This Classic Hawaiian Macaroni Salad recipe has a delicious creamy dressing that’s tangy, sweet, and totally addicting! It tastes just like it came from a Hawaiian Food Truck.

This recipe serves 12 people and costs about $5.39 to make.

A serving spoon scooping up some of the Hawaiian mac salad.

This past April, my family and I were on the island of Oahu for Spring Break. While there, we soaked up as much of the Hawaiian culture and food as we could. 

Almost daily, I would have Hawaiian Macaroni Salad with my lunch or dinner (or heck, sometimes both) because it was simple, so creamy, so delicious, and SO addicting!

When I got back from our trip to Hawaii, I got started right away on my version of this classic recipe. I’ve been tasting the Hawaiian Macaroni Salad recipe for a few months now, and I’m happy to report that I nailed it!

An overhead picture of Hawaiian Macaroni Salad in a serving bowl.

I have made this Hawaiian style Macaroni Salad for family gatherings, pot lucks, and bar-b-ques. Every single time I have had rave reviews. It’s always the first dish to go, and it is the first dish folks ask for the recipe.

It is a classic dish that is perfect for all kinds of occasions. Bring a little bit of the islands to your home or next party by whipping up a batch of this authentic Hawaiian Food Truck Macaroni salad. 

Do you put eggs in Macaroni Salad?

No. Well, yes, sometimes. Let me explain.

Traditional salads do not have eggs or hard-boiled eggs in them. However, while in Hawaii, I noticed on some menus that there is a side dish called Potato Mac Salad, which is a mash-up of potato salad and macaroni salad that DOES have egg in it (recipe coming soon!).

How to Make Hawaiian Macaroni Salad Ahead of Time:

You can prepare this Hawaiian mac salad up to 3 days in advance. Just follow the complete instructions below, transfer the mixture to an airtight container, and keep it in the refrigerator. 

What goes well with Macaroni Salad?

Any kind of backyard barbecue food, but here are some of my favorites:

Mac salad in a white bowl with a fork digging into the salad.

It first became popular in Hawaii because it was so cheap to make. It is also incredibly filling. In fact, on a lunch plate in Hawaii, it is hard to find a plate that does not have a macaroni salad served on it! 

Can you freeze macaroni salad?

Yes, you can freeze it. Just place the assembled macaroni salad in the freezer in an airtight container. When you are ready to use it, put it in the fridge the day before you want to eat it to defrost.

What other people are saying about this Recipe:

This recipe has been shared over 17,000 times on social media. Here is what some people are saying:

I used your recipe for a Luau themed work party and everyone loved it. I have shared the recipe with all of them so your genius is likely to be spread throughout Florida now! Thanks for sharing it. Yummmm! -Nancie J

Delicious! Three generations of family ate this and complimented me, even a five year old! – Tammy

Cook’s Note:

  • If you use anything but half-and-half and mayonnaise, then the dressing for this macaroni salad will be too thin.
  • This recipe is great to make ahead of time as it will keep, covered in the refrigerator, for up to 3 days. Just make sure you give everything a good stir before serving.
  • If you want to make this pasta salad into more of a main dish, then I suggest adding 2 cups of chopped chicken or 2 cups of the diced ham in step 4 below.
Macaroni Salad in a white bowl with a fork next to the bowl and green onions in the background.

Ingredients and Estimated Cost



NOTE: I calculate the recipe prices by using name-brand grocery prices on grocery store websites.

  • 2 cups half-and-half  – $0.88
  • 2 cups Duke’s mayonnaise  – $1.60
  • 1 ½ Tablespoon grated yellow onion – $0.06
  • 1 Tablespoon dark brown sugar – $0.03
  • 2 teaspoons pepper – $0.01
  • 1 teaspoon salt – $0.01
  • 1 pound elbow macaroni – $1.38
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar – $0.16
  • 5 green onions – $0.50
  • 2 large celery ribs  – $0.36
  • 1 cup grated carrots – $0.40

More from Food Folks and Fun

How to make classic Hawaiian Macaroni Salad:

An overhead picture of Hawaiian Macaroni Salad in a serving bowl.
4.32 from 239 votes

Classic Hawaiian Macaroni Salad

Author Jillian – a Food, Folks and Fun original!
Recipe Cost $ $5.39
Serving Cost $ $0.45
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes
12 people
This Classic Hawaiian Macaroni Salad recipe has a delicious creamy dressing that’s tangy, sweet, and totally addicting! It’s great for summer cookouts or anytime!


  • mixing bowls
  • pasta pot
  • serving bowl



  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • 2 cups mayonnaise Duke’s if you can find it
  • 1 ½ Tablespoons grated yellow onion
  • 1 Tablespoon dark brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt


  • 1 pound elbow macaroni
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 5 green onions white and green parts sliced thin
  • 2 large celery ribs chopped into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 1 cup grated carrots



  • In a medium bowl whisk together the half-and-half, mayonnaise, grated onion, dark brown sugar, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 2 teaspoons of pepper until smooth. Refrigerate until needed.


  • Cook the macaroni as per the package instructions, except add 5 minutes to the cooking time on the package instructions (you want the macaroni to be very soft and plump so it absorbs the dressing better). Drain the macaroni into a colander and then dump it back into the pot. Add in the apple cider vinegar and stir until the pasta absorbs the vinegar. Cover the pot with a lid and cool for 20 minutes at room temperature.


  • Add half of the dressing and stir to combine. Then, cover the lid and cool for another 20 minutes.
  • Add in the remaining dressing, green onions, celery, and carrots to the pot and stir to combine, and season with salt and pepper if needed.
  • Cool completely to room temperature, about 30 more minutes.
  • Transfer the macaroni salad to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours before serving.



