Sweet and tangy Hawaiian Chicken recipe with only 10 minutes of prep!
This quick and easy Hawaiian chicken recipe will whisk you and your taste buds away to the tropics! It’s a simple marinate-and-cook recipe that elevates pantry staples to your own juicy, sweet and tangy paradisiacal oasis imbued with exotic flavors. To make this Hawaiian chicken recipe, simply whisk together pineapple juice, soy sauce, brown sugar, Asian sweet chili sauce, ginger and garlic, marinate then grill – that’s it! Zero dishes, zero cleanup and prep ahead friendly for an easy weeknight dinner that’s delicious enough for company and entertaining. This Hawaiian chicken is sensational with grilled pineapple and cilantro lime rice or in salads, sandwiches, wraps and even tacos!
Hawaiian CHICKEN RECIPE
I think we could all use a Hawaiian vacation right about now, but unfortunately, we’re landlocked, so instead, I’m bringing Hawaii to you! This Hawaiian chicken has quickly become a favorite at our house. Not only is it ridiculously easy (as in it doesn’t feel like you’ve “made” dinner at all) but its sweet, tangy and slightly spicy notes are intoxicatingly.
This Hawaiian chicken is a cross between barbecue chicken and sweet and sour chicken that’s not overly sweet not, overly overly tangy, but just right in the middle. But unlike other Hawaiian chicken recipes, this Hawaiian BBQ chicken isn’t just bland one-note (or should I say three notes?) soy sauce, pineapple juice and brown sugar (been there, tried that, left wanting), but instead is also laced with Asian sweet chili sauce, Asian chili sauce, ground ginger, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, salt, and pepper so it avoids the trap of monotony and instead makes your taste buds want to do the hula.
More reasons to love Hawaiian Chicken recipe:
- Flavor. This Hawaiian chicken boasts dynamic punches of flavor that will delight you anew with every bite. It’s tangy from the pineapple juice and ketchup, sweet from the brown sugar and Asian sweet chili sauce, spicy from the Asian chili sauce, grounded by the soy sauce and punched up with flavor from the rainbow of spices. Best of all, the tasty sauce caramelizes into a sticky glaze as you grill the chicken.
- Easy. Marinate the chicken and grill – couldn’t be any simpler!
- Pantry friendly. This Hawaiian BBQ chicken uses pantry friendly ingredients so you can make it any day of the week. Just keep some canned pineapple juice stocked and chicken thighs in your freezer and you’re all set.
- Versatile. This Hawaiian chicken recipe can easily be adapted to your personal palate (sweeter, tangier, etc.), and can also transform into a new exciting meal depending on how you serve it: plain with rice and veggies, in wraps, grain bowls, salads, sandwiches, tacos, quesadillas, etc. I love making a big batch of this easy chicken recipe and serve it countless ways throughout the week. And if chicken isn’t your thing, feel free to swap in shrimp, pork or beef because the marinade is amazing on everything!
- Meal prep. You can cook the chicken ahead of time then divide it between containers for meal prep along with whatever sides you wish.
- Easy to double. You can double or triple the recipe for entertaining, for purposeful leftovers or to freeze.
- Freezer friendly. The Hawaiian BBQ chicken is freezer friendly for an easy make ahead dinner.
HAWAIIAN CHICKEN MARINADE
This Hawaiian chicken recipe is made with simple pantry friendly ingredients – you probably have most of the ingredients right now! You will need:
- Pineapple juice: adds multidimensional fruity sweetness. I keep a pack of the small 6 oz. cans stocked in my pantry; they can be found with the other juices at your grocery store. You don’t want to use freshly squeezed pineapple juice in this Hawaiian chicken recipe or it can make your chicken mushy.
- Soy sauce: use reduced sodium soy sauce or your Hawaiian chicken will be too salty.
- Brown sugar: use brown sugar for its molasses notes as opposed to granulated sugar although you may substitute with granulated sugar or honey if you’re in a bind, but expect a slightly different, less rich flavor profile.
