Huli Huli Chicken

One of the most popular chicken dishes in Hawaii is called huli huli. This affectionate name translates into English as turn-turn – which is telling once you learn the cooking process. Huli Huli Chicken uses a deliciously marinated chicken which is then cooked on a grill/bbq. Of course, it is flipped back and forth constantly to achieve that perfectly cooked skin (and a bit of caramelized marinade)!

huli huli chicken on pineapple rings with onion and lime garnish and hawaiian mac salad off to the side

I am quite the lover of Hawaiian food. And while many people can debate the usage of ‘Hawaiian food vs food from Hawaii’, I’m just content to cook and eat it. Huli Huli chicken is one of my favorite Hawaiian meat dishes, right up there with a hearty Loco Moco or some Kalua Pork.

If you feel more like seafood for your Hawaiian themed dinners, you can’t forget about poke. This dish of marinated pieces of tuna or octopus is great if you are looking for something a bit lighter than chicken, beef, or pork.

Huli Huli Chicken is actually a very easy recipe. While there are quite a few ingredients involved in the marinade, most of it is things you likely already have on hand! I love making Hawaiian Huli Huli when having friends over because it is a great dish to introduce people to the island’s cuisine.

A Short History Of Huli Huli Chicken

Huli Huli Chicken was invented in Hawaii in 1955 by Ernest Morgado and Mike Asagi. Because neither of the men were ethnic Hawaiians, many people will call this dish ‘local food’ rather than Hawaiian food as it is not part of the traditional cuisine.

Huli Huli Chicken was originally sold at farmer’s conferences, and its popularity quickly exploded. Morgado released a bottled huli-huli sauce in 1986, although his own recipe was never made public. These days it is popular to see huli huli chicken everywhere from street side vendors, to lunch plate eateries, to even some upscale establishments. The chicken is also used as a fundraising food similar to how the pancake breakfast or spaghetti dinner is in the mainland.

How To Make Huli Huli Chicken At Home

huli huli chicken ingredients on a table

Since the original recipe was never released, no one really knows the exact measurements and ratios. Thus, anything you’ll see online, including this one, is an approximation meant to copy the flavor of Morgado’s original huli huli recipe.


  • 1.5 kg Chicken (about 3 pounds. I use skin-on, bone-in thighs, but you can use any cut you prefer.)
  • 250 ml Pineapple Juice (1 cup. From a can or bottle. Do not use fresh pineapple juice)
  • 125 ml Light Soy Sauce (1/2 cup)
  • 125 ml Ketchup (1/2 cup)
  • 100 grams Brown Sugar (1/2 cup)
  • 3 tbsp Mirin
  • 2 tbsp Rice Wine Vinegar
  • 2 tsp Sesame Oil
  • 2 tsp Garlic Powder
  • 1 tsp Smoked Paprika
  • 1 tsp Ground Ginger
  • Black Pepper (freshly cracked, to taste)
  • Juice of 1 Lime
  • Green Onion (chopped, for garnish)
  • Neutral Oil (for grilling)
  • Corn Starch (about 2 tbsp, optional. This is if you want to thicken the marinade to make a finishing sauce or glaze)
bone in chicken thighs in a huli huli marinade in a metal bowl

In a large bowl add all of the ingredients except the green onion, neutral oil, and corn starch. Massage the chicken in the marinade for a few seconds, then cover the bowl and place in the fridge for 2-48 hours. Yes, that seems like a long time, but the longer you marinade the more flavorful the chicken.

grilling marinated chicken thighs on a cast iron grill pan to make huli huli chicken

If you wan to make huli huli chicken indoors your best option is a cast iron grill pan. I love my enameled Chasseur, although I don’t think they make it anymore so Staub or Le Creuset are both good options if you want a pretty enameled one. If you want to make this recipe outside over an open fire, I suggest using a grilling basket which helps with the easy flipping.

Get the grill pan very hot and brush with the neutral oil. Then lay down your marinated chicken skin side down and don’t move it until it releases naturally. If you try to flip too soon you will rip off the skin.

