Huli Huli Chicken – you can’t miss the tropical flavours in this Hawaiian chicken dish! A pineapple marinade with plenty of fresh ginger and garlic injects sweet-savoury flavour and makes for an excellent glaze. Brilliant BBQ grilled or pan seared.
Serve it up with a side of pineapple rice or macaroni salad as you hula dance your way to the table (you won’t be able to help it!
Huli Huli Chicken – tropical food!
There’s just no chance that you cook this without doing a little hula dance.
It’s the vibe. It’s the smell. It’s the satisfying dripping, shiny glaze, the caramelised edges, the anticipation of the smiles and sheer happiness on the faces of those fortunate enough to eat this.
This is just the sort of food that just makes everyone happy! Tropical food has that way about it, don’t you think??
So just give in to the temptation – and swish those hips!!
“Huli” means “turn” in Hawaiian, and refers to the traditional method of cooking this with a grilling basket, turning it over hot coals.
Hawaiian Huli Huli chicken marinade
This tropical recipe is all about the marinade – and there’s two key secret ingredients here:
- pineapple juice – for tropical flavour and sweet (tip: use the juice from canned pineapple slices. Use the pineapple for garnish, as pictured); and
- sherry – or Chinese cooking wine or Mirin. I’ve made it with and without – with knocks it out of the park. Don’t skip it! (Non alcoholic sub – chicken stock. Yup, really.)
How long to marinade chicken
3 hours is the bare minimum, but you’ll be most rewarded with 24 hours – even up to 48 hours – so the marinade really gets into the chicken flesh.
However, if you don’t have the time, 3 hours is enough to get the flavour infusion started, then just do extra generous basting.
How to make Huli Huli Chicken
Nothing groundbreaking here – marinade the chicken, reserve some for basting, cook the chicken on the BBQ or stove, basting frequently so you get a lovely glaze.
Why reserve for basting? For hygiene reasons – because the marinade gets tainted with raw chicken. You can baste using the used marinade, but you have to cook the basted side for 1 1/2 – 2 minutes after each baste. Which, for this particular recipe, doesn’t work because we want to baste-flip-baste-flip frequently. (Same for any other chicken marinade you want to baste frequently, like the Honey Soy Chicken I shared last week).
Tropical sides for Huli Huli Chicken!
Here’s a few suggestions for on-theme dishes to serve on the side. Think – fresh, juicy, lime, coconut, mango, colourful! (Tip: Thai and Vietnamese flavours are very suited to Tropical theme menus)
- Pineapple fried rice from last week – which I actually shared in anticipation of this recipe. Not only is it tropical, you can use the juice from a can of pineapple pieces to make this recipe, and the pineapple to make the rice. Though in this case, I use a can of pineapple slices – juice for the marinade, grilled the slices for garnish, as pictured.
- More starchy sides – Coconut lime rice, Prawn mango summer salad (skip the prawns if you want),
- Corn avocado salad, grilled corn, Cowboy bean salad, vermicelli noodle salad, cucumber salad
- Warm weather favourites – potato salad, coleslaw, macaroni
And lastly, just in case you’re eyeing off this Huli Huli chicken in anticipation of a big tropical feast, here are a few desserts and drink suggestions!
Cocktails for Tropical Parties!
Enjoy! – Nagi x
Watch how to make it
Huli Huli Chicken (Tropical Hawaiian chicken)
Traditional Hawaiian recipe with in-your-face tropical flavours. Sweet, savoury, very sticky! Best 24 – 48 hr marinade, but you can get away with 3 hrs but baste extra generously.
- 1.5 kg / 3 lb chicken thighs (or breast, Note 1)
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 3/4 cup pineapple juice , unsweetened (juice from 1 can pineapple, Note 2)
- 1 1/2 tbsp ginger , freshly grated (Note 3)
- 1 1/2 tbsp garlic , freshly grated (Note 3)
- 1/2 cup tomato ketchup (or Aussie tomato sauce)
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 1/4 cup sherry or Chinese cooking wine (Note 4)
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 tbsp Sriracha
- 2 tbsp rice vinegar (or cider vinegar)
- 1 tbsp sesame oil , toasted
- Sliced green onion
- Pineapple slices , grilled for 3 minutes on each side for lines
Mix marinade, set aside 3/4 cup (185 ml) for basting.
Pour the rest over the chicken in a glass or ceramic container (not metal or plastic), coat chicken then marinade 24 – 48 hours.
Brush BBQ grills with oil then preheat to medium high, or heat oil in a skillet over medium high heat.
Drain excess marinade from chicken, place on BBQ/skillet.
Cook the first side for 2 – 3 minutes until golden (adjust heat if browning too fast), then flip and cook for 2 minutes.
Baste (dab) generously with reserved marinade, then flip and cook for 1 minute.
Repeat this every minute or so for a total cook time of 10 minutes, or until internal temp in the thickest part registers 75°C/167°F (for thigh) or 65°C / 150°F (for breast).
Transfer chicken to a plate, loosely cover with foil and rest for 3 minutes before serving, garnished with green onion if desired.
2. Pineapple juice – I like to use canned pineapple slices in natural juice (unsweetened) because 1 can has almost exactly 3/4 cup of juice, then I use the slices for garnish. (Golden Circle pineapple slices in natural juice – Australia).
If your can is slightly short on juice, that’s ok – use whatever you can extract (as long as you have 1/2 cup or so, that’s enough).
But any pineapple juice is fine to use here. If you can only get sweetened juice, reduce sugar by half. If you can only get canned pineapple slices in syrup, skip the sugar completely.
Alternative: Use a can of pineapple PIECES and use the pieces to make pineapple fried rice, excellent side dish for this. Double duty!
3. Ginger/garlic grating tip – if you have a microplane, use that with unpeeled ginger and garlic. As you grate, the skin just kind of naturally peels to the side, leaving you with just the flesh grated.
Jar paste will work fine too but for this recipe, the fresh ginger flavour really does make it special.
4. Sherry or Chinese cooking wine (Shaoxing wine) – the secret ingredient that makes this extra good. I’ve tried it with and without – and the difference is noticeable.
SUBSTITUTES: Mirin (reduce sugar by 1 tbsp), low sodium chicken stock (increase to 1/2 cup).
5. Nutrition per serving, assuming 6 servings. Assumed half the marinade ended up on or in the chicken – in reality it’s probably less. Reduce sodium by using low salt soy and ketchup.
Life of Dozer
There was just never going to be any other photo for today’s recipe.
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