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Hello! I’m Anjali. I’m a board certified health coach, author, wife, mom and food lover from the SF Bay area (now living in Seattle, WA!); with a passion for delicious food and a desire to make healthy eating easy, tasty and fun! Learn more about me here and stay for a while!

Anjali Shah

Hawaiian Macaroni Salad

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This Hawaiian macaroni salad features tender macaroni, crunchy carrots, tangy apple cider vinegar, aromatic green onion, and delicious mayo for authentic Hawaiian flavors everyone will love. Light, bright, and creamy, this macaroni salad is a refreshing side dish perfect to pair with any meal. Plus, it can be made vegan and gluten-free!

Hawaiian macaroni salad in a white bowl.

Pasta salad is a staple dish for picnics, summer cookouts, and year round side dishes for a reason! It’s easy to make, and is a wonderfully cooling and delicious recipe with a creamy texture and the perfect consistency.

My newest pasta salad recipe, this easy Hawaiian macaroni salad, stays true to its island roots with clean ingredients that you likely already have around your kitchen. It elevates basic macaroni salad by adding in crunchy veggies and flavorful seasonings!

Serve this tangy salad as a side with teriyaki chicken or kalua pork for a Hawaiian plate lunch experience right at home or enjoy it as a standalone main dish for a light lunch.

Whether you’re planning for summer BBQs, a family picnic, or just need a great side dish for your next meal, this is a simple recipe you’ll want that’s sure to become a new family favorite at your home. It’s a favorite recipe at our place, too!

One of the best parts? You can easily throw together this creamy side dish in just 20 minutes!

Latest Recipe Video!

🍍What Is Hawaiian Macaroni Salad?

Hawaiian Macaroni Salad is a twist on traditional pasta salad where tender macaroni noodles and a variety of crisp veggies are tossed in a mixture of vinegar, mayo, and spices.

This classic macaroni salad recipe originated in the late 1800s (likely in the 1880’s) when the Hawaiian plate lunch began to rise in popularity. If you’ve been to Hawaii, you have probably seen the Hawaiian lunch plate being served at local Hawaiian restaurants, roadside stands, food trucks, and hole-in-the-wall restaurants.

Plate lunches typically consist of a serving of protein, white rice, vegetables and a mayo based salad – often a creamy mac salad! Most plate lunches can have a variety of different proteins and grilled meat such as Teriyaki chicken, huli huli chicken, kalua pork, poke, salmon, and spam musubi. You can also make it vegetarian or vegan by using grilled tofu for the protein.

So why was this particular style of macaroni salad included in plate lunch? Because it was a budget friendly and satisfying dish for workers at the sugar cane and pineapple plantations on the Hawaiian islands. It makes it one of the most popular side dish in Hawaiian cuisine. 

True Hawaiian macaroni salad is made with macaroni, mayo, milk, vinegar, carrots, salt, and pepper. But you can throw in a wide variety of mix-ins — celery, green onions, potato or even pineapple!

👩🏽‍🍳 Why You’ll Love Hawaiian-Style Macaroni Salad

  • Plant-Based: This Hawaiian style macaroni salad is a dream come true for vegetarians and can easily be made vegan.
  • Quick And Easy: This easy recipe is perfect for those busy weeknights when you need a quick side dish. With a handful of simple ingredients and a few easy steps, you can whip up this dish in no time.
  • Versatile: Not only is this Hawaiian pasta salad a vibrant addition to any meal, but it is also incredibly versatile. Serve it as a side dish at summer BBQs, bring it to a potluck, or enjoy it as a light lunch. It’s a crowd-pleaser any time of the year!
  • Family Friendly: This creamy Hawaiian mac salad is a hit with kids and adults alike. It is a great way to introduce your little ones to different flavors and cuisines. Plus, it is a healthier alternative to store-bought pasta salads.
  • Crowd-Pleaser: Whether you’re hosting a big family gathering, a potluck, or BBQ, this food truck style Hawaiian macaroni salad is a surefire crowd-pleaser. It is a delicious, creamy, satisfying, and perfect side dish that everyone will enjoy.

