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Huli Huli Chicken Recipe

Huli Huli Chicken

Huli Huli Chicken, a culinary gem from Hawaii, is much more than just a dish; it’s a vibrant expression of Hawaiian culture and flavors. This unique grilled chicken has captivated palates with its extraordinary blend of sweet and savory tastes, making it a beloved choice in Hawaiian cuisine and beyond. Its popularity stems from its distinctive flavor profile, a harmonious blend of tropical and aromatic ingredients that tantalize the taste buds. The allure of Huli Huli Chicken lies in its ability to transport diners to the sunny shores of Hawaii, offering a taste of the island’s rich culinary heritage. This dish is not just food; it’s a celebration of Hawaiian flavors, bringing joy and festivity to every table it graces.

The History of Huli Huli Chicken

The origins of Huli Huli Chicken trace back to the 1950s, created by Ernest Morgado’s family. This dish quickly rose to fame across the Hawaiian Islands, becoming a staple at local gatherings and events. The name “Huli Huli” holds a special meaning in Hawaiian language, translating to “turn.” This term is a nod to the cooking technique used in preparing the chicken, where it is continuously turned on the grill to achieve perfect caramelization and even cooking. The history of Huli Huli Chicken is not just about its creation but also about how it embodies the spirit of Hawaiian community and tradition.

Ingredients and Marinade

The secret to the irresistible taste of Huli Huli Chicken lies in its marinade, a carefully crafted blend of ingredients that infuse the chicken with rich, complex flavors. The key components of this marinade include:

  • Soy sauce for a deep umami flavor
  • Ketchup and brown sugar for a perfect balance of sweetness
  • Pineapple juice for a hint of tropical zest
  • Ginger and garlic for an aromatic kick

To enhance these flavors further, additional ingredients like Worcestershire sauce and apple cider vinegar are added, contributing to the marinade’s tanginess and helping tenderize the chicken. The marination process is crucial, allowing the flavors to penetrate deeply into the chicken, resulting in a dish that’s flavorful through and through. This step is what sets Huli Huli Chicken apart, making it a true masterpiece of Hawaiian cuisine.

Preparing Huli Huli Chicken

The journey to creating the perfect Huli Huli Chicken begins with the marination process. Marinate the chicken in a mixture of soy sauce, ketchup, brown sugar, pineapple juice, ginger, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, and apple cider vinegar. Ensure the chicken is thoroughly coated and let it soak up the flavors for at least 4-6 hours, preferably overnight. A tip for marinating: use a resealable bag for even coverage and easy turning. Remember, the longer the chicken marinates, the more flavorful it will be.

Cooking Methods

Grilling Technique

Grilling is the traditional method for cooking Huli Huli Chicken. Preheat your grill and cook the chicken over medium heat. The key is to turn the chicken frequently, basting with the marinade each time to create a caramelized exterior. This method imparts a smoky flavor that is quintessential to Huli Huli Chicken.

Baking as an Alternative

For those without a grill, baking is a great alternative. Preheat your oven to 375°F and place the marinated chicken on a baking sheet. Bake until the internal temperature reaches 165°F, basting occasionally with the marinade. For a caramelized finish, broil the chicken for the last few minutes.

Serving Suggestions

Huli Huli Chicken is best served with sides that complement its rich flavors. Try these accompaniments:

  • Coconut Jasmine Rice for a sweet and fragrant touch
  • Grilled vegetables for a healthy and colorful addition
  • Blue Cheese Potato Salad for a creamy and tangy contrast

For presentation, garnish with fresh herbs or pineapple slices to enhance the tropical vibe.

Variations and Substitutions

Huli Huli Chicken is versatile. Here are some variations:

  • Use different cuts of chicken like breasts or drumsticks, adjusting cooking times accordingly.
  • For a vegetarian option, marinate and grill firm tofu or tempeh.


How long should the chicken be marinated?

  • Ideally, marinate the chicken for at least 4-6 hours, but overnight marination yields the best flavor.

Can fresh pineapple juice be used in the marinade?

  • It’s recommended to use canned or bottled pineapple juice as fresh juice contains enzymes that can overly soften the chicken.

Is it possible to bake the chicken instead of grilling?

  • Absolutely! Baking is a convenient alternative, especially for those without a grill. Bake at 375°F until the chicken is fully cooked, following the same marination guidelines.
Huli Huli Chicken Recipe

Huli Huli Chicken Recipe

Huli Huli Chicken is a classic Hawaiian dish that offers a perfect blend of sweet, tangy, and savory flavors. This recipe features chicken thighs marinated in a unique mixture of pineapple juice, soy sauce, ketchup, and spices, then grilled to perfection. It's an ideal choice for BBQs or a special family dinner, bringing a taste of the tropics to your table.
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Marinate Time 6 hours
Total Time 6 hours 40 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Hawaiian, Tropical
Servings 6 people
Calories 450 kcal


  • Grill (gas or charcoal)
  • Large mixing bowl
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Whisk
  • Resealable plastic bag or marinating dish
  • Tongs for grilling
  • Meat thermometer


  • 4 pounds chicken thighs boneless and skinless
  • 1 cup pineapple juice canned or bottled
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar packed
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger grated
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Fresh pineapple slices for serving
  • Optional garnish: sliced green onions


Prepare the Marinade:

  • In a large bowl, whisk together pineapple juice, soy sauce, ketchup, brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, minced garlic, grated ginger, smoked paprika, and black pepper.

Marinate the Chicken:

  • Place the chicken thighs in a large resealable plastic bag or a shallow dish.
  • Pour the marinade over the chicken, ensuring all pieces are well-coated.
  • Seal the bag or cover the dish and refrigerate for at least 4-6 hours, preferably overnight.

Preheat the Grill:

  • Preheat your grill to medium heat.

Grill the Chicken:

  • Remove the chicken from the marinade, reserving the marinade for basting.
  • Grill the chicken for about 6-8 minutes on each side, basting frequently with the reserved marinade, until the chicken is cooked through and has a nice caramelized exterior. The internal temperature should reach 165°F (75°C).

Grill Pineapple Slices:

  • Grill pineapple slices alongside the chicken until they have nice grill marks.


  • Serve the grilled Huli Huli Chicken with the grilled pineapple slices.
  • Garnish with sliced green onions if desired.


  • Enjoy your homemade Huli Huli Chicken, a taste of Hawaii right from your grill!


  • For a less sweet version, reduce the amount of brown sugar.
  • Chicken breasts can be used instead of thighs, but cooking times may vary.
  • Always ensure chicken is fully cooked to the safe internal temperature of 165°F (75°C).


  • Marinating the chicken overnight will enhance the flavors.
  • If using chicken breasts, adjust grilling time as they cook faster than thighs.
  • For a spicier kick, add a pinch of red pepper flakes to the marinade.
  • Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Keyword Huli Huli Chicken Recipe

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