Hawaiian Macaroni Salad

CATEGORIES: Pasta, Salads, Tropical

If you’ve visited Hawaii, you’ve probably had a plate lunch, which was probably served with Hawaiian Macaroni Salad. This recipe is not too sweet, quick and easy, and perfect for serving all summer long. Read more about it after the recipe!

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Hawaiian Macaroni Salad

  • Author: kate jones

Description

This is just like the Hawaiian Macaroni Salad that come on plate lunches with pulled pork or Teriyaki chicken! Not too sweet and packed with flavor, this is comfort food at its finest.


Scale

Ingredients

1 lb. elbow macaroni
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar (we prefer murky organic ACV like Bragg’s)
2 carrots, peeled and grated
1/4 cup grated onion
2 cups mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste


Instructions

In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the macaroni according to package directions (cook just to al dente…you don’t want to over cook this).

While the pasta is cooking, make sure the vinegar, onion, and carrots are measured and prepared. Set aside. Whisk together mayonnaise, sour cream, milk, sugar, and salt. Set aside.

When the pasta is done cooking, drain. Do not rinse! Immediately transfer to a large food storage bowl. While still hot, drizzle with apple cider vinegar and toss. Add onions and toss, then add the carrots. Allow to cool slightly (15-20 minutes on the counter).

Reserve 1/3 cup of the dressing in an airtight container. Drizzle the remaining dressing over the pasta and toss to combine. If desired, add any mix-ins. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4-5 hours. Immediately before serving, add reserved dressing. Season with freshly ground black pepper and adjust seasonings if necessary.


Notes

Optional Mix-Ins

  • 1 cup shelled peas
  • 1 cup diced ham
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese or cheese cubes
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • green onions for garnish
  • 3-4 chopped hard-boiled eggs

my hawaiian macaroni salad love story

I have a long-standing love affair with Hawaii, which always seemed to happen at some crossroads in my life. I started writing all those out, but then it started sounding like one of those memes where people make fun of food bloggers for going into way more detail than is really necessary.

One story that is relevant, however, is from what was a very, very hard time in my life. I had just had my second baby. My oldest was a tyrant of a toddler. Our living and employment situation had drastically and suddenly changed and everything was upside down. While we were in the middle of moving, my neighbor brought us dinner.

Usually when life kicks you in the crotch and people bring you dinner, it’s a casserole or lasagna or soup, all of which are very nice and always appreciated. But this neighbor, who was an older Hawaiian widow, did not do that. She left a foil-covered platter on my doorstep and when I pulled back the foil, I cried. Granted, it really didn’t take a whole lot to make me cry at that moment in my life, but it was simple and perfect and exactly what I needed–grilled boneless skinless Teriyaki chicken thighs, scoops of rice, sliced fresh tomatoes from her garden with salt and pepper, and scoops of macaroni salad. It is hands-down my favorite and most memorable meal I’ve ever received from anyone.

making hawaiian macaroni salad

I don’t know why I didn’t make macaroni salad for so long. It was always my favorite KFC side. When it’s done right, I like it better than coleslaw and even potato salad. I think it’s one of those “I don’t want to know how the sausage gets made” situations–the idea of milk and mayonnaise and cold macaroni grossed me out, even though I always like the results. But. Since everyone in the south insists on putting more sugar than mayonnaise in their macaroni salad (dead serious), I knew if I wanted it, I was finally going to have to make it myself.

You’re going to need a pound of elbow macaroni, some grated onion, grated carrots, kosher salt, a wee bit of sugar, apple cider vinegar (the murky organic stuff like Bragg’s), and milk, mayonnaise, and sour cream (all full-fat, if you want my humble opinion). If you like other stuff in your macaroni salad, you can also throw that in–peas, ham, cheese, celery, bell pepper, etc.

instructions

In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the macaroni according to package directions (cook just to al dente…you don’t want to over cook this).

While the pasta is cooking, make sure the vinegar, onion, and carrots are measured and prepared. Set aside. Place the mayonnaise in a small mixing bowl. Add the sugar, salt,

sour cream, and milk to the bowl…

and whisk until smooth. Set aside.

When the pasta is done cooking, drain. Do not rinse! Immediately transfer to a large food storage bowl. While still hot, drizzle with apple cider vinegar and toss.

Add onions

and toss, then add the carrots.

Allow to cool slightly (15-20 minutes on the counter).

Reserve 1/3 cup of the dressing in an airtight container. Drizzle the remaining dressing over the pasta and toss to combine. If desired, add any mix-ins.

Cover and refrigerate for at least 4-5 hours. Immediately before serving, add reserved dressing. Season with freshly ground black pepper and adjust seasonings if necessary.

Serve with Kalua Pork, Teriyaki chicken, or in front of the refrigerator with a fork at 2 am.

14 comments

  1. There was a very similar recipe in an issue of Cook’s Country a few years ago, and it has become my family’s favorite. Ironically, I was just making it to go along with some ribs when I opened your post!

    1. I haven’t seen that one, but I’ve seen a whole bunch of similar recipes floating around. We love it, though! Better this than 2 cups of sugar, haha!

  2. Dude. I have always loved you guys and you just increased that love one hundred fold by putting the recipe before the blog post. I just really really appreciate that. I mean I love the posts too! Don’t get me wrong! It just really made me happy to see the recipe first. I’m not sure why 😂 Thank you!!! Can’t wait to make this! I’ve loved every single one of your recipes I’ve tried over the years, which is a LOT! ❤️

    1. Some people put it in there! I think it would be fine. I did serve this with pineapple and the pineapple I had made *everything* taste a little funny, not just the macaroni salad (it can do that sometimes). But you could for sure try it!

      1. I’m just here to bear testimony of the awesomeness of that kalua pork recipe Kate shared. It has become my always, always, ALWAYS PEOPLE!, go-to pulled pork recipe. Make tacos, put it in a sandwich, slap on some sauce, mix it into pasta salad, eat it cold out of the container with a fork while standing in front of your open fridge, etc. I’ve done all of those things, and then some, and they all turned out delicious. It’s ridiculously easy to make, with the most minimal ingredients. We love it.

  3. Hi! Question for you! When a recipe calls for an onion but doesn’t specify what kind of onion, how do you choose which onion to use??

    Also, I HATE cutting onions, would it be terrible to use the freeze dried ones?

    Thanks for the recipe! I’m excited to try it!

    1. If it’s for a salad or where I want to draw attention to the onions (like a burger, sandwich, fajitas, etc.), I typically go with red onions. If it’s something where the purple will look gross (caramelized onions, in macaroni and cheese or alfredo, etc.), then I use white. If it doesn’t matter, I use whatever I have on hand.

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