This Hawaiian tuna mac salad is a protein-packed version of a classic, creamy pasta favourite. A simple mayonnaise-based dressing, with the perfect balance of sweetness and tang is all you need for the best macaroni salad ever, and it's the best side to Hawaiian-style pineapple teriyaki chicken!
Why This Recipe Works
Mainly pantry ingredients! While this macaroni salad is inspired by a Hawaiian favourite, you don't need any fancy ingredients to make it. The only thing special about this salad is how good it is!
Makes a great lunch on its own! The addition of tuna to this macaroni salad makes it a fantastic, protein-packed lunch, all on its own.
Perfect for summer cookouts and barbecues! Macaroni salad is a classic barbecue side dish, and this recipe, with or without the tuna, is the perfect addition to your next backyard get together!
- Elbow macaroni: Traditional mac salad is made with elbow macaroni, as the name suggests. It is the perfect pasta shape to suck up lots of that delicious dressing in the tubes.
- Mayonnaise: Mayonnaise is the star of the show here. For that reason, I recommend using a mayonnaise that you know, and absolutely love. I like to use Duke's mayonnaise, for the signature tang that it adds.
- Matchstick carrots: I like to use the matchstick carrots from the grocery store, to save time. If you have whole carrots at home, feel free to shred them on a box grater.
- Flaked tuna: I recommend using canned tuna that is packed in water, as opposed to tuna packed in oil. Tuna that is packed in oil will add oil to the dressing, which may make it harder to stick to the pasta.
- Granulated sugar
- White vinegar
- Whole milk
A full list of ingredients with measurements is located on the recipe card, below.
Prep Work Before Cooking
Collecting all your ingredients - This will make cooking so much easier. Gather all the spices you will need, and keep them nearby.
Boil water - Bring a pot of water to a boil over medium heat. Salt the water once it has started to boil.
Boil the pasta 1-2 minutes past al dente. The brand that I use recommends 7-8 minutes to al dente, so I cooked my pasta for approximately 10 minutes. A softer pasta texture is ideal or macaroni salad.
Drain the pasta, and rinse with cold water. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, add the dressing ingredients together, and combine. Add the pasta, carrots and tuna to the mixing bowl, and combine.
Cover the macaroni salad with cling wrap, and refrigerate for a minimum of 30 minutes. Garnish with scallions if you like an onion flavour, but this is optional!
If you have the time, I recommend making this macaroni salad the day before you want to serve it. The sauce will stick well to the pasta, and the flavours will all mellow together.
- Elbow macaroni: If you prefer a bigger pasta, cavatappi pasta works perfectly for macaroni salad. You want to use a pasta that has twists, curves, and is a tube pasta.
- White vinegar: Apple cider vinegar is a fantastic substitute for regular white vinegar. Either one works perfectly.
- Whole milk: You can use 2% milk, buttermilk, or half and half cream if that is what you have on hand.
- Classic: You can leave the tuna out, if you want a plain macaroni salad side.
- Shrimp: Chop up some cooked shrimp, and add it to the salad for an even meatier version of this salad.
This is what I used to make this recipe - Please be mindful that different equipment and cooking utensils may yield varying results. Most of my favourite equipment can be found on my storefront.
- Large pot
- Mixing bowl
Make Ahead & Storage
Make Ahead Instructions
You can make this macaroni salad up to 3 days in advance. Store in an airtight container in the fridge.
Keep the salad until you are ready to serve, as it is mayonnaise-based.
Store leftover macaroni salad in an airtight container for up to 4 days. Serve cold.
Hawaiian mac salad is iconic because of its simplicity. The main defining thing about Hawaiian mac salad is the sweetness from the sugar, with the slight tang from the vinegar. Some classic macaroni salads have mustard in the dressing, which you will not find in Hawaiian mac salad. More importantly, some traditional recipes include MSG in the mix.
I do not recommend freezing macaroni salad. The texture of the dressing and the pasta will change, and you will not have that creaminess that you would otherwise get from mac salad.
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Hawaiian Tuna Mac Salad
- Boil water: Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Once the water is boiling, salt it liberally.
- Boil the pasta: Boil the pasta 1-2 minutes past al dente.4 oz Elbow macaroni pasta
- Drain: Drain the pasta, and rinse with cold water. Set aside.
- Mix pasta: In a large mixing bowl, add the dressing ingredients together, and combine. Add the pasta, carrots and tuna to the mixing bowl, and combine.¾ cup Mayonnaise, 2 tablespoon White vinegar, 1 tablespoon Granulated sugar, 1 cup Carrots, ¼ cup Whole milk, 5 oz. can Flaked tuna, Sea salt
- Refrigerate: Cover the macaroni salad with cling wrap, and refrigerate for a minimum of 30 minutes.