When a Honolulu businessman served some farmers his Huli Huli Chicken recipe back in 1955, he had no idea what a huge hit his Hawaiian chicken would be! Ernest Morgado simply grilled some chicken that had been marinating in his mother’s sauce and Viola!
Huli Huli chicken is one of those chicken recipes with a slightly sweet, slightly tangy disposition. The word ‘Huli’ simply means ‘turn’ in Hawaiian so it stands to reason that it’s paired with grilled chicken recipes and a totally satisfying marinade.
Serve this delish dish up with my loaded coconut rice for a sweet surprise, or try my authentic Hawaiian macaroni salad. If you love this one, I have to recommend this fantastic recipe for easy shoyu chicken.
He kept it simple, like most of the best things…….Let’s tempt those taste buds!
What I Love About This Recipe
I love that this chicken recipe is so totally simple! It hardly requires any effort at all and it’s just so darn knee slappin’ good. Here are some other great reasons to love it!
- Insanely delicious with a sweet & tangy disposition
- Crazy simple from start to finish
- Wholesome easy to find ingredients
- Fantastic for meal prep
- A totally versatile recipe is easy to tweak
How To Make Huli Huli Chicken Recipe
You’re gonna’ fall in love with this recipe. It’s got a crave-worthy flavor and plenty of other delicious characteristics. Plus, it’s so simple. Just 3 easy steps – mix, marinade & grill. Pure sweet and savory love for your taste buds. Here’s how you do it.
Hawaiian BBQ Chicken Recipe Notes
The first step in this recipe is making the Huli Huli sauce which is totally simple. Just combine all the ingredients for the Hawaiian marinade in a bowl and whisk until the brown sugar is dissolved.
You’ll want to reserve a cup of the marinade to use for basting as you’re grilling up this little bit of tropical paradise. It really sets off the flavor bells and helps whisk you away to the land of tiki torches with every bite.
Now, let’s talk about the elephant in the room – the marinade time. I know that 24 hours seems like a long time, but your taste buds will appreciate your cooperation here. Besides the awesome flavor imparted by the pineapple, it also helps tenderize the meat into juicy succulent submission.
Alright! Let’s talk ingredients, one of my favorite conversations. One of the best things about this recipe (besides the flavor) is its simplicity. It uses wholesome easy to find ingredients combined in just the right amounts to create some amazing flavors that just come alive in your mouth. Here’s watcha’ need!
Chicken – I like to use boneless breasts or thighs for this chicken. White meat or dark meat, it’s up to you. Just remember that exact cooking times will vary based on the temperature of your grill. You’ll want to ensure the internal temp of the chicken reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
- General– Whichever cut of meat you select remember, your grilling time will vary based on the exact temperature your grill is cooking at, the distance your grates are from the heat, and the size and thickness of the pieces of meat you use.
- Chicken Thighs– Small chicken thighs generally grill up in 10 minutes overall and larger thighs grill up in about 12 minutes overall or until an instant-read thermometer register 165 degrees.
Chicken Breasts – boneless chicken breast is one of the easiest pieces of meat to overcook so take care!
- Thinner chicken breast generally grill up in 8 minutes overall and larger, thicker breasts grill up in about 12-14 minutes overall or until an instant-read thermometer register 165 degrees
Sherry – You can substitute the sherry with chicken broth or seasoned rice wine vinegar.
Swap the Ketchup – If you’re looking for a smokey variation of this recipe, consider swapping out the ketchup with some prepared BBQ sauce. It will also change the flavor profile slightly, adding a little smokey hickory flavor as well as a little more sweetness, and be a nice variation in your dinner rotation.
Soy Sauce – Incorporating some soy sauce into your chicken recipe injects a bit of umami flavor and helps the marinade bind to the meat. I like a Hawaiian style, sweet, low sodium style soy sauce for this recipe like I use in my Shoyu chicken.
You’ll want to store your chicken in an airtight container in the fridge to keep it fresh and tasty. You must have made a big batch if you’ve got some leftover! Personally, I like storing in a container with a secure lid as opposed to a resealable bag to protect the delicious coating.
For this recipe, I like to lay a piece of plastic wrap over the top of the container before securing the top. I feel like it helps protect the integrity of the chicken by sealing the moisture in and protecting it from the air.
Can You Freeze This?
Absolutely!! This chicken is great for meal prep. You can freeze the cooked cooled chicken, or you can freeze the marinade – just don’t freeze the chicken [in] the marinade.
An enzyme in the pineapple juice, called bromelain, helps tenderize the chicken because it digests protein. So, if you freeze the chicken in the marinade it could turn mushy.
