Are you tired of the same old barbecue sauce? Look no further than this Hawaiian-inspired Huli Huli homemade sauce! This sweet and tangy sauce is perfect for any type of meat, from chicken to pork to beef. This homemade recipe is so easy to make and will be perfect any day of the week! We used our Weber Charcoal Grill to give this recipe its authentic and smokey flavor.
The savory and smokey flavor of this grilled chicken goes perfectly well with my sweet and savory Filipino macaroni salad! Hope you make both and let me know what you think.
Originating in Hawaii, Huli Huli sauce is a sweet and tangy marinade that's perfect for grilling chicken. And the best part? You can make it right at home with just a few simple ingredients. Here's what you'll need:
- Chicken Thighs: you can use any protein like beef, pork, or even shrimp. I like using chicken thighs because it's juicier. I didn't say moist.
- Pineapple Juice: adds a tropical twist to the marinade.
- Aromatics: ginger and garlic add a layer of flavor with a hint of spice to the marinade.
- Ketchup: believe it or not! It lends a tangy richness to the marinade.
- Soy sauce: for a savory and umami-packed flavor profile. And if you want a gluten-free option, check out this soy sauce substitute recipe instead.
- Cooking Sake: this will elevate your Huli Huli chicken from good to absolutely phenomenal. Don't skip this!
- Brown Sugar: for a touch of sweetness that caramelizes beautifully on the grill.
- Rice Vinegar: the acidity balances out the bold flavors in this dish.
- Toasted Sesame Oil: ties up all the flavors and gives your marinade that extra punch of flavor.
- Sriracha and/or Red Pepper Flakes: if you like it spicy, feel free to add some more!
- Green onions or scallions: sprinkled over the grilled chicken for a fresh garnish.
- Salt and Pepper to taste.
Here's a step-by-step guide to a mouthwatering Huli Huli sauce recipe.
STEP 1: Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and whisk until well combined. Reserve ¾ cup of the marinade for basting the chicken while grilling.
STEP 2: Pour the rest of the mixture over your chicken (or pork or beef!) and let it marinate for at least an hour, but preferably overnight.
Step 3: Fire up the grill and get cooking!
STEP 4: Cook until done, basting with extra sauce, and turning every two minutes.*
*Turn the chicken every two minutes for a total of 10 minutes of cooking time. Turning the chicken frequently will keep it from burning and ensure that you'll get tender and juicy chicken with a sweet and savory flavor that will have everyone asking for seconds.
Hint: Once your meat is cooked to perfection, brush on the reserved Huli Huli homemade sauce generously. Let it sit for a few minutes before serving so that the flavors can really soak in.
Here are some friendly and creative substitutions that will help you whip up this mouthwatering huli huli sauce recipe without compromising on taste.
- Swap Pineapple Juice with Orange or Apple Juice: If you're out of pineapple juice, fear not! You can easily substitute it with orange or apple juice to achieve a similar tangy sweetness. While the flavor profile may differ slightly, these alternatives will lend a delightful fruity twist to your Hulu Huli chicken.
- Try Coconut Aminos or Liquid Aminos as an Alternative to Soy Sauce: Coconut Aminos and Liquid Aminos are gluten- and soy-free. You can replace it using a 1:1 ratio. Coconut Aminos do not taste like coconut and have a slightly sweeter taste which will blend nicely with this huli huli marinade.
- Experiment with Different Sweeteners: If you're running low on brown sugar required for that authentic sweet glaze, feel free to experiment with other sweeteners like honey, maple syrup, or agave nectar. These substitutes will add their unique twist while still lending the desired caramelized sweetness. And if you can't find cooking sake, you can substitute by using a 1:1 ratio of Mirin.
- Get Creative with Spices: Don't have fresh ginger or garlic? No problemo! Ground ginger and garlic powder work just as well when making Hulu Huli chicken marinade from scratch. Simply adjust the quantity according to your taste preferences.
- Embrace Chili Flakes instead of Red Pepper Flakes and Hot Sauce for Sriracha: Red pepper flakes are often used to add heat and spice to dishes like Hulu Huli chicken. However, if they're missing from your spice rack, chili flakes or even a few dashes of hot sauce instead of Sriracha can easily step in to deliver that fiery kick you crave.
And since it's homemade, you can adjust the sweetness or saltiness to match your personal preferences. Winning!
The best part about this Huli Huli Homemade Sauce recipe is its versatility.
- Spice it up: Give your huli huli chicken an extra kick by adding different spices and herbs to the marinade or sprinkling them on while grilling. Whether you prefer a smoky flavor with paprika or a zesty twist with chili flakes, let your taste buds guide you.
