Gather your ohana (family) and get ready to say “aloha” to this Hawaiian Huli Huli Chicken! Featuring succulent grilled chicken thighs bursting with sweet and savory tropical flavors, this dish is a true island favorite that’s perfect for your next backyard luau or family dinner!
What Is Huli Huli Chicken
Created in 1955 by Ernest Morgado, huli huli Chicken is a beloved Hawaiian dish known for its unique cooking method. The term “huli huli” means to turn or flip, referencing the process of continuously rotating the chicken while basting it with a sweet and savory sauce featuring pineapple, soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, and ginger. Over the years, it has become an iconic symbol of Hawaiian cuisine.
But you don’t have to jet off to the islands to savor this masterpiece! With just a handful of basic ingredients, some chicken, and a grill, you can recreate this marinated grilled chicken in your own backyard, making it the perfect addition to any barbecue. So the next time you want to impress your friends and family with your grilling skills, give this tasty huli huli chicken recipe a go!
Why You’ll Love This Huli Huli Chicken
- Effortless Recipe! It’s a simple recipe that delivers exceptional results. With just a few basic ingredients and easy-to-follow steps, you can create a dish bursting with flavor.
- Authentic Flavor! With perfectly grilled chicken basted in a sweet and savory sauce, it’s like a culinary passport to paradise, allowing you to savor an authentic taste of Hawaii.
- Crowd Pleaser! Whether you’re hosting a family BBQ, a pool party, or a potluck, this Hawaiian chicken dish is a surefire hit that will leave everyone craving seconds.
Ingredients You’ll Need
- Soy Sauce: Adds depth of flavor and a salty kick to the marinade. Tamari sauce is a good gluten-free alternative.
- Ketchup: Gives the chicken a touch of sweet and tangy flavor.
- Brown Sugar: Contributes a rich, molasses-like flavor and helps to caramelize the chicken.
- Pineapple Juice: Adds a tropical fruity note to the marinade. In a pinch, orange juice can be used as a replacement.
- Garlic: Provides a robust and savory flavor to the marinade. Always use freshly minced garlic cloves for the best results.
- Ginger: Freshly grated ginger provides a touch of zesty, slightly spicy flavor that elevates the chicken.
- Sesame Oil: Make sure to use toasted sesame oil, which will add a distinctive nuttiness that is addictively good.
- Chicken: You can use all chicken thighs or a combination of thighs, drumsticks, and chicken breasts.
How To Make Huli Huli Chicken
Whipping up a batch of huli huli chicken is not only a tasty adventure but also an effortlessly rewarding one. So, fire up the grill, and let’s dive into the simple step-by-step process of this popular Hawaiian classic!
Make The Marinade
Start by whisking the soy sauce, ketchup, brown sugar, pineapple juice, minced garlic, grated ginger, and sesame oil together in a medium bowl. Then reserve about not ⅓ cup of the marinade to later baste the chicken.
Marinate The Chicken
Now, put the chicken into a large resealable plastic bag or a big bowl and pour the remaining marinade over the chicken. Then seal the bag or cover the bowl and put the chicken in the fridge to marinate for a minimum of 2 hours and up to 24 hours.
Prep For Grilling
Once you’ve finished marinating the chicken, preheat the grill to medium heat. If you’re using a charcoal grill, set it up for indirect heat to ensure even cooking. It’s also a good idea to oil your grill grates to prevent the chicken from possibly sticking.
Grill The Chicken
First, remove the chicken from the bag or bowl and let any excess marinade drip off. Then discard the used marinade to avoid cross-contamination. Now, grill the chicken for about 20 to 25 minutes, flipping and basting it frequently with your reserved ⅓ cup of marinade. When fully cooked, the juices should run clear.
Rest And Serve
Once ready, let your huli huli chicken rest for a few minutes. Then garnish it with some sliced green onions if you like and serve it with some steamed rice and a side of macaroni salad, just like they do in the islands!