Make Ahead Tips
This is definitely a make-ahead dish since it needs to marinate for 24 hours in the fridge. I like to whip up a couple of batches of Huli Huli chicken from start to finish and let it cool before preparing it for the freezer.
When its time to serve, I just whip up another small batch of the marinade. The marinade does freeze well too but sometimes I just like to make it fresh.
How Long Can You Keep This In The Fridge?
Your chicken will stay succulent and amazingly delicious for up to 4 days in the fridge when stored properly. I’m telling ya’ though – it’s not gonna’ last in the fridge. This stuff makes awesome wraps and sandwiches. It always gets gobbled up crazy fast!
OMG!!! There are so many different yummy variations to this recipe it can be hard to name them all. I’ll tell you what though – It sure is a ton of fun to taste them. Here are a few popular versions you may want to try.
- With lime: This chicken is a sweet and savory version with a little heat but it won’t set your mouth on fire. For a version that’s a little more savory and less sweet, you can go with a tequila lime chicken that pairs perfectly with margaritas and a few simple substitutions will give you cilantro lime chicken with a fresh pop of flavor that really brings the sunshine.When you’re ready for something a little different, you can try chili lime chicken. It’s a Tex-Mex blend of yum and Ar`iba!!
- Leftovers: One of my absolute favorite things about this chicken is the leftovers! It makes a totally spankin’ grilled chicken sandwich that’ll have you licking your fingers. Now if you’re more of a grilled chicken salad type of person, that’s okay too. You should try this chicken in a grilled chicken Caesar salad. It….is…da…bomb!!
- Chicken Cuts: I love making Huli Huli chicken with grilled chicken tenders and grilled chicken thighs, but you can use other cuts too. Grilled chicken wings are awesome in the Huli Huli marinade. You better buy a big bag!
Huli Huli Chicken
- 1 cup dark brown sugar firmly packed
- 1 cup ketchup
- 3/4 cup soy sauce
- 1 cup pineapple juice
- 1/4 cup sherry
- 3 teaspoons fresh ginger peeled and grated
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 4 pounds boneless chicken breasts or boneless chicken thighs
- grilled pineapple slices
- sliced green onions
- In a medium mixing bowl, add dark brown sugar, ketchup, pineapple juice, fresh ginger, and garlic. Whisk in soy sauce, pineapple juice, and sherry until well combined and brown sugar is dissolved.
- Remove and reserve 1 cup of the marinade. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to grill the chicken. This will be your basting sauce.
- Place chicken in a 1-gallon resealable plastic bag. Pour marinade into bag. Remove excess air, seal bag, place on a rimmed baking sheet and refrigerate for 24 hours,
- Heat grill to medium.
- Remove chicken from marinade and discard marinade in plastic bags.
- Grill chicken on oiled grates: For Chicken Boneless Thighs: Grill about 5-8 minutes per side, basting each side before flipping with reserved marinade, or until an instant-read thermometer reads 165 degrees.For Chicken Boneless Breast: Grill about 4-6 minutes per side, basting each side before flipping with reserved marinade, or until an instant-read thermometer reads 165 degrees.
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More Grilled Chicken Recipes
There are so many different grilled chicken recipes, there’s something for every occasion. Of course, it can be hard to beat the sweet and savory kick of the Huli Huli chicken, but you can’t eat it every day. Just kidding but I know there are instances when you’ll need other flavors or you may not have 24 hours to marinade.
Here are some other full-flavored grilled chicken recipes for you to try.
- Grilled Chicken Breast – Moist, succulent and totally simple.
- Honey Lime Chicken – Tender and sweet with a fresh pop of flavor.
- Mexican Grilled Chicken – Because Mexican food is just awesome.
- KFC Grilled Chicken – Copycat version that does the original recipe justice!
- Jerk Chicken – A spiced smoky rendition of delicious!
Making this recipe is an easy way to wake up the taste buds and escape to the sandy beaches of Hawaii over dinner. Its sweet, simple and above all – totally wholesome. Plus, I love the little bit of heat that it brings and the chicken is just so tender.
When you’re ready for an easy dish that’ll impress your friends, Huli Huli chicken is what you want. I can’t wait to hear what you think!!
DORINNE CROSS says
Had Huli Huli chicken on Ouhu on the side of the road.. Deserved Michelin Star, glad to have this recipe to try it at home..It won’t have the same ambiance but I bet it will be delicious..Going to store fir chicken tomorrow !
Yay! Enjoy, Dorinne! Thank you 🙂