Hawaiian Macaroni Salad

5 from 6 votes
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This classic Hawaiian macaroni salad stars a rich, creamy, tangy-sweet dressing that coats al dente macaroni noodles, shredded carrots, and finely chopped red onion. It’s loaded with flavor and is the perfect side dish for your next BBQ or potluck.

Two wooden spoons in a bowl filled with Hawaiian Macaroni Salad.


Hawaiian macaroni salad is one of those all-time favorites that seems to impress on and off the islands. Simple yet delicious, it is comprised of a mixture of al dente pasta, shredded carrots, and chopped red onion, all mixed together in an out-of-this-world creamy dressing that strikes the perfect balance between rich, tangy, and slightly sweet. The luscious dressing sinks into the freshly cooked pasta as the salad chills in the fridge, emerging a couple of hours later to delight the taste buds of all who taste it.

Why I Love This Hawaiian Mac Salad Recipe

  • Perfect marriage of flavors. This mac salad’s flavor combination is incredible. The bite of the red onion and the tangy sweetness of the rich dressing will have you running back to the serving bowl, spoon in hand.
  • Customizable. I went with a very simple rendition of Hawaiian mac salad, but that doesn’t mean you have to. There are so many fun ways to doll this side dish up and make it your own.
  • Versatile. This traditional Hawaiian side is just as good served with Luau favorites as it is with a vast plethora of other potluck stars.

What is Hawaiian Macaroni Salad?

This simple, flavorful pasta salad has gained popularity not only in Hawaii but also on the mainland. It is typically made with macaroni pasta cooked to al dente and tossed with shredded carrots, onions, and a creamy, tangy dressing with just a hint of sweetness.

Labeled ingredients for Hawaiian macaroni salad.

Recipe Ingredients

Here’s what you’ll need to turn this macaroni salad recipe into a delicious reality. Scroll to the recipe card below for precise measurements.

  • Macaroni pasta – Feel free to use a different short pasta or gluten-free pasta.
  • Mayonnaise – Not a mayonnaise person? You could use yogurt instead. Just note that your dressing will be a bit tangier.
  • Half and half – You could use milk here instead for a slightly lighter dressing or use heavy cream for a richer dressing.
  • Dijon mustard – The Dijon is optional but it does add a fun edge to the flavor profile.
  • Apple cider vinegar – The vinegar helps cut the richness of the dressing a bit.
  • Honey – The honey adds a hint of sweetness to this otherwise savory dish.
  • Carrots – Either shred whole carrots yourself (this is preferable) or purchase pre-shredded carrots.
  • Red onion – Yellow or white onion would work as well.
  • Fresh parsley – The parsley is optional, but I love the bright pop of color and freshness it brings.
  • Salt and Black Pepper

How to Make Hawaiian Macaroni Salad

Embrace the flavors of the islands with this simple yet delicious salad recipe. Follow these four simple steps to bring a taste of Hawaii to your table.

  1. Cook the pasta. Cook and drain the pasta per the package’s instructions.
  2. Make the dressing. Whisk together the mayo, half and half, Dijon, apple cider vinegar, honey, and salt.
  3. Put it all together. Mix together the pasta, dressing, carrots, red onion, and parsley in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Chill. Cover the bowl and chill for at least 2 hours before serving.
Pasta salad in a glass mixing bowl.

Tips And Variations

  • Salt the water. Cooking pasta in unsalted water will end you with bland pasta and, thus, a relatively bland mac salad.
  • Al dente, please. Do not overcook the pasta. If it is too mushy, it will fall apart when you toss it with the dressing, veggies, etc.
  • Hot pasta. You want to combine the pasta and the dressing while the pasta is still warm. The dressing will absorb into the pasta better that way, giving you a more flavorful dish.
  • Don’t skip the chill. As tempting as it might be to dive straight into this delightful side, it really does get better if you let it sit in the fridge for a couple of hours. The dressing gets a chance to soak into the pasta and soften the veggies.
  • Spice it up. Mix in a bit of paprika and/or cayenne pepper. Smoked paprika would also be a fun addition.
  • Add some protein. Mix in some crisp, crumbled bacon, shredded pork, fried, cubed spam or ham, or even chopped hard boiled eggs.
  • Other fun mix-ins. Hawaiian salad often contains minced celery for crunch. I have seen it with small chunks of pineapple mixed in for added sweetness. Relish would be a great addition.

