There is a unique flavor in Hawaiian Macaroni Salad and it has to do with the technique of making it and an ingredient that you don't usually see in recipes for macaroni salad. It's surprisingly delicious!
I must admit that I accidently came across this style of macaroni salad while researching various styles of pasta salad and I was intrigued. I immediately contacted my friend, Kathy, who lived in Hawaii for several years and asked her if she had tried it. She had, of course, and told me it was delicious. I looked up a few recipes and they all used very simple ingredients that I had on hand. So, I started testing my own version and WOW!
Using the pressure cooker makes this recipe even more flavorful as well as quick and easy, but no worries if you don't have a pressure cooker, you can make it on the stove and it's still wonderful.
It is so good! Even my husband loves it and he doesn't like any kind of pasta salad with mayonnaise.
What to Serve with Macaroni Salad
Authentic Hawaiian Macaroni Salad is often served with plate lunches that usually consist of white rice, some sort of meat, like kalua pork, and of course the Hawaiian Macaroni Salad.
This Hawaiian Macaroni Salad recipe is the perfect side dish to a summer BBQ! Here are some recipes that will go perfectly with it so you can start planning your party!
- Ninja Foodi Pulled Pork ~ Pressure Cooked & Air Crisped
- Pressure Cooker Baked Beans in the Ninja Foodi
- Shake 'N Bake Style Pork Chops in the Ninja Foodi
- Ninja Foodi Ribs with Raspberry BBQ Glaze
- Creamy Coleslaw Dressing
- Amish Potato Salad
- Strawberry Daiquiri in the Ninja Foodi Cold & Hot Blender
- Easy Key Lime Pie in the Ninja Foodi
Frequently Asked Questions
Macaroni salad will last 4-5 days in the refrigerator stored in an airtight container. Macaroni salad made with mayonnaise or other perishable ingredients must be discarded if it is at room temperature longer than 2 hours.
Any type of pasta salad is best when served fresh and not frozen.
Technically, you can freeze anything and that includes this macaroni salad. However, mayonnaise-based dressings don't maintain the same structure when thawed and often become very oily and soggy. If you wanted to freeze the Hawaiian macaroni salad, I would freeze the macaroni before adding the dressing.
Once the pasta is thawed, drain any liquid from it before adding the dressing. You can easily make a half of a batch of dressing at a time and add it to the thawed pasta.
Yes, I have tested a double batch and these are the changes that need to be made when doubling this recipe.
When making this pasta salad on the stove, you only need to increase the water that you boil the noodles in and double all of the ingredients.
In a pressure cooker, you will want to make the following changes.
Double the dressing ingredients.
Use ⅓ cup vinegar and 3¼ cups water and ½ teaspoon of fine grind sea salt to cook the pound of pasta in. Pressure cook for 5 minutes with a 5 minute natural release.
Adjustments for Different Sizes of Pressure Cookers
While many recipes require no adjustments when using smaller or larger pressure cookers, quick cooking recipes sometimes do.
I had this recipe tested in an 8 quart Ninja Foodi and I do recommend making some changes in the cook time.
Larger pressure cookers can take more time to build the pressure because there is more volume that has to fill with steam before the pot goes under pressure.
For an 8qt pressure cooker, I recommend decreasing the pressure cook time to 5 minutes with an immediate release for a single batch of macaroni salad.
If you are making a double batch in an 8qt pressure cooker, I would decrease the time to 4 minutes with a 5 minute natural release.
Although I have not tested this recipe in a 5 qt pressure cooker, I would follow the same cooking directions in the recipe, but add in a 2-3 minute natural release to avoid having any spewing of pasta water when releasing the pressure.
Tips for Making Hawaiian Macaroni Salad
Use a quality brand of mayo that you love. I am a firm believer in using the ingredients that you love, but this time, stick with real mayo even if you prefer Miracle Whip. Of course Miracle Whip can be used, but the flavor will be different and it won't be an authentic Hawaiian style macaroni salad.
