Huli Huli Chicken (Baked or Grilled) (+ Video!)

Transport you and your loved ones to Hawaii with Grilled or Baked Huli Huli Chicken!  Its bursting with sweet and savory Hawaiian teriyaki deliciousness from a dynamite pineapple, soy, brown sugar marinade that doubles as your sweet and sticky glaze (no double work!) and a spice rub that elevates this chicken to a whole new level of jaw dropping delicious.  With the marinade, spice rub and glaze, this might just be the best Huli Huli Chicken ever.  But I’ll let you decide.

Huli Huli Chicken Recipe Video

Huli Huli Chicken with green onions.

What Does ‘Huli Huli’ Mean in Hawaiian?

Have you heard of Huli Huli Chicken?  It has been on my To Make “Bucket List” for ages, and I am thrilled I finally get to cross it off that list, because that means I finally got to devour my version of the best Huli Huli Chicken!

Huli Huli Chicken gets its name from the Hawaiian word, “huli” which means to turn or reverse.  This is appropriate because the Hawaiian favorite chicken, gets turned over on a grate, to rotate which part of the chicken is closest to the flame, similar to a rotisserie.

What Is Huli Huli Chicken?

Huli Huli Chicken originated from Hawaii around 1955 when Ernest Morgado of Pacific Poultry barbecued his version of teriyaki chicken in a very unique way.

Rather than flipping scores of chicken pieces by piece when catering an event, Morgado, “sandwiched the meat between two mesh grates, and, with the help of an assistant, flipped the whole contraption. Sort of Hawaiian rotisserie. When it was time to turn, he would shout “huli” which is Hawaiian for “turn” to his assistant who would shout “huli” back, grab the handles on the other side of the grates, and turn the chicken over, lickety split. Huli-Huli Chicken was born.” (AmazingRibs.com)

Everyone went crazy for this Huli Huli Chicken and it became a favorite Hawaiian staple, served everywhere from roadside stands and parking lots, to restaurants and fundraisers.

Huli Huli Chicken with steel tongs picking up the chicken breast.

Huli Huli Chicken Ingredients

This Hawaiian huli huli chicken recipe has two main flavoring agents: the huli huli sauce and the spice rub that gets rubbed all over the chicken.

  • Chicken thighs: I love the moistness of bone-in chicken thighs, and they are wonderfully economical, but feel free to use any cut of chicken you prefer and adjust cooking time accordingly.  Just be aware that the leaner the meat, the less juicy.
  • Spices: The homemade spice blend features a mixture of paprika, ginger, onion powder, cumin, and more!
  • Pineapple juice: 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.
  • Ketchup: Try to buy organic ketchup or one that’s not sweetened with corn syrup.
  • Soy sauce: Use reduced sodium soy sauce or your huli huli sauce will be too salty.
  • Light brown sugar: Adds some sweetness and caramelizes beautifully when grilled.
  • Worcestershire sauce: A couple tablespoons is all it takes to impart a great umami flavor.
  • Apple cider vinegar: Provides the fruity, tangy balance to the soy sauce.
  • Dijon mustard: I’m sure yellow mustard or a stone ground mustard would work here too.
  • Sriracha sauce: Add more if you like things spicy.

Ingredient Variations

  • I use 1 teaspoon ground ginger because it is such a small amount, but you may substitute with 2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger.  
  • You may substitute with rice wine vinegar or white vinegar if that’s all you have on hand. White vinegar has more acidic than apple cider vinegar, so only use 1 tablespoon. 
  • If gluten-free, use reduced sodium tamari or a gluten-free soy sauce alternative.
Showing how to make Huli Huli Chicken cooking chicken on a pan.

How to Make Huli Huli Chicken

Huli Huli Sauce itself was originally a teriyaki sauce, but has morphed into a Hawiian Teriyaki sauce often with a base of pineapple juice.  For my Huli Huli chicken, I kept the pineapple, soy, brown sugar base but wanted the chicken to taste more mulit-dimensional and not just like a big bite of Huli Huli Sauce, so I whipped up a Spice Mix of paprika, ground ginger, onion powder, garlic powder, chili powder, cumin, cayenne, salt and pepper.

You whisk this together then add 1 tablespoon Spice Mix to your marinade of pineapple juice, soy sauce, brown sugar, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, apple cider vinegar, Dijon and Sriracha.  Now we’re talking savory, sweet, tangy with just the right kick.  We reserve some of the marinade to later thicken into our out of this world glaze.

After the chicken has marinated, it gets smothered in our Spice mix and then either grilled or seared and baked indoors and finally bathed in our beautiful, intensely flavored glaze to create juicy bite after bite of uniquely sweet and savory, pineapple Huli Huli Chicken.  Because you deserve to transport yourself to Hawaii year round.