🥘 Ingredients

Making this authentic Hawaiian macaroni salad recipe is a breeze, with a handful of ingredients that you can easily find at your local grocery store. From the tangy apple cider vinegar to the crunchy green onions, each ingredient adds a unique flavor, making this a delicious and refreshing dish.

ingredients for best easy hawaiian macaroni salad recipe
  • Macaroni: The star of this recipe, macaroni noodles add a delicious texture to the dish. For a healthier twist, you can use whole wheat macaroni or chickpea macaroni.
  • Apple Cider Vinegar: This ingredient adds a tangy kick to the salad, balancing out the creaminess of the mayo. 
  • Carrot: Grated carrot adds a nice crunch and a touch of sweetness to the salad. It also brings a pop of color to this traditional Hawaiian dish.
  • Green Onion: Thinly sliced green onions provide a mild, yet flavorful punch. They also add a beautiful color contrast to the salad.
  • Salt & Black Pepper: These basic seasonings enhance the flavors of the other ingredients, making the salad even more delicious.
  • Mayonnaise: A critical component in this recipe for Hawaiian mac salad, mayo creates a creamy, rich dressing. Good mayo is one of the most critical components to making this authentic Hawaiian mac salad shine. I recommend Best Foods Mayonnaise, Duke’s Mayo, Hellmann’s, or any organic mayo at your local grocery store. It acts as a flavorful binding agent to hold all your salad ingredients together. I used light mayo to make this recipe slightly healthier. 
  • Milk: A little milk helps to thin out the mayo, creating a lighter, smoother mayonnaise dressing. Opt for low fat milk for a healthier choice.
  • Sugar: Though optional, a little sugar (granulated or brown sugar) can help create the perfect balance with the tanginess of the apple cider vinegar, adding a slightly sweet flavor to the salad. 

🍲 Ingredient Substitutions

  • Vinegar: There’s no direct substitute for apple cider vinegar in this recipe as it gives the salad its unique tangy flavor. However, in a pinch, you can use white wine vinegar, rice vinegar, or pickle juice. These will slightly alter the taste, but the salad will still be delicious.
  • Carrot: While the grated carrot adds a nice crunch and color to the salad, you can also use grated zucchini or cucumber for a different flavor and texture.
  • Onions: If you don’t have green onions on hand, you can use finely chopped red or white onions. However, remember that these have a stronger flavor than green onions.
  • Mayonnaise: To keep this salad plant-based and healthier, you can use light mayo or vegan mayo instead of Best Foods mayo. These alternatives will keep the salad creamy and delicious without compromising on the flavor. Do not substitute the mayo for miracle whip! It will not turn out nearly as good!
  • Milk: For a healthier and plant-based option, you can use almond milk, soy milk, or oat milk instead of regular milk. These alternatives will keep the salad creamy while adding a slight nutty flavor.
  • Sugar: If you want to make the salad sugar-free, you can use a plant-based sweetener like Stevia, or just omit the sugar altogether if you want a less sweet salad.

🔪 How To Make Hawaiian Macaroni Salad

Are you ready to bring the taste of the Hawaiian islands to your kitchen? Here’s how to make the best Hawaiian macaroni salad. For a more detailed guide and nutritional information, check out the full recipe card at the end of this post.

Cook The Macaroni: Start by following the package directions to cook your dry elbow macaroni, adding to a large pot of boiling water. Once cooked to al dente, drain the macaroni noodles and transfer them into a large bowl. Pro tip: As the pasta cooks you can prep your veggies!

Mix Ingredients: Next, pour the apple cider vinegar over the warm pasta and stir until well combined. Add the shredded carrot, chopped green onions, salt, and black pepper, and give it another good stir.

carrots and seasonings added to bowl

Whisk The Dressing: In a separate small bowl, mix together 2 1/2 cups mayonnaise, a little milk, and a bit of sugar to create a creamy dressing.

mayo dressing mixed in a bowl

Combine Macaroni And Dressing: Gently fold the mayo mixture into the macaroni, guaranteeing all the noodles are well coated.

macaroni and ingredients for salad mixed in a bowl

Chill The Salad: Allow your Hawaiian pasta salad to cool to room temperature before covering it. Store it in an airtight container and place it in the fridge to chill completely.

