Grilled Huli Huli Chicken


Grilling season is upon us, and there’s no better way to celebrate than with a mouthwatering dish of Grilled Huli Huli Chicken. Originating from Hawaii, Huli Huli Chicken is known for its irresistible combination of sweet, tangy, and savory flavors that tantalize the taste buds with every bite. In this article, we’ll explore the origins of Huli Huli Chicken, its unique flavor profile, and provide you with an easy-to-follow recipe to recreate this Hawaiian favorite in your own backyard.

The Origins of Huli Huli Chicken: Huli Huli Chicken traces its roots back to the Hawaiian islands, where it was first introduced by Ernest Morgado in the 1950s. The term “huli huli” translates to “turn turn” in Hawaiian, referring to the method of continuously rotating the chicken on a grill. Originally cooked over an open pit, today’s Huli Huli Chicken is typically prepared on a barbecue grill or in the oven, but still captures the essence of Hawaiian cuisine with its signature flavors.

The Recipe: Now, let’s dive into creating this irresistible dish right in your own backyard. Here’s a simple yet sensational recipe for Grilled Huli Huli Chicken:


  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs
  • 1 cup pineapple juice
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • Sliced green onions and sesame seeds for garnish (optional)


  1. In a bowl, whisk together the pineapple juice, soy sauce, brown sugar, ketchup, garlic, ginger, and sesame oil to create the marinade.
  2. Place the chicken in a large resealable plastic bag or shallow dish, and pour the marinade over the chicken. Make sure the chicken is evenly coated. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, or preferably overnight, to allow the flavors to infuse.
  3. Preheat your grill to medium-high heat. Remove the chicken from the marinade, allowing any excess marinade to drip off.
  4. Grill the chicken for 6-8 minutes per side, or until cooked through and no longer pink in the center, basting with the reserved marinade occasionally and turning halfway through cooking.
  5. Once the chicken is cooked through, remove it from the grill and let it rest for a few minutes before slicing.
  6. Serve the grilled Huli Huli Chicken hot, garnished with sliced green onions and sesame seeds if desired. Enjoy with rice, grilled vegetables, or a tropical salad for a complete Hawaiian-inspired meal.

Serving Tips:

  1. Garnish with Fresh Pineapple: For an extra touch of tropical flair, garnish your Grilled Huli Huli Chicken with fresh pineapple slices or chunks. The sweetness of the pineapple complements the flavors of the chicken beautifully.
  2. Serve with Rice: Pair your Grilled Huli Huli Chicken with steamed white or brown rice to soak up the delicious marinade. You can also opt for coconut rice for an added layer of flavor.
  3. Add Grilled Vegetables: Serve alongside a colorful assortment of grilled vegetables such as bell peppers, zucchini, and red onion for a balanced and nutritious meal.
  4. Sprinkle with Fresh Herbs: Just before serving, sprinkle chopped fresh cilantro or parsley over the chicken for a burst of freshness and color.
  5. Offer Dipping Sauces: Serve with a side of teriyaki sauce, sweet chili sauce, or sriracha mayo for dipping, allowing your guests to customize their flavor experience.

Storage Tips:

  1. Refrigerate Leftovers: If you have leftover Grilled Huli Huli Chicken, store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days. Make sure the chicken is completely cooled before storing.
  2. Freeze for Future Use: To extend the shelf life, you can freeze cooked Grilled Huli Huli Chicken. Place the cooled chicken in a freezer-safe container or zip-top bag, removing as much air as possible before sealing. It can be stored in the freezer for up to 2-3 months.
  3. Reheat with Care: When reheating leftovers, use a microwave or oven to gently warm the chicken until heated through. Be careful not to overheat, as this can dry out the chicken.
  4. Use in Other Dishes: Repurpose leftover Grilled Huli Huli Chicken in salads, wraps, stir-fries, or sandwiches for quick and flavorful meals on busy days.
  5. Discard if Necessary: If the chicken develops an off odor, flavor, or appearance, it’s best to discard it to avoid foodborne illness.

By following these serving and storage tips, you can enjoy the delicious flavors of Grilled Huli Huli Chicken to the fullest, whether freshly grilled or as leftovers for future enjoyment.

