24 Traditional Hawaiian Foods & Where to Find Them in Hawaii (You Must Try!)
Are you trying to decide what to eat in Hawaii? On your next trip to Hawaii, try some of these popular and traditional Hawaiian foods. For the complete list, scroll!
Hawaii is a true fusion of many different cultures and culinary traditions. That is why eating in Hawaii is so much fun!
Along with traditional Hawaiian fare, there are also Hawaiianized versions of foods from the Mainland, Asia, and Europe.
There’s a good chance that you haven’t tried every dish on this list, whether you’re planning your first trip to Hawaii or returning for the fifth time.
I’ve listed some of my favorite traditional Hawaiian foods below that you should consider trying. You’ll discover more about each dish’s ingredients and Hawaii locations.
FAQs about Traditional Hawaiian Foods
What is a traditional Hawaiian breakfast?
Many locals consume fresh Hawaiian fruit, Spam musubi, Portuguese sausage, and Spam and eggs.
What are Hawaiian appetizers called?
They’re known as pupus. Poke, coconut shrimp, kalua pork sliders, and musubi are a few popular pupus.
Why is Spam so popular in Hawaii?
American soldiers first introduced this canned meat to Hawaii during World War II. It quickly gained popularity among locals due to its long shelf life and lack of need for refrigeration.
Does McDonald’s in Hawaii serve Spam?
Absolutely. In all of their Hawaii locations, it has been available since 2002. Saimin is among the other island favorites they have!
24 Traditional Hawaiian Foods You Must Try When Traveling to the Islands
1. Kalua Pork
You probably picture a roasted pig when you think of traditional Hawaiian cuisine. Whole pigs are wrapped in leaves and roasted in an imu, a type of underground oven, in Hawaii.
It’s likely that if you attend a luau in Hawaii, they will perform an imu ceremony during which they will lift a roasted pig out of the imu. Watching it is pretty cool, especially for kids!
Roasted pig is shred into kalua pork. It can taste mild or strongly smoky (especially close to the skin). It is frequently offered as part of a buffet at luaus or served with white rice and poi in restaurants.
In Hawaii, where can I find kalua pork?
Luaus: If you attend a Hawaiian luau on any of the Hawaiian islands, you will undoubtedly have the chance to try Kalua Pork.
Kono’s Northshore: Order a Kalua Pork sandwich from Kono’s if you’re going to the North Shore of Oahu. One of their specialties is it. They also have a location in Waikiki.
Da Kitchen: Da Kitchen is one of the best places on Maui to find delicious Hawaiian cuisine, and their Kalua Pork is outstanding.
Anuenue Cafe: On Kauai, be sure to order the Kalua Pork Eggs Benedict. The Hawaiian breakfast is fantastic!
2. Lomi Lomi Salmon
Salmon Lomi Lomi is another food item from a Hawaiian luau. It’s a Hawaiian side dish that consists primarily of finely chopped onion, tomato, and raw salmon pieces.
It resembles poke almost exactly in size. Typically, it is consumed as a simple plate lunch. It can, however, also be prepared at home and served with chips.
Since there is no citrus juice to “cook” the fish, it is definitely not ceviche.
The dish has been slightly improved in some restaurants using green onions, macadamia nuts, sesame seeds, etc. If you like poke, this is definitely traditional Hawaiian food that you should try.
Where to Find Lomi Lomi Salmon in Hawaii:
Luaus: Almost every luau in Hawaii typically serves a sizable portion of Lomi Lomi salmon.
Helena’s Hawaiian Food: Make sure to try Helena’s Hawaiian food while you’re on Oahu. There are several tasty Lomi Lomi Salmon options available.
Grocery Store: Costco and other big-box retailers in Hawaii carry Taro Brand Lomi Salmon.
3. Chicken Luau
A classic Hawaiian dish known as chicken luau is typically made with beef, taro leaves, and coconut milk. In addition, squid can be used in place of chicken.
You can use spinach instead of taro leaves when preparing Chicken Luau at home. Simply serve the entire meal over rice to complete the meal.
Since Chicken Luau is more of a home-cooked dish, it can be difficult to find restaurants that serve it.