mixed pasta salad in a bowl

💭 Expert Tips

  • Do Not Overcook Pasta: For this Hawaiian style mac salad, it is super important to not overcook the macaroni noodles. This could cause them to break apart while stirring.
  • Maximize The Flavor With Vinegar: After cooking and draining your macaroni, you’ll pour apple cider vinegar over it and stir. Why do we do this? It adds a tangy flavor directly to the noodles for the perfect bite every time.
  • Use Healthy Alternatives: To make this salad healthier, consider using light mayo or vegan mayo, and low-fat milk. These swaps won’t compromise the flavor but will make your dish a lot lighter.
  • Chill Before Serving: Make sure your salad is completely chilled before serving. I recommend at least two hours of chill time in the fridge to let the flavors meld together perfectly.
  • Meal Prep And Adjust: Feel free to prepare this salad in advance and store it in an airtight container in the fridge. If made a day or two ahead, you might need to add a little more milk and mayo before serving, as the pasta tends to absorb the dressing over time.

📖 Variations

  • Add More Fresh Veggies: If you want to make this healthy Hawaiian macaroni salad even more nutritious, add some of your favorite vegetables. You can add sweet onion, corn kernels, cucumber, celery, olives, tomatoes, red onion, broccolini, or bell peppers. This will not only add a crunch to your salad but also make it more colorful and appealing.
  • Italian Style Mac Salad: Switch up the basic flavors of your pasta salad by adding different spices. Create an Italian-style salad by adding garlic powder, onion powder, basil, oregano, thyme, and rosemary. You can also swap out the mayo for a tangy dressing like an Italian style salad dressing! This will give your salad an Italian twist.
  • Potato Mac Salad: For a more filling option, chop up one cooked baked potato into small cubes and toss it into this salad. The potato will provide a different texture and make the salad more substantial.
  • Protein Packed Mac Salad: Serve this local dish with a protein to make it a complete meal, or add protein into this healthy Hawaiian mac salad recipe for a one-pot meal! You can add grilled chicken, tofu, hard-boiled eggs, or even some white beans for a protein boost.
  • Add Toppings: Get creative with your salad toppings. Some of my favorite things to add include parmesan cheese, cubed avocado, diced pineapple, toasted breadcrumbs, extra veggies, crunchy chow mein noodles, fresh herbs, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, or sunflower seeds. I even love drizzling a bit of hot sauce to the top of my macaroni salad.

🍽 Serving Suggestions

This is a versatile side dish that pairs well many main courses. Here are some serving suggestions:

  • Traditional Hawaiian BBQ: Serve this tangy macaroni salad alongside plant-based grilled meats, steamed veggies, and scoops of sticky rice for an authentic Hawaiian plate lunch. Don’t forget the fresh pineapple slices for a sweet finish!
  • Vegetarian Mains: This macaroni salad makes a great side dish for vegetarian main courses like lentil falafel burgers or tofu Thai yellow curry. It adds a creamy, tangy contrast to the hearty flavors of these dishes.
  • Summer BBQs: This salad is a great addition to a summer cookout. Serve it with grilled plant-based burgers, vegan hot dogs, or skewered veggies or tofu skewers for a classic BBQ plate.
  • Pair With Other Sides: You can serve this creamy macaroni salad alongside other side dishes like stuffed zucchini flowers, vegan bruschetta, or miso mushrooms for a well-rounded meal.

🙌 Dietary Adaptations

This recipe can be easily adapted to fit various dietary needs. Here’s how:

  • Vegan And Dairy-Free Option: This recipe calls for real mayo and milk, which are not vegan-friendly. For a vegan Hawaiian mac salad, use a vegan mayo and a plant-based milk of your choice. There are many great vegan mayos available in the market, and almond milk or soy milk could work well in this recipe.
  • Gluten-Free Option: To make this Hawaiian pasta salad gluten-free, simply replace the regular macaroni with a gluten-free variety. There are many gluten-free pasta options available, including those made from rice, corn, or quinoa. Just make sure to check the package to make sure that it is certified gluten-free.

