Huli-Huli Style Chicken is one of those dishes that can be coined as “only-in-Hawaii” foods.  The original recipe was by Ernie Morgado in 1955.  This recipe became such a hit it was a favorite Hawaiian fundraising activity for schools, sports teams and dancing groups (Hula Groups).

Traditionally, the chicken was cooked between two grills.  The grills had to be flipped and since Huli is the word for turn in Hawaiian – thus a star was born.  Morgado almost killed the Huli-Huli name when he started to become corporate by trademarking, and marketing a bottled sauce.  However, once the recipe spawed thousands of ‘knock off’ recipes you can still by Huli-Huli style chicken in the islands on any roadside grill.  It just won’t be called Huli-Huli Chicken.

The exact ‘original’ recipe that Ernie made is a trade secret – however, here is my version.  It’s an adaptation of an adaptation and with all marinade recipes don’t get too particular about the measure.  Adjust this to your taste.

This recipe is enough for about three chickens.  I do Kabobs, so they cook quicker and the marinade is a 1/2 hour to 4 hours.  Also, note that if you want a spicier version that what I have here – add a Tablespoon of Sriracha or Asian Chili paste for a spicy pop!

Hawaiian Barbecue Huli Huli Chicken Kabobs

Serves 4-6
Prep time 1 hour, 15 minutes
Cook time 1 hour
Total time 2 hours, 15 minutes
Meal type Main Dish, Marinade
Misc Serve Hot
Occasion Barbecue
Region American
By author adapted from Aida Mollenkamp

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup pineapple juice
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 8 Cloves garlic (roughly chopped)
  • 1 4-inch fresh ginger (peeled and roughly chopped)
  • 2 Tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons Worchestershire sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper (fine grind)
  • 4 Pounds boneless skinless chicken breast
  • 4 green onions (cut into 1-inch pieces)
  • 1/4 ripe pineapple (cored and cut into triangles)
  • fresh cilantro leaves (for serving)
  • 8-10 lime wedges (for serving)

Optional

  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1 Medium red onion (cut into sixths, for serving)

Directions

Step 1
To make the marinade: combine all ingredients except the chicken, red onion, green onions, pineapple and cilantro in a blender and process until it is completely combined. Place the chicken in a large zip-type plastic bag and season with salt and fresh ground black pepper. Pour the marinade mixture over the chicken and turn it several times (once sealed) until they are evenly coated. Place this bag in a large, shallow dish and place in the refrigerator for at least 1 our to 24 hours to marinate.
Step 2
When you are ready to cook, prepare your charcoal or gas grill to a medium temperature (350°F). Remove the chicken from the refrigerator and remove the marinade (reserve the marinade), allow the excess marinade to drip off. Thread the chicken onto skewers with red onion wedges, scallions, and pineapple pieces.
Step 3
Prepare your grill and place chicken on the grill, close the lid and base with the marinade every few minutes. After about 5-7 minutes, flip the skewers and repeat the steps every 5-7 min per side until the chicken registers 165°F and, the juices of the chicken run clear when pierced.
Step 4
Rest the kabobs on a cutting board for 5-7 minutes before you serve. While the kabobs are resting, boil the leftover marinade in a small pan over high heat until this is reduced and thickened. Strain the sauce and serve with the chicken along with cilantro, Sirracha mayo (if desired) and lime wedges.

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