salad dressing.
  • Combine the mayonnaise, rice vinegar, honey, and milk in a small bowl or measuring cup and stir to combine. Be sure to stir until the dressing is smooth and any lumps of mayo are out.
  • Transfer the cooled cooked pasta into a large bowl or the same pot you used to cook the noodles.
  • Add in the grated carrots and chopped onions, along with the creamy dressing. Use a wooden spoon or a rubber spatula to gently fold the dressing into the noodles. Season the macaroni salad with salt and pepper to your personal taste.

Notes

*I use gluten-free macaroni noodles but regular macaroni noodles work just as well
**You can use ¼ cup of regular milk instead of canned coconut milk if you’d like. I enjoy using full-fat canned coconut milk to add to the island vibes.

Nutrition

Serving: 1Serving (of 10) · Calories: 379kcal · Carbohydrates: 40g · Protein: 4g · Fat: 22g · Saturated Fat: 6g · Polyunsaturated Fat: 10g · Monounsaturated Fat: 4g · Cholesterol: 16mg · Sodium: 395mg · Fiber: 3g · Sugar: 3g
Author: Julia Mueller
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Keyword: easy side dish, gluten free side dish, Hawaiian Macaroni Salad, healthy side dishes, macaroni salad
Did You Make This Recipe?I want to see it! Tag @the.roasted.root on social media!

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Julia Mueller
Meet the Author

Julia Mueller

Julia Mueller is a recipe developer, cookbook author, and founder of The Roasted Root. She has authored three bestselling cookbooks, – Paleo Power Powers, Delicious Probiotic Drinks, and The Quintessential Kale Cookbook. Her recipes have been featured in several national publications such as BuzzFeed, Self, Tasty, Country Living, Brit.co, etc.

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Questions and Reviews

  1. Made this today and it was excellent! This will be my stand by for summertime macaroni salad. Thank you very much for this recipe!