Super Delicious Hawaiian Macaroni Salad

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Hawaiian macaroni salad is a creamy, tangy, island-style pasta salad. This simple recipe is great for summertime BBQs and easy lunch plates.

Looking for more delicious pasta salad recipes? Try my Super Tasty Seafood Pasta Salad, Creamy Italian Pasta Salad, and Tortellini Pasta Salad next!

plated Hawaiian macaroni salad beside white rice and chicken

Get a taste of Hawaii with this mac salad recipe that brings the island flavor directly to you! This authentic macaroni salad recipe features a sprinkle of sugar, grated carrot, onions, and creamy mayonnaise dressing tossed with al dente pasta. I love serving this refreshing side dish at cookouts and picnics.

wooden spoon loaded with Hawaiian macaroni salad over a dish containing more

Why you will love Hawaiian Pasta Salad:

Easy to Make! From fridge to table, this recipe can be ready in just 30 minutes. All I have to do is boil the noodles, mix the ingredients, and let them meld in the fridge!

Authentic Recipe! Forget Ono Hawaiian BBQ because this homemade version is so good, it “broke da mouth” (aka, the local way to say a dish is super bomb)!

Versatility! While this recipe keeps true to traditional Hawaiian pasta salad, I provide some tasty variations you may want to try if you’re feeling adventurous.

plated Hawaiian macaroni salad beside white rice and chicken

Ingredients for Hawaiian Macaroni Salad Recipe

I love how easily this recipe comes together with pantry staples. To make the best mac salad recipe, you will need the following ingredients:

a bowl of shredded carrots beside a smaller bowl of shredded onions
  1. Elbow macaroni noodles: Most Hawaiian macaroni salad recipes cook the macaroni until soft (never mushy) but I prefer al dente because it yields a tender, chewy bite.
  2. Apple cider vinegar: This adds a fresh punch of tangy taste.
  3. Onion: Shred the onion until it nearly resembles juice. That’s how the flavor infuses into the pasta.
  4. Carrots: Shredded carrots add color, texture, and a pop of natural sweetness.
  5. Hellman’s Mayonnaise: Also known as Best Foods Mayonnaise in Hawaii, I do not recommend using a substitute because a quality, full-fat mayo is necessary to achieve the desired consistency.
  6. Milk: This cuts through some of the thickness of the mayo for a thinner dressing. It also helps the noodles soak up all the flavors. Use 2% milk for the best results.
  7. Sugar: Balance some of the savory flavor with a pinch of sugar. It will have everyone scooping up this salad by the spoonful!
  8. White pepper: You can substitute with black pepper if you prefer.
  9. Salt: Add to taste.

How to Make Hawaiian Macaroni Salad

To start, bring a large pot of water to a boil and season it with a pinch of salt to enhance the flavor of the macaroni.

Add the elbow macaroni to the boiling water, reduce the heat to medium, and let it cook for about 10 minutes until it achieves an al dente consistency. You want it tender but still slightly firm to the bite.

cooked macaroni in a mixing bowl

Meanwhile, prepare the vegetables by grating the onion and carrots using a grater or finely chopping them with a sharp knife. Set aside the shredded onion and carrots for later use.

shredded onions in a bowl for Hawaiian macaroni salad recipe
shredded carrots in a clear mixing bowl

Once the macaroni is cooked, drain it thoroughly and transfer it to a large mixing bowl. While the macaroni is still warm, add the apple cider vinegar and gently stir to evenly distribute it throughout the pasta. Mix in the shredded onion and carrots followed by the mayonnaise, pepper, and sugar. Adjust the seasoning with salt according to your taste preferences.

grated carrots ane onions added to bowl of cooked macaroni
mayo added to a bowl of macaroni

Stir everything together until all the ingredients are well combined. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a lid and refrigerate the macaroni salad for at least one hour, or preferably overnight.

overhead view of a bowl of authentic macaroni salad

Chilling allows the flavors to meld together, resulting in a more delicious salad. When ready to serve, give the salad a final stir and enjoy it chilled as a refreshing side dish or main course.

