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Hawaiian Plate Lunch Macaroni Salad

Updated on September 28, 2015
Kailua-KonaGirl profile image

June is from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, but is currently residing in New York. She loves to cook naturally with plants from her garden.


Hawaiian Style Macaroni Salad

The macaroni salad that is most loved all over the Hawaiian Islands is a plain and simple macaroni salad that taste so "ono" (delicious) you get addicted to it, and once you have eaten it no other macaroni salad ever tastes as good.

In Hawaiian macaroni plate lunch style salad, we do NOT use any pickles or pickle relish; nor do we use vinegar. Vinegar is NOT added to our potato salads either.

The Original Secret Plate Lunch Recipe

If you find a cookbook claiming to be from Hawaii that has a Hawaiian macaroni salad recipe with pickles or vinegar in it, you will know right away that the cookbook was either not written by a long time island local. It was written by a mainland or Japanese transplant.

Another possibility is the author is still trying to keep the original plate lunch macaroni salad recipe secret.

This original recipe that I am going to share with you was kept secret for many many generations and as far as I know, 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 will leave Hawaii with what they think is the right recipe, only to get home, make it and find out that it doesn't taste the same. That is also why you will find so many sweet, sour "Hawaiian Macaroni Salad" recipes that just aren't right and why there are so many "pickle" recipes.

I have found that many restaurants on Oahu are no longer serving the real plate lunch style macaroni salad any more because they are now catering more to mainland customers (or because they never knew the old style secret recipe).

What is a Hawaiian 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 is then 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, together on the same plate, along with the entrée. Often I will ask for 2 scoops of salad and one scoop of rice. I just love my macaroni salad!

The other main ingredient included on a plate lunch is the main entrée. It is usually some sort of protein such as teriyaki beef, kalua pig, shoyu chicken, beef curry stew, fried fish, shrimp, pork adobo, Hawaiian laulau, chili, loko moko or Korean kal-bi short ribs, just to name a few.

There is often some sort of vegetable side dish such as bean sprouts, kimchi, shredded pickled daikon, lomilomi salmon, steamed kai choy, or shredded pickled Napa cabbage.


Examples of Hawaiian Plate Lunches

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Pork TonkatsuHawaiian Plate with Laulau, Lomi Salmon, Kalua Pig & Poi from Asahi GrillKalbi RibsMixed BBQ Plate LunchBeef Stew Mahi Mahi Mixed Plate LunchLoco Moco Plate LunchShoyu Chicken Plate LunchL & L Hawaiian BBQ - Teriyaki Plate Lunch
Pork Tonkatsu
Pork Tonkatsu | Source
Hawaiian Plate with Laulau, Lomi Salmon, Kalua Pig & Poi from Asahi Grill
Hawaiian Plate with Laulau, Lomi Salmon, Kalua Pig & Poi from Asahi Grill | Source
Kalbi Ribs
Kalbi Ribs | Source
Mixed BBQ Plate Lunch
Mixed BBQ Plate Lunch | Source
Beef Stew Mahi Mahi Mixed Plate Lunch
Beef Stew Mahi Mahi Mixed Plate Lunch
Loco Moco Plate Lunch
Loco Moco Plate Lunch
Shoyu Chicken Plate Lunch
Shoyu Chicken Plate Lunch | Source
L & L Hawaiian BBQ - Teriyaki Plate Lunch
L & L Hawaiian BBQ - Teriyaki Plate Lunch | Source

Plate Lunch Restaurant on Oahu - Pearl's Place

Pearl's Plate Lunch
Pearl's Plate Lunch | Source
Best Foods Mayonnaise (Hellman's on East Coast)
Best Foods Mayonnaise (Hellman's on East Coast)

The mayonnaise that is used in Hawaiian macaroni salad has to be Best Foods brand (Hellman's on the East Coast - same company - same thing), however it can not be any other brand or it won't taste the same.

It has to be full fat, not canola, not low-fat and not olive oil or 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 a 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.

The first recipe I'm giving you is the secret Hawaiian plate lunch macaroni salad recipe that has been passed down from family to family for generations.

Next I will give you the recipe that I have been using for 45 years that has only a few additions, and no they are NOT pickles, pickle relish or vinegar. Those ingredients are a NO-NO!

Even though I am now living in 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. So here it is, the real Hawaiian plate lunch style, macaroni salad recipe.


T.= Tablespoon

t. = teaspoon

  • Prep time: 20 min
  • Cook time: 10 min
  • Ready in: 30 min
  • Yields: 8 to 10


  • 1 lb. elbow macaroni
  • 1 T. olive oil (in cooking water)
  • 1 T. Hawaiian or Kosher salt (in cooking water)
  • 1 t. white pepper
  • 2 - 4 dash Aji-No-Moto
  • Sea salt to taste
  • 1 minced stalk celery with leaves
  • 1 minced onion
  • 1 finely shredded carrot
  • 3 T. finely shredded Napa cabbage
  • 2 T. finely minced fresh parsley
  • 3 to 4 heaping T. Best Foods (West Coast) or Hellman's (East Coast) Mayonnaise


