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Japanese Macaroni Salad マカロニサラダ

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    Tossed in a creamy, tangy and sweet dressing, this Japanese Macaroni Salad is the perfect side dish to serve at your next BBQ and cookout. Get your salad fork ready and dig in! 

    This recipe is brought to you in partnership with Mizkan.

    Japanese Macaroni Salad in a blue and white bowl.

    I often get asked which Japanese dishes are great to serve as a side dish for summer BBQ and potluck. A few of our family favorites include Japanese Potato Salad, Harusame Salad (Japanese Glass Noodle Salad), and Grilled Rice Balls (Yaki Onigiri).

    Today I’m adding another one to the list. It’s the crowd-pleasing, kid-friendly Japanese Macaroni Salad (マカロニサラダ).

    Why You’ll Love Japanese Macaroni Salad

    • So delicious, and easy to make!
    • Very simple, pantry-friendly ingredients.
    • The creamy, tangy, and sweet dressing will make everyone come back for more.
    • Full of textural crunch.
    • Japanese mayo makes everything so darn good!

    Big fan of the Japanese Potato Salad? This will remind you of the similar deliciousness. You might want to make extra because it will be gone in an instant!

    5 Ingredients You’ll Need:

    1. Macaroni – You can use other short pasta, or even spaghetti noodles (we call it Spaghetti Salad (スパゲッティーサラダ)).
    2. Cucumber – Use Japanese or Persian cucumber. If you’re going to use English cucumber, slice in half lengthwise and remove the watery seeds with a spoon. I don’t recommend American cucumber for this recipe as the skin is thick.
    3. Onion – I recommend using it for the texture and zing.
    4. Ham – You can substitute it with shredded cooked chicken, canned tuna, imitation crab, or sweet corn.
    5. Boiled Egg – Add richness, creaminess, and savoriness.

    Japanese Macaroni Salad in glass bowls.

    My Secret for the Seasoning

    The majority of Japanese Macaroni Salad recipes may just call for Japanese mayo and black pepper. However, to season my Japanese Macaroni Salad, I always include these 3 items:

    1. Japanese Mayonnaise 
    2. Mizkan Natural Rice Vinegar
    3. Sugar

    It’s a simple layering, but that’s what makes a difference! You’ll yield a much tastier and superior salad. Rich and creamy, yet refreshing. Sweet yet tangy. All at the same time! It’s so good that you’ll want to come back for more.

    The Japanese Macaroni Salad isn’t what it is without Japanese mayo. Period. However, if you can’t get it, I’ve included a quick recipe to convert American mayo to Japanese mayo. It’s not exactly the same, but only if you absolutely can’t get it. You’ll also find my homemade Japanese mayonnaise in the recipe.

    Mizkan Rice Vinegar | Easy Japanese Recipes at

    The Right Vinegar for All Japanese Recipes

    To give the salad a rounded acidity, I used Mizkan Natural Rice Vinegar in this recipe. Crafted with real organic ingredients, the rice vinegar has a mild tang, refreshing aroma, and brings out the flavor beautifully.

    You’ll find that I solely use Mizkan Natural Rice Vinegar in all my Japanese cooking. You can use it to toss, stir-fry, marinate, dress and dip all kinds of Japanese-inspired dishes. The brand has been around in Japan for over 200 years and is known for using the finest ingredients and brewing according to traditional practices. If you wish to create authentic Japanese recipes at home, I always recommend using Mizkan.

    With this rice vinegar in your pantry, you’ll be able to cook up many delicious Japanese dishes at home with confidence and ease!

    Japanese Macaroni Salad in a blue and white bowl.

    3 Tips to Make Macaroni Salad

    1. Cook Macaroni 1 Extra Minute

    We are often trained to cook pasta till al dente. However, this might be the only time that you’re supposed to cook macaroni 1 extra minute. You can be a pasta rebel for once!

    The reason why we cook the pasta longer for the salad is to create the tender, mochi-mochi texture. It melds together so much better with the rest of the ingredients. It’s personal taste, but many recipes would advise the same, and I’d recommend that too.

    2. Let The Macaroni Cool Completely

    After you cook the macaroni, drain well and season it immediately with olive oil, Mizkan Natural Rice Vinegar, and sugar. Let the macaroni absorb the hidden flavor while it’s still hot. The olive oil and sugar help to retain the moisture of the macaroni, resulting in a great texture throughout.

    Then, let cool completely before dressing it with mayonnaise. If the macaroni is still hot, the mayo will separate, so you want to be patient.

    3. Withdraw Moisture Out from Vegetables

    Nobody likes a soggy salad. Therefore, it’s very important to withdraw moisture from the ingredients. If you add cucumber and onion, sprinkle salt and set aside for 5 minutes. You’ll see a small pool of water drawn from the vegetables in the bowl.

    Now quickly rinse off salt from the vegetables and squeeze the water out before mixing with macaroni. If you don’t squeeze water out, the moisture will dilute the flavor.

    Fun Variations

    Since this Japanese Macaroni Salad is a staple during our BBQ season, I like making different variations to keep things fresh. You can swap ham with shredded cooked chicken, canned tuna, or imitation crab, and toss in extras like sweet corn.

    For a punch of creative flavor, you can even add a touch of soy sauce, ponzu, Dijon or Japanese karashi mustard, or curry powder to the dressing.

