Quick and Easy Hawaiian Macaroni Salad (Only 4 Ingredients and 5 Steps!)

This Hawaiian macaroni salad recipe has only four main ingredients and only takes four steps to make! It’s an easy recipe that can be served as the perfect side dish at any gathering or to accompany your weeknight dinner. 

Hawaiian Macaroni Salad

What Makes Hawaiian Macaroni Salad Different?

Here in the U.S., we are used to the sweet flavor in classic macaroni salad. Unlike our pasta salad recipes, true Hawaiian mac doesn’t usually call for vinegar or sugar. 

Instead, this dish’s main flavor comes from the mayonnaise and grated onion. It’s a creamy, savory side dish. 

Ingredients for Hawaiian Mac Salad

As with any Island cuisine, folks are pretty particular about what goes into their Hawaiian mac. This recipe was highly researched and was trimmed down to the main, authentic ingredients found in true Hawaiian macaroni salad. 

Some additional ingredients are highly debated. I’ve made a list of optional add-ins that are found in many recipes. You can choose what you add to your macaroni salad. This easy base recipe is great as is!

Ingredients

Here’s what you’ll need to make this easy Hawaiian style macaroni salad:

Hawaiian Mac Salad Ingredients
  • 1 pound (16 ounces) elbow macaroni noodles                                                     
  • 2 – 2 ½ cups mayonnaise  (about 16 – 20 ounces)
  • 1 cup (about 3 medium carrots) shredded carrots (dry)
  • ¼ cup (about ½ a medium onion) finely grated yellow onion (juice and pulp)
  • Optional: green onion for garnishing
  • Optional: additional shredded carrots for garnishing
  • Optional: black pepper and salt to taste 

Cooking and Serving Items:

You’ll only need a few other things to make this recipe:

  • A large pot to boil the noodles
  • A large bowl to mix and serve your ingredients in
  • A flat spatula to mix the ingredients and salad together
  • A grater for the onion and carrots (if not purchased already grated)

Ingredient and Recipe Notes

Here are a few notes and tips for this recipe.

Macaroni Noodles

The macaroni needs to be softer for this recipe. That’s why we boil the noodles for about 5 minutes longer than the directions for an al dente pasta. They can’t be too soggy though, so you’ll need to keep an eye on them. 

Mayonnaise

The base of this creamy macaroni salad is real mayo. Folks are pretty particular about the brand too. Habitants of the Hawaiian islands make it known that you need to use either Hellman’s or Best Foods mayonnaise for this salad. 

Worried about which brand to get? According to The Huffington Post, Hellman’s and Best Foods are the exact same brand but are labeled differently based on where they are sold. 

Hellman’s mayonnaise is sold to the East of the Rocky Mountains in the U.S., in Latin America, Europe, Middle East and Canada. Best Foods mayonnaise is sold to the West of the Rocky mountains. 

Mayo Substitutes for Hawaiian Mac Salad

While you CAN substitute other ingredients for the mayonnaise in this salad, it won’t be the authentic recipe. However, if mayo-based salads aren’t your thing, you can switch out the mayo for greek yogurt or another creamy dressing, like miracle whip, of your choice.   

Carrots

You can shred your carrots yourself or buy the pre-shredded kind from the grocery store. Either way, you need to make sure they are dry before adding them into the dish. 

Use a paper towel or a clean towel to squeeze out any extra moisture from the carrots before adding them into the bowl. If you skip this step the carrots can turn your salad orange and water down the mayonnaise. 

Onion

The grated onion is really the flavor star in this recipe. You’ll grate about ½ of a medium yellow onion or one whole small onion to obtain ¼ cup. You want the juice and the pulp from the onion to make it into your mixing bowl. 

Onion Substitutes 

While this recipe won’t be traditional Hawwaian macaroni without the onion, you can leave it out. If you aren’t a fan of onions then I recommend you substitute something like garlic in to give the dish some bite and flavor.  

Garnishes

This salad is perfect as is and doesn’t need any garnishes. However, in popular recreations, people like to add green onion, extra shredded carrots, and salt and pepper. 

You don’t need these things but they do add some extra flavor and make the dish really beautiful. 

Hawaiian Macaroni Salad Optional Ingredients

There are a lot of different takes on this macaroni salad recipe. Many ingredients can be added to this simple dish to change and add to the flavor. The most common additions to this salad are to add boiled eggs and potatoes to turn this into a mac and potato salad. 

