Filipino-Style Macaroni Salad Puts A Tropical Spin On The Picnic Classic

There are a plethora of popular Filipino foods that everyone should try at least once: lumpia, adobo, pancit palabok, and sinigang, to name a few. Another traditional Filipino-style dish that may not be on your radar puts a sweet spin on the classic American macaroni salad. This deliciously sweet, savory, and creamy version of macaroni salad is a staple at Filipino gatherings and Christmastime, often considered a dessert. If you were to visit the Philippines, you would likely find that different regions have their own version of sweet macaroni salad, but it's typically composed of elbow macaroni, sweet fruits, mayonnaise, and condensed milk.

The fruit in this colorful macaroni salad often consists of fruit cocktail, pineapple chunks, raisins, and Filipino specialties kaong and nata de coco. Kaong is a fruit that comes from sugar palm trees. It can be translucent white, green, or red, and is similar to a jelly bean in appearance and chewy texture. Nata de coco (or coconut gel) is a sweet, translucent, jelly-like cube made of fermented coconut water. Both of these gelatinous foods can be found in the immensely popular halo-halo dessert drink.

Other varieties of Filipino-style macaroni salad

In addition to the sweet, fruit-filled version, Filipino-style macaroni salad comes in other, more savory varieties that often include meat like shredded chicken. Chicken macaroni salad is a favorite Filipino dish also popular at Christmas. It's a bit sweeter than standard macaroni salad but doesn't include as much fruit as the sweet, tropical version. The addition of chicken makes it more of a standalone dish rather than a side. The main ingredients (although recipes can vary) are elbow macaroni, mayonnaise, chicken, pineapple, raisins, carrots, shredded cheese, green pepper, pimiento, and relish.

Filipino-style noodle dishes don't end with macaroni salad. Spaghetti is another classic family favorite that Filipinos have put a delicious twist on. Like macaroni salad, the origin of Filipino-style spaghetti may date back to WWII when the U.S. military introduced American-style foods to the Philippines. The sauce for this quintessential Filipino comfort food consists of sweet and tangy ingredients like banana ketchup, brown sugar, tomato sauce, and fish sauce, as well as a combination of meats like sliced hot dogs and ground pork.