wooden spoon loaded with Hawaiian macaroni salad over a dish containing more

Tips and Variations

  • Assemble your pasta while the macaroni is still warm. Warm pasta better absorbs the ingredients, particularly the vinegar.
  • Don’t skip the grate for the onions and carrots! Grating ensures there is evenly distributed flavor in each bite.
  • Use a wooden spoon or rubber spatula to gently fold the ingredients into each other. Using a regular spoon may tear the macaroni.
  • Instead of sugar, some recipes use mirin. It’s a sweet, tangy Japanese rice wine that adds complexity to the dish. Other variations include boiled eggs or diced potatoes but we’re not making a Hawaiian potato salad today.
  • If time allows, let the pasta chill in the fridge for at least 1 hour. This gives the flavors time to meld.
a wooden spoon inserted into a bowl of Hawaiian macaroni salad

How to Make Hawaiian Macaroni Salad Ahead of Time

You can make this salad up to 3 days in advance. Just store it in an airtight container in the fridge until you’re ready to serve.

It’s normal for the noodles to absorb some of the dressing and become a bit dry over time. Simply add more mayo or a splash of milk to refresh it!

Take your leftovers to the next level by adding chopped celery and tuna for a Hawaiian-style tuna salad.

plated Hawaiian macaroni salad beside white rice and chicken and two forks


Traditional macaroni salad contains ingredients like pickles, hard-boiled eggs, and peppers. However, the Hawaiian variation has a sweet, tangy touch with ingredients like apple cider vinegar and sugar.

Make Hawaiian macaroni salad with elbow macaroni noodles, mayonnaise (Hellmann’s/Best Foods), apple cider vinegar, shredded onion, shredded carrot, sugar, white pepper, milk, and salt.

If it’s good for the grill, it’s even better for this pasta salad! Serve Hawaiian macaroni salad with grilled chicken, shrimp, ribs, or steak. Double up on those carbs by serving it with a scoop of white rice.

Due to the dairy (milk and mayo), I wouldn’t freeze macaroni salad. The dressing will separate and impact the texture.

plated ono macaroni salad beside white rice and chicken

More delicious pasta recipes

wooden spoon loaded with Hawaiian macaroni salad over a dish containing more
Yield: 10 servings

Super Delicious Hawaiian Macaroni Salad

Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes

Hawaiian macaroni salad is a creamy, tangy, island-style pasta salad. This simple recipe is great for summertime BBQs and easy lunch plates.


  • 1 16 ounce box Elbow macaroni noodles
  • 2 tablespoons Apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ Onion, shredded
  • 2 whole Carrots, shredded
  • 2 ½ cups Hellman's Mayonnaise, do not use substitutions
  • ¼ cup Milk, 2%
  • 2 teaspoons Sugar
  • 2 teaspoons White pepper, substitute black pepper
  • Salt to taste


  1. Bring a large stock pot of water to a boil and add a heavy pinch of salt to the water (to add flavor to macaroni). Once the water is boiling, gently pour in the elbow macaroni. 
  2. Reduce the heat to medium and boil the pasta for about 10 minutes, or until the macaroni is al dente (soft but not mushy). 
  3. While the pasta is boiling, use a grater to grate your onion and your carrots. Alternatively, you can use a very sharp knife to finely mince the onions and carrots. Set the shredded onions and carrots aside.
  4. Once the pasta is done boiling, drain the water and place the hot pasta in a large bowl. While it is still hot, pour the apple cider vinegar directly into the pasta and use a spoon to mix it around so that the vinegar is fully absorbed. 
  5. Now mix in the shredded onion and carrots into the pasta. Then add in the mayonnaise and pepper; add the salt to your taste. Stir everything together until fully combined. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour, or overnight for the best results. 
  6. And enjoy!


Feel free to add tuna and/or celery.

Nutrition Information



Serving Size


Amount Per Serving Calories 459Total Fat 42gSaturated Fat 7gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 34gCholesterol 24mgSodium 416mgCarbohydrates 17gFiber 1gSugar 2gProtein 4g

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