Four chicken thighs with grill marks on a cast iron grill pan with marinade

After you flip the chicken, brush the surface with more of the huli huli marinade. Continue flipping and brushing every minute or two until cooked. The length of time depends on what cut of chicken you are using. For example my bone-in thighs take around 15 minutes.

a pan of reduced and thickened huli huli sauce with a metal whisk

Once the chicken is almost done, pour the rest of the marinade into another pan and set on high heat. Whisk it every so often until you get bubbles. While this is happening whisk together the corn starch with about a cup of water. When the marinade is bubbling trickle in the corn starch slurry while whisking until you have a shiny, thick glaze. This huli huli glaze isn’t super traditional, but it isn’t unheard of either. Plus it is the only way to enjoy all that leftover marinade.

huli huli chicken with reduced glaze and a side of Hawaiian mac salad on a plate

I like to serve huli huli chicken right on top of some of those canned pineapple rings. And of course a garnish of some sliced green onion makes for great presentation. Yet perhaps the most iconic thing on the plate isn’t the chicken, or the pineapple…but rather my side dish of choice. You absolutely want to make a Hawaiian Mac Salad to pair with this huli huli chicken – trust me and enjoy!

Huli Huli Chicken

Huli Huli chicken is a popular Hawaiian dish of marinated chicken that is then grilled or rotisseried for a delicious glazed chicken.
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Marinating Time (at least) 3 hours
Total Time 3 hours 50 minutes
Course Lunch, Main Course, Main Dish
Cuisine American, Hawaiian
Servings 4 people
Calories 565 kcal


  • 1 Grill Pan | a regular pan will also work
  • 1 Large Bowl | for marinating


  • 1.5 kg Chicken about 3 pounds. I use skin-on, bone-in thighs, but you can use any cut you prefer.
  • 250 ml Pineapple Juice 1 cup. From a can or bottle. Do not use fresh pineapple juice
  • 125 ml Light Soy Sauce 1/2 cup
  • 125 ml Ketchup 1/2 cup
  • 100 grams Brown Sugar 1/2 cup
  • 3 tbsp Mirin
  • 2 tbsp Rice Wine Vinegar
  • 2 tsp Sesame Oil
  • 2 tsp Garlic Powder
  • 1 tsp Smoked Paprika
  • 1 tsp Ground Ginger
  • Black Pepper freshly cracked, to taste
  • Juice of 1 Lime
  • Green Onion chopped, for garnish
  • Neutral Oil for grilling
  • Corn Starch about 2 tbsp, optional. This is if you want to thicken the marinade to make a finishing sauce or glaze


  • Add all of the ingredients except for the corn starch, green onion, and neutral oil. Give everything a mix and cover and then put in the fridge to marinate for at least 3 hours.
    1.5 kg Chicken, 250 ml Pineapple Juice, 125 ml Light Soy Sauce, 125 ml Ketchup, 100 grams Brown Sugar, 3 tbsp Mirin, 2 tbsp Rice Wine Vinegar, 2 tsp Sesame Oil, 2 tsp Garlic Powder, 1 tsp Smoked Paprika, 1 tsp Ground Ginger, Black Pepper, Juice of 1 Lime
  • Set up a grill pan or BBQ and bring up to high heat. Brush with neutral oil.
    Neutral Oil
  • Lay the chicken pieces skin side down (if you are using skin on) and cook until you can easily flip them without the meat sticking to the pan.
  • Flip back and forth and brush with more marinade until they are fully cooked.
  • Pour the remaining marinade into another pan and bring up to a boil. Mix the corn starch with with water and add it to the boiling marinade. When it thickens you can take it off the heat.
    Corn Starch
  • Plate your chicken pieces and spoon over or brush on the marinade glaze. Garnish with sliced green onion. Enjoy
    Green Onion
Keyword BBQ Chicken, Chicken, Hawaiian Food, Huli Huli, Pineapple, Tropical
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