🫙 Storage Directions

  • Refrigerating: After allowing your salad to cool down to room temperature, transfer it to an airtight container and store it in the refrigerator. It will stay fresh for up to three to four days. Remember, if it is been sitting for a day or two, you might need to add a little more milk and mayo before serving, as the pasta tends to absorb the creamy dressing over time.
  • Freezing: Unfortunately, this Hawaiian pasta salad doesn’t freeze well due to the creamy dressing and the soft noodles. The texture of the pasta and the dressing can change when frozen and then thawed, making it less appealing.
  • Reheating: This salad is best enjoyed cold, as is traditional with Hawaiian mac salad. However, if you prefer it slightly warmer, you can let it sit out of the fridge and reach room temperature the next time you go to serve it. Avoid reheating it in a microwave or on a stovetop as it can alter the texture of the salad and make it less enjoyable.

❓Recipe FAQs


No, you don’t need to let your pasta cool before assembling this salad unless you are using certain gluten-free pastas. With gluten free pasta it can be helpful to run cold water over the noodles to stop the cooking process. Additionally, the assembled salad may need cool slightly before storing it in the fridge.


Traditional Hawaiian macaroni salad is best served cold. The cool temperature actually enhances the flavors, making this salad taste light, flavorful, and refreshing.

Why is macaroni salad considered unhealthy? How Can I Make It Healthier?

Traditional macaroni salad is often viewed as unhealthy due to its high refined carb content from white pasta and high fat from ingredients like mayo and whole milk. However, you can make a healthier version by using whole wheat or chickpea macaroni to increase fiber and protein, and opting for light or vegan mayo to reduce fat and calories.


Yes, you can make this classic Hawaiian macaroni salad recipe without mayo, but it won’t be as creamy. Alternatives such as Italian dressing or a combination of Greek yogurt and avocado oil can be used in place of mayo in this recipe.

Easy Hawaiian macaroni salad in a white bowl.

🥗 More Flavorful Side Salads!

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📋 Recipe Card

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hawaiian mac salad in a white bowl
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5 from 13 votes

Hawaiian Macaroni Salad

This Hawaiian macaroni salad features tender macaroni, crunchy carrots, tangy apple cider vinegar, aromatic green onion, and delicious mayo for authentic Hawaiian flavors everyone will love. Light, bright, and creamy, this macaroni salad is a refreshing side dish perfect to pair with any meal. Plus, it can be made vegan and gluten-free!
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time20 minutes
Total Time30 minutes
Course: Appetizer, Side Dish, Snack, snacks
Cuisine: American
Diet: Vegetarian
Servings: 12 cups
Calories: 246kcal
Author: Anjali Shah


  • 1 pound macaroni use whole wheat macaroni or chickpea macaroni for a healthier option
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 carrot grated
  • 3 green onion thinly sliced
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • cups mayo use a light mayo or vegan mayo for a healthier option
  • ½ cup milk use low fat milk for a healthier option
  • 1 tsp sugar, optional


  • Cook macaroni as directed on the packaging. Drain and pour into a mixing bowl.
  • Pour the vinegar over the macaroni and stir to combine. Add the carrot, green onion, salt and pepper and stir.
  • In a separate bowl mix together the mayo, milk and sugar.
  • Fold the mayo mixture into the macaroni. Allow to cool before covering and storing in the fridge to chill completely.
  • Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.


  • To make this vegan friendly, substitute the milk with soy milk and use vegan mayo.
  • Gluten free pasta works really well in this recipe if you’re needing a gluten free option.
  • Allow the salad to chill completely before serving.
  • Nutritional info is calculated using chickpea macaroni, light mayo and 1 tsp sugar. If you used whole wheat macaroni, you’d have the same general nutritional information but would have only 6 grams of protein and 2 grams of fiber per serving. 


Serving: 1cup | Calories: 246kcal | Carbohydrates: 27g | Protein: 10g | Fat: 13g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 6g | Monounsaturated Fat: 2g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 8mg | Sodium: 444mg | Potassium: 56mg | Fiber: 6g | Sugar: 6g

20 responses to “Hawaiian Macaroni Salad”

  1. The creamy, tangy dressing perfectly coats every bite of tender macaroni. The addition of grated carrots and onions adds a delightful crunch. It’s the ultimate side dish for any BBQ or luau party!5 stars

  2. My boyfriend is obsessed with macaroni salad so I’ll definitely be making this for him. Sounds delicious!5 stars

  3. I read your recipe and immediately caught my attention! I love everything on it, especially the apple cider vinegar. I cooked it for lunch and loved it! I think it is great for meal prep.5 stars

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