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Easy Hawaiian Huli-Huli Chicken Recipe

Updated on May 6, 2013

The Money Shot

"Ono" means tasty in Hawaiian
"Ono" means tasty in Hawaiian | Source

Huli = To Turn, or to Flip Over

Huli-huli Chicken is an island favorite that has been around for a long time in Hawaii. Huli in Hawaiian means to turn – which accounts for the turning of the chicken while you are cooking. If you have ever spent some time in the islands, and happened to visit a carnival, or special event, or local ball game, you may have been lucky enough to happen across a spectacle of outdoor cooking on a large scale.

There is no mistaking the aroma of Huli-huli chicken cooking over keawe logs. The distinct woodsy odor of the keawe - which is a fine source of dried cooking wood that grows in Hawaii – coupled with the many spices on the chicken will make your mouth water. Lines form as soon as the first batch is done, and usually until the last chicken is cooked. It is a hi-lite of any event because the open cooking of the chicken will actually bring more traffic. People that would have driven by, will actually smell the chicken from a mile away, and adjust their plans to include a stop over.

These large cookouts are often built with large scale grills that actually lock the chicken firmly in place so that the entire grill can be flipped. When the birds are done, the grill is opened; the birds are bagged, and promptly sold.

My recipe is quick and easy. I won’t ask you to add sherry wine, ginger, brown sugar or add pineapples just because it is a Hawaiian dish – this is sooo overdone. I won’t even ask you to get the grill out, or even have to “huli” the chicken. Prep time is fast, cooking is easy, and eating is most enjoyable.  Perfect for Hawaiian transplants abroad, or for the Hawaiians at heart.

The Ingredients

Huli-Huli Chicken uses ingredients that every kitchen should already have...
Huli-Huli Chicken uses ingredients that every kitchen should already have... | Source

Simple Ingredients

2 lbs       Chicken thighs – you may use skinless/boneless, etc.

1 Tbsp    Hawaiian Salt – rock sea salt (never table salt - too salty)

2 ea       Garlic cloves minced (more or less to your preference)

2 Tbsp    Butter or Margarine (more or less to your preference)

To Taste Paprika – sprinkle on to your preference

Hawaiian Salt and Lomi

Sprinkle Hawaiian salt and "lomi" by massaging salt into chicken.
Sprinkle Hawaiian salt and "lomi" by massaging salt into chicken. | Source


Let’s keep things simple by determining if you will use with bone and skin, or without bone and skin. With skin will add the chicken’s natural juices and oils and add to the overall taste of the dish. Without skin, the recipe will still have the flavor and juices though not as much, but it will be much healthier. To compromise, you can have a half and half mix satisfying both ends of the spectrum. That’s the beauty of cooking – no boundaries, no black and white, no hard rules. Everything is subject to ones own particular pallet – as long as if we err, that we learn from it.

The type of cut is entirely up to you, in this case, we will proceed with the skin and bone in. I generally prefer thighs because they are juicier, and quarters are just as well. You can opt to go for the breasts, but it is often a very quick cook, and most times not as juicy as you would like it to be.

What ever chicken cut you do decide upon, rinse off, pat dry with paper towels, and place chicken in a cake size pan or glass pan.

Garlic Here...

Hawiian salt and garlic - lomi into the Huli-Huli Chicken.
Hawiian salt and garlic - lomi into the Huli-Huli Chicken. | Source

Hawaiian salt (or sea salt crystals if not available) is key in this dish. Hawaiian salt brings out a certain taste that is unmistakable. It brings more of the taste out of a dish, so that as you chew, more flavors are emitted. Hawaiian salt will also act as a tenderizer, making meats much softer than they would have been. To lomi, means to massage, so as you sprinkle Hawaiian salt onto the chicken, you will massage the salt into the chicken. You will notice that the salt crystals will melt a bit – this is good. Take a few cloves of garlic, and mash, or mince and lomi into the chicken.

Butter There...

Adding butter to the Huli-Huli Chicken gives it that nice golden color.
Adding butter to the Huli-Huli Chicken gives it that nice golden color. | Source

Next, the butter – I use margarine. Lomi the butter into the chicken, assuring that there is an even coating over the chicken pieces. This will bring out a nice golden brown coloring on the chicken, and enhance the flavor.

Paprika Everywhere!!

Part of the color in Huli-Huli Chicken.
Part of the color in Huli-Huli Chicken. | Source

The Final Ingredient: Paprika

There are many varieties of paprika, most use bell and/or chili peppers. You may use the one that you are most comfortable with. In America we use a modest standard paprika, but in Europe, there are hotter varieties. In this recipe, the paprika is primarily used to enhance flavoring, and bring a nice color to the dish. If more of a hot spice is desired, we could add a little oil to the paprika, and heat careful and slow, and then add to chicken.

Sprinkle the paprika onto the chicken evenly on both sides so that the entire chicken is coated.

One the Huli-Huli Chicken is seasoned, into the oven it goes.
One the Huli-Huli Chicken is seasoned, into the oven it goes. | Source

Set the Oven

Set the oven to 350 degrees, and check after half an hour.  If you pick up one thing from the chef store, do yourself a favor, and pick up a meat and chicken thermometer.  Once your chicken reaches 180 degrees, it’s done.  Harmful bacteria are killed, and the food is safe to consume.  No unsightly cuts into the chicken and you eliminate all guess work.  Nobody, but nobody wants to serve chicken that is not thoroughly cooked, or suffer the embarrassment when it is returned to the kitchen.


