Japanese Macaroni Salad マカロニサラダ

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:

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)).
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.
Onion – I recommend using it for the texture and zing.
Ham – You can substitute it with shredded cooked chicken, canned tuna, imitation crab, or sweet corn.
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:

Japanese Mayonnaise
Mizkan Natural Rice Vinegar
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 JustOneCookbook.com

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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5 from 1 vote

Japanese Macaroni Salad in a blue and white bowl.
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: Nami
For Macaroni

4 oz macaroni (113 g; you can use penne, farfalle, fusilli, or spaghetti)
1 Tbsp kosher/sea salt (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 (you can increase up to 2, but it’ll be more prominent egg taste)
½ onion (3.5 oz, 100 g)
2 Persian cucumber (or 1 Japanese cucumber)
1 tsp kosher/sea salt (use half for table salt) (for sprinkling onion and cucumber)
3-4 slices ham (3.5 oz, 100 g; you can substitute it with canned tuna, shredded cooked chicken, or corn)
4 Tbsp Japanese mayonnaise
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper

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