Although Chicken Luau isn’t particularly “Insta-worthy,” it is flavorful and will fill you up.
In Hawaii, where can I find Chicken Luau?
Da Ono Hawaiian Food: is served at this Honolulu restaurant, which also serves squid and chicken luaus.
If you want to try it, Helena’s Hawaiian Food offers the Squid Luau option.
4. Huli Huli Chicken
I’m a little bit addicted to Hawaiian grilled food. I adore the slightly sweeter flavors compared to traditional barbecue! It ranks among the most well-liked foods in Hawaii.
Huli Huli Chicken is among the best options for Hawaiian chicken. In Hawaiian, the word “Huli Huli” means “to turn.” Therefore, this chicken is covered in Hawaiian barbecue sauce and repeatedly turned while cooking.
In Hawaii, where can I find Huli Huli Chicken?
Pedestrian Stands: By the side of the road, usually as a fundraiser, is one of the best places to find genuine Huli Huli Chicken. Additionally, Miguel’s Flippin’ Ono Chicken is available in a number of locations on Oahu.
Huli Chicken by Mike: Visit the Huli Huli Chicken restaurant on Oahu’s North Shore if you want to try a dish that has appeared on Food Paradise and Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.
If you happen to be in Kihei, Maui, be sure to stop by Maui Rotisserie Chicken, which frequently has a line (so you know it’s good!)
5. Chicken Long Rice
One of my favorite Hawaiian comfort foods is chicken long rice. Similar to chicken noodle soup in flavor but with a stronger emphasis on the noodles
It is a Chinese noodle soup adapted to Hawaii. Rice noodles, chicken thighs, ginger, garlic, and soy sauce are the ingredients in this dish. It’s flavorful and very flavorful.
It is typically served as a side dish at Hawaiian luaus, but it can also stand alone as a meal. Even more broth can be added to transform the dish into chicken long rice soup.
In Hawaii, where can I find chicken long rice?
Haili’s Hawaiian Food: You can get all kinds of Hawaiian food at this fantastic Oahu restaurant, including Chicken Long Rice.
Young’s Fish Market: On Oahu, Young’s Fish Market is a great location for grab-and-go meals, including Chicken Long Rice.
Tin Roof Maui: On Maui, Tin Roof Maui is a fantastic place to find delicious Hawaiian comfort food.
6. Manapua (aka Char Siu Bao)
You’ve probably seen those fluffy white buns filled with barbecue pork if you’ve ever had Chinese dim sum. They are delicious and are referred to as Char Siu Bao.
During Hawaii’s plantation era, manapua first gained popularity, and it has since spread throughout the islands. Initially a Char Siu Bao, it gradually changed into a larger bun with a variety of fillings, including curried chicken and hot dogs.
We continue to prefer the standard barbecue pork filling. Manapua is a big hit with kids, in our experience! The ideal lunch for Hawaii on a budget, too!
In Hawaii, where can I find Manapua?
Sing Cheong Yuan: One of the best places to find Manapua on Oahu is at Sing Cheong Yuan, a bakery in Honolulu’s Chinatown.
Manapua Creations: This Maui-based company is renowned for its distinctive Manapua flavors, which include Philly Cheesesteak and Spam Musubi.
Grocery Stores: We frequently buy a bag of frozen Manapua (the microwave-heatable variety) and prepare them for quick lunches or occasionally even breakfast.
7. Lau Lau
Lau Lau is another well-known traditional Hawaiian dish. It consists of pork or fish wrapped in taro and ti leaves, which is then steamed for a long time. The meat acquires an earthy flavor as a result of the prolonged steaming in the leaves.
You must unwrap it in order to access the meat inside because it is served still covered in ti leaves. You can eat the taro leaves if you’d like, but the ti leaves aren’t edible.
It is occasionally offered as a component of a Hawaiian plate lunch along with foods like salmon and poi. On other occasions, it will simply come with rice and macaroni salad.
These days, you might also encounter chicken or beef lau lau. Finding these local specialties in Hawaii can be challenging.
Where in Hawaii Can I Find Lau Lau?