Frequently Asked Questions
They are both sweet and savory, but they do have differences. Teriyaki sauce typically consists of soy sauce, sugar, mirin (rice wine), and sake. It has a well-balanced, sweet, and salty taste. On the other hand, huli huli sauce features pineapple juice, soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, and ginger, offering a sweeter, fruitier, and more aromatic flavor.
Overcooking is the most common culprit. To prevent dryness, monitor the chicken’s internal temperature with a meat thermometer and remove it from the grill when it reaches 165°F (74°C). Another reason could be inadequate marinating time. Lastly, using boneless, skinless chicken breasts can result in drier meat compared to thighs or drumsticks, which have more fat and tend to stay juicier during grilling.
Yes! Just marinate the chicken as usual, then put it on a sheet pan and bake it in the oven at 375°F (190°C) for about 25 to 30 minutes, basting it every 10 minutes.
- Let it marinate longer. For the best results, marinate the chicken for up to 24 hours. Longer marinating time produces more flavorful chicken.
- Control the temperature. Maintain medium heat on your grill. Too high heat can result in overcooked, dry chicken, while too low heat may not achieve the desired caramelization.
- Let the chicken rest. Allow the grilled chicken to sit for a few minutes before serving. This gives juices time to redistribute juices, ensuring each bite remains juicy.
- Check the doneness. Use an instant-read digital meat thermometer to ensure the chicken reaches an internal temperature of at least 165°F (74°C).
You can store leftover huli huli chicken in an airtight container or wrapped in plastic wrap in the refrigerator for up to 4 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months. If frozen, simply allow it to thaw overnight in the fridge before reheating.
Discover More Chicken Thigh Recipes
- Baked Chicken Thighs
- Instant Pot Chicken Thighs
- Marry Me Chicken
- Baked Honey Mustard Chicken With Potatoes
- Sheet Pan Rosemary Chicken And Potatoes
- Greek Chicken Thighs
Craving More? Follow Along:
Huli Huli Chicken
- ½ cup soy sauce
- ½ cup ketchup
- ½ cup brown sugar
- ½ cup pineapple juice
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger grated
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 3 pounds chicken thighs or a mix of thighs, drumsticks or breasts
- In a medium bowl, whisk together all the marinade ingredients. Reserve about ⅓ cup of the marinade for basting later.
- Place the chicken in a large resealable plastic bag or a large bowl. Pour the remaining marinade over the chicken. Seal the bag or cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or up to 24 hours.
- Preheat your grill to medium heat. If you're using a charcoal grill, set it up for indirect heat.
- Remove the chicken from the marinade, allowing any excess to drip off. Discard the used marinade.
- Grill the chicken, turning and basting frequently with the reserved marinade, for about 20-25 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and the juices run clear.
- Allow the chicken to rest for a few minutes before serving. Serve with steamed white rice and macaroni salad for a complete Hawaiian plate lunch.
Tips & Notes:
- Choosing Chicken: Opt for skin-on pieces to preserve juiciness. If you use chicken breasts, monitor closely to prevent drying out.
- Marinating Matters: For best results, allow the chicken to marinate overnight. The longer marination, the deeper the flavors penetrate into the chicken.
- Grilling Tips: To prevent flare-ups and excessive charring on the grill due to the sugar in the marinade, ensure to allow excess marinade to drip off before placing chicken on the grill. If using a charcoal grill, employing a drip pan could be useful.
- Reserved Marinade: Always remember to reserve some marinade before adding it to the raw chicken to ensure it’s safe for basting during grilling. Alternatively, you could boil the marinade to eliminate any bacteria and make it safe for use.
- Accompaniments: Traditional Huli Huli Chicken is often served with steamed rice and macaroni salad, but feel free to pair it with a vibrant, fresh salad or grilled vegetables to cut through the rich, savory flavors of the chicken.
- Adjust Heat: Be mindful of the sugar content in the marinade which can burn easily. Manage your grill heat and relocate chicken pieces to cooler areas of the grill if they start to darken too quickly.