Hawaiian Style Mac Salad

I’m a huge fan of mayonnaise. I’m what the Japanese call, “Mayora” which is a blend of the words “Mayonnaise” and “Lover”. In Japan, a lot of products have mayo in them that you wouldn’t really see in the US. For example, there are certain pizza toppings that go really well with mayo like bulgogi pizza, or corn and tuna pizza. Odd flavors right? I know, but it’s SO GOOD so don’t knock it till you try it! Japanese mayo has a different taste than mayo in the US since it has the addition of rice vinegar and MSG (mmm). I grew up loving Japanese potato salad and macaroni salad and I remember being HORRIFIED when I first tried “American” macaroni salad. It was sickeningly sweet and relishy and so gross. I CANNOT eat the stuff.

The only mac salad I eat in the US is Hawaiian style. If you’ve ever eaten local food in Hawaii such as a plate lunch, you’re probably familiar with it. It’s the bees knees. SO good, and probably my fav part of the plate lunch itself. I remember eating plate lunches in Honolulu (yummy’s!) and loving the sauce from the kalbi (marinated short ribs) soaking into the mac salad. At family functions, someone would always bring a huge bowl for everyone to share and that would be the first thing I’d go for.

My family tends to mix some egg into the mac salad but I’ve been looking for a good recipe that doesn’t have boiled egg in it since my husband isn’t a fan of it. I researched a bit on good ol’ google and came across a GREAT recipe on the blog Favorite Family Recipes. This is the only recipe I’ve used since then, adding my own tweaks. For Valentine’s Day, my husband specifically requested this mac salad with kalbi. He’s from New Jersey and had never had Hawaiian style mac salad (or kalbi for that matter) until I fed it to him and now he’s in love with it! lol. This recipe calls for American style mayonnaise such as Best Foods or Hellman’s, but I cannot reiterate enough to NOT use the low-fat mayo. The taste will be completely different and probably a little gross. Just go for the real stuff. You won’t regret it, I promise.


  • 1 (1 lb.) box macaroni
  • 2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp. rice vinegar (optional)
  • 2 carrots, shredded
  • Frozen peas, about 1 cup (add as much or as little as you like)
  • 1/4 c. onion, shredded (optional)
  • 2 1/2 c. Best Foods (or Hellman’s) mayonnaise… don’t use the low-fat stuff
  • 1/4 c. milk
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • kosher salt & pepper, to taste


  • Cook macaroni according to package directions. Lean on the al dente side so the salad doesn’t end up mushy once the mayo has been added. I cooked my macaroni for about 6 minutes.
  • Drain well and place macaroni in a large bowl. I used my Kitchenaid glass mixing bowl since it comes with a lid, but any lidded bowl should suffice.
  • While macaroni is still hot, sprinkle on vinegar and add shredded carrot, frozen peas and grated onion. Don’t worry about defrosting the peas, the hot macaroni will do the job. Toss together until well combined. Allow to cool for about 10-15 minutes.
  • In a separate, smaller bowl, whisk together mayo, milk, and sugar.
  • Fold mayo mixture into the macaroni until all the noodles are evenly coated. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  • If the salad tastes too sweet, add the rice vinegar with the salt and pepper to balance out the sweetness.
  • The original recipe calls to refrigerate for at least 4 hours, and best overnight. We ate ours after 1 hour in the fridge and it was delicious. Gently stir before serving.
Valentine’s Day dinner

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