Serving Suggestions

Traditionally, this mac salad is served with a scoop of white rice and a delicious Hawaiian main such as Kalua pork. This Instant Pot Pork Shoulder would be a great substitute. You can also serve this sweet and tangy side with a Juicy Turkey Burger (or Cheeseburger Sliders) and some crunchy Coleslaw. It plays well with other salads such as this Grape Salad or my Broccoli Cauliflower Salad and a slice of Cornbread Casserole with a scoop of Baked Beans. I love serving it with Chicken Wings and Dipping Sauce. Choose your own adventure!

Hawaiian Macaroni Salad served in two small white bowls.

Proper Storage

Seal any leftover Hawaiian mac salad in an airtight container. You can keep it in the fridge for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months. If you choose to freeze your leftovers, allow them to thaw completely in the fridge before serving.

More Side Salad Recipes To Try

The right side salad can really pull a meal together. Here are some other fun options for you to try.

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5 from 6 votes

Hawaiian Macaroni Salad

Create the ultimate Hawaiian macaroni salad featuring perfectly cooked noodles tossed in a creamy, tangy-sweet dressing, shredded carrots, and chopped red onion.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Chill Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours 20 minutes
Servings: 8 servings


  • 2 teaspoons salt,, for the pasta water
  • 1 pound macaroni pasta,, feel free to use gluten-free pasta
  • cups mayonnaise
  • ¼ cup half and half
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • ½ tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • tablespoons honey
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 large carrots,, shredded
  • ½ medium red onion,, finely chopped
  • 1 cup chopped fresh parsley,, optional
  • additional salt and pepper to taste
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  • Cook the pasta. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the salt to the pot followed by the pasta. Cook the pasta per the package’s instructions until al dente. Drain and transfer the pasta to a large mixing bowl.
  • Make the dressing. Whisk together the mayo, half and half, Dijon, apple cider vinegar, honey, and salt.
  • Put it all together. Add the dressing, carrots, red onion, and parsley to the bowl with the pasta and gently toss until everything is well combined.
  • Season. Taste the mac salad and stir in extra salt and/or pepper if needed.
  • Chill. Cover the bowl and chill for at least 2 hours before serving.


  • Salt the water to avoid bland pasta and salad.
  • Cook the pasta al dente so it doesn’t fall apart when mixed with the dressing.
  • Chill the salad—it enhances its taste as the dressing melds with the pasta and softens the veggies.
  • Add crispy bacon, shredded pork, fried spam, ham, or hard-boiled eggs.
  • Store leftovers sealed tight in the fridge for up to 5 days.


Serving: 4ounces | Calories: 322kcal | Carbohydrates: 7g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 32g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 19g | Monounsaturated Fat: 7g | Trans Fat: 0.1g | Cholesterol: 20mg | Sodium: 1036mg | Potassium: 133mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 3694IU | Vitamin C: 12mg | Calcium: 31mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutritional info is an estimate and provided as courtesy. Values may vary according to the ingredients and tools used. Please use your preferred nutritional calculator for more detailed info.

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Recipe Rating:


  1. April says:

    OMG I LOVED this. Sweet yet still tangy, loved the veggies – it was perfect.

    1. Katerina says:

      Thrilled to hear you loved it! Thank YOU! 🙂

  2. Catalina says:

    Your Hawaiian Macaroni Salad was a refreshing change from my usual pasta salad recipes. The creamy dressing and the hint of sweetness were perfect. It paired wonderfully with our grilled BBQ chicken.

    1. Katerina says:

      I’m glad you enjoyed the Hawaiian Macaroni Salad and it paired well with your BBQ chicken! Thank YOU! 🙂

  3. Janelle says:

    Hawaiian macaroni salad is one of my favorite things EVER! This recipe turned out great!

    1. Katerina says:

      That’s wonderful to hear! I’m thrilled you enjoyed the Hawaiian macaroni salad and the recipe was a success. It’s always fantastic when a favorite dish turns out just right! Thank YOU! 🙂

  4. Erin | Dinners, Dishes and Desserts says:

    Always a favorite on our table! I’m definitely making this again!

    1. Katerina says:

      I’m glad to hear it’s a favorite! Thank YOU! 🙂

  5. Sandra says:

    This salad is so good! I made it for lunch and my family loved it!

    1. Katerina says:

      That’s fantastic! It’s always great when a meal is a hit with the family. Thank YOU! 🙂

  6. Beth says:

    I love this sweet, tropical twist on classic macaroni salad! I made it last night with my sweet and sour chicken, and it was amazing.

    1. Katerina says:

      It’s wonderful to hear you enjoyed the sweet, tropical twist on the classic macaroni salad! Pairing it with sweet and sour chicken sounds like a delicious combination. I’m glad it turned out amazing! Thank YOU! 🙂