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8 Hawaiian Food Recipes You Simply Need to Try

Hawaii is a Pacific paradise that offers much more than breathtaking beaches and idyllic sunsets. It also dishes out a unique culinary experience that’s second to none. If you have never tried Hawaiian cuisine before, say Aloha today! 

Hawaiian food is a unique blend of tastes and textures, intertwining traditional Polynesian ingredients with influences from Asia, Europe, and the Americas. This diversity is reflected in its cuisine. Beloved for its robust flavors, healthy ingredients, and significant cultural roots, Hawaiian cuisine enjoys a strong presence among both natives and tourists. Remarkably, over 70% of visitors in Hawaii sample traditional island dishes during their stay. It’s time to bring that island taste into your own kitchen with these delightful recipes.

The Richness of Hawaiian Cuisine

Diversity defines Hawaiian cuisine, an echo of the cultural richness inherent in the islands. Staple ingredients ranging from juicy seafood and fragrant fruits to earthy root vegetables and various spices work in harmony to deliver a unique taste.

If this is your first time trying Hawaiian cuisine, or if you’re seeking to expand your culinary horizons, this blog post should prove insightful.

8 Must-Try Hawaiian Recipes

Some might say that Hawaiian cuisine is an adventure, not just a meal. The magic lies in the perfect blend of sweet, sour, salty, and umami flavors. And each dish carries its own distinct appeal.

1. Hawaiian Huli Huli Chicken

The Huli Huli Chicken is a classic Hawaiian recipe that’s a feast for the senses. In Hawaiian, Huli Huli translates to “turn, turn,” indicative of the marinating and grilling technique that this dish embraces. This recipe for huli huli chicken from serves up the island flavor right in your home kitchen.

A combination of pineapple juice, soy sauce, brown sugar, ketchup, and ginger forms the basis of the sweet and tangy marinade. Grilled with constant turning and basting, the chicken takes on a smoky allure that amplifies its taste. This iconic dish isn’t just a meal but a representation of traditional Hawaiian grilling customs.

2. Hawaiian Poke Bowl

Next up, the refreshing flavors of a Poke Bowl perfectly capture the taste of Hawaii. Simple yet brimming with taste, a Poke Bowl consists of raw, marinated fish (typically ahi tuna) served on a bed of rice and embellished with diverse condiments.

The charm of this dish comes from its adaptability. Tailoring the poke bowl with your preferred seafood, pickled veggies, and sauces is a breeze. The final result is an energetic bowl featuring a medley of contrasting textures and flavors. It’s a nutritious, satisfying, and delicious meal choice that exudes the spirit of the Hawaiian islands.

3. Loco Moco

Loco Moco is Hawaiian comfort food at its best. This heartwarming dish consists of a bed of white rice topped with a juicy hamburger patty, a fried egg, and generous lashings of rich brown gravy. It’s a robust, filling meal that offers a perfect blend of savory flavors.

Loco Moco’s history is as intriguing as its taste. Rumored to have been invented in the late 1940s by a group of hungry teenagers, it has since become a beloved fixture in local diners and restaurants. Simple to prepare and big on taste, this dish encapsulates the casual, hearty spirit of Hawaiian food culture.

4. Kalua Pork

Kalua Pork is a traditional Hawaiian dish that is slow-cooked in an underground oven, or imu, to achieve its distinct smoky flavor and tender texture. While the traditional cooking method might be challenging to replicate at home, the essence of this dish can still be captured using a slow cooker or an oven.

The recipe involves slow-cooking a pork shoulder rubbed with sea salt and liquid smoke for several hours until it’s fall-apart tender. The result is a succulent, smoky, and incredibly flavorful pork that serves as a wonderful centerpiece for any Hawaiian feast.

5. Hawaiian Garlic Shrimp

Hawaiian Garlic Shrimp, popularly served from the shrimp trucks along Oahu’s North Shore, is another must-try dish. These succulent shrimps, smothered in a garlicky, buttery sauce, are the epitome of finger-licking goodness.

Typically served with two scoops of rice and a side of macaroni salad, the Hawaiian Garlic Shrimp offers a delightful balance of flavors. The dish is easy to prepare, but the result is a flavorful seafood treat that’s irresistibly tasty.

6. Lau Lau

Lau Lau is a traditional Hawaiian dish that encapsulates the essence of island cuisine. In this unique recipe, pork, fish, or chicken is seasoned and wrapped in taro leaves, then steamed to perfection until it’s incredibly tender.

Lau Lau carries a deep cultural significance. The careful preparation, cooking, and presentation of the meal are a nod to the respect Hawaiians have for the food they eat. Each bite is a celebration of Hawaiian culinary traditions, with the steamed taro leaves imparting a slightly sweet flavor to the tender, flavorful meat.

7. Malasadas

A journey through Hawaiian cuisine would be incomplete without mentioning Malasadas — a kind of Portuguese doughnut brought over by plantation workers and quickly adopted as a local favorite. These pillowy, deep-fried dough balls are dusted with sugar and often filled with sweet custard or tropical fruit jams.

Malasadas are a testament to the fusion of different cultures in Hawaiian cuisine. Perfectly crispy on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside, and not overly sweet, they make a delightful dessert or snack. They’re particularly associated with Fat Tuesday (the day before the start of Lent) but are enjoyed year-round.

8. Haupia

Last but not least on our list is Haupia, a traditional Hawaiian dessert that will satiate your sweet tooth. Made from coconut milk, sugar, and a thickening agent, it sets up into a gelatin-like consistency and is often served in cut squares or as a pie filling.

Haupia is mildly sweet, with a refreshing coconut flavor and a silky texture. It’s a delightful palate cleanser after a rich Hawaiian meal and an essential part of any luau feast. As a testament to its popularity, Haupia has even found its way into modern desserts like cakes and ice cream.


Exploring Hawaiian cuisine is just as exciting as the islands themselves. Filled with savory richness and sweet delights, these dishes will leave you with a taste of the Aloha State — even if you can’t make it to the islands, with these vibrant recipes, you can bring a bit of tropical paradise into your kitchen.

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