Authentic Hawaiian Macaroni Salad

If you have been looking for a true, authentic Hawaiian Macaroni Salad look no further. Believe me, I have tried many a “mac salad” in Hawaii and this is the real deal.Authentic Hawaiian Macaroni SaladHawaiian Macaroni Salad is one of my biggest guilty pleasures. I lived in Hawaii a little over 10 years ago and became very familiar with true, authentic Hawaiian “Mac Salad”. I literally lived across the street from an L&L Hawaiian BBQ restaurant and found myself wandering over there way more often than I should have for their delicious plate lunch– always with mac salad and rice on the side (I love getting a little rice and mac salad together in one bite.. oh so good).


This past weekend I had a flashback to my Hawaii days when we ordered food from Honolulu Grill in St. George, UT. Everything we had there was delicious and seriously the most authentic Hawaiian food I have had since leaving Hawaii. The macaroni salad, especially, hit home and suddenly made me wonder why we haven’t gotten a good Hawaiian mac salad recipe here on Favorite Family Recipes yet!


Authentic Hawaiian Mac Salad is ridiculously simple. It is a no-frills mac salad yet so creamy and flavorful. I had a friend in Hawaii who was also a caterer who explained to me long ago that true Hawaiian macaroni salad is pretty much just macaroni, carrot, mayo and salt and pepper. Yeah there are a few other add-in’s like celery, extra onion, potatoes, fresh crab, or relish that you can add, but the basic recipe is my favorite. Once you start getting into adding ham or pineapple you are getting way off course… pineapple and ham have no business being in a Hawaiian mac salad. EVER.


This recipe may seem a little mayo-heavy.. it’s true. That is what makes it so stinking good. If you are really concerned about the mayo-ness you can substitute out Greek Yogurt in whatever amounts you would like (half mayo-half yogurt.. etc..). You will get a likeness of mac salad but I am telling you–it won’t be quite the same. In Hawaii it’s all about the mayo. As far as the BRAND of mayo– it’s has got to be Best Foods. Period. No other mayo will taste right.


If you make this ahead of time and it seems a little dried out, add some mayo mixed with a little milk until you get the right consistency back. Fold it in with a large rubber spatula so you don’t tear the macaroni noodles.

Serves 8-10

Authentic Hawaiian Macaroni Salad

Authentic Hawaiian Macaroni Salad is ridiculously simple. It is a no-frills mac salad yet so creamy and flavorful. Serve with pulled pork, great for luaus.

20 minPrep Time

15 minCook Time

35 minTotal Time

Save Recipe


  • 1 (1 lb.) box macaroni
  • 2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 2 carrots, shredded
  • 1/4 c. onion, shredded (optional)
  • 2 1/2 c. Best Foods (or Hellman's) mayonnaise... no substitutes!
  • 1/4 c. milk
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • kosher salt & pepper, to taste


  • Cook macaroni according to package directions. Drain well and place macaroni in a large bowl (I like to use a tupperware bowl with a lid so I can easily refrigerate later).
  • While macaroni is still hot, sprinkle on vinegar and add carrot and onion. Toss together until well combined. Allow to cool for about 10-15 minutes.
  • In a separate, smaller bowl, whisk together mayo, milk, and sugar.
  • Fold mayo mixture into the macaroni until all the noodles are evenly coated. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours (best if overnight). Gently stir before serving (adding a little more milk if needed, no more than a Tbsp. or two).
Cuisine: Hawaiian |

Authentic Hawaiian Macaroni Salad


  1. Danielle Royalegacy says:

    This is almost the exact way I make my macaroni salad except I add some chopped celery. I think your recipe is great!

