This Hawaiian Macaroni Salad is the real deal. A no-frills, creamy mac salad that is the perfect side dish for any BBQ or Luau!
Hawaiian 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.
- 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).
If you love this Hawaiian Macaroni Salad, you have got to try these other great side dishes:
- Traditional Macaroni Salad: This is one of our favorite macaroni salads for potlucks and BBQs. A traditional mac salad with lots of great mix-ins!
- Traditional Potato Salad: Hands-down the best potato salad. We do not have family BBQs without it. It is always a must!
- Pani Popp (Samoan Coconut Rolls): Looking for another island-style side dish? You will LOVE these coconut rolls! One of my favorite sweet treats from Hawaii.
- Need more side-dish ideas? Check out ALL of our side dishes HERE