20 Easy Hawaiian-Inspired Recipes With Big Island Flavor
Loco Moco will make you go, well, loco.
Hawaiian food has such a breadth of flavor, variety, and history. Whether or not you're on the Big Island, we've got plenty of Hawaiian-inspired recipes you just might have to put in your weeknight dinner rotation. You're likely familiar with poke bowls (packed with fresh sushi-grade tuna), or even the components of a classic Hawaiian lunch plate, loco moco, and my personal favorite, Spam musubi.
Spam deserves all the recognition it can get. And Spam musubi? It's an ideal beach snack, picnic treat, or anytime snack. The delightful saltiness of Spam and soy sauce mixed with soft sushi rice and nori is a combination that's hard to beat, and you can deep-fry them for an even more delectable mix of textures. Fun fact: In Hawaii, seven million cans of Spam are consumed a year (that's almost five times the state's population!). You might not eat that many cans in a year, but you might get close once you try our Spam breakfast tacos or peanut butter Spam shells.
You're probably no stranger to the deliciously buttery, yet slightly sweet Hawaiian rolls. Hawaiian rolls were actually invented by Robert Taira, a Hawaiian-born son of Japanese immigrants. Today you can find them all over the country and in the hearts of each Delish test kitchen editor. They make the best ham and cheese sliders, buns for Hawaiian-inspired hot dogs, and these killer Hawaiian roll s'mores. Do you see our obsession now?
And pineapple! We could write a whole novel about how much we love it. We cannot get enough of pineapple desserts, and the fruit makes an incredible sweet addition to any chicken marinade. We love all these savory dishes with pineapple, especially when it means we can add pineapple to pineapple fried rice.
Originating in Hawaii, this chicken recipe is really all about the sauce. In 1955, a businessman from Honolulu grilled some chicken and brushed it with a sauce inspired by his mother's version of teriyaki. This sauce included pineapple juice, soy sauce, brown sugar, and (stay with us) ketchup. That all makes for an insanely delicious base, and plenty of garlic and ginger bring some acidity and brightness.
Get the Huli-Huli Chicken recipe.
Poke bowls are healthy, and offer plenty of opportunity for customization and creativity. Add some crunchy fried onions or shallots and a drizzle of spicy mayo for the true restaurant experience.
Get the Ahi Poke Bowls recipe.
This classic Hawaiian beach snack will convert even the most Spam-averse. The delightful saltiness of Spam and soy sauce mixed with soft sushi rice and nori is a combination that's hard to beat.
Get the Spam Musubi recipe.
This garlic lovers’ spin on shrimp scampi was made famous by Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck on Oahu. Tossing the shrimp in rice flour helps them take on a delicately crunchy texture, but all-purpose flour will work in a pinch.
Get the Hawaiian Garlic Shrimp recipe.
The pineapple in this recipe doesn't just serve as a pretty serving vessel (although wow!). It also adds a fresh and vibrant sweetness to the teriyaki sauce. Use the juice that pools at the bottom of your pineapple when scooping out the chunks. Want to make a more classic teriyaki? We have that covered as well.
Get the Chicken Teriyaki Pineapple Bowls recipe.
In Hawaii, Loco Moco represents the greatest parts of breakfast, lunch, and dinner—it’s generally a mix of rice with a hamburger smothered in brown gravy, all topped off with a fried egg. Our variation depends on mushroom gravy to up the umami even more.
Get the Loco Moco recipe.
Stay on island time by serving this genius grilled chicken dinner over a bed of coconut rice. You could even make it a completely Hawaiian-themed dinner party with Blue Hawaiian Coolers and one of our many pineapple desserts.
Get the Hawaiian Chicken Foil Packs recipe.
We can't get enough of the freshness that avocado and mango add to any dish, especially if it means tossing it in our favorite poke bowl. Hungry for more? Try our Shrimp & Mango Salad.
Get the Avocado-Mango Poke Salad recipe.
A sweet, chewy but tender treat from Hawaii, butter mochi is one of our favorite things to bake. This recipe offers two options for topping: with shredded coconut, or with some granulated sugar and fire for a brûléed, crunchy, slightly bittersweet finish.
Get the Butter Mochi recipe.
Half the fun of eating a hot dog is loading it up with all kinds of toppings. This time we took a tropical approach. The pineapple salsa combats the spice from sriracha, creating a perfect balance of flavor and texture, especially when you top it on a Hawaiian roll bun.
Get the Hawaiian Hot Dogs recipe.
Another favorite on a Hawaiian lunch plate, chicken katsu is a breaded and fried chicken cutlet, topped with sweet katsu sauce. Serve with plenty of rice, coleslaw, and macaroni salad. We even have a tofu katsu recipe if you want to make a vegetarian plate.
Get the Chicken Katsu recipe.
Hawaiian rolls are buttery, fluffy, and ever-so-slightly sweet. Do yourself a favor and don't skip the caramelized onions on these sliders— they might take a little extra time to make, but their jammy goodness is worth every minute.
Get the Hawaiian Roll Sliders recipe.
One of our favorite parts of a Hawaiian lunch plate. Our version is a bit lighter on the mayo, so be sure sub in more (in lieu of more vinegar) to get the full island experience.
Get the Classic Macaroni Salad recipe.
Give these Maui Burgers a try when you want to mix up your grill game! We're particularly fond of the shichimi aioli, which is made with mayo and shichimi togarashi, a Japanese red pepper seasoning you can find at your local Asian grocery store.
Get the Maui Burgers recipe.
Say aloha to your new favorite BBQ skewers that are sweet and spicy with a little tanginess. Don't have a grill? No worries, a grill pan will help you char up these tropical skewers in your kitchen.
Get the Hawaiian Chicken Skewers recipe.
Consider this a grilled cheese straight from paradise. It might seem crazy, but the sharpness of white cheddar pairs perfectly with the bite of soy sauce and pineapple.
Get the Hawaiian Grilled Cheese recipe.
"Salad" seems like a bit of a stretch, but this is basically a fruit salad—even if it is tossed in a whipped cheesecake topping.
Get the Hawaiian Cheesecake Salad recipe.
The secret to these authentic-tasting pulled pork sandwiches? Ginger ale and liquid smoke. You could even grill the pineapple before topping for a deliciously sweet smokiness.
Get the Slow-Cooker Hawaiian Pulled Pork Sandwiches recipe.
We get it, adding pineapple to savory foods is up for debate (although we do love pineapple pizza, sorry). But we'd bet money on how much you'll enjoy this tropical spin on a weeknight favorite.
Get the Paradise Fried Rice recipe.
We have to admit it, we love Spam. It's salty, economical, and perfect for a camping trip. With a super simple peanut butter sauce made with seasoned, starchy pasta, the results are creamy beyond belief and perfect for eating by the fire.
Get the Peanut Butter Spam Shells recipe.