Huli Huli Chicken, from Hawaii

huli huli chicken

Huli huli chicken? It’s one of those special dishes that somehow manage to come straight from Hawaii, even though they don’t really require any special ingredients or exotic know-how. But done right, huli huli chicken is quite a treat. Apparently, if you know something about trademarks and the literal translation that huli huli means turn, turn, you’ve got the whole idea about the chicken dish underway.

The trademark notion came from Ernie Morgado, the early 50s chef who is thought to have made the first huli huli and a few years later, decided to trademark the name. That meant that every chef or would-be chef in the area had to call his chicken dish something else, even though it was in fact huli huli. As far as I know, that still holds true there. And the key to huli huli, it’s literally to turn the chicken often, to cook it evenly and to even out the browning all around.

The marinade for the chicken is basically pretty simple, and then there’s the little extras that make’s each cook’s recipe a delight, and a great way to tool around the islands, try one huli huli here and another somewhere else. You could almost spend several days trying them all out.

In any case, here’s my huli huli.

Huli Huli Chicken, from Hawaii


1 cup packed brown sugar

3/4 cup ketchup

3/4 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce

1/3 cup sherry or chicken broth

2-1/2 teaspoons minced fresh gingerroot

1-1/2 teaspoons minced garlic

A little hot sauce (use your favorite)

6-8 boneless skinless chicken thighs


    Mix the ingredients (everything but the chicken) to make the marinade. Reserve a cup for basting. Put the chicken into a plastic container and cover and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight.

    Drain and discard marinade from chicken.

    Grill chicken, covered, over medium heat, turning often until meat is no longer pink, then baste occasionally with reserved marinade during the last 5 minutes.

This recipe actually create enough marinade for as many as 24 chicken thighs, so I generally put some away for the next huli huli chicken recipe.

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