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Mike’s Huli Huli chicken -Hawaiian chicken from the O’ahu East Shore

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Mike’s Huli Huli Chicken is legendary in O’ahu, and tracking down his bright yellow food truck is a must if you go driving up the East shore. Once you are back home, bring those Hawaiian food memories alive with this easy to make recipe for Huli Huli chicken. It’s a delicious meal for the whole family for lunch or dinner.

Mike’s Food Truck in O’ahu

There are so many different food trucks along the main highway here but we had our focus on one in particular.  Mike’s Truck, the bright yellow truck is well known in these parts for his chicken, cooked over the coals.  When we arrived, there were trailers out the back, all loaded up with charcoal, slowly roasting the chickens over the top.  

Mike's Huli Chicken Truck
We got to meet Mike himself at his truck on the O’ahu east shore

There is a general eating area here, with chickens regularly running around under your feet.  Not the safest place for a chicken I would imagine!  It’s all very low key and casual.  If you’re lucky, you’ll see Mike in his truck serving customers just like us.  If you do, ask him for his photo.  He’ll gladly oblige.

Having enjoyed such a wonderful lunch at Mike’s truck on the Kamehameha Highway, I took inspiration from Mike’s Huli Chicken and gave it a try myself. 

How to make Huli Huli Chicken

It is a very easy Hawaiian chicken recipe to make and is absolutely delicious, with moist chicken on the inside and a glazed, crispy outside.  You could serve this with vegetables or salad, and it’s great for leftovers the next day.

If you have left over sauce, you can also freeze this for another time.

huli-huli-chicken-final-dish

Related readingGreat places to eat in Oahu

Why this recipe works

  • The chicken ends up very moist if you take the time to brine it. You can skip this step but the result will be slightly different.
  • This is a full-flavoured meal. The layers of flavour are built up via the brine, the rub, the sauce used to marinade and then using the sauce at the end.
  • It can be cooked in an oven, on a cooktop or even better, on a BBQ making it a very versatile recipe.
  • The sauce is delicous and can be used on other protein as well.
  • Many parts of the recipe can be made ahead of time.
  • The sauce can also be frozen and used later.

Things you will need to make this recipe

Brine

  • Enough water to cover the chicken
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar (you can use white or raw sugar here)
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • Whole chicken – around 2 kg (4.4 pounds)

Sauce

  • 1 cup pineapple juice
  • 1/2 cup tomato sauce (ketchup)
  • 1/2 cup dark soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp malt vinegar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tsp ground ginger

Dry rub

  • 2 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp salt (or less if preferred)
  • 1 tbsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tbsp onion powder or onion flakes
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp black pepper

The rub and the sauce can be made a day ahead and any leftover sauce can also be frozen.  I tend to be heavy-handed with the sauce when serving as the chicken really soaks it up.

Method

Step 1

Pro tip: This is the biggest tip of all. The secret to this recipe is in the brining as this keeps the chicken moist throughout the whole cooking process.

To make sure we have enough water in the brine, we put the chicken into the pot we are going to make the brine in, cover it with water, then remove the chicken.

Cook the brine ingredients until the sugar is dissolved and leave to cool down.

When it is cool, place the chicken back into the pot with the brine and allow to sit until it is ready to be rubbed. The longer the brining, the more moist the chicken will be.

If possible do this at least a few hours before. We leave ours for a minimum of four hours.

Step 2

Mix all of the dry ingredients for the rub together in a bowl.

Inspired by Mike's Huli Chicken
Spice rub

Step 3

Remove the chicken from the brine and pat with paper towel until it is completely dry.

Step 4

Before rubbing, the chicken needs to be butterflied.

Inspired by Mike's Huli Chicken

Step 5

Cover the chicken with the rub mix, getting it covered inside and into the cavity.

Inspired by Mike's Huli Chicken
Coat the chicken with the spice rub

Step 6

Combine the pineapple juice, tomato sauce, soy sauce and vinegar in a pot and put on the stove over low heat.

Once simmering, add the sugar and ginger. Allow the sauce to thicken, ensuring it does not boil. Remove it from the heat and leave to cool.

Inspired by Mike's Huli Chicken
Huli Huli sauce

Step 7

Cook over a hot BBQ. Cook on one side for around 10 minutes and then on the other for a similar time.

Inspired by Mike's Huli Chicken
Onto the bbq for a char

Squeeze some lemon juice over the chicken as you are cooking it. Glaze the chicken several times, including just before you are ready to take it off the heat. We love to give the chicken a good char.

