- 16 ounces uncooked medium elbow macaroni
- 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast or thigh meat
- 1 large carrot, peeled and diced or julienned into small pieces
- 1 cup ham, cubed (optional)
- 6 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and coarsely chopped (optional)
- 14 ounces crushed pineapple (optional)
- 1 cup cheddar cheese, grated (optional)
- 1/2 cup sweet pickle relish (or diced pickle)
- 1 cup raisins
- 1 onion, peeled and diced
- 1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
- 1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk *
- salt and pepper to taste
- handful of sunflower seeds without the shell (optional)
In a pot over medium heat, bring about 4 quarts salted water to a boil. Add macaroni and cook for about 8 to 9 minutes or until firm to bite. Drain well.
In a pot, add chicken meat and enough water to cover. Bring the water to a boil, skimming scum that floats on top. Lower heat, cover, and simmer about 15 to 20 minutes or until cooked through. Drain from the liquid, allow to completely cool and shred. Set aside.
In a pot, bring water to a boil. Add diced carrots and cook for about 30 seconds. With a slotted spoon, remove from water and plunge into an ice bath until completely cool. Drain and set aside.
In a large bowl, combine macaroni, chicken, carrots, ham, eggs, crushed pineapple including packing juice, cheese, sweet pickle relish, raisins, onions, sunflower seeds if using, mayonnaise, and sweetened condensed milk. Gently stir together until evenly distributed.
Season with salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate for about 1 hour to cool completely and to allow flavors to meld.
Although you can prep the salad in advance, I don’t recommend keeping it at room temperature for more than 4 hours or for more than 3 days in the refrigerator due to food safety. With mayo, eggs and other protein-rich ingredients, it will spoil quickly.
Unfortunately, due to the nature of the ingredients, this chicken macaroni salad does not freeze well.
Be careful to cook the macaroni just right. Pasta tends to turn chewy when it cools, you might want to cook it a minute more than package directions but don’t overcook or it will get mushy. It’s tossed with a lot of mixed in ingredients so you want the pasta firm enough to hold up.
My favorite trick in this recipe is poaching the chicken and not “boiling”. This gentle method of cooking ensures chicken pieces are moist and succulent instead of dry and stringy. I used boneless chicken breasts but a combination of dark and white meat will work well, too.
Blanching the carrots is another step that makes a difference. By parboiling in hot water and then immediately shocking them in iced water, the carrots are vibrant and tender-crisp.
My friend Sheila did not have sunflower seeds in her macaroni salad and I’ve not seen this added in any filipino macaroni salad recipe, but I find it to be a nice addition – it adds a subtle bit of crunch which I enjoy.
I have also seen some recipes which include chopped celery so that could be included if desired. I cant remember if my friend sheila had that in hers.