Hawaiian BBQ Chicken Recipe – Sweet and savory Huli Huli Chicken is easy to prep ahead with delicious and simple pineapple, soy, and ginger marinade. Grill the marinated chicken for just 10 minutes and serve as a yummy dinner any night of the week!

Top down view of sticky chicken pieces topped with chopped scallions and grilled slices of pineapple.

Why We Love This Huli Huli Recipe

Get ready to meet your new favorite summertime dinner! Huli Huli Chicken is a fabulous traditional Hawaiian chicken recipe that is marinated in a sweet and savory sauce, then grilled. Although you will find huli chicken recipes online with dozens of ingredients, we have honed in our recipe to include only the most important ingredients to get the biggest bang for the buck. The combo of simple ingredients like pineapple juice, ketchup, soy sauce, and ginger creates a zippy marinade with irresistible flavor… Plus, the sugars in the sauce make the outside of the chicken beautifully caramelized and finger-licking-good!

The yummy huli huli marinade is quick to put together, and we recommend letting the chicken thighs marinate for 12+ hours, or even up to 36 hours. Then grill chicken for only 10 minutes! It really is the perfect dish to prep ahead and then easily grill for an effortless meal on a busy weeknight, relaxing weekend, or at your next summer barbecue.

Top down view of sticky chicken pieces topped with chopped scallions and grilled slices of pineapple.

Ingredients You Need

  • Chicken thighs – boneless skinless chicken thighs, or breasts if you prefer
  • Pineapple juice – use just from the can, not fresh bottled
  • Ketchup – the tomato tanginess makes the sauce taste similar to bbq sauce
  • Soy sauce – I suggest low-sodium soy sauce
  • Cooking sherry – or mirin AKA rice wine
  • Sriracha sauce – use more or less of the spicy sauce to taste
  • Light brown sugar – packed
  • Ginger – freshly grated
  • Garlic – minced
  • Sesame oil – or olive oil
  • Garnishes – like grilled canned pineapple slices and/or sliced green scallions
Huli huli chicken ingredients. Individual bottles of sherry, soy sauce, ketchup, pineapple juice, plus fresh ginger root, garlic bulb, and scallions.

How to Make Huli Huli Chicken

To Start: It’s important to note, that fresh pineapple and fresh ginger both have enzymes that break down and tenderize meat. This sounds like a good thing, but they can actually break the meat down too much so that it has a strange mushy texture. To get the flavor of the pineapple and ginger without creating unwanted side effects, use canned pineapple juice, not fresh. Then sauté the ginger and garlic first before adding them to the marinade. That way, you get all the robust Hawaiian BBQ flavor without changing the meaty texture of the chicken.

Place a small skillet over medium-low heat. Add the oil, grated ginger, and garlic to the skillet. Stir and sauté the ginger and garlic for 2 to 3 minutes, making sure not to burn it. (This is an important step to ensure the ginger enzymes don’t make the chicken mushy as it marinates.)

Place the sautéed ginger and garlic in a large measuring pitcher. Add the canned pineapple juice, ketchup, soy sauce, cooking sherry, Sriracha, and brown sugar.

Hand adding pineapple juice from a can into a huli huli chicken marinade in a large glass measuring cup.
Hand using metal spoon to stir the Hawaiian chicken marinade in a large glass measuring cup.

Stir well. Measure out 1 cup of marinade. Then cover and refrigerate it for later use.

Pour the remaining marinade into a large zip bag. Add the chicken thighs to the bag. Squeeze out as much air as possible. Then zip the bag tightly and shake the chicken around to cover it in marinade. Place the marinade bag in a baking dish, just in case, and place it in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours, but up to 36 hours.

Raw chicken pieces in a plastic ziploc bag with Hawaiian chicken pineapple marinade.

When ready to grill, pull the chicken out of the refrigerator and drain off the marinade. (It’s ok to leave some marinade on the chicken; you do not need to pat the chicken dry.) Preheat the grill to medium heat, about 350 to 400°F. Once hot, place the chicken pieces on the grill, top side down.

Get the Complete (Printable) Huli Huli Hawaiian Chicken Recipe + Video Below. Enjoy!

Grill for 5 minutes. Then flip the chicken over, and brush extra marinade over the top of each piece. Continue to grill the chicken for another 4-5 minutes until fully cooked. If serving with pineapple slices, fresh or canned, place the pineapple slices on the grill after you flip the chicken over. Grill the pineapple slices for 2-3 minutes per side.

Pull the chicken and the pineapple slices off the grill and arrange on a serving platter. Brush the reserved marinade over the top of the chicken if desired. Sprinkle green onions over the top!

Top down view of sticky chicken pieces topped with chopped scallions and grilled slices of pineapple.

Serving Suggestions

Sprinkle the huli huli chicken with scallions and serve warm.