Overcook the elbow macaroni noodles. I know, it's hard, especially if you are like me and only like noodles al dente. The macaroni salad NEEDS you to overcook the noodles. The soft noodles will absorb all the flavors and it works in this recipe. Trust me on this one!
Add half the dressing while the pasta is warm. This allows the flavors to absorb into the pasta and will result in the most flavorful macaroni salad ever. I also use this same technique when making my potato salad and it's the creamiest and most delicious potato salad ever!
Let the macaroni salad cool before adding the second half of the dressing. This will make sure you have a creamy mac salad, full of flavor.
Don't skip the vinegar. Apple cider vinegar is a key ingredient and even if you don't think you will like it, give it a try, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.
Ingredients & Substitutions
There are only a handful of ingredients in this recipe, but you can add your own touches to make it one of your favorite recipes.
Using elbow macaroni is traditional in this recipe, but you can use different types of small pasta and it will work just fine. Just remember to cook the pasta 4-5 minutes longer than the directions say so your noodles are plump and can absorb all the great flavors.
I used white sugar in this recipe, but you can also use brown sugar or a sugar substitute. I first tested the recipe without any sugar and found it to be a little to vinegary, so for the best flavor I do recommend using a little sugar.
Carrots & Green Onions
Shredded carrots are traditional in an authentic hawaiian mac salad, but if you don't like them, omit them. I love the look, texture, and taste of the chopped green onions, but you can certainly use a sweet onion, yellow onion, or red onion, if you prefer. You can also omit the onion.
Some people add celery to their Hawaiian pasta salad, so feel free to add it in if you like.
Milk or Cream
I used heavy cream when I made it because that is what I had on hand. You can use whole milk or half & half if you prefer. A little milk is added to the dressing to help thin it out, so even though the recipe calls for 2 Tablespoons, you can certainly add less or more depending on how thick you want the dressing to be.
How to Make Hawaiian Macaroni Salad Stovetop
To make this recipe without a pressure cooker is pretty straightforward, the only difference is you add the vinegar AFTER you cook the noodles. Add about 12 cups of salted water to a large pot and bring it to a boil. Cook the elbow macaroni about 4-5 minutes longer than the package directions. The macaroni should be plump and soft, but not falling apart.
Drain the water and immediately add the vinegar. Stir and let sit for about 5 minutes. Transfer the cooked pasta to a large bowl. Make up the dressing and add half to the warm pasta along with the shredded carrots. Stir to combine and refrigerate until it has cooled (about 1 hour). Add the remaining dressing and the green onions. Stir and refrigerate for 1-2 hours.
Serve & Enjoy.
How to Make Hawaiian Macaroni Salad in a Pressure Cooker
I used my Ninja Foodi Pressure Cooker & Air Crisper and this is my prefered method of making this creamy Hawaiian mac salad because the vinegar absorbs into the pasta as it cooks. It's also super easy because you can cook and mix everything right in the inner pot of your pressure cooker.
Add 8 ounces (about 2 cups) of elbow macaroni, 1 ¾ cups water, ¼ cup vinegar, and ½ teaspoon of fine grind sea salt (if you are using table salt, use ¼ teaspoon) to the pressure cooker.
Stir and push the macaroni under the water as much as you can.
Put the pressure lid on and turn the valve to seal. Pressure cook on high for 6 minutes.
While the pasta is cooking, make up the creamy dressing by combining 1 ½ cups of mayonnaise, ¼ teaspoon of fine grind sea salt and ¼ of black pepper, 1 Tablespoon sugar, 1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar, 2 Tablespoons of cream, half & half, or milk into a mixing bowl or 4 cup measuring cup. Whisk until all the ingredients are combined and you have a smooth dressing. If making the dressing ahead of time, refrigerate it until use.
Grate the carrot until you have about ½ cup. 1 small carrot or half of a large carrot is plenty. You can also chop the green onion and set aside for later. I like to add the green onion when I add the second half of the dressing, but you can add it when you add the carrot, if you like.
When the pressure time is up, immediately release the pressure. Your macaroni should have absorbed almost all of the liquid, so no need to drain. If you have more than 1-2 Tablespoons of water remaining, use the sear/sauté on low until the water is absorbed or evaporated. Make sure to stir frequently so the macaroni doesn't burn.