Highway Inn: On specific days of the week, you can stop by the Highway Inn in Kakaako, Oahu, and watch them make the Lau Lau by hand.
Kaaloa’s Super J’s: Super J’s of Kaaloa: This roadside eatery on the Big Island, which specializes in Lau Lau, was highlighted on Food Network’s The Best Thing I Ever Ate.
Lahaina Fish Co: Scallops, mahi mahi, and shrimp are included in the upscale Seafood Lau Lau at Lahaina Fish Co. in Maui.
8. Tripe Stew
In Hawaii, this stew with tomatoes is quite well-liked. It is made from tripe, which is the lining of a cow’s stomach.
Along with the typical stew ingredients like potatoes and carrots, it also contains a small amount of ginger. Some individuals eat it with rice or poi.
I personally prefer beef stew, which is my favorite Hawaiian stew, but my husband and his family really enjoy this dish. Whenever we visit eateries that specialize in Hawaiian cuisine, they frequently order it.
Hawaii’s Best Places to Find Tripe Stew
O’ahu Grill: The authentic Hawaiian cuisine served at O’ahu Grill is made from recipes that have been handed down through the generations.
Lynn’s Saimin and Cookie Shop: For those who prefer their tripe stew without a lot of filler, Lynn’s Saimin and Cookie Shop on Oahu is the ideal choice (aka too many potatoes and carrots.)
Dani’s Restaurant: This Kauai restaurant, Dani’s, is well-known for its excellent tripe stew.
9. Beef Stew
With the exception of minor variations like soy sauce, this is very similar to any beef stew you might find. Additionally, the meat and vegetables are cut into much larger pieces than you would find elsewhere.
I believe that the fact that Hawaiian Beef Stew is typically consumed with a serving of macaroni salad and rice helps to explain why it tastes so different from other beef stews. The flavor pairing is incredible.
I have to order Hawaiian Beef Stew whenever I see it on a menu. One of my all-time favorite Hawaiian dishes, it simply fills the void.
Hawaii’s Best Places to Find Beef Stew
Mark’s Place: My favorite greasy spoon on Kauai is Mark’s Place, and my go-to meal there is their beef stew. It’s amazing!
Rainbow Drive-In: When I’m on Oahu and see beef stew on the menu, I always order it at Rainbow Drive-In. Very tasty!
Meg’s Drive In: Meg’s Drive In is a restaurant on the island of Oahu that serves beef stew.
The main component of the traditional Hawaiian dish poi is cooked taro root that has been ground into a paste and allowed to ferment.
If you only eat a spoonful of it, it has a somewhat sour flavor. Some luaus even refer to it as “wallpaper paste.”
But one of the most underappreciated Hawaiian dishes is poi. I believe the reason is that visitors mistakenly believe it to be a standalone meal. Consider it more like a condiment instead.
You’ll completely understand why people adore it if you dip your meat or fish into the poi because it will bring out an additional layer of flavor.
If all else fails, you can always make it into a sweet pudding by adding milk and sugar. Please refrain from passing judgment!
Poi Locations in Hawaii
Waiahole Poi Factory: On Oahu, they craft incredible hand-pounded poi, and you can even join a tour to see how they do it.
Hanalei Taro & Juice Co.: You can get Poi, Lomi Lomi Salmon, and Kalua Pig layered in a small bowl at Hanalei Taro & Juice Co. on the North Shore of Kauai. Wow, that’s amazing!
Any Luau: At your luau, a sizable vat of poi will probably be present. Even though this isn’t the best stuff, it’s still worth trying. Do not forget to consume it with your Kalua Pig.
11. Macaroni Salad
Macaroni salad may be a mainstay of barbecues on the Mainland, but Hawaii has made it a third of their renowned Plate Lunch. You will receive meat, two scoops of rice, and one scoop of macaroni salad when ordering a plate lunch in Hawaii.
Additionally, it has variations. A tuna macaroni salad with green peas is one of my favorites. That stuff I could eat a whole container of in one sitting.
The potato macaroni salad is also a favorite of mine. Yes, it essentially just involves combining macaroni salad and potato salad, but it is incredibly delicious.