- Ketchup: helps create the pineapple barbecue sauce flavor. Look for organic ketchup or one that isn’t sweetened by high-fructose corn syrup if possible.
- Asian sweet chili sauce: this is my non-traditional addition to this Hawaiian chicken sauce and it is phenomenal. Basically, it’s a whole lot of my favorite everything in one bottle – and now a whole lot of my favorite everything in one chicken. Asian sweet chili sauce is sweet and spicy and packed with flavor from a combination of red chilies, onion, garlic, brown sugar and fish sauce. It can be found in the Asian section of your grocery store.
- Asian chili sauce: adds a touch of heat and rounds out the flavors – it will NOT make your Hawaiian BBQ chicken taste spicy. Of course, you can add more chili sauce if you want spicy chicken.
- Olive oil: extra virgin olive oil for the best flavor.
- Seasonings: ground ginger, onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, salt, pepper amps up the flavor.
Will fresh pineapple juice make chicken mushy?
Please DO NOT USE fresh pineapple juice as it contains the enzyme bromelain which will leave your chicken mushy. In CANNED pineapple, however, the bromelain is extracted so the juice will infuse your chicken with flavor without becoming mushy.
WHAT CUT OF CHICKEN IS BEST?
You can use boneless chicken thighs or chicken breasts in this Hawaiian chicken recipe although chicken thighs are more authentic – for a reason. I’ve tried both chicken breasts and thighs (as you can see by the photos) and I prefer chicken thighs hands down and HIGHLY encourage you to use them.
Chicken thighs are juicier, more tender, and richer tasting AKA far superior in every way. Chicken thighs are also hard to overcook which means they’re less likely to dry out initially and stay tender for days even when reheated.
CAN I USE CHICKEN BREASTS?
You can still use chicken breasts in this Hawaiian chicken recipe but you will need to use thin chicken breasts pounded to an even thickness before marinating OR if your chicken breasts are larger, slice them through the equator to create thin fillets. Thin chicken breasts will ensure your chicken is cooked through before it becomes overly charred on the outside due to the honey.
HOW TO MAKE HAWAIIAN CHICKEN
This Hawaiian chicken delivers a dynamic punch of flavor with minimal effort! Are you ready to see just how easy it is to make Hawaiian BBQ chicken? Here’s how:
- Whisk marinade ingredients together. Whisk together the pineapple juice, soy sauce, brown sugar, ketchup, Asian sweet chili sauce, Asian chili sauce and spices in a large freezer bag or bowl.
- Reserve some marinade for basting. Remove ¼ cup marinade and store in a separate airtight container in the refrigerator or I just cover the measuring cup with foil.
- Marinate Hawaiian chicken. Add chicken, remove excess air, seal and turn to coat. Marinate 4-24 hours.
- Cook Hawaiian chicken. You can cook the Hawaiian BBQ chicken on the stove, grill, oven or in the crockpot. I have included instructions for each method below.
HOW LONG DO YOU MARINATE CHICKEN?
Hawaiian chicken is best if marinated for at least 4 hours, but 24 is even best. If you use thin chicken breasts as opposed to chicken thighs, you will want to marinate for less time, about 8-12 hours.
HOW TO COOK HAWAIIAN CHICKEN
You can cook Hawaiian chicken on the grill, in the oven or on the stove so you can enjoy it year-round!
HOW TO GRILL CHICKEN THIGHS
- Generously grease and preheat the grill to medium-high heat, 375-400 degrees F.
- Grill chicken for 6-8 minutes per side, or until chicken is cooked through (an inserted thermometer should read 165-175 degrees F.)
- Bush chicken with reserved marinade the last 5 minutes of grilling.
HOW TO BAKE HAWAIIAN CHICKEN IN THE OVEN
- Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray.
- Add chicken thighs to the baking sheet so they aren’t touching.
- Bake at 375 degrees F for 25-35 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 165-175 degrees F, flipping chicken half way through and basting.