    • Erica says:

      Thank you! Celery is a great addition πŸ™‚

      • Dee says:

        No celery

        • JayJay says:

          Yes celery

          • Kiwano says:

            No celery

      • Keli says:

        I think the Hawaiian BBQ place we go to puts tuna in theirs. Is that unheard of? Also, I am looking forward to trying this recipe 😊

        • Erica says:

          No, it isn’t unheard of.. it just isn’t as “authentic” πŸ™‚

          • Liz says:

            Tuna is very authentic. I have family in Hawaii and they put tuna in theirs!

          • Echo says:

            Good to know – I love tuna! It would be delicious in this salad.

        • Curtis says:

          Yup, a little tuna is going to give you that umami.

    • Talia Moore says:

      This is a great base for the Hawaiian salad I perfected to my families taste after about the third try. I use the recipe above only I give the noodles a quick rinse first then add about 3 tablespoons of the vinegar and let them finish cooling. I leave the milk out of the mixture because it seams to curdle the sauce after refrigeratorating. I add a bit more sugar than the recipe calls and the key is to add 1-2 tablespoons of jack Daniels honey Dijon mustard. Generously add salt and pepper (expectially pepper) then add the noodles to the mixture a bit at a time to make sure you have a good amount of sauce to noodles. You want the recipe to be really creamy! I serve just right after making at room temperature or refrigeratorate. Enjoy!

      • Alexandra says:

        Yum thank you!

    • JimP says:

      Brok da mout!

  2. Liz says:

    Yum – thank you. Have a great day

  3. Heather Chivilli says:

    Made this and it’s delicious. But for some reason the mayo curdled. Should I have let the macaroni cool longer? Somewhere I read that it might have been the vinegar. Please let me know what I did wrong. Thanks!

    • Erica says:

      Did you use Best Foods mayo? It is supposed to cool to about room temp after tossing it in vinegar. When did you add the mayo?

      • Heather Chivilli says:

        Yes and yes but maybe it wasn’t cool enough! I’m going to try again this week. 😊

      • Manuela says:

        I mix the vinigar in the mayo then add to noodle, but authentic Hawaiian has coconut and pineapple in it, don’t know why they are saying this Mac salad is Hawaiian, it’s just a typical Mac salad recipe

        • Erica says:

          This is the mac salad that they serve all over the place in Hawaii. I can’t say I have ever had a mac salad in Hawaii with either coconut or pineapple in it. But if that is how you like it, by all means, add it πŸ™‚

          • Amy Tyson says:


        • Kauka says:

          Go to any Hawaiian restaurant and they will likely serve this near exact recipe as a side with nearly all their main course dishes. (Hawaiian and Hawaiian restaurant owner) thanks

    • 808islandgirl says:

      For all of you who were not born and raised in Hawaii, please don’t say you know what is real local Hawaii Marconi salad. We don’t put pineapple or coconut in it!!!! Im making it tonight and will comment back to let everyone know if this is truly the way it’s made “back home.”

      • Erica says:

        Thank you so much for you comment! What did you think? I am interested to hear if we get a TRUE local’s stamp of approval! πŸ˜€

      • Tracy says:

        Too funny…. I to am from Hawaii born and raised and have never made or ate mac salad that had pineapple or coconut in it. Just because a Hawaiian Pizza has pineapples on it, doesn’t mean that’s how we eat that too. I’m sure no one from Hawaii even created that. Salad with fruit in it is called a fruit salad =)

        • Echo says:


  4. Rita Fell says:

    looks like something I want to make with coconut rice and Kalua pig dish. Thank you,

    • Echo says:

      Yum! I would love your coconut rice and Kalua pig recipes!

  5. Sandy U says:

    I, too, lived in Hawaii and ate many plate lunches. My favorite part was always the macaroni salad. My attempts to copy it over the years never lived up to the original. Now I know why – not enough mayonnaise! And I agree with you, it must be Best Foods! Thanks so much for the recipe.