The mayonnaise, not the macaroni noodles, is the essential component. For the salad to truly stand out, it needs to be made with the best ingredients.
Hawaii’s Best Places to Find Macaroni Salad:
Zippy’s: The macaroni salad that this Hawaiian restaurant chain serves pairs well with everything they serve.
W&M Bar-B-Q: This mom-and-pop restaurant on the island of Oahu is known for its crab-flavored macaroni salad. Yum!
Grocery Stores: Any grocery store in Hawaii has a tub (or two) that you can always purchase.
You’ve probably heard about the poke craze that has swept the Mainland unless you’ve been living under a rock.
Poke is diced, marinated sashimi made in the Hawaiian style from raw fish. Typically, it’s octopus, salmon, or ahi (tuna).
You can eat it by itself, in a Poke Taco, a popular Poke Bowl (Poke and toppings over rice), or scoop it up with chips.
Poke Locations in Hawaii
Yama’s Fish Market: On the island of Oahu, Yama’s Fish Market is well-known for its ahi and octopus poke.
Fish Express: On Kauai, this is a great place to get poke.
Costco: I mean it. Typically, you can find a wide variety of poke at a great price.
13. Loco Moco
Chicken Long Rice are two dishes that come to mind when I think of Hawaiian comfort food. It’s gotten better and better since we first started eating it as children.
The most basic Loco Moco consists of a bed of rice with a hamburger patty, a fried egg, and gravy on top.
But over the past ten years, Hawaiian eateries have added their own spins, such as substituting the white rice for fried rice (or even kimchee fried rice), serving it as Hawaiian Poutine on a bed of fries, and including fresh ginger.
In Hawaii, my husband always orders this for breakfast (and I sneak about 5 bites because it’s so delicious).
Loco Moco Locations in Hawaii
Cafe 100: This Hilo cafe now offers 30 different varieties of loco moco, which is where it all began!
Mark’s Place: My husband’s favorite place to get loco moco in Kauai is here.
Da Kitchen The Notorious B.I.G. Moco, a regular Loco Moco with chili, mushrooms, Spam, bacon, Portuguese sausage, and cheese, is available on Maui. Not for the weak-hearted!
Saimin is yet another Chinese-style soup. This typically refers to a noodle soup in broth with sliced fish cake and strips of grilled pork in Hawaii.
Not Japanese Ramen, though. The flavor is entirely different, and the noodles aren’t the same.
In Hawaii, there are many restaurants that serve Saimin, and some of them have toppings like Chinese wontons, Spam, Portuguese sausage, and thinly sliced fried eggs.
Where to Find Saimin in Hawaii:
Saimin Palace: This Oahu dive bar is known for its Hawaiian saimin, and the trip is always worthwhile!
Shige’s Saimin Stand: This Saimin shop makes its own noodles and is situated in a strip mall on Oahu.
McDonalds: Although the saimin there isn’t the best in Hawaii, it is quick and satisfying (especially if you add in soy sauce.)
15. Spam Musubi
Spam Musubi is one of the most recognizable Hawaiian snacks. It is the Hawaiian equivalent of sushi, but the protein is Spam rather than fish.
A slice of fried Spam is placed on top of a rectangular block of rice, which is then wrapped in seaweed. In most cases, they are wrapped in Saran wrap and are available all over Hawaii.
Most restaurants either marinate the Spam or top it with a special teriyaki sauce. Some people even add furikake to their rice.
These are consumed by people as a quick lunch, a snack, or for breakfast. They are ideal for driving around the islands or going to the beach.
Insider tip: A little mayonnaise on each bite is the secret to pure heaven.
Hawaii’s Best Places to Find Spam Musubi:
Musubi Cafe Iyasume: The Oahu-based Musubi Cafe Iyasume offers a wide variety of delectable musubi, including several variations on the classic Spam Musubi.
Da Kitchen: This Maui restaurant is known for its incredible deep-fried Spam Musubi.
7-11: This local branch of the national convenience store chain is where you can get the best Spam Musubi, as well as Mochiko Chicken Musubi and other varieties.