Variations of Grilled Huli Huli Chicken:

  1. Spicy Huli Huli Chicken:
    • Add a kick of heat to your Grilled Huli Huli Chicken by incorporating spicy ingredients such as diced jalapeños, crushed red pepper flakes, or sriracha sauce into the marinade. Adjust the spice level to your preference for a fiery twist on this classic dish.
  2. Tropical Fruit Marinade:
    • Infuse your chicken with the flavors of the tropics by incorporating tropical fruits such as mango, papaya, or guava into the marinade. Blend the fruits with the other marinade ingredients for a sweet and tangy twist that transports your taste buds to paradise.
  3. Teriyaki Glazed Huli Huli Chicken:
    • Combine the flavors of Huli Huli Chicken with the sweetness of teriyaki sauce for a mouthwatering variation. Brush the chicken with teriyaki sauce during grilling or marinate it in a mixture of teriyaki sauce, soy sauce, ginger, and garlic for an irresistible glazed finish.
  4. Coconut Lime Huli Huli Chicken:
    • Infuse your chicken with the refreshing flavors of coconut and lime for a tropical twist. Add coconut milk, lime zest, and lime juice to the marinade for a creamy and citrusy flavor profile that pairs perfectly with the grilled chicken.
  5. Pineapple Barbecue Huli Huli Chicken:
    • Incorporate the sweet and tangy flavors of barbecue sauce and fresh pineapple into your Grilled Huli Huli Chicken for a delicious variation. Brush the chicken with barbecue sauce during grilling and top it with grilled pineapple slices for a burst of flavor in every bite.

Experiment with these flavorful variations to customize your Grilled Huli Huli Chicken and create unique dishes that cater to your taste preferences. Whether you prefer spicy, sweet, tangy, or tropical flavors, there’s a variation to suit every palate and occasion.

FAQs about Grilled Huli Huli Chicken:

  1. What is Huli Huli Chicken?
    • Huli Huli Chicken is a Hawaiian dish that features grilled chicken marinated in a sweet and savory sauce, typically made with ingredients such as pineapple juice, soy sauce, brown sugar, and spices.
  2. What does “huli huli” mean?
    • “Huli huli” is a Hawaiian term that translates to “turn turn” in English. It refers to the method of continuously rotating the chicken on the grill to ensure even cooking and caramelization of the marinade.
  3. Can I use chicken thighs instead of chicken breasts?
    • Yes, you can use boneless, skinless chicken thighs instead of chicken breasts for Grilled Huli Huli Chicken. Thighs are often preferred for grilling due to their juiciness and ability to withstand high heat without drying out.
  4. How long should I marinate the chicken?
    • For optimal flavor, marinate the chicken for at least 2 hours, or preferably overnight, in the refrigerator. This allows the chicken to absorb the flavors of the marinade and become tender and flavorful.
  5. Can I grill Huli Huli Chicken indoors?
    • While traditionally grilled outdoors, you can also cook Huli Huli Chicken indoors using a grill pan or a broiler. Simply preheat the grill pan or broiler, cook the chicken as directed, and achieve similar delicious results.
  6. Is Huli Huli Chicken gluten-free?
    • It can be gluten-free if you use gluten-free soy sauce or tamari in the marinade. Check the labels of your ingredients to ensure they are gluten-free if you have dietary restrictions.
  7. Can I make Huli Huli Chicken without pineapple juice?
    • While pineapple juice adds sweetness and acidity to the marinade, you can substitute it with orange juice or a combination of citrus juices such as orange, lime, and lemon for a similar flavor profile.
  8. What should I serve with Grilled Huli Huli Chicken?
    • Grilled Huli Huli Chicken pairs well with rice, grilled vegetables, tropical fruit salad, or coleslaw. It’s also delicious served with Hawaiian macaroni salad or steamed jasmine rice.
  9. Can I freeze marinated Huli Huli Chicken?
    • Yes, you can freeze marinated Huli Huli Chicken for future use. Place the chicken and marinade in a freezer-safe bag or container, remove as much air as possible, and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator before grilling.
  10. How do I know when the chicken is done grilling?
    • The chicken is done when it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C) as measured with a meat thermometer. Alternatively, pierce the thickest part of the chicken with a knife, and if the juices run clear, it’s ready to be removed from the grill.


Grilled Huli Huli Chicken is a delicious and flavorful dish that captures the essence of Hawaiian cuisine with its sweet, tangy, and savory flavors. Whether you’re hosting a backyard barbecue or simply craving a taste of the tropics, this recipe is sure to be a hit with family and friends. So fire up the grill, gather your ingredients, and get ready to enjoy a taste of paradise with Grilled Huli Huli Chicken!

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