    The salad makes the most delicious accompaniment to this Traeger Baby Back Ribs, BBQ Short Ribs, and Teriyaki Burger.

    But don’t think it only belongs to your backyard BBQs and cookouts in the park. You can totally serve it as a main meal for dinner!

    Japanese Macaroni Salad in a blue and white bowl.

    Japanese Ingredient Substitution: If you want to look for substitutes for Japanese condiments and ingredients, click here.

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    4.8 from 15 votes
    Japanese Macaroni Salad in a blue and white bowl.
    Japanese Macaroni Salad
    Prep Time
    15 mins
    Cook Time
    15 mins
    Chill Time
    1 hr
    Total Time
    1 hr 30 mins

    Tossed in a creamy, tangy and sweet dressing, this Japanese Macaroni Salad is the perfect side dish to serve at your next BBQ and cookout.

    Course: Salad
    Cuisine: Japanese
    Keyword: cucumber, ham, japanese mayonnaise
    Servings: 4 (as side dish)
    Author: Namiko Chen
    For Macaroni
    • 4 oz uncooked elbow macaroni (you can use penne, farfalle, fusilli, or spaghetti)
    • 1 Tbsp kosher/sea salt (I use Diamond Crystal; Use half for table salt) (for boiling macaroni)
    • 2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
    • 1 Tbsp rice vinegar (I used Mizkan Natural Rice Vinegar)
    • 1 tsp sugar
    For the Salad
    • 1 large egg (50 g w/o shell) (you can increase up to 2, but it’ll be more prominent egg taste)
    • ½ onion (3.5 oz, 100 g)
    • 2 Persian cucumbers (or 1 Japanese cucumber)
    • 1 tsp kosher/sea salt (I use Diamond Crystal; Use half for table salt) (for sprinkling onion and cucumber)
    • 4 slices ham (3.5 oz, 100 g; you can substitute it with canned tuna, shredded cooked chicken, or corn)
    1. Gather all the ingredients.

      Japanese Macaroni Salad Ingredients
    To Make Japanese Mayonnaise
    1. You can make my Homemade Japanese Mayonnaise or modify American mayonnaise with Mizkan Natural Rice Vinegar and sugar. For 4 Tbsp of American mayonnaise (I use Best Foods/Hellmann’s Mayonnaise), add ½ Tbsp rice vinegar and ¾ tsp sugar. Whisk until sugar dissolves.

    To Boil Macaroni
    1. Start boiling 3 quarts (12 cups, 2.8 L) water in a large pot (I used a 3.5 QT pot). Once boiling, add 1 Tbsp salt and macaroni. Cook according to the package instructions plus 1 minute more.

      Japanese Macaroni Salad 1
    2. Drain the macaroni and transfer to a large bowl. While hot, add 2 tsp olive oil.

      Japanese Macaroni Salad 2 NEW
    3. Add 1 Tbsp rice vinegar and 1 tsp sugar and mix well together. Set aside to let cool completely.

      Japanese Macaroni Salad 2.5
    To Make Boiled Egg
    1. In a medium saucepan, add water that covers 1 large egg and bring it to a boil over medium heat. Optional Tip: If you want your egg yolk to be in the center, gently rotate the eggs with chopsticks once in a while for the first 3 minutes so the egg yolk will be in the center.

      Japanese Macaroni Salad 3
    2. Once boiling, turn the heat down to medium-low and set a timer for 12 minutes (9 minutes for soft boiled egg). Once it’s done cooking, bring the pot under running water to cool or immediately transfer to an iced bath.

      Japanese Macaroni Salad 4
    3. Peel the egg and cut it into small pieces.

      Japanese Macaroni Salad 5
    To Prepare Vegetables
    1. Cut off the ends and peel the onion. Cut into thin slices along the grain.

      Japanese Macaroni Salad 6
    2. Peel the cucumber skin, leaving some part unpeeled (so it looks nice) and cut off the ends.

      Japanese Macaroni Salad 7
    3. Thinly slice the cucumber (or use a mandolin). Put the sliced cucumber and onion in a medium bowl.

      Japanese Macaroni Salad 8
    4. Sprinkle 1 tsp salt and lightly massage with hand to evenly distribute the salt. Set aside for 5 minutes.

      Japanese Macaroni Salad 9
    5. When you see the liquid in the bowl, give the sliced vegetables a quick rinse to remove the salt.

      Japanese Macaroni Salad 10
    6. Squeeze water out and set aside.

      Japanese Macaroni Salad 11
    7. Cut the ham into small pieces, roughly ⅛ inch thick, 2 inch long pieces and set aside.

      Japanese Macaroni Salad 12
    To Assemble Macaroni Salad
    1. When the macaroni is cool, add the ham and sliced cucumber and onion.

      Japanese Macaroni Salad 13
    2. Mix well together and add the chopped boiled egg.

      Japanese Macaroni Salad 14
    3. Add 4 Tbsp Japanese mayonnaise and ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper. Mix all together.

      Japanese Macaroni Salad 16
    4. Taste the salad and see if you want to add more salt, pepper, or mayonnaise. Once the taste is good, chill the salad for 1 hour in the refrigerator before serving.

      Japanese Macaroni Salad 17
    To Store
    1. You can keep the Japanese Macaroni Salad for up to 2-3 days in the refrigerator.

    Other Delicious Japanese Salad Recipes

    Make It Into A Meal

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