Huli Huli Hawaiian Chicken
This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy.
Hawaiian Chicken (or Huli Huli Chicken) is BBQ chicken with delicious, sticky-sweet sauce. Make this grilled chicken recipe for cookouts or a weeknight dinner.
What is Huli Huli Chicken?
Huli Huli Chicken is one of the classic Hawaiian BBQ dishes.
The story goes that in 1955, Ernest Morgado of Pacific Poultry barbecued his version of chicken with teriyaki sauce for a gathering of farmers. The chicken ended up being such a hit, it became a favorite at Hawaiian fundraisers, raising perhaps millions of dollars over the years for local schools, softball teams and hula groups.
The chicken was cooked between two grills and the grills had to be flipped over. Because “huli” is the Hawaiian word for turn, the name Huli-Huli Chicken came about.
Flipping the marinated chicken then basting it with sauce adds layers of wonderful flavor.
One of the best parts of this grilled chicken dinner is the sauce. Hawaiian BBQ chicken has a sticky-sweet sauce that is simply irresistible!
The other thing that people who eat the dish rave about is how juicy the chicken is. That juiciness comes from an easy chicken marinade that I think you will love!
Video: Making Hawaiian Chicken
Scroll down to the recipe card and you can watch as I show you how to make this delicious, tropical bbq dinner!
Ingredients for Huli Huli Chicken
- Chicken – either boneless skinless chicken thighs or breasts will work perfectly.
- Canned Pineapple juice – I use canned pineapple juice when marinating. Fresh Pineapple Juice contains an enzyme bromelain, which is a natural meat tenderizer, making the texture of the chicken mushy if marinated too long. That enzyme is destroyed in the canning process.
Hawaiian BBQ sauce
The huli marinade serves double duty because, as a marinade and a sauce. You baste the chicken with it as it cooks on the grill. As a result, it forms a sticky-sweet, lip-smacking sauce.
NOTE: This sauce is relatively high in sugar. While this makes for a delicious sauce, it is not healthy by any stretch.
So, feel free to substitute any of the ingredients with low-sugar substitutes, and artificial sweetener for the brown sugar.
This is what you’ll need:
- Pineapple juice, canned
- Soy sauce – If salt is an issue for you, use sodium free or light soy sauce
- Brown sugar
- Fresh ginger
- Garlic cloves (or minced garlic)
- Sesame oil
- Sriracha sauce – Often, I use sambal oelek chili paste as a Sriracha substitute, but any Asian chili paste will do.
Tips for the Best Grilled Chicken
- Clean and preheat the grill. Getting beautiful hatch marks from the grates of a grill is all about heat. If the grill isn’t hot enough, you won’t have the sear you want.
Also, unless you enjoy chicken that tastes like the grilled ribeye or salmon you made last week, clean the grates before grilling again!
- Oil the grates. Most importantly, after the grill is hot, use a basting brush to apply a high smoke point oil to the grates. Otherwise, you will have a really difficult time flipping the chicken over.
Alternative Cooking Methods
If you don’t own a grill, you can still enjoy this Hawaiian Huli Huli chicken!
- Smoker – Set the temperature of your smoker to 225°F. and smoke the chicken for about an hour. Then check the internal temperature of the chicken. It’s ready when the temp is 163°F.
- Oven – Cook in a preheated 350°F. oven for 35 minutes, or until the internal temperature of the chicken pieces reaches 163°F.
Serving Suggestions for Hawaiian Chicken
I like to serve this dish alongside steamed rice, but it is also delicious on quinoa, brown rice, or rice pilaf.
Also, you can slice up and grill any pineapple you don’t need for the marinade. The pineapple caramelizes nicely, bringing out even more sweetness and a fantastic grill flavor. For another Hawaiian potluck dish containing pineapple, readers really like my Hawaiian Stuffed Peppers!
This recipe first appeared on Kevin Is Cooking September 2016 and was updated 7/22/20 with new photos and a video.
Subscribe to my Newsletter, follow me on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and YouTube for all my latest recipes and videos.
Hawaii Chicken (Huli Huli) + Video
- 4 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs or breasts
- 1 cup pineapple juice canned (See Note 1)
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup ketchup
- 1/4 cup sherry
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1 tbsp fresh ginger grated
- 4 garlic cloves minced
- 1/2 tsp sesame oil
- 1 tbsp Sriracha (or Sambal Oelek chili paste)
- In a bowl, add the pineapple juice, soy sauce, brown sugar, ketchup, sherry, honey, ginger, garlic, sesame oil, Sriracha, stirring to combine. Reserve half for basting.
- Place chicken in a resealable bag or container. Pour the marinade over, squeeze air out and seal. Refrigerate 2 hours.
- Preheat grill to medium-high (350°F) OR set up and light the smoker according to the manufacturer’s instructions and preheat it to medium (350°F).
- Place chicken on cleaned, oiled grill and baste with reserved marinade. Grill chicken for 3 minutes per side, covered. After 1 1/2 minutes turn each piece a quarter turn for cross grill marks. Flip over, baste again and continue cooking. You want to check and have an internal temperature of 165°F.
- Canned Pineapple juice – I use canned pineapple juice when marinating. Fresh pineapple juice contains an enzyme bromelain, which is a natural meat tenderizer, but if marinated too long it makes the texture of the chicken mushy. That enzyme is destroyed in the canning process.
The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
I love this type of dish! The sauce makes everything taste so good! It’s great with rice, and extra chunks of pineapple,e. One of my favorites!
Thank you Kim! I need to make this again!
This sounds delicious. I make a sauce very similar to yours but without the heat for Hawaiian meatballs, I never thought of converting and using it as a grill sauce and marinade on grilled chicken. Thank you so much.I will be making your recipe in a few nights maybe adjusting it a little, not a fan of sriracha. My family will love it, they have been missing the Hawaiian meatballs (I only make in the winter when its cold, heats up the house), and are finally eating more chicken. Thank you for a GREAT recipe.
Thank you for the kind words! Let me know how everyone enjoys it!
This is great but, in my opinion, would even better with skin on chicken. Lots more calories I know, but great additional flavor!
Pleasing, complex, balanced flavor that the whole family enjoyed! Adds pizazz to the usual skinless, boneless chicken. I made the marinade a day ahead and then marinated the chicken the day it was grilled. Came out great! Marinated for two hours, no mushiness, excellent leftovers.
I am so glad you enjoyed it! Thank you for letting me know!
Excited to try this is an understatement. Can’t wait for it to be done and I know my taste buds will be completely satisfied. Stay tuned!!
It was freaking amazing!!!! So good I just had some for leftovers.