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Huli Huli Chicken

  • Serves: 6
  • Prep Time: 15 min
  • Cook Time: 25 min
  • Calories: 251
homemade grilled huli huli chicken on a plate

Seasoned with a garlicky, ginger-spiked sweet-smoky sauce, this huli huli chicken recipe will carry you straight to the shores of Oahu—at least until dinner’s over.

What Is Huli Huli Chicken?

If you’ve traveled in Hawaii at all, perhaps you’ve smelled it—that enticing smoky, distinctive huli chicken smell billowing from roadside stands, food carts and restaurants all over the islands. Hawaiian huli huli chicken originated in 1955 when Honolulu-based businessman Ernest Morgado whipped up a teriyaki-inspired sauce based on a recipe handed down from his mother. He slathered it all over some grilled chicken, and served it to a large group of local farmers. A bit sticky, sweet and smoky, it was an instant hit. It’s called “huli huli” because huli is the Hawaiian word for “turn” and huli huli chicken is turned constantly as it is cooked. Traditionally, chicken pieces were placed between two grill racks and flipped part-way through the grilling process, but you’ll also often find huli huli chicken in Hawaii cooked on a rotisserie. Our recipe just calls for frequently turning the huli huli chicken pieces as you grill them.

ginger, garlic, ketchup, soy sauce, corn starch, boneless skinless chicken thighs for huli, huli chicken

The Very Best Huli Huli Chicken Sauce!

Huli huli chicken is really just grilled chicken marinated and basted in huli huli sauce—the sauce makes this delicious grilled chicken what it is! And while Ernest Morgado’s original huli huli sauce recipe is a secret, it’s not too hard to achieve a darn delicious huli huli sauce even without his official recipe. Here’s everything you’ll need to make this huli huli sauce recipe:

  • Sesame oil

  • Fresh ginger

  • Fresh garlic

  • Low sodium soy sauce

  • Rice vinegar

  • Brown sugar

  • Ketchup

  • Smoked paprika

  • Cornstarch

minced ginger and garlic in a sauce pan
homemade huli huli sauce in a saucepan

How to Cook Huli Huli Chicken

Our version of huli huli chicken keeps things simple as can be—if you’ve ever made any marinated, grilled chicken, this recipe will feel very familiar. You can mix up the marinade up to a day beforehand if you’d like to work ahead. The chicken can marinate in the huli huli sauce for up to four hours, so it’s a great recipe to cook for friends—by the time everyone comes over, dinner will have been prepped for hours and all you’ll have left to do is spend about 15 minutes at the grill. Here’s how to make huli huli chicken:

  1. Make the huli huli chicken marinade! Sauté ginger and garlic in sesame oil, then add soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, ketchup and smoked paprika. Whisk in a simple cornstarch-water slurry. To thicken the sauce, bring it to a boil and simmer on low until the sauce can coat the back of a wooden spoon. Set aside the huli huli sauce to cool.

  2. Marinate the chicken in the huli huli sauce! Keep 1/2 cup of the homemade huli huli sauce for basting, and toss the rest of the sauce in a big bowl with the chicken thighs to marinate for up to four hours.

  3. Grill the huli huli chicken. In other words, time to huli that chicken! Grill it for about 5 minutes. Turn the chicken thighs, and grill for another five minutes. Baste the chicken thighs with the huli huli sauce, flip and grill it for another two minutes. Baste the chicken thigh pieces again, flip them and grill until the chicken is cooked through. It’s done when you see an internal temperature of 165°F on an instant read thermometer.

boneless, skinless chicken thighs in a bowl marinating in huli huli sauce
grilled boneless skinless chicken thighs with Huli huli sauce

What to Serve With Huli Huli Chicken

Why not lean hard into those beautiful South Pacific vibes and make this huli huli chicken recipe as part of a Hawaiian feast!? We’d serve this huli huli chicken with:

homemade huli huli chicken on a plate

Tools You’ll Need:

More Easy Grilled Chicken Recipes to Try

homemade huli huli chicken on a plate

A Simple Grilled Huli Huli Chicken Recipe To Make Again and Again

It’s easy to taste why Hawaiian huli huli chicken is so beloved—smoky from the grill (enhanced by the addition of smoked paprika) and delightfully sticky-savory from the huli huli chicken sauce. What’s not to love?! We hope this easy huli huli chicken recipe is a huge hit for you. When you try the recipe, let us know how you like it, OK? Share a photo and tag us on Instagram using @themodernproper and #themodernproper so that we can see your stuff! Happy eating!

Huli Huli Chicken

  • Serves: 6
  • Prep Time: 15 min
  • Cook Time: 25 min
  • Calories: 251

Ingredients

  • 2 tsp Sesame oil
  • 1 tsp Grated fresh ginger
  • 2 Large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/3 cup Low sodium soy sauce or tamari
  • 1 Tbsp Rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup Brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup Ketchup
  • 1/2 tsp Smoked paprika
  • 1/4 cup water Water
  • 1 Tbsp cornstarch Cornstarch
  • 2 lbs Boneless, skinless, chicken thighs

Method

  1. Make the marinade. Heat the sesame oil until glistening in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the ginger and garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the soy sauce, rice vinegar, brown sugar, ketchup and smoked paprika, stirring to combine.
  2. In a small bowl, mix the water and cornstarch together to make a slurry. Add the cornstarch slurry to the sauce in the pan, mixing until combined. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium low/low and simmer until the huli huli sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Remove from the heat.
  3. Reserve 1/2 cup of the sauce for basting. Set the remaining marinade aside to cool for 5 minutes. Place the chicken in a large bowl and toss with remaining marinade. Use right away or place the chicken in the fridge to marinate for 30 minutes and up to 4 hours.
  4. Heat a gas grill to medium high. Oil the grill racks. Using tongs, place the marinated chicken on 
the grill and grill for 4-6 minutes on each side. Baste the chicken with the reserved sauce, flip the chicken pieces and grill for 2-4 minutes. Baste the chicken thigh pieces again and flip them. Grill the huli huli chicken until it is cooked through. Look for an internal temperature of 165°F on an instant read thermometer.

Huli Huli Chicken

Questions & Reviews

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  • Laura

    Best chicken I’ve had in years, really really good.