Huli Huli Chicken is Hawaiian-style marinated chicken that is cooked to perfection over a grill. This recipe includes both baking and grilling instructions to offer an additional cooking method. Serve it with your favorite side dishes for a complete meal!

Baking dish full of chicken thighs sitting in marinade, fresh out of the oven.

If you have ever had the pleasure of going to Hawaiian BBQ, chances are you have experienced the deliciousness of huli huli chicken.

Huli huli chicken, often referred to as “Hawaiian chicken” is succulent chicken thighs that have been marinated in an incredible marinade, then grilled to perfection. 

There’s a local restaurant here in reno that serves Hawaiian chicken plates, complete with a generous amount of this Hawaiian style chicken, a big scoop of white rice, and either coleslaw or macaroni salad.

The whole experience is a collection of delicious flavors, taking your tastebuds on a figurative vacation.

Because my husband and I relish going out to lunch for some delicious Hawaiian plate, I have tried to emulate the experience at home with this homemade huli huli chicken recipe.

Before I get ahead of myself, let’s discuss the origins and flavors so that you know what you’re diving into.

What is Huli Huli Chicken?

Huli Huli Chicken is a classic Hawaiian main dish of chicken marinated in a delicious marinade. Huli huli sauce (or marinade) consists of soy sauce, ketchup, sugar (or honey), garlic, ginger, and sesame oil.

It originates from Honolulu in the 1950s, and is rumored to have been invented by a man named Ernest Morgado.

Huli huli sauce recipes can vary, as some of them include pineapple juice. The most important ingredient is the soy sauce (or coconut aminos). All ingredients combined creates the perfect combination of a teriyaki-like sauce results. 

Baking dish full of huli-huli chicken sprinkled with green onions with a bowl of green onions and a blue napkin to the side.

Why is it called Huli Huli Chicken?:

Huli is the Hawaiian word for “turn” which indicates its traditional method of cooking: grilling and turning over an open fire.

So in a sense, the baked version of authentic huli huli chicken takes the “huli huli” out of the chicken since there is no turning involved. Nevertheless, we are left with the same traditional flavors.

If you are a chicken lover, this easy chicken recipe is a must make! It requires few simple ingredients, very little prep, and results in an explosion of savory flavors.

Blue plate of chicken and macaroni salad with a napkin and fork to the side and a bowl of macaroni salad.

Let’s discuss the basic ingredients for Huli Huli Chicken.

Huli Huli Chicken Ingredients:

Boneless Skinless Chicken Thighs: The star of the show here! We need 2 to 3 pounds of boneless chicken thighs or boneless skinless chicken breasts.

Any cut of chicken like bone-in skin-on thighs will work too, they just require more time to cook. You can also butcher a whole chicken to make huli-huli chicken.

Soy Sauce or Coconut Aminos: Bringing salty, umami flavor to the chicken, we need either soy sauce, tamari, liquid aminos, or coconut aminos. 

Coconut aminos are soy-free, which is what I typically use. If you stick with traditional soy sauce, you will also need to add some form of sweetener, like brown sugar, honey, or pure maple syrup (instructions in the recipe card below). 

Ketchup: Have you every used ketchup in a marinade? If the answer is no, it might sound a little strange, but this yummy tomato product adds sweet tanginess that your taste buds will love. I use unsweetened ketchup (from Primal Kitchen) but pick your favorite. 

Rice Vinegar: We need a little acidic tang to round out the flavor profile, and rice vinegar is perfect for this. Swap it out for lime juice or apple cider vinegar if you’d like.

Fresh Garlic and Fresh Ginger: Huge flavor makers, garlic and fresh ginger are powerhouses in the marinade recipe.

Toasted Sesame Oil: Classic in island cooking! Toasted sesame oil both adds flavor and helps protect the meat from burning during the cooking process to keep it lubed up.

Black Pepper: Season the chicken to taste using black pepper.  Because there is plenty of salt in the soy sauce of coconut aminos, you likely won’t feel the need to add more salt (I don’t). Add red pepper flakes for some heat if you enjoy spicy food.

The huli huli chicken marinade is so delicious you may consider making extra for drizzling over the rice. It is a great recipe for marinating all types of meats too!

Now that we’re all lined out on the basics, let’s make this delicious Huli Huli Chicken recipe!

How to Make Huli Huli Chicken:

Transfer the marinade ingredients to a small blender such as a magic bullet or nutribullet and blend until a smooth marinade forms. Note: if you don’t own a small blender, you can mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl, mincing the garlic and the ginger first.

Transfer the raw chicken thighs to a large zip lock bag and pour in the marinade. Seal the bag and move everything around until all the chicken pieces are coated in marinade. Marinate chicken in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes, but ideally for several hours. The chicken can be marinated for up to 24 hours.