  1. In a Dutch oven or large pot, fill with water, leaving several inches boiling room and add 1 T. Hawaiian salt (or Kosher salt) and the 1 T. olive oil. Cook the pasta according to the package directions.
  2. Meanwhile, mince and shred vegetables.
  3. When the pasta is done, drain in a colander, rinse thoroughly with cold water, and drain again.
  4. Pour pasta into a large mixing bowl.
  5. Add salt, white pepper and Aji No Moto; stir to combine.
  6. Add all minced vegetables and parsley; stir to combine.
  7. Add mayonnaise and fold until well blended. Keep adding mayonnaise until well coated.
  8. Refrigerate until cold; at least 2 hours. Check for level of mayo. Add more if too much has been absorbed by the pasta. Hawaiian plate lunch macaroni salad calls for a lot of mayonnaise.
4.3 stars from 6 ratings of Hawaiian Plate Lunch Macaroni Salad

Acacia Calabash Salad Bowls - Serve Your Salads in Something Lovely

The calabash bowls from Pacific Merchants are handcrafted from acacia hardwood. The vendors claim to be dedicated to protecting the environment by sourcing its wood from regulated and carefully harvested land. They do not mention in their description who is regulating the harvest or where the land is located. The bowls are beautiful and look very much like monkey pod bowls from the Philippine Islands.

Kona Girl's Macaroni Salad Additions

The recipe above is the very basic, original Hawaiian plate lunch macaroni salad. The following are the additions I have made. This is the version that I have been making for 45 years that people love.


  • 1/2 lb. large cooked shrimp
  • 6 oz. frozen petite green peas
  • 1 t. black pepper
  • 1/4 t. cayenne pepper, to taste
  • smoked paprika


  1. Use the original recipe, then add these next ingredients:
  2. If shrimp, crab or lobster is available I use one of them, chopped. If not, canned albacore tuna can be used instead. I use 1 whole can of white albacore tuna, drained. I usually peel, devein, and cook large shrimp, just until pink and opaque. It is immediately removed from the boiling water and put into an ice water bath to stop the cooking process. Then I drain it in a colander and chill it in the refrigerator. When I make the salad, each piece of shrimp is cut into 2 or 3 pieces and added to the salad.
  3. The frozen peas are added for a little color and nutrition. I put the frozen peas into a colander and run cold water over the frozen peas until they separate. It only tales a few minutes.
  4. Add the black pepper, white pepper and cayenne (if using) to taste.
  5. Cover the salad with plastic wrap and chill.
  6. To serve: 1. Cover the bottom of serving bowl or serving pan with washed pieces of butter leaf lettuce or green leaf lettuce. 2. Remove the macaroni salad from the refrigerator. 3. Check the salad for mayonnaise content, add more if needed, and stir gently to combine. Taste test. 4. Spoon macaroni salad onto the lettuce leaves. 5. Sprinkle gently with the smoked paprika.

Hawaiian Salad Recipes

What Hawaiian Salad Recipe Do You Wish You Had?

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Sam Choy's Island Flavors
Sam Choy's Island Flavors

I haven't seen Sam in years, but his food at the Kona Hilton and at family luaus on the Big Island was always fabulous. He now owns restaurants all over Hawaii and the mainland too. You will like this cookbook for island food. Any of his cookbooks are more than likely excellent.


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    • profile image

      NikkiO 17 months ago

      Thank you for sharing!

    • Kailua-KonaGirl profile image

      June Parker 2 years ago from New York

      @ peachpurple Only in Hawaii unless you make it yourself. LOL

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 2 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      hawaii salad with macaroni looks good, where can i find this?

    • Kailua-KonaGirl profile image

      June Parker 3 years ago from New York

      @shadowfast7: I know. Right! It is my favorite, especially when I make it with shrimp.

    • shadowfast7 profile image

      Sure Temp 4 years ago


    • profile image

      othellos 4 years ago

      Excellent salad. Macaroni salads are one of the most favorable dishes of my family. Your addition suggestions are also very welcome. Thanks for sharing:=)

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Aloha~ I used to live on the big island and miss it much! Thanks for the recipe! I saved the website because you are the real deal! Plus I need another salad bowl.

      Thanks again


    • Kailua-KonaGirl profile image

      June Parker 5 years ago from New York

      @clouda9 lm: Not a "secret" any more! LOL. The cat is outta the bag!

    • Kailua-KonaGirl profile image

      June Parker 5 years ago from New York

      @whats4dinner: The original & the best

    • clouda9 lm profile image

      clouda9 lm 5 years ago

      Thanks for sharing your "secret" Hawaiian mac salad...looks and sounds simply delicious!

    • whats4dinner profile image

      whats4dinner 5 years ago

      They look so good.

    • malena10 profile image

      malena10 5 years ago

      Macaroni salad is great

    • TZiggy profile image

      TZiggy 5 years ago

      Umm Ummm good!!

    • profile image

      AnimalHouse 5 years ago

      I love macaroni salad and I would like to try everything here. Thanks for sharing.

    • Blackspaniel1 profile image

      Blackspaniel1 5 years ago

      Salads are always great.

    • profile image

      FashionMommy 5 years ago

      I will try your recipe.

    • LornsA178 profile image

      LornsA178 6 years ago

      Looks delicious! I love macaroni salads. Thanks for sharing!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Looks yummy, send me a few plates please :)

    • profile image

      gazer104 6 years ago

      looks delicious..

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      This lens with the delicious Hawaiian macaroni salad makes me want to go back to Oahu so much. I had such a wonderful time there!

    • Missmerfaery444 profile image

      Missmerfaery444 6 years ago

      Yum, this sounds absolutely delicious! And I loved learning a bit about Hawaiian food and recipes too. Blessed!