Tips for Making Huli Huli Chicken

  • Where to marinate: Always marinate chicken for a prolonged period of time in the refrigerator, never on the counter. You can marinate on the counter for 30 minutes to help bring the chicken to room temperature and cook evenly, but no longer.
  • Reusing marinade: Never reuse marinade used for raw chicken or meat unless you boil it first to destroy any harmful bacteria.
  • Cook it safely: Be sure to use a food thermometer and cook protein to a safe minimum internal temperature.
Cooked Huli Huli Chicken with pine apple on a plate.

How to Prep Huli Huli Chicken in Advance

The huli huli chicken can be made the night before and allowed to marinate overnight.

How to Store Huli Huli Chicken

This Hawaiian huli huli chicken can be stored in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

Can I Freeze Huli Huli Chicken?

You can freeze either the huli huli sauce or the cooked huli huli chicken.

  • Marinade: Whisk together, add to a freezer bag, label and freeze for up to 3 months.
  • Chicken: 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.

How to Reheat Huli Huli Chicken

  • From frozen: Thaw huli huli Chicken in the refrigerator overnight.  You can also defrost in the microwave but take care to defrost slowly so your chicken doesn’t get rubbery.
  • From fridge: You can warm chicken in a skillet on the stove top or in the microwave at 30-second intervals. Take care not to overcook or it will become dry. You can also reheat in the oven for 10 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit, or just until warmed through.
Brushing sauce over top of Huli Huli Chicken.

What to Serve with Huli Huli Chicken

My favorite side to serve with Hawaiian huli huli chicken is steamed rice.  The chicken is so flavorful that the rice offers a neutral, textural counterpart that sops up the delicious teriyaki sauce. 

Here are some more delicious options to serve with your easy teriyaki chicken:

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©Carlsbad Cravings by CarlsbadCravings.com

Grilled OR BAKED! Huli Huli Chicken is bursting with sweet and savory Hawaiian teriyaki flavor that is out of this world!  The marinade doubles as the incredible glaze and the spice rub takes this chicken to a whole new level of amazing!!

Huli Huli Chicken (Grilled or Baked) (+VIDEO!)

Transport you and your loved ones to Hawaii with Grilled or Baked Huli Huli Chicken! Its bursting with sweet and savory Hawaiian teriyaki deliciousness from a dynamite pineapple, soy, brown sugar marinade that doubles as your sweet and sticky glaze (no double work!) and a spice rub that elevates this chicken to a whole new level of jaw dropping delicious. With the marinade, spice rub and glaze, this might just be the best Huli Huli Chicken ever. But I’ll let you decide.
Servings: 6 -10
Prep Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • 4-5 pounds bone-in skinless chicken thighs
  • cup olive oil

Spice Mix

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 tsp EACH ground ginger, onion pwdr, garlic pwdr, chili pwdr
  • 1/2 tsp EACH ground cumin, salt
  • 1/4 tsp EACH EACH pepper, cayenne pepper

Huli Huli Sauce

Instructions

Marinate

  • Mix the Spice Mix seasonings together in a medium bowl. Remove one tablespoon Spice Mix and add to a large bowl. Reserve remaining spices for your Spice Rub later.
  • Add all Huli Huli Sauce ingredients to the 1 tablespoon spice mix. Whisk to combine. Remove ½ cup of this Sauce and add to a large freezer bag along with ⅓ cup olive oil.
  • Add chicken to freezer bag, remove excess air, seal and turn to coat. Marinate 4 hours up to overnight. Refrigerate remaining sauce separately and reserved spices in an airtight container.

Spice Rub

  • When ready to grill, remove chicken and dab off excess marinade and place on a baking sheet. Discard marinade. Mix reserved spices with 2 tablespoons olive oil and rub evenly over both sides of chicken. Let sit 15-20 minutes.

Glaze

  • Meanwhile, remove ¼ cup Huli Huli Sauce to baste chicken while grilling. Simmer the remaining sauce for approximately 10 minutes or until reduced and slightly thickened, stirring occasionally. It will thicken more upon standing.

GRILL

  • Grease and heat grill to medium heat. Add chicken, cover, and cook 6-8 minutes per side, or until no longer pink and an inside thermometer registers 165 degrees F. Baste chicken with reserved ¼ cup Sauce the last 5 minutes.
  • Slather cooked chicken with Huli Huli Glaze and garnish with green onions if desired. Serve with remaining sauce.

STOVETOP/OVEN

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Heat one tablespoon olive oil over medium high heat. Add chicken (you will need to work in batches), and sear 2-3 minutes per side.
  • Add chicken to a foil lined, greased 9×13 pan (for easy cleanup), COVER with foil, and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil cover, baste with ¼ cup reserved marinade and continue to cook, uncovered an additional 15-20 minutes OR until an inside thermometer registers 165 degrees F at the thickest part of the chicken.
  • Slather cooked chicken with Huli Huli Glaze and garnish with green onions if desired. Serve with remaining sauce.

Video

Notes

Don’t miss the “how to make” recipe video at the top of the post!
***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.