When you’re ready to bake the chicken, preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.

Transfer the chicken along with the marinade to a large baking dish with a deep lip (not a baking sheet) in a single layer.

Bake on the center rack of the preheated oven for 12-15 minutes. Remove the chicken from the oven and baste it by spooning the juices over the chicken (you can also use a baster if you have one, but I just use a spoon).

Place the oven on the high broil setting and broil the chicken for 5 to 8 minutes, or until it has reached your desired level of char.

Chicken thighs are best when cooked to at least 180 degrees Fahrenheit. To check the temperature of the thighs, insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of a thigh and wait until the numbers stop moving to get an accurate read.

Allow the meat to rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Serve huli huli chicken with your choice of side dishes, and enjoy!

The best side dishes for huli huli chicken are steamed white rice or fried rice, macaroni salad, grilled pineapple, and coleslaw.

Spoon the remaining marinade from the baking dish or teriyaki sauce over the chicken and rice.

Blue plate of chicken with macaroni salad.

If you would rather take the traditional approach and grill the chicken, here are the grilling instructions. 

Grilled Huli Huli Chicken:

If you would like extra sauce for serving the chicken, prepare extra marinade and reserve some in a jar. 

Combine all of the ingredients for the huli huli marinade in a small blender. Blend until completely combined. Transfer the raw chicken thighs and the huli huli sauce to a large zip lock bag and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes (ideally several hours and up to 24 hours).

For a Gas Grill: Preheat the grill to medium-high heat (about 450 degrees F). 

For a Charcoal Grill: Use a charcoal chimney to heat your charcoal. Once the coals are hot, arrange them either in the very center of the grill or off to one side below the grill grate, so that there is a section of the grill that is less hot where you can cook over indirect heat. 

Place the marinated chicken thighs on the hot grill and grill for 3 to 5 minutes. Flip the chicken and cook on the other side for 3 to 5 minutes, until both sides are golden brown and have grill marks.

Move the chicken to the cooler side of the grill to continue grilling over indirect heat. Flipping occasionally, cook until the internal temperature reaches at least 180 degrees F.

For the best results, be sure to check the internal temperature using a digital thermometer.

Use the reserved marinade to drizzle over the chicken or over the rice when serving.

If you’d like, garnish with sesame seeds and chopped green onions.

How to Store Leftover Chicken:

Store leftover huli-huli chicken in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. You can reheat it in the microwave, air fryer, oven, or in a skillet or serve it cold over salad.

Looking for great side dishes to serve with this grilled chicken recipe? Here are some ideas.

What to Serve with Huli Huli Chicken:

  • Rice: Steamed white rice is a customary side dish to serve with huli huli chicken. Brown rice, coconut rice, and fried rice work here too. 
  • Macaroni Salad: Hawaiians have their very own take on macaroni salad, so whipping up a traditional Hawaiian macaroni salad (or your favorite macaroni salad) is a brilliant move.
  • I have a Hawaiian macaroni salad coming in a couple of days! Stay tuned!
  • Coleslaw: Creamy coleslaw is also a classic side for a Hawaiian plate experience. Any kind works great, but I love my Healthy Creamy Coleslaw, which is a lightened up version of traditional cole slaw. 
  • Potato Salad: If all of the above don’t sound great to you, make your favorite carb salad to enjoy as a side. I recommend The Best Potato Salad
  • Green Salad: To keep the meal low-carb, pair the chicken with your favorite green salad. Sauteed vegetable or roasted vegetables are great low-carb options too.
Baking dish with baked chicken thighs inside, drenched in marinade.

And that’s it! The next time you’re craving a flavorful chicken recipe, be sure to keep this Hawaiian huli huli chicken in mind!

I love that the recipe makes a generous amount of chicken, which is perfect for feeding large families or for having leftovers.

I see recipes like this as being ideal for meal prep because you can make it ahead of time and have a protein source for days.

Baking dish full of chicken thighs sitting in marinade, fresh out of the oven.

Huli Huli Chicken

5 from 1 vote
This easy Huli Huli Chicken recipe is the yummiest main course for your summer barbecues, cookouts, and Hawaiian plate lunch! Serve it up with rice, macaroni salad, and coleslaw for a delicious meal!
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Marinating Time 20 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes
Servings: 8 Servings

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Transfer the marinade ingredients to a small blender such as a magic bullet or nutribullet and blend until a smooth marinade forms. Note: if you don’t own a small blender, you can mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl, mincing the garlic and the ginger first.
  • Transfer the raw chicken thighs to a large zip lock bag and pour in the marinade. Seal the bag and move everything around until all the chicken pieces are coated in marinade. Marinate chicken in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes, but ideally for several hours. The chicken can be marinated for up to 24 hours.

