Authentic Hawaiian Potato Macaroni Salad Recipe a.k.a. “Potato Mac Salad”
Potato Macaroni salad, also known as “potato mac salad” is a popular side dish served in plate lunches all over the Hawaiian Islands. You will typically find either macaroni salad or potato mac salad scooped next to a couple mounds of rice along with a sauce ladened grilled meat such as Kahlua Pork or Shoyu Chicken.
The cool, creamy flavor of the salad is a perfect complement to grilled and smoked meat dishes. If you ask a Hawaiian local why they like macaroni salad they will tell you, “Because it tastes good with everything.”
In Hawaii, the locals like to use a generous helping of mayonnaise in their potato mac salad to make it extra creamy and it has to be Best Foods mayonnaise or it will not be considered authentic Hawaiian style. Each Hawaiian cook has their own variation of potato macaroni salad using varied ingredients. In this recipe, we will feature typical ingredients of potatoes, macaroni noodles, hard boiled eggs, vinegar, mayonnaise, peas, and carrots. Try the traditional recipe and by all means, have fun experimenting and adapting to your preferred ingredients.
I have also provided instructions to make it easy to cook the potatoes, macaroni noodles and eggs at the same time in the Instant Pot pressure cooker and I have included stove top instructions.
Try out our Family Favorite Potato Salad Recipe (Stovetop and Instant Pot Instructions)
History of Hawaiian Potato Macaroni Salad and Macaroni Salad:
Many food experts and historians have been asked over the years about the history and evolution of potato mac salad and macaroni salad in Hawaii. None have been able to set an exact time or incident. There are a couple popular theories discussed on the evolution of the creamy mayonnaise-based potato mac and macaroni salad. When big hotels started to open in Waikiki as early as 1901, hotel chefs were hired from the New York hotel scene. These chefs were of European descent from mainly Italy and Switzerland. They made potato salad and macaroni salad a popular hotel menu item in the early twentieth century. As East Coast chefs were transplanted to new hotels in Waikiki, they brought with them recipes for popular salads in New York to appeal to the taste buds of mainland vacationers.
The other theory that gets discussed is that the sugar and pineapple plantation owners being of European descent could have introduced macaroni and potato salad to the Hawaiian Islands in the early 20th century. They would request their domestic help, mainly Asian immigrants, to prepare cold potato and noodle salad dishes which exposed the European cooking styles to the plantation workers. It was also common for plantation workers to boil potatoes to leave at home for their children to eat as snacks after school. The children would enjoy dipping their potato pieces in a mixture of mayonnaise and soy sauce (shoyu). It could be very likely the introduction of potato and macaroni salad at the plantations and ingredients for a common kid’s snack melded into each other to create Hawaiian style potato salad.
Over the years, potato and macaroni salad have been adapted to local preferences by using an abundance of mayonnaise and elbow macaroni noodles. Homemade mayonnaise could be made inexpensively with vegetable oil and egg yolks. In the 1930’s, people used to have mayonnaise making jars given out by the Wesson oil company as a promotion to get people to buy their cooking oil. It was a glass jar with a lid and a beater handle to manually beat your own mayonnaise. The recipe for the mayonnaise was embossed on the side of the glass jar. Dried macaroni noodles were also economical to purchase and could help stretch a potato salad further or completely replace the potatoes.
Hawaiian’s love their macaroni salad so much and consume in large quantities. It is estimated that a million pounds of dried macaroni noodles are shipped to the Hawaiian Islands per year to support the macaroni salad habit.
“Portrait Of A Mystery – What Makes Macaroni Salad a Local Treat?” Honolulu Star-Bulletin, by Cynthia Oi, March 17, 1999
“Making Mayonnaise in the 1930’s”, Echoes of Effingham by Susan Exley of Historic Effingham Society, January 23, 2011 ,Effinghamherlad.net
“The Development of Hotels in Waikiki”- by Alice KimHawaii Digital Newspaper Project, Historical Feature Articles
Authentic Hawaiian Potato Macaroni Recipe (Potato Mac Salad):
This is the type of pressure cooker that I prefer to use in my cooking: I get readers asking which electric pressure cooker brand I prefer to use for cooking. I personally use the Instant Pot Multi-Use Pressure Cooker. I love having 7 cooking functions in one space saving appliance – Pressure Cooker, Slow Cooker, Rice Cooker, Saute Pan, Steamer, Yogurt Maker, and Warmer.
Learn more tips on How to Use an Instant Pot Pressure Cooker.
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