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Huli Huli chicken -Hawaiian chicken 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 drive up the East shore. This easy-to-make recipe for Huli Huli chicken will have you salivating. It’s a juicy, sticky, delicious meal for the whole family for lunch or dinner.

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.

huli-huli-chicken-final-dish

Related readingGreat places to eat in Oahu

Why this recipe works

  • It’s simple and you can do it in stages, with many parts of the recipe being able to be made ahead of time.
  • Brining the chicken makes a huge difference. Don’t miss this step if you can help it. Brining is an integral step to having moist chicken at the end. You can skip this step, but the result will be slightly different.
  • Apart from having to wait for the chicken to brine properly, everything else is quick to prepare and it’s quick to cook.
  • 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’s just super-tasty.
  • 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 delicious and can be used on other proteins as well.
  • The sauce can also be frozen and used later.

What goes into 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 (tin)
  • 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.

How to make Huli Huli chicken

Step 1 | Brining

Pro tip: This is the biggest tip of all. The secret to this recipe is brining the chicken as this keeps it 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, and then remove the chicken.

Cook the brine ingredients on moderate heat until the sugar has dissolved and leave to cool down.

When it is cool, place the chicken back into the pot with the brine, place it in the fridge and allow it 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. Overnight is even better.

Step 2 | Make the dry rub

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

Inspired by Mike's Huli Chicken
Spice rub

Step 3 | Make the sauce

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

Bring it to a simmer then add the sugar and ginger. Allow the sauce to thicken, ensuring it does not boil. Remove it from the heat and leave it to cool.

Inspired by Mike's Huli Chicken
Huli Huli sauce

Step 4 | Dry the chicken

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

Step 5 | Prep the chicken

Before rubbing, the chicken needs to be butterflied.

Inspired by Mike's Huli Chicken

Step 5 | Rubbing the chicken

Cover the chicken with the rub mix, getting it all over outside and in the cavity.

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

Step 7 | Cook the chicken

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 or lime juice over the chicken as it is being cooked. 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 and love to have plenty of sauce on it as well.

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 | Rest and serve

Remove and allow it to rest. Serve with the remaining sauce, vegetables or salad.

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.

Recipe notes

  • The components of the Huli Huli chicken may be made a day ahead, may be made in stages and may also be frozen. You can brine the chicken, make the rub and the sauce all ahead of time, leaving just the cooking to be done on the day you want to serve it.
  • The chicken doesn’t need to be butterflied, but it will be much better if you do as the rub gets into the cavity better, and it will cook quickly and evenly on the BBQ.
  • Be careful with adding salt in the rub. The sauce recipe uses tomato sauce and soy sauce, both of which are high in salt. The brining is also done in salt.
  • This sauce is great on pork and also on chicken kebabs.
  • If you measure out all of the ingredients for the rub and sauce at the start, the process of putting them all together is very quick.
  • As noted above, brining the chicken is an important part of this recipe and its end result.

Step By Step Photos Above
Our recipes all have step-by-step photos, tips and FAQs listed above to allow you to make it as perfect as possible the first time.

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: 4 hours
Total Time: 5 hours 10 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 (tin)
  • 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
  • Lemon or lime

Instructions

  1. 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.
  2. Place the brine ingredients into a pot and cook on moderate heat until the sugar has dissolved. Leave to cool down.
  3. When it is cool, place the chicken back in the pot with the brine, place it in the fridge and allow it 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. Overnight is even better.
  5. Mix all of the dry ingredients for the rub together in a bowl.
  6. Combine the pineapple juice, soy sauce, tomato sauce and vinegar in a pot and put on the stove over low heat.
  7. Once simmering, add the sugar and ginger. Allow the sauce to thicken, ensuring it does not boil. Remove it from the heat and leave it to cool.
  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, covering it all over the outside and in the cavity. If not using it straight away, put it back into the fridge.
  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 lime or lemon juice over the chicken as you cook it.
  13. 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 at 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 components of the Huli Huli chicken may be made a day ahead, may be made in stages and may also be frozen. You can brine the chicken, make the rub and the sauce all ahead of time, leaving just the cooking to be done on the day you want to serve it.
  • The chicken doesn't need to be butterflied but it will be much better if you do as the rub gets into the cavity better, and it will cook quickly and evenly on the BBQ.
  • Be careful with adding salt in the rub. The sauce recipe uses tomato sauce and soy sauce, both of which are high in salt. The brining is also done in salt.
  • This sauce is great on pork and also on chicken kebabs.
  • If you measure out all of the ingredients for the rub and sauce at the start, the process of putting them all together is very quick.
  • Apart from having to wait for the chicken to brine properly, everything else is quick to prepare and it's quick to cook.
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.

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Love this recipe? Please leave a rating ????? in the recipe card below & a review in the comments section further down the page.

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Kundapur Chicken Curry

Baked Chicken Cacciatore

Fijian Chilli Chicken

Vietnamese Lemongrass Chicken

how-to-make-huli-huli-chicken

Recipe inspiration from Guy Fieri.

7 thoughts on “Huli Huli chicken -Hawaiian chicken O’ahu East Shore”

  1. Steve in Warren, MI

    Hello.. I used this recipe yesterday for a Hawaiian party, and it was fantastic! I’ve tried several different recipes for this in the past, but this was by far, our favorite! Thank you! I shall lose the others and use this one exclusively for the rest of my life. Thanks again! This, this, this, there’s 3 more. Lol..

  2. 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.

  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. 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.

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

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