Make a Hawaiian Plate Lunch-Style Macaroni Salad
Hawaiian-Style Macaroni Salad
The most loved macaroni salad in all the Hawaiian Islands is a plain and simple dish that tastes so "ono" (delicious) that you get addicted to it. Once you've eaten it, no other macaroni salad ever tastes as good.
This original recipe that I am going to share with you was kept secret for many many generations. As far as I know, it may still not be in print. In the old days, if the recipe was given to anyone other than a family member, either one ingredient was left out or one ingredient that didn't actually belong in the recipe was added in.
That way, the recipe could not be duplicated, but the feelings of the recipient who asked for it wouldn't be hurt by a refusal either. That is why people leave Hawaii with what they think is the right recipe, only to get home and find it doesn't taste the same. That is also why you will find so many sweet or sour "Hawaiian Macaroni Salad" recipes that just aren't right, as well as many "pickle" recipes.
I have been using this recipe for 45 years with only a few additions, and they are not pickles, pickle relish, or vinegar. Those ingredients are a NO-NO!
Learn what ingredients are used as well as how to make this mouthwatering dish below!
- 1 lb elbow macaroni
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp Hawaiian or Kosher salt
- 1 tsp white pepper
- 2-4 dashes Aji-No-Moto
- Sea salt, to taste
- 1 stalk celery with leaves, minced
- 1 onion, minced
- 1 carrot, finely shredded
- 3 tbsp Napa cabbage, finely shredded
- 2 tbsp fresh parsley, finely minced
- 3-4 heaping tbsp mayonnaise, Best Foods (West Coast) or Hellman's (East Coast)
- Fill a Dutch oven or large pot with water, leaving several inches of boiling room. Add 1 tablespoon of Hawaiian salt (or Kosher salt) and one tablespoon of olive oil to the water. Cook the elbow macaroni according to the package directions.
- Mince and shred the vegetables.
- When the pasta is done, drain it in a colander and rinse it thoroughly with cold water. Then, drain it again.
- Pour the macaroni into a large mixing bowl.
- Add salt, white pepper, and Aji No Moto. Stir to combine everything together.
- Add the minced vegetables and parsley and stir to combine.
- Add the mayonnaise and fold until the dish is well blended. Keep adding mayonnaise until everything is coated well.
- Refrigerate until cold, at least 2 hours. Check the level of mayonnaise and add more if too much has been absorbed by the pasta. Hawaiian plate lunch macaroni salad calls for a lot of mayonnaise.
Kona Girl's Macaroni Salad Additions
The recipe I just shared makes the basic original plate lunch macaroni salad. The following ingredients are my additions. I've been making this version for 45 years and people love it.
- 1/2 lb large shrimp, cooked
- 6 oz frozen petite green peas
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, to taste
- 1/4 tsp smoked paprika, to taste
- Use the original recipe and then add these next ingredients:
- If shrimp, crab or lobster is available, I use one of them, chopped. If not, canned albacore tuna can be substituted. I use one whole can of white albacore tuna, drained.
- Peel, devein, and cook large shrimp until just pink and opaque. Immediately remove them from the boiling water and put them into an ice water bath to stop the cooking process. Drain them in a colander and leave to chill in the refrigerator. Cut each piece of shrimp into two or three pieces, and then add it to the salad.
- Add frozen peas for a little color and nutrition. Run cold water over them in a colander until they separate. It only takes a few minutes.
- Add black pepper, white pepper, and cayenne, to taste.
- Cover the salad with plastic wrap and chill.
- To serve, cover the bottom of the serving bowl with washed pieces of butter leaf lettuce or green leaf lettuce. Remove the macaroni salad from the refrigerator. Check the salad for mayonnaise content, add more if needed, and stir gently to combine. Taste test. Spoon the macaroni salad onto the lettuce leaves. Gently sprinkle smoked paprika on top, and enjoy!
Hawaiian Salad Recipes
What Hawaiian Salad Recipe Do You Wish You Had?
The Original Secret Plate Lunch Recipe
If you find a cookbook claiming to be from Hawaii that has a macaroni salad recipe calling for pickles or vinegar, you'll know it was likely written by a mainland or Japanese transplant and not written by a long-time island local. Another possibility is the author is trying to keep the original recipe a secret.
I have found that many restaurants on Oahu are no longer serving the real plate lunch style macaroni salad anymore because they are now catering more to mainland customers (or because they never knew the old-style secret recipe).
What is a plate lunch?
A plate lunch in Hawaii is a plate full of food that usually cost under $10.00, usually around 5 bucks unless you get a mixed plate, which makes it closer to $10. There are two things that are always on every plate lunch; two scoops of rice and a scoop of macaroni salad.
If there are two things local island people love to eat, it is rice and macaroni salad on the same plate along with the entrée. I will often ask for two scoops of salad and one scoop of rice. I just love my macaroni salad!
The other main ingredient included in a plate lunch is the main entrée. It is usually some sort of protein:
- Teriyaki beef
- Kalua pig
- Shoyu chicken
- Beef curry stew
- Fried fish
- Pork adobo
- Hawaiian laulau, chili
- Loko moko
- Korean kalbi short ribs
You'll also find vegetable side dishes, such as the following:
- Bean sprouts
- Shredded pickled daikon
- Lomilomi salmon
- Steamed kai choy
- Shredded pickled Napa cabbage
What's with the mayonnaise?
The mayonnaise used in Hawaiian macaroni salad has to be Best Foods brand (or Hellman's on the East Coast). It can't be any other brand if you want it to taste right. It has to be full fat and not canola, low-fat, olive oil, or a balsamic kind if you want the authentic taste.
The salad uses a lot of mayonnaise. In the recipe, I call for 2 to 3 heaping tablespoons, but in reality, I use 2-3 heaping serving spoonfuls to start. The macaroni tends to absorb mayonnaise when chilling in the refrigerator, so you will usually need to add more.
Even though I am now living on the mainland, this is the macaroni salad that I always make, per request. True to form, I am now the one that is always elected to make macaroni salad and/or Hawaiian style potato salad for parties, and everyone that eats it wants the recipe. No matter where I go, people love this salad. I hope you do too!