  6. Clo says:

    Add can of water-drained tuna to recipe! Yummy!! So local…

  7. Norma says:

    Thank you, now I don’t have to drive across town to the local L&L for their Macaroni Salad….yum

    • Nursesabbath says:

      Exactly! The nearest L&L or Hawiian bbq place to us is almost 30 miles away. I followed the recipe almost to a T (I used regular table salt and no pepper). It chilling in the fridge now. I really hope it comes out great for tomorrow night. Thx

  8. Katie says:

    Maybe it’s only on the Big Island but we always use about half mac and half potatoes.

    • Erica says:

      Ooh that sounds delicious! Haven’t ever had it with potatoes before, yum! Thanks for sharing!

  9. Norma-Homesick In Wisconsin :( says:

    18yrs away from HOME….sure miss the food πŸ™ Thank you for bringing a little of home to my home away from the islands! I will definitely be making this really soon!!

    • Erica says:

      I hear ya!!!! The food there is the BEST!!!

  10. Jessica says:

    Do you have a recipe for the pork and cabbage you have pictured beside the mac? It looks so delicious , I can already taste it!

    • Erica says:

      We don’t have the recipe on the site yet… but you have inspired me to get it on! I will put it on my to-do list. It is such an easy recipe. Basically it is just a pork roast cooked with some liquid smoke in a crock pot. πŸ™‚

      • John says:

        I use 8lbs of pork butt ( really the shoulder)
        1 bottle of liquid smoke
        1/4 cup or less of salt.

        I got this from someone who had a restaurant in Hawaii.
        Thank you for this Mac salad recipe. I was stationed there 20 yes ago and haven’t been able to copy the Mac salad yet

        • John says:

          Cooked in the crock pot until its falling apart.

          • Joanna says:

            What size bottle of liquid smoke do you use? πŸ™‚

          • Wendy says:

            Don’t use the who bottle just a little liquid smoke and Hawaiian Salt or Kosher!

          • Echo says:

            Thanks for the tip, Wendy! Will do!

      • Phil says:

        If you can find NOH Kalua Pig salt or red and black hawaiian rock salt all you need is about 3 tbsp of salt to a 5lb pork butt. Sprinkle over the butt and if you can get them wrap it in ti or banana leaves. If not, corn husk will work too.

        Cook the whole thing in the crock pot for about 8 hours. Shred the meat separately from any juice and then taste and add juice as desired. If you shred it in the juice it can too salty for some.

        We make this at least once a month, primarily for pizza topping followed the next day by Kalua pork sandwiches on onion rolls.

        • Erica says:

          Thank you so much for your comment, that sounds delicious!!!! Thank you for sharing!

  11. Lance says:

    Haole boy here but work with old time local. Made your recipe and had him try it to see how I did. His only recommendation was celery (optional) and white pepper, not black pepper. Made some tonight for Christmas lunch tomorrow. Mmmmmmm!

    • Erica says:

      Great idea using white pepper! Glad you (and your co-worker) liked it!!!

  12. Ashley says:

    Do you think a few slices of a hard boiled egg would taste good in this? I usually add some to my normal macaroni salad but was not sure if it would fit well in this. Thx!

    • Erica says:

      It’s not “traditional” but I am sure it would taste just fine with hard boiled egg!

  13. Linda says:

    Just came back from a 3 Island tour and had falling in love with the Mac Salad, so had to look it up, can’t wait to try it! Out of all the food I ate there it was the best!

    • Erica says:

      Let me know how you like it! Every time I make it, it’s like a trip back to the islands πŸ™‚

  14. shauna says:

    How many do you think this serves?

    • Erica says:

      I would say 8-10 servings when served as a side-dish

  15. Steve says:

    I will be making the Mac salad for a fundraiser Luau family dance very soon and was wondering about how to add potatoes? Also, is celery a good addition. I would like to see if there are any great recipes for smoking pork butt the Hawaiian way? If so, please share. We are also doing 40lbs of pork butt. Thank you.

    • Emily says:

      You should try our Kalua pork recipe. It’s perfect! If you are doing potatoes I would probably do roasted potatoes. We have a really good recipe for that too.