16. Garlic Shrimp
You cannot miss all the shrimp trucks if you are traveling to Oahu’s North Shore. There will be groups of food trucks, and the ones with long lines will be selling fresh shrimp from Hawaii.
You’ll be welcomed by the aroma of melted butter and sizzling garlic as soon as you arrive. We waited for our plates of garlic shrimp for up to an hour, but it was totally worth it!
The shrimp in Hawaii are, in my opinion, slightly sweeter than the shrimp we typically find on the Mainland, which is what makes them so delicious. That holds true particularly for Kauai shrimp.
Hawaii’s Best Places to Find Garlic Shrimp
Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck: We have always been impressed by this shrimp truck on Oahu’s North Shore, which is essentially where it all began.
Romy’s Kahuku Prawns & Shrimp: We’ve started eating here instead of Giovanni’s in recent years, and the food is delicious!
Shrimp Station: If you’re going to Kauai, you must visit Shrimp Station in Waimea. We typically order one plate each of their garlic shrimp and coconut shrimp to share.
17. Kalbi Ribs
The Hawaiian-style short ribs have a much sweeter sauce and were influenced by Korean Kalbi Ribs. They are prepared so that the only bony areas are tiny oval discs; the rest is all meat.
Some locations will simply pan fry it, which is acceptable. But the best restaurants will grill it so that there are tiny bits of charred edges, which elevates it.
It’s frequently available for dinner, but some restaurants also serve it for plate lunch.
Try eating some kalbi along with some rice and macaroni salad for the ultimate in bliss!
In Hawaii, where can you find kalbi ribs?
Da Kitchen: On Maui, at Da Kitchen, the portions are enormous and the kalbi is to die for!
Guava Smoked: This Oahu restaurant, Guava Smoked, only serves lunch but offers a wide variety of Hawaiian barbecue, including some delectable Kalbi Ribs.
South Shore Grill: on Oahu is a great place to get a Kalbi Plate Lunch.
This beloved Hawaiian sweet is a thick pudding that is cut into slices. It’s brownish/purplish in color and made from taro, sugar, and coconut milk.
Typically, the taro flavor is not as strong as the coconut flavor. A little chewy, but not quite as chewy as mochi, is the consistency.
Even though it’s not the most flavorful Hawaiian dessert, it’s worth trying a piece just to see how it tastes.
Since taro is used to make both Kulolo and Poi, you can frequently find Kulolo being sold at Poi factories. They occasionally appear at fundraising events or on roadside stands.
In Hawaii, where can you find Kulolo?
Kapaa Poi Factory: The oldest commercial kulolo factory in Hawaii is located on the island of Kauai, and the Kapaa Poi Factory still uses the original recipe that has been handed down through the generations.
Waiahole Poi Factory: This restaurant on the island of Oahu offers its Kulolo with ice cream for an amazing pairing!
Grocery Stores: The bakery section of grocery stores is typically where you can find a small package of Kulolo. They also offer Kulolo mixes that can be customized.
Haupia is great if you like coconut. This traditional Hawaiian dessert is a square of firm coconut pudding or Jello. It’s incredibly light and energizing.
Although restaurants occasionally add some toasted shredded coconut on top, most of the time it is served plain.
Additionally, making it from scratch or using a mix is very simple.
Where to Find Haupia in Hawaii?
Plate Lunch Restaurants: This is a very popular dessert wherever Plate Lunch is sold.
Luaus: One of the most popular luau desserts is this.
Grocery Stores: You can make your own Haupia using the mixes sold there.
20. Coconut Cream Pie
In Hawaii, cream pies are very well-liked. I’m referring to classic, diner-style pie slices.
Although there are many Hawaiian cream pies made with tropical fruits, Coconut Cream Pie is the most well-known. In restaurants and bakeries, it’s frequently referred to as “Haupaia Pie,” and occasionally a traditional pie crust or a macadamia nut crust is used in its preparation.
It’s a delicious way to end a Hawaiian meal and is served cold.
Hawaii’s Best Places to Find Coconut Cream Pie:
Ted’s Bakery: This is one of Oahu’s busiest pie shops, and their Haupia Pie is exceptional.