Baking Instructions:

  • When you’re ready to bake the chicken, preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Transfer the chicken along with the marinade to a large baking dish with a deep lip (not a baking sheet) in a single layer.
  • Bake on the center rack of the preheated oven for 12-15 minutes. Remove the chicken from the oven and baste it by spooning the juices over the chicken (you can also use a baster if you have one, but I just use a spoon). Place the oven on the high broil setting and broil the chicken for 5 to 8 minutes, or until it has reached your desired level of char.
  • Chicken thighs are best when cooked to at least 180 degrees Fahrenheit. To check the temperature of the thighs, insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of a thigh and wait until the numbers stop moving to get an accurate read.
  • Allow the meat to rest for 10 minutes before serving.
  • Serve huli huli chicken with your choice of side dishes, and enjoy!

Grilling Instructions:

  • If you would like extra sauce for serving the chicken, prepare extra marinade and reserve some in a jar.
  • For a Gas Grill: Preheat the grill to medium-high heat (about 450 degrees F).
  • For a Charcoal Grill: Use a charcoal chimney to heat your charcoal. Once the coals are hot, arrange them either in the very center of the grill or off to one side below the grill grate, so that there is a section of the grill that is less hot where you can cook over indirect heat.
  • Place the marinated chicken thighs on the hot grill and grill for 3 to 5 minutes. Flip the chicken and cook on the other side for 3 to 5 minutes, until both sides are golden brown and have grill marks.
  • Move the chicken to the cooler side of the grill to continue grilling over indirect heat. Flipping occasionally, cook until the internal temperature reaches at least 180 degrees F. For the best results, be sure to check the internal temperature using a digital thermometer.
  • Use the reserved marinade to drizzle over the chicken or over the rice when serving.
  • If you’d like, garnish with sesame seeds and chopped green onions.

Notes

*Replace the coconut aminos with low-sodium soy sauce or liquid aminos. Also add 2 Tbsp brown sugar or pure maple syrup, as coconut aminos are naturally sweet.

Nutrition

Serving: 1thigh (of 8) · Calories: 378kcal · Carbohydrates: 11g · Protein: 36g · Fat: 19g · Saturated Fat: 5g · Polyunsaturated Fat: 6g · Monounsaturated Fat: 8g · Cholesterol: 109mg · Sodium: 705mg · Potassium: 410mg · Sugar: 7g
Author: Julia Mueller
Course: Chicken Main Dishes
Cuisine: American
Keyword: baked Hawaiian BBQ Chicken, chicken recipes, Hawaiian chicken, Hawaiian plate, healthy chicken recipes, huli huli chicken
Did You Make This Recipe?I want to see it! Tag @the.roasted.root on social media!

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Julia Mueller
Meet the Author

Julia Mueller

Julia Mueller is a recipe developer, cookbook author, and founder of The Roasted Root. She has authored three bestselling cookbooks, – Paleo Power Powers, Delicious Probiotic Drinks, and The Quintessential Kale Cookbook. Her recipes have been featured in several national publications such as BuzzFeed, Self, Tasty, Country Living, Brit.co, etc.

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Questions and Reviews

  1. This was so easy, moist and delicious! Instead of broiling, I did 30” at 425F. It wasn’t anything like the huli huli chicken of my childhood, which I remember as cooked in large (homemade?) rotisseries (“huli huli” means turn, turn in Hawaiian) on the ground over charcoal. Besides paprika, I don’t know what other spices were used, but the chicken was fresh, local, organic, and anything cooked over coals is onolicious.

    1. Hi Travis. That is objectively false for chicken thighs. I think you might be thinking of chicken breasts.

    2. @Travis,that doesn’t apply to thighs. At around 180ish the fat renders down and they come out juicy and full of flavor. I do the same with my thanksgiving turkeys now. I break it down and cook the breast separately from the thighs and drumsticks. Everything comes out tender and cooked to the correct temps per the type of meat. It may seem wrong, but thighs at 165 just aren’t as good as they are at 180.

      1. Thank you for sharing this and providing a more nuanced response…I cook thighs to 180-200 for the same reason – I find the texture is so much better than when they are cooked to 165 xoxox

  2. My whole family was going crazy over this. Great recipe. Had it in longer in the oven for thicker chicken thighs (about 17 minutes).

  3. This recipe is very similar to a recipe y Mom would make. The other ingredients she added are Pineapple juice,lemon juice,brown sugar,teriyaki sauce.It was then left to marinade overnight in the refrigerator. Brought out and brought to room temperature in approximately 15 to 20 minutes and then cooked in the oven. Try this and enjoy.The brown sugar is a half cup,Pineapple juice is 1/2 cup,teriyaki sauce is the same as yours

    1. Love this! Thank you for sharing, Kenneth! I had read some people use pineapple juice in the marinade too…sounds delicious! 🙂