When the Huli-Huli Chicken is almost done, ladle over some of the juices - always be careful never to over cook chicken.
When the Huli-Huli Chicken is almost done, ladle over some of the juices - always be careful never to over cook chicken. | Source

What is that beautiful smelling aroma!

Once the chicken is in the oven, you will start to smell the aroma of all ingredients mixing and cooking together. It is absolutely fantastic and will arouse all in your household to come into the kitchen to wonder what it is that you are cooking.

You can bet that you will have an audience when it’s time to pull the Huli-huli Chicken out of the oven. You might wish to ladle some of the hot juices onto the chicken pieces just to water their pallet further.

Huli-Huli Chicken in Hawaii

Have you ever had Huli-Huli Chicken in Hawaii?

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Kau Kau Time

Kau Kau means to "eat" in Hawaiian.
Kau Kau means to "eat" in Hawaiian. | Source

Au'we... no mo corn? My-nah brah...get da kine...


I serve this dish with white sticky rice – or short grained rice (Mrs. Kawi prefers brown rice for a healthier alternative).  Rice is recommended so that you can ladle some of the juices over the rice to keep the flavoring on an even keel.  Feel free to use the rice of your choice. 


Sweet corn is an excellent addition to this dish, and sort of brings the whole meal together.  Mrs. Kawi assumed we had sweet corn, but we didn’t.  Green beans came in handy, but that’s what it’s all about.  You have to be flexible, and I encourage you to experiment with this recipe to make it your own.


Let me know how it turned out for you, or how you added your own special twist to the recipe.  Love and happiness in all you do, and in all you do, have peace.  Kawi.


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    • KawikaChann profile imageAUTHOR

      Kawika Chann 

      3 years ago from Northwest, Hawaii, Anykine place

      I love chicken - cooked anyway - even boiled!!! As long as it's not overcooked, you can't go wrong. Thanks for your comment Pollyanna, and I hope you enjoy the recipe. Peace. Kawi.

    • Pollyanna Jones profile image

      Pollyanna Jones 

      3 years ago from United Kingdom

      This looks really yummy. I love to try new foods, and I've never seen Hawaiian recipes before. Thank you, I'll be giving this one a whirl.

    • KawikaChann profile imageAUTHOR

      Kawika Chann 

      4 years ago from Northwest, Hawaii, Anykine place

      Thanks for your comment and good words Thelma - yes, it's a terrific recipe, and not too hard to do when you're looking for something new for dinner. Peace. Kawi.

    • Thelma Alberts profile image

      Thelma Alberts 

      4 years ago from Germany

      A mouth watering recipe. I´m getting hungry looking at the photos. I love chicken. Thanks for sharing this. I would love to try this sometime.

    • KawikaChann profile imageAUTHOR

      Kawika Chann 

      5 years ago from Northwest, Hawaii, Anykine place

      Thanks Indian Chef, may I say that your recipes are very diverse - I love the desserts! Thanks for your comment, I will be sure to visit your hubs again when I get back to my kitchen. Peace. Kawi.

    • Indian Chef profile image

      Indian Chef 

      5 years ago from New Delhi India

      just mouth watering pictures. Easy to understand because you instructed it very well. Very good hub. Voting it up and sharing on twitter.

    • KawikaChann profile imageAUTHOR

      Kawika Chann 

      6 years ago from Northwest, Hawaii, Anykine place

      Thanks, give it a try, you won't be sorry. Peace. Kawi.

    • KawikaChann profile imageAUTHOR

      Kawika Chann 

      6 years ago from Northwest, Hawaii, Anykine place

      Thanks Stephanie, I had fun making this one - especially the eating part. Peace. Kawi.

    • KawikaChann profile imageAUTHOR

      Kawika Chann 

      6 years ago from Northwest, Hawaii, Anykine place

      Aloha glimmer. People have had good results with other quality rock salt name brands for cooking. Good luck, Peace. Kawi.

    • KawikaChann profile imageAUTHOR

      Kawika Chann 

      6 years ago from Northwest, Hawaii, Anykine place

      Thanks ttombs for the vote and share. Huli is one of my favorite dishes, and so easy to make. Peace. Kawi.

    • howlermunkey profile image

      Jeff Boettner 

      6 years ago from Tampa, FL

      Starving now, that picture is priceless. Im literally going to try this recipe this week. Up and sharing.

    • A Thousand Words profile image

      A Thousand Words 

      6 years ago

      That looks so delicious. My mouth's watering and I just ate dinner!

    • StephanieBCrosby profile image

      Stephanie Bradberry 

      6 years ago from New Jersey

      This looks really appealing. You have certainly piqued my interest and whet my appetite. Like Glimmer Twin Fan my family tends to keep chicken thighs or at least wings on hand. So, this may be the way we are making the next round. Thanks for sharing.

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Claudia Mitchell 

      6 years ago

      Thanks to ttoombs for sharing this. It looks awesome and we always have chicken thighs in the freezer. Now I just have to go find the Hawaiin salt. Yummy hub. Useful and voted up!

    • TToombs08 profile image

      Terrye Toombs 

      6 years ago from Somewhere between Heaven and Hell without a road map.

      Growing up in Alaska, my parents best friends were from Hawaii. I *LOVED* going over to their house for potlucks! This brought back some awesome memories of my childhood. Thank you and now I'm going to have to make this for my family. Voted up and sharing!

      Love your writing style, too! :)


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