Hawaiian Huli Huli Chicken with Pineapple and Rice Recipe

Hawaiian Huli Huli Chicken with Pineapple and Rice Recipe

Hawaiian cuisine is known for its unique flavors and bold, fresh ingredients. One dish that exemplifies these qualities is Huli Huli Chicken with Pineapple and Rice. This Hawaiian classic pairs tender, juicy chicken with the sweet tanginess of fresh pineapple and the nutty flavor of rice. In this article, we will explore the history and cultural significance of this dish, as well as provide you with a comprehensive, step-by-step guide to making it at home. So grab your apron and let’s get started!

The History of Huli Huli Chicken and its Hawaiian Roots

The story of Huli Huli Chicken dates back to the 1950s, when a Hawaiian businessman named Ernest Morgado created the first batch of this delicious dish. Inspired by the traditional Hawaiian method of cooking pig over an open flame, Morgado adapted the recipe using chicken and a marinade made from soy sauce, ginger, and brown sugar. He coined the term “Huli Huli” – which means “turn turn” in Hawaiian – to describe the cooking process, which involves constantly flipping the chicken over a grill to ensure even cooking and flavor distribution.

Since then, Huli Huli Chicken has become a beloved staple at Hawaiian barbecues, luaus, and other festive occasions. Its unique flavor profile and tender texture make it a crowd-pleaser for both locals and tourists alike.

Over the years, Huli Huli Chicken has evolved to include different variations of the original recipe. Some chefs add pineapple juice or honey to the marinade for a sweeter taste, while others use different spices and herbs to create a more complex flavor profile. Despite these variations, the essence of Huli Huli Chicken remains the same – a delicious, juicy, and flavorful dish that captures the essence of Hawaiian cuisine.

Today, Huli Huli Chicken is not only popular in Hawaii but has also gained a following in other parts of the world. It has become a symbol of Hawaiian culture and is often served at Hawaiian-themed events and restaurants. Whether you are a fan of traditional Hawaiian cuisine or simply looking for a new and exciting dish to try, Huli Huli Chicken is definitely worth a taste.

The Secret to Perfecting the Marinade for Huli Huli Chicken

The key to the perfect Huli Huli Chicken is in the marinade. The savory-sweet blend of soy sauce, ginger, garlic, brown sugar, and pineapple juice imparts a delicious flavor to the chicken and helps keep it tender and moist during cooking.

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To make the marinade, combine 1 cup of soy sauce, 1 cup of pineapple juice, ½ cup of packed brown sugar, ⅓ cup of ketchup, ¼ cup of apple cider vinegar, 2 tablespoons of minced garlic, 1 tablespoon of minced ginger, and a pinch of red pepper flakes in a large mixing bowl. Whisk all ingredients together until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is smooth.

Once you have made the marinade, pour it over the chicken and let it marinate for at least 2 hours, or overnight for best results. When you are ready to cook the chicken, preheat your grill to medium-high heat and grill the chicken for 6-8 minutes per side, or until the internal temperature reaches 165°F. Baste the chicken with the remaining marinade while it cooks to add even more flavor.

A Step-by-Step Guide to Making Huli Huli Chicken at Home

Now that you have your marinade ready, it’s time to get cooking! Here’s how to make Huli Huli Chicken:


  • 6 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
  • 2 cups of Huli Huli marinade
  • 1 pineapple, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 3 cups of cooked rice
  • Fresh cilantro, chopped (optional)


  1. Marinade the chicken thighs in the Huli Huli marinade for at least 2 hours, or overnight, in the refrigerator.
  2. Preheat your grill to medium-high heat.
  3. Place the chicken thighs on the grill, skin side down, and cook for 6-8 minutes, or until the skin is golden brown and crispy.
  4. Flip the chicken over and brush with the remaining marinade.
  5. Add the pineapple to the grill and cook for 2-3 minutes per side, until caramelized.
  6. Remove the chicken and pineapple from the grill and allow it to rest for a few minutes.
  7. Serve the Huli Huli Chicken with a side of rice and garnish with chopped cilantro if desired.

If you don’t have a grill, you can still make Huli Huli Chicken in the oven. Preheat your oven to 375°F and place the chicken thighs on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165°F.

For a vegetarian option, you can substitute the chicken with tofu or tempeh. Simply marinate the tofu or tempeh in the Huli Huli marinade for at least 2 hours, or overnight, in the refrigerator. Then, grill or bake the tofu or tempeh until it is heated through and caramelized.

Tips for Grilling the Perfect Huli Huli Chicken

Grilling Huli Huli Chicken requires a bit of finesse to get it just right. Here are some tips to ensure your chicken turns out juicy, flavorful, and perfectly cooked:

  • Don’t overcook the chicken. Cook it until the internal temperature reaches 165°F (74°C).
  • Brush the chicken with the marinade frequently during cooking to keep it moist and ensure it absorbs as much flavor as possible.
  • Use indirect heat for the final 10 minutes of cooking to avoid burning the chicken and pineapple. Simply move the chicken to a cooler area of the grill.
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Another important tip for grilling Huli Huli Chicken is to marinate the chicken for at least 2 hours before grilling. This will allow the chicken to absorb all the flavors of the marinade and make it more tender.

It is also recommended to use bone-in chicken pieces for grilling Huli Huli Chicken as they tend to be more flavorful and juicy than boneless chicken pieces.

How to Choose the Best Pineapple for Your Recipe

Pineapple is a key ingredient in Huli Huli Chicken and choosing the right one can make all the difference. When shopping for pineapple, look for the following:

  • A pineapple that is ripe but not overripe. It should be firm but yield slightly to pressure.
  • Green leaves at the crown that are fresh and vibrant.
  • A sweet fragrance emanating from the bottom of the fruit.