- Playing with fruits: Incorporate tropical fruits into your huli huli chicken recipe to add a burst of sweetness and juiciness. Pineapple slices are commonly used, but why not try mangoes or even peaches for a unique twist?
- Vegetarian options: For my vegetarian friends, experiment with plant-based alternatives such as tofu or seitan marinated in similar flavors to create a delicious vegetarian version of huli huli "chicken."
- Grilled pineapple salsa: Take your side dish game up a notch by preparing a vibrant grilled pineapple salsa to serve alongside your huli huli chicken. Mix diced grilled pineapple, tomatoes, onions, cilantro, lime juice, and some jalapenos for an irresistible combination.
- Huli-Huli sliders: Get creative by transforming classic burgers into mini-huli-huli-chicken sliders! Serve them on small Hawaiian rolls topped with pineapple rings and teriyaki sauce for bite-sized bursts of flavor. This is a hit among the young ones!
- Sticky rice bowls: Instead of serving the chicken alone, create a hearty meal by making a Huli-Huli Chicken Rice Bowl. Top the rice, with chicken, macaroni salad, pineapple, or mango salsa, watermelon, slices of tomatoes, onions, and radishes. Garnish with green scallions, cilantro, and maybe even some jalapeño rings. Get the chopsticks ready!
With a few simple steps, you can ensure that your leftover huli huli chicken stays fresh, flavorsome, and ready for future enjoyment. Keep these key steps in mind:
- Preparing for Storage: Allow the cooked chicken to cool completely at room temperature.
- Refrigerating Leftover Huli Huli Chicken: If you plan on consuming the leftovers within 3-4 days, refrigeration is an ideal option.
- With meal planning in mind, divide the remaining chicken into individual portions.
- Place each portion in an airtight container or wrap it tightly with plastic wrap.
- Ensure all containers are sealed correctly to prevent air exposure.
- Label each container with the date of storage using masking tape or sticky notes.
- Freezing Leftover Huli Huli Chicken: For long-term preservation (up to 2 months), freezing is your best bet.
- Similar to refrigeration, divide the remaining chicken into meal-sized portions.
- Transfer each portion to freezer-safe bags or containers specifically designed for freezing food.
- Label each container with the date of storage.
"Huli" means to turn in Hawaiian. So the word Huli Huli refers more to the cooking method. If you will note, we turn the chicken every couple of minutes when grilling. 😉
Yes! Baking instead of grilling your huli huli chicken will be just as delicious! Place the chicken pieces in a baking dish and bake at 400° F (204° C) for 20 minutes (or until internal temperature of 170° F or 77° C).
Broil the chicken on high for 2 to 3 minutes after baking, to help caramelize and get the skin slightly charred and crispy.
Other Chicken Recipes
Looking for other chicken recipes? Be sure to try these:
Perfect Side Dishes
These are my favorite dishes to serve with Huli Huli Chicken:
📖 Recipe Card
- 2 pounds Chicken Thighs deboned
- 1 cup Pineapple Juice canned
- 1 inch Fresh Ginger grated
- 3 cloves Fresh Garlic minced
- ½ cup Ketchup
- ½ cup Soy Sauce
- ¼ cup Cooking Sake
- ¼ cup Brown Sugar
- 1 teaspoon Sriracha
- 2 tablespoon Rice Vinegar
- 1 teaspoon Toasted Sesame Oil
- 1 teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes optional
- Mix marinade in a bowl and reserve ¾ cup for basting when grilling chicken.1 cup Pineapple Juice, 1 inch Fresh Ginger, 3 cloves Fresh Garlic, ½ cup Ketchup, ½ cup Soy Sauce, ¼ cup Cooking Sake, ¼ cup Brown Sugar, 1 teaspoon Sriracha, 2 tablespoon Rice Vinegar, 1 teaspoon Toasted Sesame Oil, 1 teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes
- Pour the rest of the mixture over the meat and let it marinate in a bowl or sealed bag container. In the fridge, let it marinate for an hour or overnight for the best flavor.2 pounds Chicken Thighs
- Prepare for grilling. Place the chicken on the grates and set a timer for two minutes. Baste the chicken generously before turning and time it again for another two minutes.
- Repeat the turning and basting process for the meat every two minutes for a total of 10 minutes or 165 degrees for internal temp (chicken). Chicken should have nice grilled marks.
- Marinating time can be as short as 1 hour. I always marinate the meat overnight for a more robust flavor.
- Pre-season the grilling grates by putting some cooking oil on a paper towel and wiping that along the grates to keep the meat from sticking.
- This huli huli marinade can be used on other proteins.
- Serve with steamed rice and Macaroni Salad.