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Hawaiian Macaroni Salad is made lighter with Greek Yogurt for a super creamy pasta salad that skimps on calories, but not flavor. This Hawaiian Mac Salad is the perfect side dish for barbecues, picnics, or just dinner with your family.
If you’re feeling a little tropical, enjoy this Hawaiian Macaroni Salad with our Huli Huli Barbecue Baked Chicken and Pineapple Cobbler. You’ll be transported to the islands and won’t ever want to leave!Pin this recipe for later!
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Authentic Hawaiian Macaroni Salad
If you’ve ever visited the islands of Hawaii, then you’re probably familiar with the term “plate lunch.” Popular at food trucks and counter service restaurants, the plate lunch consists of a protein, like Kalua Pork or Katsu Chicken, and two scoops of white rice and Hawaiian Macaroni Salad.
Hawaiian Mac Salad is unlike the traditional Macaroni Salad we have stateside. It’s sweeter, creamier, and absolutely divine. It’s basically just macaroni, mayonnaise, carrot, salt, and pepper. Some add sugar or vinegar to the dressing.
I have eaten that way and it is delicious, but when I make it at home I try to make it a little lighter and still get the same great flavor.
So while this recipe is not an authentic recreation, it’s a healthier version of the traditional. It only uses half the amount of mayo, replacing it with a lighter plain Greek yogurt.
How To Make Hawaiian Macaroni Salad
See recipe card below for ingredient quantities and full instructions.
Cook the macaroni according to package instructions. Drain and rinse. This is one of the few times I actually recommend rinsing. It removes the excess starch, cools the pasta, and stops the cooking process.
Whisk together the mayo, greek yogurt, honey, vinegar, and milk.
Gently fold the dressing into the macaroni. Use a rubber spatula so you don’t accidentally tear the pasta.
Stir in the carrot and onion. Taste and add salt and pepper as desired.
Garnish with fresh parsley if desired – I like to add this optional step for some color, but it is not traditionally included in mac salad.
Unlike our traditional macaroni salad in the states, the Hawaiian version tends to be sweeter, opting for sugar instead of vinegar and mustard. There is also a huge lean towards Best Foods mayonnaise, which some Hawaiians say is the only one they will use.
After Europeans introduced dry macaroni and mayonnaise to the islands, locals began making the mac salad because the ingredients were affordable, less perishable than other salads, and easy to make.
You can make it up a day in advance. If the salad looks a little dry, it’s because the macaroni absorbs some of the liquid in the dressing. Just whisk a little milk and mayo together and fold it in to remoisten.
Hawaiian Macaroni Salad is pretty adaptable to a variety of entrees, but because of the sweetness, it pairs especially well with more savory, salty dishes like Kalua Pork, Korean Short Ribs, and Grilled Chicken Kabobs.
Some like to add tuna to the salad and make it a complete meal. Whatever way you enjoy your Mac Salad, it’s sure to become a family favorite!
While the traditional salad has a base of macaroni and mayo, there are several local variations that you might find around the islands.
- Macaroni and Potato – The locals love this one. It uses half diced potato and half macaroni so it’s kind of a marriage of mac salad and potato salad.
- Add-ins – Peas and canned tuna are classic add-ins for mac salad, or try my recipe for Tuna Macaroni Salad.
If properly stored in an airtight container in the fridge, Hawaiian Macaroni Salad will last 4-5 days. If it seems dry, add a little milk mixed with a touch of mayo or Greek yogurt and stir it up to moisten.
More Hawaiian-Inspired Recipes
- Baked Huli Huli Chicken (Hawaiian BBQ)
- Kalua Pork (Slow Cooker, Instant Pot, or Oven)
- Hawaiian Pizza Dip
- Pineapple Cobbler
- Homemade Hawaiian Punch
Lighter Hawaiian Macaroni Salad
- 1 pound Macaroni
- 4 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 cup grated carrot
- 1/2 cup finely minced onion
- 1 cup Mayonnaise
- 1 cup plain Greek Yogurt
- 2 tablespoons nonfat milk more if needed
- 2 teaspoons honey
- Salt & pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley optional
- Cook macaroni according to package instructions. You want them a little softer than al dente. Rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process. Drain and cool to room temperature or chill in the refrigerator.
- In a small bowl, combine mayonnaise, greek yogurt, milk, honey and apple cider vinegar. Pour over cooled macaroni and fold with a spatula to coat completely. Fold in carrots and onion. Chill until ready to serve.