Hawaiian Mac Salad Recipe

April 19, 2018Van
Blog post

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cook time: 20 minutes

Serves: 6

This Hawaiian-style Mac Salad is a crowd pleaser. From picnics in summer, to a must-have side dish for those filling Hawaiian Plate Lunches. The Hawaiian Plate Lunch has been making people happy since the late 1800’s. A hearty “island style” presentation of the Japanese Bento Box designed to feed hungry pineapple and sugar plantation workers—but proved too irresistible for the rest of us. Typically filled with lots of meat and lots of rice, the plate lunch expanded in the last century to include mac salad.

Mac Salad is unique because of the taste and texture, the macaroni is cooked very soft which adds to the creamy texture and the addition rice vinegar + a little sugar balances out the flavor. The secret ingredient is a little bit of canned tuna, it took me years to figure this out because I could never get it to taste like my favorite restaurant’s mac salad, but just a little bit adds that extra boost of umami.  If you’ve ever been to Hawai’i you can appreciate the protein options from Kalua Pork, Chicken Katsu, Huli Huli Chicken, BBQ Ribs to Spicy Garlic Shrimp and how perfectly the creamy Mac Salad pairs with any of those dishes.

To get the most authentic flavor, you must use Best Foods or Hellman’s Mayonnaise and a lot of it!
Hawaiian Mac Salad Recipe Best Foods Mayonnaise

Cook the macaroni for 20 minutes, for Hawaiian Mac Salad the macaroni needs to be overcooked and very soft.  If you use al dente pasta, the mac salad will be creamy when you first add the mayo mixture, but after it sits in the fridge, it dries out and the mayo becomes clumpy instead of creamy.  This is a basic recipe, it’s similar to what you’d get at almost any Local Food or Hawaiian BBQ restaurant, feel free to add your own touches to it, some people like to add chopped ham or ground black pepperHawaiian Mac Salad Recipe

Hawaiian Mac Salad Recipe

Print Recipe

Hawaiian Mac Salad Recipe

  • Prep time: 5 minutes
  • Cook time: 20 minutes
  • Serves: 6



  • ½ Pound Elbow Macaroni, (8 oz)
  • 1½ Cups Best Foods Mayo or Hellmann's
  • 3 Tablespoons Milk or Water
  • 1 Teaspoon Canned Tuna, (optional)
  • 1½ Teaspoons Rice Vinegar
  • 1 Teaspoon Granulated Sugar
  • 1 Small Carrot, peeled and grated fine
  • 1 Teaspoon Grated Onion, or ¼ Teaspoon Onion Powder
  • ½ Teaspoon Fine Sea Salt
  • ⅛ Teaspoon Coarse Ground Black Pepper


  • 1)

    Bring a large pot of water to boil and add 1 teaspoon of salt and ½ Pound Elbow Macaroni. Cook for 20 Minutes (Yes 20 Minutes, for Hawaiian Mac Salad the macaroni needs to be overcooked and very soft). Drain the macaroni in a colander, run cold water over the macaroni until it’s cool and let it drain for about 10 minutes.

  • 2)

    In a large bowl, add 1½ Cup of Best Foods Mayo, 3 Tablespoons Milk, 1½ Teaspoons of Rice Vinegar, 1 Teaspoon of Sugar, ½ Teaspoon of Sea Salt, 1 Teaspoon Canned Tuna, 1 Teaspoon Grated Onion, ⅛ Teaspoon Ground Black Pepper and 1 Grated Carrot – stir until it’s well combined. Add the macaroni and stir, taste and season more if needed. Refrigerate for 2 hours uncovered before serving. If you have leftovers, cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Enjoy!

↓ Supplies to make this recipe ↓



  • Don

    April 22, 2018 at 10:40 am

    So many options for mac salad out there, but yours is one of my favorites. Plate lunch here I come. Thank you for this.


    1. Van

      April 22, 2018 at 12:48 pm

      You’re welcome Don! What else are you making for your plate lunch? I could go for some spicy garlic shrimp right now!

  • Don

    April 24, 2018 at 9:09 am

    Oh Shrimp sounds yummy, but you can’t forget Instant Pot Kalua Pig. Fast and tasty.

    1. Van

      April 24, 2018 at 9:14 am

      I’ve been wanting to try kalua pork in the Instant Pot, do you wrap it banana leaves?

  • Don

    April 25, 2018 at 8:04 am

    No, I use the recipe from NomNom Paleo and I think it is great. The Hawaiian salt makes it very tasty. Putting the cabbage in after the meat cooks and then cooking it in the broth…..yummm. Maybe better than the pork.

    Please try it.


    1. Van

      April 25, 2018 at 10:21 am

      Thanks Don, I’ll check it out! I still have alaea salt from the last time I made kalua pork (in the oven) – I might try wrapping the pork in banana leaves because I happen to have some in the freezer.

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