Cook’s tip: Keep some of the sauce to serve with.

Huli Chicken Cooking On The Bbq

The chicken is cooked when it reaches an internal temperature of around 74°Celsius / 165° F.

Inspired by Mike's Huli Chicken
Continually glaze the chicken

Step 8

Remove and allow it to rest. Serve with the remaining sauce.

Cook’s tip: This Hawaiian chicken recipe is also perfect for use in a smoker. The added depth of flavour that smoke can bring to the Huli Huli Chicken is worthwhile trying if you have access to a smoker.

huli hulil chicken on a plate with coleslaw

Mike's Huli Huli Chicken

Yield: 6
Prep Time: 40 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Additional Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes

Mike's Huli Huli chicken is legendary in O'ahu, Hawaii. Try this recipe for a simple to make recipe that you can try at home. It makes a perfect dish for your family for lunch or dinner and a great party or BBQ dish too.

Ingredients

Brine

  • Enough water to cover the chicken
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • Whole chicken - around 2 kg (4.4 lb)

Huli Huli Sauce

  • 1 cup pineapple juice
  • 1/2 cup tomato sauce (ketchup)
  • 1/2 cup dark soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp malt vinegar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tsp ground ginger

Huli Huli chicken dry rub

  • 2 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp salt (or less if preferred)
  • 1 tbsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tbsp onion powder or onion flakes
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp black pepper

Instructions

  1. Butterfly the chicken by opening up the breast bone and flattening it out.
  2. To make sure we have enough water in the brine, we put the chicken into the pot we are going to make the brine in, cover it with water, then remove the chicken.
  3. When it is cool, place the chicken back in the pot with the brine and allow to sit until ready to be rubbed. The longer the brining, the more moist the chicken will be.
  4. If possible do this at least a few hours before. We try to brine ours for at least four hours.
  5. Combine the pineapple juice, tomato sauce, soy sauce and vinegar in a pot and put on the stove over low heat.
  6. Once simmering, add the sugar and ginger. Allow the sauce to thicken, ensuring it does not boil. Remove it from the heat and leave to cool.
  7. Mix all of the dry ingredients for the rub together in a bowl.
  8. Remove the chicken from the brine and pat with paper towel until it is completely dry.
  9. Butterfly the chicken by opening up the breast bone and flattening it out.
  10. Cover the chicken with the rub mix, getting it covered inside and into the cavity.
  11. Cook over a hot BBQ. Cook on one side for around 10 minutes and then on the other for a similar time.
  12. Squeeze some lemon juice over the chicken as you are cooking it.
  13. Squeeze some lemon juice over the chicken as you are cooking it. Glaze the chicken several times, including just before you are ready to take it off the heat.
  14. Keep some of the sauce to serve with.
  15. The chicken is cooked with an internal temperature of around 74 Celsius/165 F.
  16. Remove and allow it to rest.
  17. Serve with some of the remaining sauce.

Notes

The Huli Huli sauce may be made a day ahead. and may also be frozen.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 6 Serving Size: 200g
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 584Total Fat: 28gSaturated Fat: 8gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 17gCholesterol: 176mgSodium: 7304mgCarbohydrates: 25gFiber: 1gSugar: 19gProtein: 57g

This data was provided and calculated by Nutritionix.

Did you make this recipe?

We'd love for you to share it and show us how you went. Mention @beerandcroissants or tag #beerandcroissants

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Kundapur Chicken Curry

Baked Chicken Cacciatore

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how-to-make-huli-huli-chicken

Recipe inspiration from Guy Fieri.

5 thoughts on “Mike’s Huli Huli chicken -Hawaiian chicken from the O’ahu East Shore”

  1. How much water do you use to make the brine? Also do you let the chicken marinate with the dry rub? thank you.

  2. Hi Just enough water to cover the chicken. Yes, as per the recipe instructions, the rub needs to stay on the chicken for at least a few hours. It can stay on as long as you like but definitely needs a few hours.

  3. This is awesome. Had Mike’s Huli Huli chicken and it was amazing. Can’t wait to try this. However you didn’t have the amount of water needed to make the brine?

  4. Thanks for the reply Kerri. Should have read your reply to Bridget’s question before asking. I made it and OH MY GOD … it’s amazing. I don’t know how you managed to work out Mike’s Huli Huli recipe but i’m glad you did. Made it according to your recipe in my smoker and my wife requested for it again. Simple the most amazing chicken ever.

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