      • tony says:

        not roasted but boiled potatoes…not too soft like for mashed, have to have some body to the potatoes and serve in chunks about 3/4 inch by 3/4 inch or so…

        • Wendy says:

          yup russet potatoes are the best!

  16. Shelly says:

    Thank you! I couldn’t ever figure out why mine would just absorb all the mayo. It has to be the vinegar bath. Came out perfect!

  17. Kara Miller says:

    Honolulu grill just opened down the street from me in Cedar City! I get the Kalua pork with macaroni salad EVERY time! (The sauce over the rice is a must.) Thanks for sharing, can’t wait to try it.

    • Erica says:

      Honolulu grill opened in Cedar City??? That is so awesome!!!! Will definitely go there next time I am in Cedar!

  18. Veronica says:

    I love the macaroni salad at L & L. Thankfully my daughter makes a pretty good rendition of it. Definitely use the Hellman’s/Best Foods (Kirkland’s is good too,) makes a HUGE difference. I haven’t tried your recipe, but I aim to next time we make Katsu.

  19. EvaMarie says:

    Erica when you visit Las Vegas (approx 77 miles from St George) visit L & L on Maryland and Flamingo…Yummy! πŸ˜†
    Yes…this salad tasted like Zippy’s. 😊

    • MR says:

      Saint George is more like around 120 miles from Vegas EvaMarie. Since I’ve moved away I miss Honolulu Grill and their mac salad, I hope this recipe is as good as theirs, if it is, I’ll be making it often. Thanks.

  20. Angel says:

    My mom is from the Philippines and she makes a macaroni salad similar to this. She adds canned pineapples and raisins, hate the raisins but I can’t eat the salad without the pineapples! So much yum!

  21. Lyne says:

    The key to good Hawaiian Mac salad is to salt the water well when cooking the mac. I haven’t tried adding vinegar but this recipe otherwise looks authentic.

  22. stephanie says:

    I want to make this for a large party so I’m sure i need to up the ingredients. I was wondering, what is the serving size for your ingredients here? thank you!

    • Erica says:

      It would probably serve 10-12 in a party setting like that

  23. Cole says:

    Just got done making this for a family gathering. My husband can’t keep sneaking forkfuls out of the bowl!!

    • Echo says:

      Haha! The true test of a recipe! I’m so glad he likes it!

  24. LESLIE says:

    Just made this! Couldn’t wait for it to be refrigerated and it still taste delicious! Does flavor enhance upon refrigeration or can it also be served @ room temperature? No Best foods where I’m from, so Hellmans did the trick! Awesome salad, thanks for sharing!

    • Erica says:

      OH good, Hellman’s is the same as Best Foods so you made the right choice πŸ˜‰ It can be served at room temp or refrigerated, just whatever your personal preference is. To store, though, you will want to refrigerate.

  25. Kenzie says:

    THANK YOU THANK YOU for this recipe! πŸ™‚ I’ve been so homesick for good Hawaiian food and it was exactly the right taste I was looking for. It turned out great and then I put it in the fridge to chill and about a half hour later I took it out to sneak a few more bites (so addicting) and the mayo sauce seemed to have been all absorbed. It was still good but there wasn’t much sauce so it was just like cooked buttery noodles. I used the 2 tablespoons of vinegar. What could have gone wrong? Are there any other tricks to keep the creamy consistency like it was at first and not have the mayo sauce absorb?

    • Erica says:

      hmmm… I don’t know. You could try waiting until the noodles are completely cool before adding the mayo mixture. I think if you do that it probably won’t absorb as much as it is cooling. I hope this helps!

      • Talia says:

        Rinse your noodles first with cool water and leave the milk out. πŸ™‚

  26. Cat Johnson says:

    I have made this recipe twice in a month….family loves it! They are requesting it again for our Memorial Day cookout….thank you!

    • Erica says:

      Great idea! So glad you liked it!

