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Traditional Hawaiian Macaroni Salad

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Hawaiian Macaroni Salad is a traditional simple Hawaiian pasta salad. It’s a no-frills mac salad made with simple ingredients and it’s a family favorite!

Have you ever been to a Hawaiian Luau, or a party thrown by Polynesian friends?

Traditional Hawaiian Pasta Salad

It’s the BEST food event you’ll ever attend. Seriously… The. Best!!! From the pulled slow roasted pork, to the Teriyaki Chicken and rice, the Fresh fruits, breads, and this salad…it’s never ending. The food, family, and fun NEVER ends! The women sing and laugh in the kitchen as they prepare the food. The men and children sit around singing to the soft sounds of a ukulele! It’s beautiful dinning experience. 

One of my very favorite dishes is this Authentic Hawaiian Macaroni Salad. The true version of this salad is simple. Macaroni, shredded carrots, a little onion, mayo, salt, and pepper. I know it sounds too simple to really be that good…but it is…that good! 

It’s a great basic creamy macaroni salad that you can add other ingredients too.  Some cooks like to add diced celery, crab, extra onion. However, I prefer the simple traditional basic recipe. I’ve seen lots of recipes on Pinterest for this salad that include ham and pineapple. That is NOT a traditional Hawaiian Mac Salad. I don’t know what it is? Maybe someone high from watching too much “Moana” went crazy…but it isn’t traditional Island Macaroni Salad. So steer clear of the ham and pineapple. 

This is a fantastic Pasta Salad…and a sure way you can enjoy that Island taste without leaving home.  Let’s get cooking!

How to Make Hawaiian Style Macaroni Salad

In a large pot bring water to a boil and cook 1 pound of Macaroni per the instructions on the box. Make sure that you cook that pasta “al dente”. If you overcook it, it won’t be able to absorb the creamy dressing, and you want that!

TIP: I love to use Bertolli macaroni for the texture. Any macaroni pasta will work though.

Drain and rinse cooked pasta. Place the hot pasta in a large bowl. Sprinkle with 2 Tablespoons of Apple Cider Vinegar. This one simple little step makes this salad stand out from the rest! The pasta absorbs the tang of the Apple Cider quickly… so move fast!

Give the past a quick toss after adding the vinegar.

Sprinkling 2 Tablespoons of Apple Cider Vinegar over cooked macaroni

Add two finely shredded carrots and 1/4 cup minced green onion. 

TIP: You can use white or yellow onion that has been shredded. I prefer the pop of color that the green onion adds to this pasta.

Add salt and pepper to taste. I use 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of coarse black pepper, but you might like a little more flavor. Remember when it comes to seasoning… everyone’s individual tastes vary. I prefer to go lighter on the salt. I never know when a guest may have dietary restrictions. You can always add more salt…but it’s really hard to pick out those small granules once they’re in there. (Y’all know I’m joking about picking out that salt right? Lol

Give all that a good stir before adding the dressing. 

Adding shredded carrots and chopped onions, salt and pepper.

Dressing for Hawaiian Macaroni Salad

For this next step you have two options…

Option 1) Mix all the dressing ingredients together in a separate bowl and then add it to the pasta mixture…

Option 2) Don’t mess another bowl, unless you live to wash dishes, and just throw it all in the main bowl and give it a good stir. The original recipe calls for option 1…but honestly it makes no difference.

If you know me at all you know I went with option 2! I won’t guilt you if you chose option one. Go dishwashers of the world!!! (See I’ll even cheer ya on…and give you my address, so you can come wash my dishes for me. Lol)

Add 2 1/2 cups of mayonnaise… Best Food, Hellman’s or Dukes! Note it states mayonnaise…not that other dirty word… Miracle Whip. Walk away from the “M.W.” my friends. This is a mayo salad if ever there was a mayo salad! So no substitutions.  Add 1/4 cup milk and 2 teaspoons of sugar! 

Adding mayonnaise and milk to the pasta.

Give that all a good stir y’all! Look at all that creamy goodness!!! Isn’t that beautiful. If the salad doesn’t seem “creamy” enough for you, you can add a couple tablespoons of extra milk the next day. At our favorite local Hawaiian restaurant they make theirs super creamy. I like to find a happy medium. 

Cover and chill for 4 hours or overnight. Let me insert here that this salad is much better when it has a chance to sit overnight to give those simple flavors a chance to party together for a while! 

TIP: This salad can be made up to two days in advance. 

Traditional Hawaiian Pasta salad mixed together in a large bowl ready to be chilled.

Serving Hawaiian Pasta Salad

When you’re ready to serve this salad, give it a good stir, garnish with a sprinkle of chopped green onion, and stand back and watch your guests fill their plates and keep on coming back!