Ani’s Bake Shop: If you want to try Chocolate Haupia Pie or their renowned Sweet Potato Haupia Pie, make the trip to Ani’s Bake Shop on Oahu.
Leoda’s Kitchen & Pie Shop: The place to get pie on Maui is Leoda’s Kitchen & Pie Shop in Lahaina.
The Malasadas are the most well-known Hawaiian dessert. In Hawaii, these Portuguese doughnuts are now among the most popular breakfast foods.
It’s usually rolled in white sugar and resembles a big donut hole (about the size of a fist). These are fried, and fresh is unquestionably best. (While you could reheat them in the microwave, it wouldn’t be the same.)
The Malasadas at Leonard’s Bakery on Oahu are the best. They have been producing them for many years and now offer a variety of delicious tropical fruit fillings.
Malasadas Locations in Hawaii
Leonard’s Bakery: Every morning, there is typically a long line out the door, but it is totally worth it!
KTA Bakery: Fresh Malasadas with delectable fillings like lilikoi, banana cream, and ube are made by the Big Island grocery store chain KTA Bakery.
Kamehameha Bakery: The best place to try Poi Malasadas on Oahu is at Kamehameha Bakery. Oh my goodness!
22. Coco Puffs
Hawaiian cream puff pastries called Coco Puffs are filled with chocolate pudding. These delicate pastries have a Chantilly frosting made with buttery macadamia nuts on top.
Despite being kept cold, they still melt in your mouth after taking a bite. Undoubtedly a wonderful breakfast treat!
Liliha Bakery on Oahu is the Hawaiian bakery most well-known for its Coco Puffs. Although they have a variety of cream puffs, their Coco Puffs are what made them famous.
Hawaii Locations to Find Coco Puffs:
Liliha Bakery: The best Coco Puffs are made at the Liliha Bakery on Oahu.
T Komoda Store & Bakery: If you’re traveling the Road to Hana on Maui, be sure to stop at T Komoda Store & Bakery for a variety of treats, including their cream puffs.
23. Butter Mochi
If you enjoy Japanese mochi, you’ll adore the Hawaiian version, which is called butter mochi. As the name suggests, there is a ton of butter in it, making it a rich, chewy treat!
Additionally, it contains mochiko flour and coconut milk, and occasionally, toasted coconut shreds are sprinkled on top. After baking, it is cut into squares in a big pan.
Hawaii Locations to Find Butter Mochi:
Diamond Head Market & Grill: While this Oahu restaurant has a ton of delicious food options, I suggest trying their Butter Mochi.
Kahuku Farms: With new flavors, this North Shore restaurant on Oahu elevates Butter Mochi!
Farmers Markets: You can find Butter Mochi at at least one stand at every Farmers Market in Hawaii. Simply buy it!
24. Hawaiian Shave Ice
Shave Ice should be your one and only indulgence while visiting Hawaii.
That’s not a snow cone, either. The ice is finely shaved, which makes the texture when combined with the syrup almost creamy. This is the biggest difference.
Over the last ten or so years, an increasing number of Shave Ice stands have started to offer organic syrups made with fresh fruit juices and tons of new toppings.
Shave Ice Locations in Hawaii
Wishing Well Shave Ice: Best Wishes My favorite place to get shave ice on Kauai uses organic syrups and tops it with fresh fruit.
Matsumoto’s Shave Ice: People have been coming to Matsumoto’s Shave Ice, the most well-known location for shave ice on Oahu’s North Shore, for decades.
Ululani’s Shave Ice: My top choice for the best shave ice on Maui is Ululani’s.
Traditional Hawaiian Foods Summary
You should now be aware of a few Hawaiin specialties that you should order on your upcoming visit. You can add a ton of delicious Hawaii foods to your food bucket list!
Your taste buds are in for a real treat in the islands, from traditional Hawaiian cuisine to specialty Hawaii cuisine!
Topic: 24 Traditional Hawaiian Foods & Where to Find Them in Hawaii (You Must Try!)
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By: Travel Pixy