HOW TO BROIL HAWAIIAN CHICKEN IN THE OVEN
- Move oven rack to the top position. Line a baking sheet with foil (not parchment paper or it will burn) and lightly spray with cooking spray.
- Add chicken thighs to the baking sheet so they aren’t touching.
- Broil chicken for 6 minutes on each side (12 minutes total), basting before and after you flip the chicken.
HOW TO COOK HAWAIIAN CHICKEN ON THE STOVE
- Grease an indoor grill pan or heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.
- Working in batches, remove chicken from marinade and let excess marinade drip off. Add chicken and cook, undisturbed for 4-5 minutes, or until nicely browned on one side.
- Turn chicken over and cook an addition 4-5 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 165 -175 F.
HOW TO COOK HAWAIIN CHICKEN IN THE CROCKPOT
- Lightly grease crockpot with nonstick cooking spray.
- Add chicken and all of the marinade/sauce.
- Cook on low for 5-6 hours or on high for 3-4 hours or until chicken is tender enough to shred.
- Remove chicken to a cutting board to shred. Meanwhile, strain any excess liquid from the slow cooker into a small saucepan. Whisk 1 ½ tablespoons cornstarch with 2 tablespoons water and whisk into saucepan.
- Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer until thickened, stirring occasionally.
- Return shredded chicken to slow cooker and toss with thickened sauce. Cook an additional 20-30 minutes on LOW to allow the chicken to absorb even more flavor.
What temperature do you cook chicken thighs?
Chicken thighs are safe to eat when their internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F but they are juicier and more tender when cooked to 170-175 degrees. F. Chicken thighs contain more connective tissue than chicken breasts which takes longer to break down. Cooking them to a higher temperature will ensure that the dark meat becomes even more tender and juicy verses chewy and rubbery.
I highly recommend investing in a meat thermometer otherwise there is no accurate way to check and see when your chicken is cooked without slicing it open and loosing valuable juices.
Can I eat chicken when it’s pink?
Chicken that is pink inside and clearly raw, should not be eaten BUT if you’ve tested your chicken thighs with your meat thermometer and it registers above 165 degrees, it is safe to eat, even if it looks slightly pink. The chicken should still look cooked and have the texture of cooked chicken.
Cooked chicken can still have a pink tint because young chickens (often what we purchase) have porous bones through which bone marrow can permeate, staining the adjacent meat regardless of the final internal temperature of the cooked chicken.
Myoglobin is another reason cooked chicken can sometimes look pink and the reason behind the term “dark meat.” Myoglobin is a pigmented protein that delivers oxygen to cells, the more active the part of the bird, the more myoglobin it receives. Breast meat is white because it is inactive and therefore contains low levels of myoglobin; chicken legs, wings and thighs, are “dark meat” because they contain higher levels of myoglobin because they are more active. Myoglobin can make dark meat appear pinkish when cooked because it can pool in the meat fibers when packaged.
Bottom line – be safe and use a meat thermometer and cook chicken breasts to 165 degrees F and dark meat to 170 -175 degrees F.
TIPS FOR MAKING HAWAIIAN CHICKEN RECIPE
This Hawaiian chicken recipe is pretty straightforward, but here are some tips and tricks to guarantee the perfect chicken every time:
- Use chicken thighs. For the juiciest, most flavorful, succulent Hawaiian chicken, use chicken thighs. If you choose chicken breasts, use fillets.
- Marinate chicken long enough. The longer you marinate the chicken, the more flavorful it will become. That being said, if you use chicken breasts, take care not to over-marinate as they are more prone to breaking down to an unpleasant texture.
- Bring chicken to room temperature before cooking. You always want to let any protein sit at room temperature for 15-30 minutes before cooking (and larger cuts even longer). The logic is that room temperature chicken will cook faster if started at a higher temperature which means the outside is less likely to overcook and less time for moisture to be released while cooking. It also cooks more evenly and you aren’t left with an overcooked exterior and cold interior.
