With tender macaroni in a creamy flavorful dressing, Hawaiian-style Macaroni Salad is must-have side for any plate lunch. It’s not the prettiest thing, but what it lacks in aesthetics it more than compensates for with its ability to bring everything together on your plate whether your entree is katsu, teriyaki, or poké.
I know it may sound crazy for pasta purists who are used to cooking their macaroni al dente, but because macaroni salad is served cold (which causes starches to gel), the key to getting a plate-lunch style macaroni salad is to cook the heck out of the pasta. It gives the salad a wonderful tender consistency even when cold, and it allows the dressing to soak into the pasta better.
Because onions from Maui are very sweet and mild, they’re well suited for adding to salads, but unfortunately they can be hard to get on the Mainland. That’s why I’ve omitted chopped onions and opted to grate some onion straight into the dressing instead. This adds just enough onion flavor, without the tear-inducing pungency that biting into a raw onion can have. To make up for the lack of crisp onions, I’ve added celery which lends the texture as well as some extra flavor.
Most recipes for Hawaiian-style macaroni salad call for adding a ridiculous amount of mayonnaise to the dressing along with some milk, but I’ve found you can cut back on the mayo while saving a bit of work, by boiling the macaroni in milk. This gives the macaroni a rich creamy flavor to start. Then, by adding some of the dressing before the pasta cools, it has a chance to soak into the pasta infusing it with plenty of flavor.
I like using Japanese Kewpie mayonnaise for this because it has a lot more flavor than western brands of mayo, but if you can’t find it (it comes in a clear plastic squeeze bottle with a red cap), regular mayonnaise will work fine.
- Bring the milk and salt to a boil and add the macaroni. Cook for 15 minutes at a gentle simmer, stirring frequently to prevent burning. If you start running out of liquid before the time is up, add some more milk.
- While the macaroni is boiling prepare the dressing by whisking together the mayonnaise, grated onion, vinegar, sugar allspice and pepper.
- When the macaroni is done, stir in half the dressing and then let the salad cool completely.
- When the macaroni has cooled, stir in the remaining dressing, along with the celery, carrots, ham and scallions.