top of page

Return of the mac: Hawaiian macaroni salad

By Carol Dzadony-Mancini

Aloha, food enthusiasts! Get ready to embark on a culinary journey to the beautiful shores of Hawaii, where we'll dive into the irresistible world of Hawaiian Macaroni Salad. Known for its unique twist on traditional pasta salads, this Hawaiian staple is a harmonious blend of creamy goodness, vibrant flavors, and a touch of tropical charm. Join me as we unravel the secrets behind this delectable dish that will transport your taste buds to paradise!

But first, let me give you MY background on Hawaii.

When I was young, let's say 45 years ago, my only experience with Hawaii and its culture was from what I learned when Mike and Carol Brady took their family on vacation.

Tiki idols and curses.

Let me recap for all you Boomers and GenXers–and introduce a whole new concept for you Millennials and Gen-Z readers.

"The Brady Bunch" episode titled "The Tiki Caves," Peter Brady encounters a curse associated with a tiki idol. While exploring a hidden tiki cave during the family's vacation in Hawaii, Peter inadvertently removes a small idol from its resting place. Little did he know that the idol was cursed, and by taking it, he unwittingly activates the curse.

The curse causes a series of mishaps and misfortunes to befall Peter. He experiences a string of bad luck, including accidents and embarrassing moments. These incidents include stumbling, falling into water, and accidentally knocking things over.

The curse seems to follow Peter wherever he goes, leading the family to suspect that the tiki idol is to blame.

To break the curse, Peter must solve the riddles and challenges within the tiki cave, which were triggered by the removal of the idol.

With the help of his family, Peter manages to overcome the obstacles and successfully restores the idol to its original position. By doing so, he breaks the curse and brings an end to his streak of bad luck, restoring harmony to the Brady family's vacation in Hawaii.

Thankfully over the years, I have gained more of a frame of reference.

Although, admittedly, I've never visited Hawaii. It's not that I don't want to, it is definitely on my bucket list, it's just that I never had the opportunity to do so.

Since the animated Disney film “Lilo and Stitch” was released, my daughter has been begging me to take her to Hawaii. We must have watched that movie on a loop for four or five years straight. I'm not even joking. Our trip to Disney World wasn't complete without searching for Lilo and Stitch at all of the parks.

Visiting Hawaii is something I would love to do.

When I am able to take a vacation, my family and I go on a camping trip to Assateague Island, Maryland. If I'm not cooking Maryland-style cuisine on the campfire with Maryland Blue crab, I am searching for interesting places to eat.

That’s how I fell in love with a fusion restaurant based in West Ocean City.

Braddah Barney's – a self-proclaimed "Modern Asian Fusion Cafe" in Ocean City Maryland is my favorite restaurant. And now, it's not even in Ocean City. It's nestled in the small town of Berlin, Maryland (of “Runaway Bride” fame) in the old Globe. According to a WMDT article, Owner Jon Lane is only including Asian Fusion as specials, but many would argue it's what put him on the map.

Using local ingredients and pairing them with traditional Asian flavors and dishes is exactly the fusion part of the grinds (that's Hawaiian slang for delicious food).

It's where I was introduced to Poke bowls, Bao Buns and Kimchi. It's where I first tried Shishito Peppers and had General Tso's Cauliflower.

And where I found Hawaiian Macaroni Salad paired with a Pho Burger.

I wondered if he lost his mind. What in the world is macaroni salad doing on my fusion plate?

I would say his "Asian" Fusion encompasses Polynesian or Hawaiian fare as well.

And there it was, Hawaiian Macaroni Salad.


Hawaiian macaroni salad, also known as "mac salad," has become a popular dish in Hawaii and is often served as a side dish with plate lunches, barbecues, and other local gatherings. Its history is closely tied to the multicultural influences in Hawaii and the plantation era.

The origins of macaroni salad in Hawaii can be traced back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries when plantation workers from different ethnic backgrounds arrived in Hawaii to work in the sugarcane and pineapple plantations. These workers hailed from diverse cultures, including Portuguese, Japanese, Filipino, Chinese and Korean.

Each of these ethnic groups brought their own culinary traditions and ingredients, which eventually merged and adapted to the local Hawaiian cuisine. Macaroni salad is believed to have been influenced by the Portuguese and Japanese immigrants who introduced pasta and mayonnaise to the islands.

The Portuguese influence can be seen in the use of mayonnaise, as the Portuguese immigrants were known for their love of mayonnaise-based salads. They used mayonnaise in various dishes, including potato salad, which was a common food at festive gatherings.

The Japanese influence on Hawaiian macaroni salad can be attributed to the introduction of pasta by Japanese immigrants. Noodles were already a part of Japanese cuisine, and they adapted their recipes to include macaroni, often combining it with mayonnaise and vegetables.

Over time, these culinary traditions merged, and Hawaiian macaroni salad emerged as a unique fusion dish, incorporating ingredients and techniques from different cultures. The salad typically consists of cooked elbow macaroni, mayonnaise, grated carrots, finely chopped onions, and sometimes other vegetables like celery. It is usually seasoned with salt, pepper, and vinegar for a tangy flavor.

The distinctive characteristics of Hawaiian macaroni salad are its creamy and slightly tangy dressing, which sets it apart from traditional macaroni salads found on the mainland United States. The salad has become an essential part of the plate lunch, which typically includes a protein (such as teriyaki chicken or kalua pork), rice, and macaroni salad.

Today, Hawaiian macaroni salad is beloved by locals and visitors alike and is a staple at many Hawaiian-themed restaurants and events. It continues to evolve and adapt, with variations including the addition of ingredients like diced ham, pickles, or hard-boiled eggs, depending on personal preferences and regional influences.

Cooking Class with Carol


  • 1 box elbow macaroni

  • 1 cup mayonnaise

  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

  • 1/4 cup milk

  • 2 tablespoons sugar

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

  • 1/2 cup grated carrot

  • 1/4 cup finely diced onion

  • 1/4 cup finely diced pickles

  • 1/4 cup finely diced celery

  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

What to do:

1. Cook the elbow macaroni according to the package instructions until al dente. Drain and rinse with cold water to cool the pasta. Set aside.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, apple cider vinegar, milk, sugar, salt, and black pepper until well combined.

3. Add the cooked and cooled macaroni to the bowl with the dressing. Mix well to coat the pasta evenly.

4. Add the grated carrot, diced onion, pickles, celery, and parsley to the bowl. Gently toss to combine all the ingredients.

5. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed by adding more salt, pepper or sugar according to your preference.

6. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour to allow the flavors to meld together.

Before serving, give the macaroni salad a good stir. You can garnish it with additional chopped parsley if desired.

Serve chilled and enjoy your delicious Hawaiian macaroni salad!

Note: Hawaiian macaroni salad is known for its creamy and slightly tangy dressing. Feel free to customize the recipe by making it with gluten-free noodles, use vegan mayonnaise (and omit the milk), or adding other ingredients like chopped ham, diced bell peppers, or sweet pickles to suit your taste.

Carol Dzadony-Mancini is a former resident of Stowe Township and currently resides in Moon Township with her family. Her hobbies include riding horses, skiing, crocheting, hiking with her dogs, and of course cooking for the people she loves.



bottom of page