- Clean grill before cooking. You should clean your grill grates before and after grilling with a wire grill brush to remove any residue. This will help create beautiful grill marks and help prevent the chicken from sticking.
- Grease grill or pan very well. For the grill, generously grease the CLEAN grill with a wad of oiled paper towels using tongs; NEVER use spray oils once the grill is on. For a grill pan, use paper towels to coat in oil; if using a skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil before adding the chicken.
- Don’t add chicken until the grill is hot. Heat up the grill with the lid closed so it can achieve temperature more quickly; plan on 10-15 minutes. Don’t add the chicken until the grill reaches temperature or it won’t sear as nicely.
- Use a meat thermometer to check for doneness. Always use a meat thermometer so you don’t undercook or overcook your chicken. A meat thermometer means perfectly cooked, tender, juicy chicken ever time.
- Let chicken rest. After chicken is finished cooking, transfer it to a cutting board and let rest 5-10 minutes before slicing so it has time to reabsorb the juices that have pushed towards the outside of the chicken. If you cut into the chicken immediately after cooking, valuable, moisture-giving juices will run out.
- Get creative! Serve this chicken plain or in grain bowls, salads, pasta salad, sandwiches, even pizza!
WHAT SIDES DO I SERVE WITH HAWAIIAN CHICKEN?
My favorite sides to serve with Hawaiian chicken are grilled pineapple, cilantro lime rice and a fresh salad. The chicken craves the sweetness of the bright pineapple -the two are simply magic together. The chicken also loves the textural counterpart of the cilantro lime rice that is vibrant and flavorful without being overwhelming. Here are some more delicious options to serve with your easy Hawaiian chicken:
- Salsa: one of my favorite ways to serve Hawaiian chicken is with a tropical salsa such as pineapple salsa, pineapple blueberry salsa, mango salsa or strawberry salsa (pictured). The sweet, refreshing fruit is absolutely sensational with the sweet and tangy chicken.
- Rice: serve Hawaiian BBQ chicken with pineapple rice, coconut rice, white rice, brown rice, quinoa, cauliflower rice, broccoli rice to let the chicken truly shine.
- Veggies: roasted, steamed, or stir-fried veggies are fantastic with Hawaiian chicken. I love throwing veggies on the grill alongside the Hawaiian BBQ chicken and pineapple – sweet bell peppers are particularly tasty. Another fun option is veggie skewers. You can also stir fry any veggies from broccoli, to bell peppers, to mushrooms, to carrots, etc. or you can serve with roasted veggies such as Roasted Broccoli, Roasted Cauliflower, Roasted Carrots, Roasted Asparagus, Roasted Brussels Sprouts, or Roasted Squash.
- Salad: you can serve Hawaiian chicken with a simple green salad or Corn Salad, Strawberry Broccoli Salad, Green Bean Salad. Strawberry Salad, Beet Salad, Crunchy Asian Salad, Chinese Salad, or Asian Pineapple Salad.
- Pasta Salad: Hawaiian Macaroni Salad, Po Boy Shrimp Pasta Salad, BLT Pasta Salad, Bacon and Pea Pasta Salad or Mojo Pasta Salad.
- Fruit: simple grilled pineapple is easy and tasty or go a little more exotic with Grilled Pineapple, Pina Colada Fruit Salad, Tropical Fruit Salad, Summer Fruit Salad, Perfect Fruit Salad, Creamy Grape Salad,
- Potluck Favorites: Hawaiian Baked Beans, Baked Mac and Cheese, Potato Salad, Cornbread, Grilled Corn on the Cob and Corn Casserole..
- Appetizers: Hawaiian chicken is scrumptious with my pineapple cream cheese wontons, pineapple cheese ball, bacon wrapped shrimp, corn salsa, baked jalapeno poppers or jalapeno popper dip.