  27. Charlene says:

    Do you know if the recipe will work with Best Foods Light Mayo?

    • Erica says:

      It will work but with it being “light” it probably won’t taste quite as good πŸ˜‰ I have used the Olive Oil mayo and that actually tastes really good

  28. Ashlee Wright says:

    OMG!!! This is soo good!! I moved to northern Utah from St.George. We used to live right down the street from the Honolulu Grill, and I crave the Honolulu Grill all the time! This hit the spot! Thank you so much for posting!

    • Erica says:

      So happy that you liked it! I am totally with you– I am always craving Honolulu grill MmmmmMMMmmm Isn’t Hawaiian food the best?!

  29. MIA MACKINNON says:

    I am going to make this today. I hated Mac salad until I had my first plate lunch! I think some huli huli chicken and rice will be a nice compliment.

    • Erica says:

      Oooh Huli Huli chicken will be coming soon to the blog, too! Keep an eye out for it πŸ˜‰ You’ve got good taste πŸ˜€

  30. U says:

    My mom always put tuna in our Mac salad. I like tuna, crab and shrimp!!
    And you are right pineapple has NO BUSINESS in Mac salad. Also, just because it has pineapple in it does not make food Hawaiian😁

    • Erica says:

      haha yes everything in Hawaii definitely does not have pineapple in it, especially mac salad! — I like the idea of crab.. definitely will try that one!

  31. Betty Townsend says:

    First off…let me say there is no such thing as authentic “Hawaiian” macaroni salad. It would more appropriately be called “Island Style” macaroni salad. The authentic method would be adding potatoes and macaroni to the salad, Best Foods mayonnaise, salt & pepper, shredded carrots, chopped yellow onion, celery, peas and sometimes can tuna. Local families have been variations…all of them good. It is incorrect to say that something is “Hawaiian” when it is not. Traditional Hawaiian food is poi, fish, kalua pig to name a few. Because of so many different ethnic groups living in the Hawaiian Islands, the different foods have become a part of the Island of eating. It is major concern of mine for people to think because something is associated with the Hawaiian Islands, especially food, it much be Hawaiian. Unfortunately, that is not so. Your recipe looks wonderful and I’m sure tastes fantastic. I apologize in advance if my comment upsets you, that is not my intention…just a little education, if you will.

    • Echo says:

      Thank you for your comment, Betty. The comment doesn’t upset us at all. Erica lived in Hawaii and this salad recipe was made by many of the families that lived there – one family that had a catering business and called this “Hawaiian Mac Salad.” It’s always good to have a different perspective and more information. One thing I know for sure – the food in Hawaii is amazing. Kalua Pig is one of my favorites.

  32. Bill Volckening says:

    Just got back from Oahu, da best grinds, local style. Recipe is great. Today I made kalua pua’a in da oven, also cabbage slaw with grated carrots, onion, and creamy sriracha sesame dressing like Foodland’s spicy Ahi Poke dressing. Mac salad didn’t miss a beat, brah! Onolicious! Broke da mouth!

    • Echo says:

      Thanks Bill! Lucky you! I would love to be in Oahu right now!

  33. kazy says:

    This was an amazing macaroni salad. The flavors came together wonderfully overnight. I can’t emphasize more how important it is to refrigerate this overnight. I tasted right after it was cooked and it wasn’t all that impressive but boy did those flavors come together overnight. It was like eating 2 completely different salads. Once again I can’t say enough about this. So flavorful. Thanks, Erica. Such a tasty recipe.

    • Echo says:

      Thank you for your comment Kazy! We are so happy you liked the salad!

  34. Dina says:

    This is a great recipe. I have made it many times and even added celery and imitation crab meat. So good. This is in my opinion a no fail dish to make for any potluck situation as well. I love it, thank you.

    • Erica says:

      So glad you like it! It is definitely a favorite of mine <3.. I agree.. totally no-fail!

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