What Is Hawaiian BBQ? All You Need To Know

Hawaiian BBQ stand with signs

In my opinion, which I’m sure you’ll agree with, barbecues are a significant part of every family-friendly gathering.

There are different kinds of BBQs, but Hawaiian Barbecues stand out for many reasons, primarily due to their sauces and marinades.

However, since there are so many takes on Hawaiian barbecue, this article intends to show what Hawaiian barbeque is and the different ways to create marinades and sauces.

What is Hawaiian BBQ?

The Hawaiian BBQs typically consist of a large platter of grilled meat or chicken that tastes sweet and tangy from a marinade of soy sauce, fresh garlic, ginger, and sugar. Below I’ll be breaking down the different types of Hawaiian BBQs.

Huli-Huli & Luau Hawaiian BBQ

Barbecues in Hawaii can mean either a ‘Huli-Huli (chicken roasted over wood) stand or ‘Luau’ (slow-roasted pig in a pit).


The Huli-Huli can be gotten anytime from a roadside stand. In contrast, Luau is usually used to mark an important family event such as a wedding, childbirth, or another big celebration.

Huli-Huli’s meaning is to turn over and over is roasted over medium-high direct heat, often turning and marinating for about an hour.

The sauce used for Huli-Huli is known as the Huli sauce. The Huli sauce is made up of shoyu (soy sauce), pineapple juice, honey, brown sugar, garlic, ketchup, ginger, and seasoning.

Here is a video on how to make original Huli-Huli chicken.

YouTube video player

The Hawaiian BBQ Chicken is loved by many because of its sweet and savory flavor.


The Luau or Kalua pork is a slow-cooked pig over an outdoor charcoal grill. Usually, the pig is wrapped in banana leaves and buried in the ground to cook for almost half a day.

This type of Hawaiian BBQ is often likened to the traditional Luau because of its taste.

Here you can see a video on how the whole pig is cooked for a Luau.

YouTube video player

Hawaiian BBQ Tastings

A particular BBQ style commonly known as “Hawaiian BBQ” is a sweet and savory chicken dish that can be eaten as dinner on any day of the week. This BBQ has the flavors of pineapple, soy sauce, ginger, and sugar.

To make the sauce;

  • Whisk together the ginger, pineapple juice, brown sugar, garlic, soy sauce, and sesame oil in a large saucepan.
  • Bring the mixture to boil for 3-4 minutes.

With the sauce, coat the chicken before placing them on the grill, and again when the chicken is almost cooked.

This Hawaiian BBQ is usually served with a scoop of rice and Hawaiian Macaroni salad.


Unlike the others mentioned above, Mahi-Mahi consists of fish instead of meat. It is often likened to Garlic Shrimp- another dish entirely.

Mahi-Mahi involves marinating the fish in butter and garlic before grilling it.

The sauce used with Mahi Mahi is made with honey, sesame, lemon, onion, and soy sauce.

Hawaiian BBQ- Experience And Final Thoughts

My inlaws are of Hawaiian descent and that makes it easier for me to ask questions about specific seasonings and specific cooking methods.

Whether referring to the traditional Hawaiian BBQ or the modern take on Hawaiian BBQ, no one can deny that Hawaiian barbecue is different.

The difference is in the sauce because it contains some tropical flavors like pineapple or passion fruit.

It also contains sesame oil, soy sauce, and other seasonings and ingredients to create a marinade or sauce.

This makes the barbecue taste tropical, tangy, sweet, and sometimes spicy.

A Luau is probably a little hard to do but I think we can have a Huli-Huli BBQ. I guess I have to start with some Huli-Huli ribs soon.

I’ll keep you posted and will add it to my BBQ recipes when it is done.

If you ever find a Hawaiian restaurant do not hesitate to walk in and enjoy some great BBQ food.

Eddie van Aken

Eddie van Aken has years of experience in running his full-service restaurant and with this came working with using and dealing with all types of kitchen equipment. With his experience, he can find all the pros and cons of grills and add them to the grill reviews he is doing. You can read more on the about page for Eddie van Aken

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