In Hawaii, the plate lunch is everything. In case you’re not familiar, a plate lunch is traditionally two scoops of white rice, macaroni salad, and an entrée like poke, lau lau, or some other kind of meat like this delicious Hawaiian BBQ chicken. In my humble opinion, the macaroni salad is absolutely the best part, and it’s one of my most guilty pleasures. It’s different from mainland macaroni salad primarily because the pasta is cooked until it’s very soft (some would say overcooked), and the mayonnaise dressing is thinned with milk. True Hawaiian macaroni salad isn’t the easiest thing to find, which is why I make my own!
The most important part of Hawaiian macaroni salad is the dressing. For starters, it needs to be made with high-quality mayonnaise like Best Foods or Hellmann’s Real Mayonnaise. Do not try to use Miracle Whip with this recipe! The end result should be a dressing that’s creamy, a little sweet, and a bit tangy.
Also, carrots and celery are the only vegetables traditionally added, though it’s possible to add yellow onion, if you wish. If you go for the onion, consider grating it so that it almost melts into the flavors of the dressing. Also, I confess that I like adding peas from time to time. Whatever you do, though, stay away from the ham and pineapple.
1 lb elbow macaroni
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
2 cups whole milk, divided (use 2% in a pinch but nothing less)
2 cups mayonnaise (not Miracle Whip)
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 large carrot, peeled & grated
1 celery stalk, minced
4 green onions, thinly sliced
Salt & pepper
1) Bring 4 quarts of salted water to a boil.
2) Add macaroni and cook until very soft (about 15 minutes). No al dente here.
3) Drain macaroni and return to pot. Pour over the cider vinegar and the macaroni until the liquid is absorbed. Let cool for 10 minutes.
4) While the pasta cools, whisk together 1 1/2 cups of the milk, 1 cup of the mayonnaise, the brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 2 teaspoons of pepper.
5) Once cooled, coat the cooked pasta with the dressing and cool completely to room temperature.
6) Add remaining milk and mayonnaise, along with carrot, celery, and scallions. If you’re adding grated onions or peas, now is the time for those as well.
7) Stir to combine and season with salt and pepper to taste.
8) Refrigerate for at least one hour before serving.