Another important factor to consider when choosing a pineapple is its size. Pineapples come in different sizes, and the size you choose will depend on your recipe. If you need a lot of pineapple for your recipe, then you should go for a larger one. However, if you only need a small amount, then a smaller pineapple will suffice.

It’s also important to note that the color of the pineapple’s skin doesn’t necessarily indicate its ripeness. Some pineapples have green skin even when they are ripe, while others have yellow skin even when they are not yet ripe. Therefore, it’s best to rely on the other factors mentioned above to determine the ripeness of the pineapple.

Creative Ways to Incorporate Pineapple into Your Rice Dish

The pineapple in Huli Huli Chicken pairs perfectly with the nutty flavor of rice. Here are some creative ways to incorporate pineapple into your rice dish:

  • Add chopped pineapple to your cooked rice.
  • Sauté diced pineapple, onion, and bell pepper in a pan and mix into the rice.
  • Make a pineapple fried rice by combining cooked rice, scrambled eggs, peas, diced carrots, and pineapple chunks in a wok.
  • Puree pineapple and add it to the rice mixture before cooking for a tropical twist.

The Health Benefits of Pineapple and Chicken in Your Diet

Pineapple and chicken are both excellent sources of protein and essential vitamins and minerals. Pineapple is rich in vitamin C, which supports a healthy immune system, and bromelain, an enzyme that aids in digestion. Chicken is high in protein, niacin, and vitamin B6, which help maintain healthy skin, nerves, and red blood cells. Pairing these two ingredients together creates a nutritious, well-balanced meal that is not only delicious but good for your body.

How to Make a Vegetarian Version of Huli Huli using Tofu or Tempeh

If you’re looking for a vegetarian alternative to Huli Huli Chicken, try using tofu or tempeh instead. Both are high in protein and absorb marinade well, making them a great substitute for meat. Here’s how to make Huli Huli Tofu or Tempeh:

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  • 1 package of firm tofu or tempeh
  • 2 cups of Huli Huli marinade
  • 1 pineapple, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 3 cups of cooked rice
  • Fresh cilantro, chopped (optional)


  1. Cut tofu or tempeh into 1/2-inch slices.
  2. Marinade the tofu or tempeh in the Huli Huli marinade for at least 2 hours, or overnight, in the refrigerator.
  3. Preheat your grill to medium-high heat.
  4. Place the tofu or tempeh on the grill and cook for 3-4 minutes per side, or until grill marks appear.
  5. Brush the remaining marinade on the tofu or tempeh during the last 2 minutes of grilling.
  6. Add the pineapple to the grill and cook for 2-3 minutes per side, until caramelized.
  7. Remove the tofu or tempeh and pineapple from the grill and allow it to rest for a few minutes.
  8. Serve the Huli Huli Tofu or Tempeh with a side of rice and garnish with chopped cilantro if desired.

Pairing Suggestions for Drinks and Sides with Your Huli Huli Chicken

Looking for the perfect drink and side dishes to serve with your Huli Huli Chicken? Here are some suggestions:


  • A fruity mai tai cocktail
  • A cold, refreshing beer
  • A glass of iced tea with fresh lemon


  • Grilled asparagus
  • Simple green salad with citrus vinaigrette
  • Macaroni salad with a Hawaiian twist

How to Store and Reheat Your Leftover Hawaiian Feast

Not able to finish your Huli Huli Chicken dinner in one sitting? No problem. Here’s how to store and reheat your leftovers:

  • Allow the chicken to cool to room temperature before storing it in an airtight container in the refrigerator. It will keep for up to 3-4 days.
  • Reheat the chicken in the microwave or oven until it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C).
  • To reheat the rice, add a splash of water or chicken broth to the rice and microwave it for 1-2 minutes.
  • The pineapple can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days and enjoyed as a sweet snack or added to other dishes.

The Cultural Significance of Food in Hawaiian Culture

Food plays a significant role in Hawaiian culture and traditions. Hawaiian cuisine is deeply rooted in the island’s history and unique natural surroundings. Traditional Hawaiian food incorporates a variety of fresh, local ingredients, such as fish, taro, sweet potato, and coconut. The use of marinades, like the one used in Huli Huli Chicken, is also a hallmark of Hawaiian cuisine. Food is often shared and enjoyed in community gatherings, such as luaus, which showcase the diversity and richness of the island’s culinary traditions.

A Review of Different Variations of the Classic Hawaiian Dish

While the traditional Huli Huli Chicken recipe is beloved by many, there are also numerous variations that incorporate different ingredients and flavors.

  • Huli Huli Pork: A pork shoulder marinated and grilled to perfection.
  • Huli Huli Salmon: Fresh salmon fillets grilled with a pineapple-soy sauce marinade.
  • Huli Huli Shrimp: Grilled shrimp skewers with a sweet and savory sauce.
  • Huli Huli Tacos: Grilled chicken served on soft tortillas with tropical salsa and avocado crema.

A Breakdown of the Nutritional Value of This Popular Island Meal

One serving of Huli Huli Chicken (including the rice and pineapple) contains approximately:

  • Calories: 550
  • Protein: 38g
  • Carbohydrates: 59g
  • Fiber: 3g
  • Sugar: 28g
  • Fat: 16g
  • Saturated Fat: 4.5g
  • Cholesterol: 155mg
  • Sodium: 1760mg

This hearty dish is a great way to refuel after a long day at the beach or a hike in the mountains. Its high protein and fiber content make it a satisfying and filling meal, while the fresh pineapple adds a burst of flavor and nutrition. Who said delicious food can’t be healthy?

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