The macaroni should be fully cooked, plump and soft. I suggest tasting one to make sure they are the correct texture. If they are not soft enough, add some water to the pot and use the sear/sauté to finish cooking.
Remove the pot from the pressure cooker. You can make the macaroni salad right in the inner pot or transfer the macaroni to a mixing bowl.
Add about ½ cup of grated carrot. Add half of the dressing, reserving the other half for later. It is important to add half of the dressing to the pasta while it is warm so the flavors are absorbed by the pasta.
Stir to combine. Cover with cling wrap or I love using these silicone covers from Amazon and refrigerate for 45-60 minutes until cool.
Once the macaroni salad has cooled, add the remaining dressing and the chopped green onions, stir to combine. Refrigerate for 2-4 hours.
When fully chilled, stir and serve.
Hawaiian Macaroni Salad
- 1½ cups mayonnaise
- ¼ teaspoon fine grind sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 Tablespoon white sugar
- 1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 2 Tablespoons cream or milk
Macaroni Salad Ingredients
- 1¾ cups water
- ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
- 8 ounces elbow macaroni about 2 cups dry pasta
- ½ teaspoon fine grind sea salt
- ½ cup grated carrot 1 small carrot
- ¼ cup chopped green onions 2-3 green onions
Pressure Cooker Instructions
- Add the 1¾ cups of water, ¼ cup of vinegar, 8 ounces of elbow macaroni, and ½ teaspoon of fine grind sea salt to the inner pot. Stir and push the pasta down into the water. Put the pressure lid on and turn the valve to seal. Cook on high pressure for 6 minutes.
- While the pressure cooker is cooking the pasta, grate the carrot, chop the green onion, and make the dressing. Combine all of the dressing ingredients in a small bowl and whisk until smooth. Refrigerate if not using within 1 hour.
- When the time is up on the pressure cooker, immediately release the pressure. The macaroni should have absorbed almost all of the liquid. Give it a stir and taste the pasta to make sure it is soft. It should be plump and soft, but not falling apart. If you have any leftover liquid, use the sear/sauté on low to get rid of it or strain the noodles. If the pasta is not soft enough, add some liquid and sauté on low or medium until the past absorbs more liquid.
- Either mix the macaroni salad up in the inner pot or transfer the pasta to a mixing bowl. Add the grated carrots and half of the dressing. Stir to combine. Cover and refrigerate for 45-60 minutes. I also refrigerate the remainder of the dressing.
- Once cooled, add the chopped green onions and the remainder of the dressing. Stir to combine, cover and place back into the refrigerator for another 1-2 hours or until just before serving. Stir and serve.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the elbow macaroni, reduce the heat so the water is at a low boil and cook 5 minutes longer than the package instructions say. The pasta should be soft and plump. Drain the liquid and add ¼ cup of apple cider vinegar to the cooked macaroni. Stir and let sit for 5 minutes.
- Grate the carrot, chop the green onion, and mix up the dressing. Add half of the dressing and the grated carrot to the cooked macaroni and stir to combine. Cover & refrigerate about 45-60 minutes or until cool.
- Add the chopped green onions and the remaining dressing. Stir to combine, cover and refrigerate for 1-2 hours or until just before serving. Stir & Serve.
ABOUT THE RECIPE AUTHOR, LOUISE LONG
Louise is a full-time recipe creator and food blogger @ The Salted Pepper. She has over 30 years of experience with cooking and recipe development. She owned a restaurant for several years and was a full-time RN until retiring to blog full-time.
Louise has several very active Facebook groups that help people with the basics of cooking and getting the most out of the Ninja Foodi.
Seeing the need for easy, delicious, and high quality recipes, she is focusing all of her efforts creating recipes specifically for the Ninja Foodi. Her recipes are easy for the home cook to follow and provide step-by-step instructions.
Louise is also a YouTube creator and you can find most of her recipes in video format on The Salted Pepper YouTube channel.
She is very responsive to messages and eager to help in any way she can.
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