Serving: 1cup | Calories: 430kcal | Carbohydrates: 35g | Protein: 7g | Fat: 29g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Cholesterol: 18mg | Sodium: 482mg | Potassium: 229mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 1875IU | Vitamin C: 1.9mg | Calcium: 57mg | Iron: 0.7mg

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More Delicious Pasta Salad Recipes:

Picture collage of mac salad for Pinterest.

This first appeared on Food Folks and Fun on August 15, 2018. I have since updated the pictures and added a recipe video. 

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Recipe Rating


  1. OMG, this was FANTASTIC!! I was looking for a macaroni salad recipe where the dressing wasn’t sweet, and this fit the bill perfectly! The macaroni was not mushy at all and absorbed all of the dressing, leaving a perfectly creamy macaroni salad. I started it in the afternoon, and 4 hours didn’t seem to be enough time for it to get really cold, but first thing this morning I took it out of the fridge and it was AMAZING. Thank you for such a great recipe. BTW, I added a little chopped red bell pepper to it. Yum!

    1. Tye, I’m so glad you enjoyed the recipe. The addition of red bell pepper sounds amazing!

  2. This is very good but next time I would only use 1 teaspoon of pepper. Too much pepper…

  3. So excited to try this! Any tips for making ahead of time?

    1. Hi Mallory, There’s a section in the post about this look for something that says “How to Make Hawaiian Macaroni Salad ahead of time:”. Hope this helps! 🙂

  4. Hello,

    This recipe looks delicious. Can you advise why you use brown sugar as opposed to white sugar. Does it add a more authentic flavor? If so, I need to get to the store to make this recipe! Thank you!

    1. Hi Emme, I like the slightly deeper flavor it gives. It’s such a small amount of sugar that you can use white sugar in a pinch. I hope this helps.

  5. I made this for my family on Memorial Day. Everyone, young and old, loved it. I followed the recipe exactly and it was so easy. Thanks…I I look forward to making it again soon.

  6. It was excellent, however, I chose to add a package of salad shrimp and chopped up a couple of hard boiled eggs. I am looking forward to sharing with family and friends. Also, I didn’t have half and half so used sour cream. Thanks.

  7. Hi, what can I substitute the 2 cups of half and half with? Thanks

    1. You really need half and half for the flavor. If you can’t find any in your store, then use a mixture of half milk and half heavy cream.

    2. I used fatfree half and half and it worked great, IMO.

  8. I wasn’t a fan of macaroni salad until I lived in Hawaii. First plate lunch had me hooked! I loved, loved, LOVED Hawaiian mac salad! And I missed it so much when we moved back to the mainland. I’ve tried many so-called Hawaiian mac salad and none measured up to what I’d had on Oahu. But this one did! OMG! It was so good! I will definitely be making this again. And again! It’s the real deal!

  9. Marianne Bertrand says:

    First time for this recipe and it’s a keeper! Not completely cooled but I had to taste. I used 35% cream and red wine vinegar as that’s what I had. Best ever and I’ve made a lot of salads over the past 50 years!

    1. Marianne, I’m thrilled you love the recipe. Thanks for stopping by to let me know! 🙂

  10. Onebadcookie says:

    This recipe sounds delish but i’m trying to understand what makes it Hawaiian. It doesn’t contain pineapple or pineapple juice which I thought recipes that are “Hawaiian” would have. Just asking, not trying to be funny or undermine your recipe. I do intend on making it. I just want to know for my own knowledge. Thanks.

    1. It’s a copycat of the type of macaroni salad you get with plate lunches from food trucks on the Hawaiian islands. They don’t have pineapple or pineapple juice in them.

      1. Diana Perry says:

        Exactly Jillian! Those of us stuck on the mainland really love having this recipe to remind us of the wonderful Hawaiian island foods…. oh, and of course, the wonderful people!

  11. says:

    It’s great. Full of flavor

  12. Helen Neville says:

    I’m from Australia Jillian. Question, what is “half and half”?

    1. It’s sold in cartons, and it’s a mixture of half whole milk and half heavy cream.

  13. Made this salad for my husband’s Luau birthday party. Bit hit. He loved it. Unfortunately so did everyone else leaving none for the next day. It is creamy and well seasoned. This was the perfect compliment to Hula Hula chicken and Kalua pulled pork sliders. Thank you!

  14. I loved this recipe!! So creamy and delicious, as is, but I did add extra pepper and hard boiled eggs and everyone ate it up.

  15. I’ll give this a try.
    Surprised there is no pineapple.

    I bet it’ll cost more here in Atlantic Canada.
    Our grocery prices are atrocious.

  16. Elaine Glassner says:

    It’s good to find recipes that I can use.

  17. Carolyn Daves says:

    Love this recipe! Added a little more apple cider vinegar to second time I made it. I liked the extra tang. Now doing it a third time as an entree. Added small cubed fried spam and some crushed pineapple that I drained and blotted with paper towels. DELICIOUS! Making this last personal tweek for my Masonic Luau in September! I know everyone will love it! Thank you for this recipe!

    1. Yum! I love your changes for making this into a main dish; I can’t wait to try it! Thanks for stopping by to leave a comment! 🙂

  18. Absolutely the best Macaroni Salad. Hands down

    You see other Mac Salads that call for mustard and hard boiled eggs. Nope. That is not for traditional Macaroni Salad.

    This take time to make, but well worth the time.

    1. Dayna Jankowski says:

      Thank you for sharing, I appreciate it!

  19. Best macaroni salad EVER. Everyone loved it and it’s being saved in the family recipes

  20. Very good salad. This is my 6th time making it. Good every time. I follow your directions exactly as is says.