Summertime BBQ’s are a great time to break out pasta salad recipes, and Hawaiian macaroni salad is one of my favorites! This sweet and tangy macaroni salad is a classic dish that, like most pasta recipes, has many different variations.
It’s simple to make, and it always gets rave reviews. The creaminess of this salad is amazing and really sets it apart. Be warned- they’re gonna want seconds! Let’s get cooking!
This salad’s unique dressing and island flare make it stand out on any table. It’s a fun twist on traditional pasta salad. Here are a few more reasons I really love this salad:
- Its ultra creamy texture
- The bright colors
- The versatility to make it your own
You’ll be able to pull this fantastic salad recipe together with staples from your pantry. It comes together fairly quickly but tastes like it took ages!
Dressing: Go ahead and use as much or as little milk as you like. If you want a dressing that has a more mayo-like flavor, use less milk. If you want a salad with a thinner dressing, use more milk.
The only thing to be careful of is that you don’t let the dressing get too dense. If you choose not to include any milk at all, the macaroni salad probably won’t taste the same. This is because you want the pasta—cooked until soft—to literally soak up the dressing. That way each bite is infused with a wonderful creamy flavor. If the dressing is too dense, meaning you haven’t used enough milk, the pasta won’t be able to soak it up.
I used elbow macaroni in keeping with tradition, but you can feel free to use whatever you have on hand! I prefer noodles with bends, twists, or grooves because they hold on to the dressing better. There are so many types of pasta. Experiment until you find the one you like best.
Make sure you use real mayo and not salad dressing spread like Miracle Whip. The salad dressing spreads have added sugar and flavorings that can impact the taste. I also suggest full-fat mayo and whole milk to maximize the creaminess of the dressing.
This is a recipe for traditional Hawaiian macaroni salad without any of the extras that have become popular over the years. Like all pasta salads, feel free to add whatever you want to make it own. Beyond ham and pineapple, there are endless possibilities!
Unlike a lot of pasta salad recipes, you want to cook the pasta all the way until it is soft. This prepares the pasta to soak up a lot of dressing and deliciousness.
Pay particular attention to the assembling process. Vinegar first, then dressing, add the veggies, and more milk and mayo. This is the traditional method and has a big impact on the final product. It will be a bit soupy at first, but the pasta will soak it all up as it sits.
Once your pasta is soft, drain it and immediately toss it with the vinegar. Tossing hot pasta with vinegar is the key to making sure those soft noodles can interact with the dressing right. The vinegar helps to make sure the finished dish isn’t dry, that the soft pasta stays moist and soaks up that wonderful dressing.
Grate the onion or use a small food processor. The end result should be almost liquid onion. It makes a huge difference in dispersing the onion flavor throughout the dressing.
Chilling Time: Make sure to leave adequate time for the salad to chill after assembly. The recipe says 1 hour, but that should really only be in a pinch. 2-4 hours is a solid amount of time for everything to settle and combine. If you have the time, letting the whole dish chill overnight is even better.
Keep refrigerated in a tightly sealed container. Be sure to follow proper food storage guidelines, and it will hold well for a couple of days.
Can You Freeze This?
Pasta Salads, in general, don’t freeze well, and the creamy, mayo-based dressing will separate if frozen. This salad tastes like it is fresh from the islands. All that delicious flavor and texture would be lost with freezing.
How Long Can You Keep This?
This should keep for 2 days without losing its fresh taste and texture. If it seems a bit dry after it has been sitting, stir in a tablespoon or two of milk to loosen things up a bit! This salad is best if it gets a bit of time to rest before eating, so don’t worry about making it ahead of time. It holds up well!
One of the best things about pasta salads are the endless variations! Potatoes are one of the most common variations, but you’ve got a blank slate. Use what is in season and what you have on hand to make your own special version of Hawaiian macaroni salad.
- Chicken would work well and would turn out similar to Chicken Macaroni Salad. Eggs are another popular addition. I love to make macaroni salad with egg. I think the texture of the egg works so well with mayo based dressings. The yolks add to the overall creaminess of the dish.
- I think tuna would be an excellent option for this salad. Tuna Macaroni Salad is a favorite of mine, and this recipe would be a great base for a different twist on tuna pasta salad. Try stirring in a can of tuna next time you make it and let me know what you think!
- What can’t be improved by adding bacon? Bacon would go great in this salad. It’ll be very similar to a Bacon Ranch Pasta Salad or a BLT Pasta Salad. I wouldn’t do both ham and bacon because together they might overpower the dish.
Hawaiian Macaroni Salad
- 2 cups whole milk divided
- 2 cups mayonnaise Divided
- 1 Tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 pound elbow macaroni
- 1/4 cup cider vinegar
- 1/4 cup yellow onion grated
- 1/2 cup carrot peeled and shredded
- 1/2 cup celery finely chopped
- 2 cups ham chopped
- 1-20 ounce can pineapple chunks drained
- 1/4 cup green onions sliced
- In a small mixing bowl, whisk together 1 1/2 cups milk, 1 cup mayonnaise, brown sugar, salt and pepper. Set aside.
- In a large pot, bring 4 quarts of water to a roiling bowl. Add pasta and 1 Tablespoon of salt to the water and cook the pasta for 15 minutes, until it's fat and very soft. Drain pasta and pour it back into the dried pasta pot. Pour vinegar over pasta and stir until it's evenly distributed and absorbed. Pour pasta into a bowl and cool for 10 minutes. Add the milk and mayonnaise mixture and stir until evenly combined, then cool completely.
- Add the grated onions, carrots, celery, (ham, pineapple, green onion~if using) and the remaining milk and mayonnaise to the pasta and mix until evenly distributed. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour for up to 2 days. Adjust seasoning if necessary and serve.
I have so many delicious Pasta Salad Recipes! From Classic Mac Salad to a fun twist with dill pickle, there’s something here for everyone.
- Southern Macaroni Salad
- Classic Macaroni Salad
- Easy Macaroni Salad
- Greek Pasta Salad
- Dill Pickle Pasta Salad
Hawaiian Macaroni Salad is one of my all-time favorite recipes, and one that I make for my family time and time again. It’s creamy, delicious, and refreshing- a truly one of a kind taste! I know you’re going to love it as much as I do. Make sure you leave a comment below and let me know what you think!