Getting to taste the famous Huli Huli Chicken is one of the usual activities one has on their itinerary when visiting Hawaii.
Once you are there, we know you have smelled it — smoky and sweet and enticing, the scent of chicken wafting from a restaurant or a sidewalk vendor on the streets.
It’s no easy feat to replicate the original food recipe at home because, like the KFC fried chicken — the original Huli Huli sauce is a secret.
The Huli Huli chicken dates its origin back to 1955 in Hawaii.
It was popularized when a Hawaiian businessman Ernest Morgado made his mother’s teriyaki-tasting sauce and brushed and slathered it all over some grilled chicken; the rest is history.
When the chicken recipe gained traction, Ernest Morgado grabbed the opportunity to trademark the recipe and develop a commercial sauce under the Huli Huli name.
You can still find a variety of vendors and dishes selling the famed dish but probably under a different name like Hui Hui Chicken.
Here, we share a tried and tested delicious Hui Hui Chicken recipe that actually tastes a step better than the original version of this Hawaiian dish.
Serve it in a bed of hot white rice, and you are ready to be transported to the paradise that is Hawaii.
- 1 to 3 pieces of chicken thighs or chicken leg quarters: any red chicken meat as it absorbs marinades and is more tender
- 1 or 1 1/2 cup of water
- 1/3 cup of ketchup: sweeter ketchup with more corn syrup is recommended
- 1/3 cup of soy sauce: we use a low-sodium soy sauce to make it less salty
- 1/4 cup of brown sugar: if you don't want any sugar, you can substitute the brown sugar with honey
- 1/4 cup of honey
- 1/4 cup of sherry wine: to add a slight nuttiness to the chicken
- 2 tablespoons of sesame oil: add more or less since the ingredient is pretty potent
- 2 or more pieces of ginger root: needs to be crushed
- 3 cloves of garlic: also need to be crushed
- Worcestershire sauce
- Sriracha: Asian chili paste and red pepper flakes are options
- Lemon: we like a little splash as a refreshing add on the chicken after it is cooked. (the marinade is workable for up to three pieces of chicken)
- Preheat your outdoor grill whether it is coal fired or automatic.
- Prepare the bone-in chicken thighs or chicken leg quarters. Remove excess skin and fat and patting down the chicken with a thick paper towel or a clean kitchen towel to remove excess water.
- Prepare the ginger and the garlic by cutting and crushing them in order to release their flavor and aroma better.
- In a bowl, mix all the wet ingredients — ketchup, soy sauce, honey, sherry wine, sesame oil, and Worcestershire sauce, including the brown sugar and sriracha, red pepper flakes or any spice alternative.
- Add the aromatics ginger and garlic to the marinade mixture.
- Cut a lemon in half and squeeze one on the marinade then mix well.
- Use a large pot to cook marinate mixture then add the water. Bring to a boil and then put the chicken in. Cook for 35 to 40 minutes.
- Cook the chicken in the preheated grill for five minutes on each side, use a grill brush to glaze the chicken with some of the remaining marinade on the pot.
- Serve it with a side of coleslaw, macaroni salad, grilled corn, or rice and you are ready to enjoy!
Tips and Tricks
Huli Huli is essentially a grilled marinated chicken basted in the special huli huli sauce; like any marinated food keeping the chicken thighs soaked in your homemade huli huli sauce for longer will make the chicken seep the marinade much stronger so before serving a lead marinating time of four hours is encouraged.
If you live in a complex that does not allow for grilling, you can make this recipe in an oven or a stove; turn the oven to 425 degrees, just make a makeshift grill by lining a baking sheet with foil and setting a metal cooling rack on top of it.
If you like your hui hui chicken sweeter, just adjust the sweet ingredients like the honey to make it sweeter.
You can even add pineapple to this recipe for a sweeter and more Hawaii-like dish.
You can use chicken breast, too; just remember that they cook quicker than any other chicken part.
Aside from chicken, the marinade made can be use for a lot of protein like shrimp and pork and even for grilling vegetables such as asparagus.
Storing your Huli Huli Leftovers
After cooking so much hui hui chicken, a fun thing is how delicious the dishes we made the day after from the hui hui leftovers.
You can cut them into cubes or strands and mix them with your salad or make them into delicious fried rice.
If you are not averse to making a new dish and would just like to enjoy the food as it is, you can store them in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 4 days.
What is the meaning of Huli Huli?
In Hawaii, ‘huli’ means ‘to turn,’ thus making Huli a technique and style in Hawaiian cooking.
You cook a Hui Hui Chicken just as you would do any kind of barbecues and skewers — by turning them on the grill from one side to the next.
Why is it called Huli Huli Chicken?
This Hawaiian dish is called Huli Huli Chicken because the word ‘huli’ means ‘to turn’ in Hawaii, and the barbecue is constantly turned as you cook it.
If you want to cook the dish traditionally, chicken pieces are typically placed between a couple of grill racks and are flipped constantly in the grill or an open fire.