Look at all that delicious creaminess! Honestly I wish y’all could grab a fork and take a taste. It’s such a simple salad that you’ll be tempted to add a bunch of other ingredients to it…but don’t. Our friends from the islands know what they’re doing! This salad is fantastic with BBQ meats! It doesn’t steal the show…it compliments it!

Close up photo of creamy traditional hawaiian pasta salad

My teenage and young adult nephews and nieces gobble this salad up! My grand babies love it … I adore it! Truly my favorite creamy mac salad!

If you’re looking for some other great Summer Salad idea’s you might enjoy these

I had so many of you ask for this recipe when I shared it on Instagram.  I hope you’ll give it a try and let me know what you think! 

As always, thanks so much for stopping by and visiting with me today! I hope you have a great week and weekend. Remember you can join me every day as I share my favorite recipes and happenings over on Facebook, Instagram, and pin my favorite pins on Pinterest.

Come back soon and Happy Nesting!

Photo of Norine with her signature
Yield: 10 servings

Traditional Hawaiian Macaroni Salad

Traditional Hawaiian Pasta Salad in a serving bowl

Hawaiian Macaroni Salad is a traditional simple Hawaiian pasta salad. It's a no-frills mac salad made with simple ingredients and it's a family favorite!

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes


  • 1 pound macaroni
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 carrots, shredded
  • 1/4 cup green onions minced (optional)
  • 2 1/2 cups Mayonnaise Best Foods, Hellman's or Dukes mayonnaise (no substitutes!)
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • salt and pepper, to taste


  1. Cook macaroni according to package directions. Rinse and drain well and place macaroni in a large bowl (I like to use a bowl with a lid so I can easily refrigerate to chill)
  2. While macaroni is still hot, sprinkle vinegar over the top and quickly stir pasta. Add grated carrots and onion. Toss together until well combined. Allow to cool about 10-15 minutes.
  3. Add mayonnaise, milk, and sugar. Salt and pepper to taste. Stir until all the noodles are evenly coated.
  4. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours (best if overnight). Gently stir a little more milk in before serving if needed,no more than a tablespoon or two. Garnish with chopped green onion.

Nutrition Information:


10 servings

Serving Size:

1 cup

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 477Total Fat: 44gSaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 36gCholesterol: 25mgSodium: 405mgCarbohydrates: 16gFiber: 1gSugar: 2gProtein: 3g

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Monday 19th of February 2024

I have been trying to find a Hawaiian Mac Salad to make at home and I am hoping this fits the bill all others have failed mind you I have only tried two other recipes this one is different and I will follow it to a T. I know I will love it because all other recipes you have provided to us have been a huge hit with my family. So I will follow up with the results.

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Friday 23rd of February 2024

Hi Friend! I really hope this recipe lives up to your expectations. We love it at this Nest! My nephews fight over the last bit of it in the bowl. Let me know what you think. Have a great weekend! Norine


Friday 21st of October 2022

Delicious! I was looking for a macaroni salad like my local Hawaiian restaurant and this fits the bill.

Also, to those whose comment about not being traditional….get your own blog.

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Monday 24th of October 2022

Hi Lynette! YOU MADE MY DAY! Thank You so much for your support! I'm so glad you enjoyed this recipe. I hope you'll come back and visit again soon. Have a Great Week! Norine


Wednesday 25th of May 2022

I've been reading other "authentic" Hawaiian macaroni salad recipes. They say to overcook by 5 minutes for better "absorption" You differ and say to cook "al dente" for absorption. Which makes sense to me.

Any thoughts why softer would be better?

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Tuesday 31st of May 2022

Hi Teri! I have no idea why they would say that? A pasta that has been overcooked has already absorbed all the liquid it can, and will be too soft. An "al dente" pasta still has room to absorb more liquid and retain it's shape. Perhaps the other sites prefer "soggy" pasta? I know this isn't super helpful...but I hope you enjoy this recipe! Have a great week! Norine


Saturday 17th of July 2021


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Monday 19th of July 2021

Hi Holly! Thank you! You made my day! Have a great week and stop back by soon! Norine


Monday 29th of March 2021

i am a resident of hawaii for over 60yrs and learning from our kapunas(elders) we never put apple cider vinegar,sugar and milk. thats yhe true hawaiian recipe.


Tuesday 16th of August 2022

@lloyd, yup! I agree. This is NOT a traditional Hawaiian Mac salad. Why is it so hard for him to not understand that we do not use any milk and apple cider vinegar or any vinegar in our salad. 🤦🏻‍♀️🤷🏻‍♀️


Tuesday 17th of May 2022

@lloyd, I was born and raised in Hawaii to, my family goes back to the Queens and Kings. My Tutu showed all of us how to make salad, no,vinegar, no milk, it’s made simple, Best Food always.

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Tuesday 30th of March 2021

Hi Lloyd! I'm not sure I completely understand what you are saying? I'm sorry. I appreciate your input, it's just a little unclear to me. Thanks so much for stopping by. Have a great week. Norine

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