Those of us in the states who prefer a sweet and tangy flavor usually add in a small amount of apple cider vinegar and sugar. Here is a list of ingredients that are commonly found in other Hawaiian macs.

Optional Add-ins

  • Boiled eggs
  • Boiled potatoes
  • Tuna
  • Peas
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Red wine vinegar
  • Sugar
  • Brown sugar
  • Garlic or garlic powder
  • Whole milk
  • Relish
  • Pickle juice
  • Mustard

How to Make Hawaii’s Mac Salad

The steps for this simple dish are quick and easy. 

Step One

In a large pot, boil about 6 quarts of water. Add the macaroni noodles and boil them about three minutes past the al dente package directions. You want the noodles to be soft and tender but not mushy. This should be about 11-15 minutes. 

Step Two

If you didn’t purchase pre-shredded carrots, shred those now. Whether pre-shredded or freshly grated, you’ll need to soak up the excess water from the carrots. Use a paper towel or clean towel to soak up the moisture. 

Grate the onion. Make sure to save both the juice and the pulp from your onion. 

Step Three

While the noodles are boiling, mix together the mayonnaise, shredded carrots, and grated onion in a large mixing or serving bowl (you’ll add your noodles in later). 

Step Four

Drain the boiled noodles and rinse them carefully with cold water. The noodles will be soft so run the water slowly and closely to the noodles so you don’t damage them.

Step Five

Add about ¼ of your cooked noodles into the mayonnaise mixture at a time. Fold them in with a flat spatula and coat evenly. Once all of your noodles have been added and coated, refrigerate them for at least 3 hours before serving. 

Optional: garnish with green onion before serving.

Serving This Recipe

This dish should be served and kept cool since there is mayonnaise in it. It’s one of my favorite pasta salad recipes for summer cookouts and compliments almost any main dish. 

This creamy side goes particularly well with:

  • Kalua pork
  • Pulled chicken
  • BBQ pork
  • Teriyaki chicken
  • Huli huli chicken
  • Pineapple chicken
4 ingredient easy hawaiian mac salad
Hawaiian Mac with Pulled BBQ Chicken

Storing Hawaiian Pasta Salad

This pasta can be made ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. Any leftovers will keep in an airtight container in the fridge. 

The noodles may soak up too much of your mayonnaise over time. You might need to add more mayo or a splash of milk to keep it moist and creamy. 

I would not recommend freezing this recipe. Since the noodles are so soft, that’s probably not a great idea for this recipe. 

Hawaiian Mac Salad Recipe

This 4-ingedient Hawaiian macaroni salad is so quick and easy to make. It's perfect as a side for dinner or at your BBQ gathering!
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easy hawaiian mac salad
Prep Time:10 mins
Cook Time:15 mins

Ingredients

  • 1 pound (16 ounces) elbow macaroni noodles
  • 2-2 1/2 cups mayonnaise (about 16 – 20 ounces)
  • 1 cup (about 3 medium carrots) shredded carrots dried
  • 1/4 cup (about ½ a medium onion) finely grated yellow onion juice and pulp

Optional Ingredients

  • green onion for garnishing
  • additional shredded carrots for garnishing
  • black pepper and salt to taste

Instructions

  • In a large pot, boil about 6 quarts of water. Add the macaroni noodles and boil them about three minutes past the al dente package directions. You want the noodles to be soft and tender but not mushy. This should be about 11-15 minutes.
  • If you didn’t purchase pre-shredded carrots, shred those now. Whether pre-shredded or freshly grated, you’ll need to soak up the excess water from the carrots. Use a paper towel or clean towel to soak up the moisture.
    Grate the onion. Make sure to save both the juice and the pulp from your onion.
  • While the noodles are boiling, mix together the mayonnaise, shredded carrots, and grated onion in a large mixing or serving bowl (you’ll add your noodles in later).
  • Drain the boiled noodles and rinse them carefully with cold water. The noodles will be soft so run the water slowly and closely to the noodles so you don’t damage them.
  • Add about ¼ of your cooked noodles into the mayonnaise mixture at a time. Fold them in with a flat spatula and coat evenly. Once all of your noodles have been added and coated, refrigerate them for at least 3 hours before serving.
    Optional: garnish with green onion before serving.
Servings: 12 to 15 people
4 ingredient easy hawaiian mac salad

I’d love to hear if you tried this salad or have your own favorite Hawaiian mac salad recipe for us to try! Comment below and let me know. 

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