Classic vs. Sweet: How to Make Macaroni Salad for Pinoy Parties

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Did you know that macaroni salad is among the top five dishes Filipinos love to prepare for Christmas? That’s because the sweet and savory flavors appeal to the local palate. Pinoy na Pinoy! If you’re eager to learn how to make macaroni salad the star of your upcoming parties, this guide is for you.

The first step is determining how your guests like their salad – classic or sweet. It will help you finalize your grocery list. Where you and your visitors live is also a factor to consider. Next, plot a timeline – Filipino macaroni salad tastes better as days pass. Lastly, put everything together. It’s that easy! Read on for the complete details.

Step 1: Choose Between Classic and Sweet

Every family has a take on this salad. Some lean toward a creamy, savory version, while others like it on the sweeter side. Which flavor profile will your guests prefer?

Classic macaroni salad

A big bowl of classic creamy macaroni salad with chicken and ham beside a Lady’s Choice mayonnaise bottle

Are you from Quezon City, Malolos, or San Fernando? Then the classic creamy macaroni salad recipe is for you. Those from Metro Manila and Luzon prefer the savory version featuring meat and vegetables. They often serve it as a starter or a side dish to grilled, fried, or steamed dishes. You get this when you order roasted or deep-fried chicken from fast-food chains. Primary flavorings are salt, pepper, tangy pickle relish, and salty cheese.

Classic macaroni salad ingredients

  • macaroni
  • mayonnaise
  • salt
  • pepper
  • pickle relish
  • grated or cubed cheese
  • onion
  • celery
  • carrots
  • shredded chicken, cubed ham, or tuna flakes
  • crushed pineapple (optional)
  • hard-boiled eggs (optional)

Sweet macaroni salad

A big bowl of sweet macaroni salad with fruit cocktail and kaong beside a Lady’s Choice mayonnaise bottle

You will enjoy this version if you’re from the central and southern parts of the Philippines. Those from the Visayas and Mindanao favor the sweeter salad. Although you can also serve this as an appetizer, most locals enjoy it as a dessert to cap off a hearty meal. You can find it beside leche flan, buko pandan, or different rice cakes. 

You’ll still get a creamy salad, but this one tends to be soupy. This runny consistency results from mixing mayonnaise with cream and condensed milk. Adding kaong and nata de coco also lends sweetness and coloring. Don’t be surprised if it comes out red or green! And if you want to balance the sweetness, toss in chicken, ham, or cheese for some salty notes.

Sweet macaroni salad ingredients

  • macaroni
  • mayonnaise
  • cream
  • condensed milk
  • grated or cubed cheese
  • fruit cocktail
  • kaong
  • nata de coco
  • pineapple chunks
  • raisins (optional)
  • fresh coconut strips (optional)

Step 2: Plot a Timeline

A mom and her daughter reach for an ingredient while grocery shopping

Many Filipinos reserve their macaroni salad for Christmastime feasts. Other occasions might see a watered-down recipe with not as many ingredients. It's why expectations are always high with the holiday version. It has to turn out extremely well!

But worry not; you don't have to feel overwhelmed if you’re the designated cook. To ease the pressure, learn how to cook your macaroni salad in advance. You need to separate the recipe into components and plot a timeline for when to prepare each. Follow this example!

  • One month to two weeks ahead: Pick a recipe and purchase ingredients.
  • One week before the party: Cook meats (for the classic version) and freeze.
  • Four days before: Cook macaroni and refrigerate.
  • Three and a half days before: Drain fruit cocktail and other sweet ingredients (for the sweet version). Chop the remaining ingredients.
  • Three days before: Make your salad.

Step 3: Toss and Serve

A wire whisk mixing a dressing made of mayonnaise

Yes, you can already finish preparing your salad up to three days before your party. It’ll even taste better that way. Remember to start with the base. Mix your dressing first, so you can still adjust seasonings and flavorings. Don’t just throw everything into the bowl! Be careful while mixing so it doesn’t turn mushy. But make sure you get to coat every ingredient in the creamy sauce. And lastly: chill, chill, chill!

Learning to make a macaroni salad for Christmas is as easy as 1-2-3. There’s something special about this holiday treat – its mere presence on the table indicates a merry celebration. Follow this foolproof plan to make your version, whether classic or sweet, a sure winner.

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