HOW TO SERVE HAWAIIAN CHICKEN RECIPE
This Hawaiian chicken doesn’t just have to be served over rice! Here are a few fun ideas:
- Kabobs: instead of grilling the chicken whole, chop it into chunks and skewer along with pineapple, bell peppers and onions.
- Wraps: serve this chicken in a flatbread with chopped pineapple, lettuce, veggies and any desired toppings.
- Lettuce wraps: go low carb and load bib lettuce leaves with Hawaiian BBQ chicken and veggies and top with avocado crema.
- Tacos: add Hawaiian chicken to a charred tortilla along with black beans and desired toppings such as lettuce, cilantro, guacamole, and a tropical salsa such mango salsa, or pineapple salsa.
- Grain Bowls: add your favorite grains to a bowl and pile with Hawaiian chicken, grilled pineapple and your favorite vegies. The veggies can be grilled or raw such as fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, sprouts etc. Top with sour cream/Greek yogurt or I highly recommend either Tomatillo Avocado Ranch or Cilantro Lime Dressing.
- Salad: pick your favorite greens and load with Hawaiian chicken and your favorite veggies such as sweet grilled corn and peppers. Throw in some cashews or macadamia nuts for crunch and pineapple for sweetness. You can also swap the teriyaki chicken in this salad for Hawaiian chicken with mesmerizing pineapple vinaigrette.
- Stir fry: marinate chopped chicken, remove from marinade then stir fry in a hot skillet; remove once cooked then stir fry veggies. Combine everything together and serve over rice or spaghetti squash.
- Sandwiches: layer Hawaiian rolls with Hawaiian chicken and any of your favorite toppings such as pineapple, lettuce, tomatoes, sprouts, guacamole, bacon, etc.
- Quesadillas: sandwich chicken, Monterrey Jack Cheese, black beans and cilantro in between two flour tortillas and toast in a skilletto golden, cheesy perfection. Serve with pineapple salsa or mango salsa, pico de gallo, avocado crema, or sour cream.
- Fajitas: add some reserved marinade to a bowl of quartered bell peppers and onions and grill alongside the chicken then slice. Pile chicken, peppers/onions in a tortilla and top with guacamole, salsa, sour cream, lime juice and cilantro.
HOW TO STORE AND REHEAT HAWAIIAN CHICKEN
- Storage: cooked Hawaiian chicken can stay fresh in the fridge for 3-5 days but should be frozen beyond that.
- Microwave: reheat for 60 seconds then at 20 second intervals.
- Skillet: heat a drizzle of oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Add chicken with a splash of water, cover, and heat until warmed through, flipping occasionally.
- Oven: transfer chicken to an oven-proof dish. Cover with foil and reheat at 350 degrees F for 10 minutes or just until warmed through.
CAN I MAKE HAWAIIAN CHICKEN AHEAD OF TIME?
Yes! This Hawaiian chicken is just as delicious the next day if you use chicken thighs. You can have a container of cooked chicken in the fridge ready to warm up or serve cold on a salad, sandwich, wraps etc.
HOW TO FREEZE HAWAIIAN CHICKEN
You can freeze the uncooked marinating chicken or cooked chicken.
- Freeze chicken in marinade. Add the chicken to the marinade ingredients and freeze. Freeze for up to 3 months. When you’re ready to use, the chicken will marinate as you defrost the chicken in the refrigerator.
- Freeze chicken. You can also freeze cooked Hawaiian chicken for easy meal prep. After you have cooked the chicken, let it cool completely then transfer it to an airtight container or plastic freezer bag and squeeze out any excess air. Freeze for 2 to 3 months.
HELPFUL TOOLS TO MAKE HAWAIIAN CHICKEN
- Instant-read thermometer: you need an instant-read thermometer for the juiciest chicken, steak and pork AND for perfectly fried everything! It allows you to cook any protein to the perfect temperature every time and allows you to heat oil to the correct temperature for frying.
- Grill brush: is essential for keeping your grill clean! This grill brush with scrapers cleans stubborn stains deeply and efficiently.
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