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28 Comments

  1. Cat says

    Hey Jen! This sounds amazing and delicious, but what should I serve it with?
    Sorry if that is a silly question.
    Cat

    • Jen says

      Thanks Cat, and not a sill question! I would serve it with rice, fresh or grilled pineapple and either and either some sort of salad or simple stir fried veggies. Hope that helps!

  2. Laurie Giovanetto says

    Found you through article in Country Living about pumpkin recipes along with others. This is a really lovely site with great recipe ideas and great photos! Didn’the think much left to impress at 67yrs but you succeeded! We only eat fish, poultry, tofu, veggies at home as my daughter has ethical objections to mammals and I am battling bad blood sugars. Already excited by Cajun Honey Mustard and Hulu Hulu chicken! Haven’the even looked at pumpkin recipes. Thanks!

    • Jen says

      Hi Laurie, welcome to my site, I’m so happy you stumbled upon it! Thank you so much for your kind words! I absolutely love cooking and sharing and love an appreciative audience 🙂 I hope you love the Cajun Honey Mustard Chicken and Huli Huli Chicken – you have great taste 🙂

    • Jen says

      Yes, absolutely perfect, everyone will love it! thank you!

  3. Barb says

    Cant wait to impress my company on our vacation, where we all take turns cooking for a large group !!!
    Thanks for all the different ideas !!!

    • Jen says

      You are so welcome, I can’t wait to hear how much everyone loves it! Have fun!

  4. Therese says

    Hi Jen, Made this a couple weeks ago and my family LOVED LOVED it!!!! They talked about it for days after. 🙂 You know it’s good when all they think about is when are we having it again!!

    • Jen says

      Thank you so so much Therese! You comment is some of the first feedback I’ve received on my actual site (other than IG/FB), so I SO appreciate hearing how much your family loved it, that is awesome!

  5. Susan says

    Thank you once again for an awesome recipe. My family absolutely loved it! Loved the glaze on the chicken, made it oh so tasty.

    • Jen says

      You are so welcome Susan, I’m so happy it was a hit with the whole family! Thank you!

  6. Nicole says

    Thank you for this amazing recipe! I have had it not once, not twice but 3 times this week! I love it! One of those time was for a crowd of 20 and everyone loves it ams asked for the recipe 🙂 I served mine with coconut rice and steamed broccoli amd it went really well! 🙂 This will definely be making my favorites list!

    • Jen says

      That combination sounds delicious Nicole! I am so glad all of you guys enjoyed it, I hope you can find more tasty sides to pair with the chicken 🙂

  7. Jessi says

    Amazing!! One of my favorites to cook for large crowds at our BBQs!!! Also great with tenderloins broiled!

    • Jen says

      Awesome Jessi, I’m so happy its a favorite and delicious with tenderloins too!

  8. Bobby DeCuir says

    I must admit your recipe of Huli Huli Chicken is the fifth version I’ve looked over and the only one which wasn’t a copy cat of all four previous ones! Your version has caught my eye and I look forward to making this. Thank you for posting an original version.

    • Jen says

      Wow, that’s amazing there are so many similar versions! Never any copycat recipes here – I just love to create! I hope you absolutely love this recipe!

    • Jen says

      Thanks so much Adriane, I’m so pleased it was such a hit!

  9. Kimo says

    Hi Jen,

    I grew up in Hawaii so I know first hand about Huli-Huli Chicken but I’ve never prepared it on my own and your recipe just looks amazing so I can’t wait to try it.

    What method of cooking would you recommend for my first go-around, Grilling or Oven?

    If grilling is your recommendation, we would use Kiawe Wood from the trees on the island for authentic Hawaiian smoke flavor but unfortunetly I live on the mainland now and there’s none to be found. Any suggestions?

    • Jen says

      Hi Kimo, my apologies for this late response as I’m just catching up on comments but I hope you loved this Huli Huli Chicken! I would recommend grilling for smoky flavor and you can certainly use a gas grill instead of wood and it will still be delicious!

  10. Katherine Dietz says

    What can i use instead of the Sriracha sauce?
    Thanks
    Katherine

    • Jen says

      I like sambal oelek (chili sauce with the green lid) or you can use another favorite chili hot sauce to taste.

  11. Layne says

    Chicken and rice is probably my fav dinner ever and this one didn’t disappoint! Loved that glaze and juicy flavor in the chicken!

    • Jen says

      You speak my love language- they are my fav too! I’m so happy this Huli Huli Chicken was a winner! Thanks Layne! xxo

  12. Lindsey says

    This was delicious! Even our children liked it. (Pleasing everyone is no easy feat.) I had to chuckle while we were eating because I kept hearing quiet mmmmm’s coming from my husband. He didn’t even realize he was doing it. It was just that good. Thanks for a great recipe!

    • Jen says

      Thanks for your awesome comment Lindsey, I’m so pleased it was a hit with everyone! I love visualizing your husband “mmms” -it reminds me of What about Bob ;).

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