Huli Huli Chicken

Huli Huli chicken is an incredible, delectable dish created in Hawaii in the 1950s. It originally consisted of a whole chicken slathered in a sticky, sweet BBQ-style sauce that became beautifully caramelized when roasted over an open fire. 

close up overhead shot of huli huli chicken and pineapple on plate


Huli Huli itself means to turn many times. The name for the chicken comes from the fact that it was cooked rotisserie-style over an open flame. Once cooking was complete, the outside of the chicken was crispy and sweet while the outside was juicy and tender. 

This dish is still a staple in Hawaii and this Huli Huli chicken recipe pays homage to the original while adjusting it slightly. While we’re still cooking over an open flame, this one is on a grill and uses chicken pieces instead of a whole chicken. 

That said, this recipe has been tested and tasted over and over to perfect it and get as close to the original as we could. My family always looks forward to digging into this for dinner, either on a weekend of just us gathered around the dinner table, or for a party! I guarantee your family will love it, too! 

What Sets This Huli Huli Chicken Apart

There are plenty of Huli Huli chicken recipes out there, but this one is bound to knock your socks off. 

  • Full of Flavor – From the sherry to the pineapple juice, this dish has layers of unique flavors that are bound to wow your family or impress guests. 
  • Sides of Sauce – I recommend reserving some sauce to serve on the side for dipping. You can skip it, but I promise you won’t want to! 
  • Grilling – Original versions of Huli Huli chicken required roasting a whole chicken rotisserie-style over a fire but by using a grill you can still get the full flavor of the dish with a lot less work or babysitting of the chicken. 
overhead shot of basting huli huli chicken on sheet pan


You are going to love the bright and fresh flavors of this grilled huli huli chicken recipe!

  • Light Brown Sugar – Brown sugar gives the sauce its signature sweetness and helps to create a dreamy caramelized crust on the chicken while it cooks. 
  • Pineapple Juice – This juice also contributes some sweetness as well as tropical flavor to the sauce. You can use fresh pineapple juice or a store-bought variety.
  • Ketchup – A tomato-based condiment that incorporates vinegar, ketchup adds bright acidity to the sauce.
  • Light Soy Sauce – Soy sauce brings umami flavor to the table, along with a little saltiness.
  • Sherry – Sherry also adds acidity as well as deeper flavor to the sauce. If you don’t want to use sherry, you can substitute cooking wine, rice vinegar, or chicken broth.
  • Fresh Ginger – Grate the ginger so that it’s fine and mixes well into the sauce to add warm and subtly spicy flavor. 
  • Garlic – Grated garlic imparts its signature flavor into the sauce. 
  • Cornstarch or Arrowroot – Either of these, mixed with water, is the perfect way to make your side sauce delectably thick and dippable.
  • Boneless Chicken Thigh Fillets – While I prefer boneless skinless chicken thighs, you can also use chicken breast or bone-in chicken. Or, opt for the original version and coat a whole chicken with the sauce before cooking rotisserie-style.
  • Slices of Pineapple – You can use fresh or canned pineapple slices but don’t miss out on adding these to your serving plate.
  • Scallions – For the best presentation, chop these diagonally and sprinkle them over top for a pop of both color and flavor. 
overhead shot of huli huli chicken ingredients

How to Make Hawaiian Huli Huli Chicken

Traveling to Hawaii may sound a little fancy but you can channel Hawaiian flavors easily with this simple recipe. 

  1. Make sauce. Add all of the ingredients for the sauce except the cornstarch to a medium mixing bowl and stir until completely combined. 
  2. Simmer half the sauce. Reserve half of the sauce for the marinade and simmer the other half in a small saucepan.
  3. Make slurry. In a small bowl, combine water and the cornstarch and mix until smooth to create a slurry. Add the slurry to the pan and continue to heat. 
  4. Toss chicken in sauce. Add the chicken and the Huli Huli sauce to a large bowl. Toss the two together until the chicken is completely coated. 
  5. Allow to chill. Place plastic wrap, aluminum foil, or a tight lid over the bowl and refrigerate. 
  6. Add chicken to grill. When ready to cook, transfer the chicken to a heated grill with oiled grill grates and discard any extra marinade. 
  7. Grill on both sides. Grill chicken on each side until the pieces reach the desired internal temperature. 
  8. Grill pineapple. When the chicken is at the desired temperature, transfer it to a plate and grill the pineapple rings directly on the grates. 
  9. Top chicken with pineapple. Once they have grill marks, transfer the grilled pineapple rings to the serving plate as well. 
  10. Garnish and serve. Garnish with the scallions and serve with the thickened Huli Huli sauce.

What to Serve With Huli Huli Chicken

Just like any chicken dish, you can serve nearly any side dish with Huli Huli chicken, from veggies to starches. I love spicy green beans, sauteed mushrooms and onions, or even a simple side salad when it comes to vegetables.   

For starches, I am a big fan of ginger rice, macaroni salad, cilantro lime coconut rice, or chile garlic potatoes to go with Huli Huli chicken. And for the adults, why not serve up a sparkling blue Hawaiian cocktail to wash it down? 


You can jazz this recipe up in a bunch of different ways! 