This sweet and delicious dish is great for a quick dinner, at summer parties, potlucks, and barbecues! Pair the chicken with traditional Hawaiian sides like crunchy slaw, a scoop of white rice or coconut rice, Hawaiian potato salad and macaroni salad, and kimchi fried rice with spam.

Or use the boneless chicken thighs to make huli huli chicken sandwiches! They are scrumptious on sweet Hawaiian rolls and loaded with slaw.

And don’t forget the Mai Tais!

Sticky huli huli chicken pieces topped with chopped scallions and grilled slices of pineapple.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does huli huli mean in Hawaii?

The work “huli” is Hawaiian for “turn,” and the phrase huli huli means “turn turn.” This refers to how the traditional Hawaiian chicken recipe includes grilling over a fire, and the thighs are therefore turned repeatedly to keep the meat from burning.

What is the difference between teriyaki and huli huli?

These sauces have many of the same ingredients, mainly soy sauce, mirin, and sugar. Huli huli marinade, however, also includes pineapple juice and ketchup. The taste is sweeter, tangier, and undeniably tropical!

How long is too long to marinate chicken in pineapple juice?

I find 12-24 hours of marinating the chicken thighs in the fridge to be about perfect. But you can marinate them for up to 36 hours, if you prefer. Any longer than 36 hours and the meat will quickly go from tender to mushy.

How long do grilled huli huli chicken leftovers last?

Cool the Hawaiian BBQ chicken thighs before transferring to an airtight container. Keep in the fridge for up to 3-4 days.

Top down view of sticky chicken pieces topped with chopped scallions and grilled slices of pineapple.

Looking for More Easy Grilling Recipes? Be Sure to Try:

Huli Huli Chicken Recipe + Video

Prep Time: 12 hours
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 12 hours 10 minutes
This Huli Huli chicken recipe is easy to prep ahead with a delicious and simple pineapple, soy, and ginger marinade. Grill the Hawaiian chicken for just 10 minutes and serve as a yummy BBQ dinner any night of the week!
Servings: 8 – 12 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 – 3 ½ pounds boneless chicken thighs or chicken breasts
  • 6 ounce can pineapple juice about ¾ cup
  • ½ cup ketchup
  • ½ cup soy sauce
  • ¼ cup cooking sherry or mirin
  • 3 tablespoons sriracha hot sauce use less if sensitive to heat
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar packed
  • 2 tablespoons fresh grated ginger
  • 3-4 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil or olive oil
  • Garnishes: grilled fresh or canned pineapple slices chopped scallions

Instructions

  • Place a small skillet over medium-low heat. Add the oil, grated ginger, and garlic to the skillet. Stir and sauté the ginger and garlic for 2 to 3 minutes, making sure not to burn it. (This is an important step to make sure the ginger enzymes don't make the chicken mushy as it marinates.)
  • Place the sautéed ginger and garlic in a large measuring pitcher. Add the pineapple juice, ketchup, soy sauce, cooking sherry, Sriracha, and brown sugar. Stir well. Measure out 1 cup of marinade. Then cover it and refrigerate for later use.
  • Pour the remaining marinade in a large zip bag. Add the chicken thighs to the bag. Squeeze out as much air as possible. Then zip the bag tightly and shake the chicken around to cover it in marinade. Place the marinade bag in a baking dish, just in case, and place it in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours, but up to 36 hours.
  • When ready to grill, pull the chicken out of the refrigerator and drain off the marinade. (It's ok to leave some marinade on the chicken; you do not need to pat the chicken dry.) Preheat the grill to medium heat, about 350 to 400°F. Once hot, place the chicken pieces on the grill, top side down.
  • Grill for 5 minutes. Then flip the chicken over, and brush extra marinade over the top of each piece. Continue to grill the chicken for another 4-5 minutes until fully cooked. If serving with pineapple slices, fresh or canned, place the pineapple slices on the grill after you flip the chicken over. Grill the pineapple slices for 2-3 minutes per side. Pull the chicken and the pineapple slices off the grill and arrange on a serving platter. Brush additional marinade over the top of the chicken if desired. Sprinkle with scallions and serve warm.

Video

Notes

Cool the Hawaiian BBQ chicken thighs before transferring to an airtight container. Keep in the fridge for up to 3-4 days.

Nutrition

Serving: 1pc, Calories: 446kcal, Carbohydrates: 13g, Protein: 30g, Fat: 30g, Saturated Fat: 8g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 7g, Monounsaturated Fat: 12g, Trans Fat: 0.1g, Cholesterol: 167mg, Sodium: 1208mg, Potassium: 476mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 10g, Vitamin A: 228IU, Vitamin C: 7mg, Calcium: 28mg, Iron: 2mg
Course: Main, Main Course
Cuisine: Hawaiian
Author: Sommer Collier
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