  • Meat – Use pork or fish instead of chicken or use a plant-based alternative. 
  • Spice – Add a bit of heat with cayenne pepper, Sriracha, or crushed red pepper flakes. 
  • Sweetener – Add more sweetness with honey or maple syrup. 
  • Gluten-Free – Replace the soy sauce with liquid aminos or tamari for a gluten-free alternative to soy sauce. 
  • Powders – While I always prefer fresh ingredients, you can substitute powdered versions of ginger and garlic. 
  • Method – Instead of making this chicken on the grill, feel free to use the oven. Just cook it as you typically would any chicken dish and use a meat thermometer to check for doneness.
overhead shot of huli huli chicken and pineapple on sheet pan

Storage and Freezing

You can make Huli Huli chicken ahead of time and heat it up throughout the week. The best way to do it is to slowly heat it in the oven but you can microwave it, too. Or, you can eat it cold! 

Make your Huli Huli sauce ahead of time and then just slather it on your chicken when you’re ready to cook it. 

How to Store Huli Huli Chicken

Store Huli Huli chicken in an airtight container for up to 3 days in the fridge. 

Can I Freeze Huli Huli Chicken?

Freeze Huli Huli chicken for up to 3 months in a freezer-safe container or a resealable freezer bag. 

close up overhead shot huli huli chicken on sheet pan

Common Questions about Huli Huli Chicken

What is Huli Huli sauce made of?

Huli Huli sauce is a sweet and savory blend of ingredients like brown sugar, ketchup, and soy sauce along with ginger and garlic. It can also include other ingredients like sesame oil, wine, and pineapple juice.

What does Huli Huli mean in Hawaiian?

Huli means “to turn” so “huli huli” is referencing multiple turns.

Is Huli Huli the same as teriyaki?

While the two are similar, Huli Huli is not the same as teriyaki. Huli Huli sauce has more sweet and fruity notes.

angled shot of spoon adding sauce to chicken

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Huntington Chicken Casserole Recipe (Chicken Noodle Casserole)

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Crispy Baked Chicken Tenders Recipe

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overhead shot of huli huli chicken on pan with text overlay
close up overhead shot of huli huli chicken and pineapple on plate

Huli Huli Chicken Recipe

4.38 from 8 votes
A staple in Hawaii, this EASY Huli Huli Chicken is cooked right on the grill and topped with a sweet sauce that is full pineapple flavor!
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Marinating Time: 4 hours
Total Time: 4 hours 20 minutes
Servings: 6


Huli Huli Sauce & Marinade:


  • 2 pounds boneless chicken thigh fillets
  • 8-12 slices pineapple , fresh or canned
  • 2 tablespoons scallions , chopped diagonally


For the Huli Huli Sauce:

  • In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, pineapple juice, ketchup, soy sauce, sherry, ginger and garlic.
  • Use half of the sauce for the chicken marinade.
  • Place the other half of the sauce in a small saucepan and bring to a low simmer.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together the cornstarch with 1/4 cup water. Whisk into the sauce and continue heat and whisk until it thickens and start to become glossy.
  • Set it aside for serving and dipping.

For the Chicken:

  • Combine the raw chicken with half of the huli huli sauce in a large bowl, tossing to coat. Cover and marinade in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, but up to 1 day.
  • Remove the chicken and discard excess marinade. Heat the grill to medium high heat (about 350°F) and oil the grates.
  • Grill the chicken for 5-6 minutes on each side or until they reach an internal temperature of 165°F using an instant read digital thermometer. Remove and allow to rest while you grill the pineapple rings.
  • Place the pineapple rings directly on the grates for 1-2 minutes or until they get grill marks.
  • Remove and serve the chicken with the pineapple rings, garnish with chopped scallions and a side of the thickened huli huli sauce. If desired, you can baste with the cooked huli huli sauce before serving instead of serving on the side.


Calories: 406 kcal, Carbohydrates: 54 g, Protein: 32 g, Fat: 6 g, Saturated Fat: 2 g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1 g, Monounsaturated Fat: 2 g, Trans Fat: 0.03 g, Cholesterol: 144 mg, Sodium: 1407 mg, Potassium: 674 mg, Fiber: 2 g, Sugar: 44 g, Vitamin A: 225 IU, Vitamin C: 57 mg, Calcium: 65 mg, Iron: 2 mg
Author: Jessica Formicola
Calories: 406
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: huli huli chicken
Did you make this recipe?I’d love to see your recipes – snap a picture and mention @savoryexperiments or tag #savoryexperiments!
collage of huli huli chicken
Jessica Formicola in her ktichen

About the Author

Chef Jessica Anne Formicola

Jessica the mom, wife and chef behind Savory Experiments. You might see her on the Emmy- nominated TV show Plate It! or on bookshelves as a cookbook author. Jessica is a Le Cordon Bleu certified recipe developer and regularly contributed to Parade, Better Homes & Gardens, The Daily Meal, Mashed and more!

Read More About Jessica

4.38 from 8 votes (3 ratings without comment)

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Questions and Reviews

  1. 5 stars
    I’m obsessed with this recipe! The balance of sweet and savory is so perfect–one of my new favorite ways to prepare chicken. Thanks for sharing!