Authentic (and Simple) Luau Recipes

Incorporate just a couple of these simple luau recipes into your luau party menu and you'll delight (and dare we say, surprise?) your guests with your culinary skills and dazzle them with your knowledge of authentic Hawaiian food. It'll be almost as good as being in Hawaii. Almost. 

These Foods are Luau Staples in Hawaii

The food most associated with a luau is roasted pig (called Kalua Pig or Kalua Pork). But unless you want to dig a pit and roast one yourself, we recommend ordering one online. Yes, you can actually do that!

If you don't want to go for a whole pig (and who could blame you), roast a 5-lb. pork butt from the grocery store. It won't be nearly so labor-intensive —and it won't require a shovel. 

These are some other foods you'll almost always see on the menu at a traditional Hawaiian luau:

  • fresh seafood (mahi mahi, tuna, BBQ'd shrimp, crab claws on ice)
  • fresh fruit (especially mangoes, papaya, and pineapple)
  • fresh coconut
  • BBQ'd steak
  • sweet potatoes
  • poi (a paste-like concoction made from mashed taro root)
  • rice
  • Maui onions
  • macaroni salad
  • green salad
  • banana bread
  • mango bread

Hawaii's cuisine is heavily influenced by Japanese, Chinese, and Vietnamese cooking traditions, so many of the ingredients called for in these recipes will probably sound familiar and be fairly easy to find.

Some of the more unusual ingredients and foods, like poi for example, can be ordered online so your guests can experience the real thing without your having to search the stores for exotic ingredients.

So go ahead and be daring! Add a few of these simple luau recipes to your bash. You won't be disappointed (and neither will your guests).

Lomi Lomi Salmon

  • 8 oz. salmon filet
  • 1/4 cup sea salt
  • 1/2 - 1 cup finely chopped white or red onion (if you like onions, use the full cup)
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped green onions
  • 1 cup diced tomatoes (can use cherry tomatoes)
  1. Place salt and salmon in a large zip-top bag and shake bag to coat fish evenly. Chill for at least 8 hours or overnight.
  2. Remove fish from bag and rinse well under cold water. Soak the salmon in ice water for 2 hours, changing the water every 30 minutes. Drain well and pat fish dry with dish towel or paper towels.
  3. Dice the salmon and place in a large bowl. Add diced onion, scallions and tomatoes to fish and mix well. Serve thoroughly chilled.

*Traditionally, these ingredients were mixed together by hand until well combined. The name of the dish comes from the Hawaiian word for "knead." Give that method a try if you want a truly authentic experience.

Chicken Long Rice

  • 3 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken (cut into bite-sized pieces)
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 6 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh ginger root, minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • black pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 8 oz. shiitake mushrooms, sliced
  • 4 green onions, chopped
  • 10 oz. cellophane noodles (long rice)
  • 8 oz. chicken broth
  1. In a large bowl, combine 2 tablespoons soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, ginger, sugar and a dash or two of pepper. Add the chicken pieces and marinate in the refrigerator for several hours.
  2. In another bowl, soak the noodles in cold water for 30 minutes. Cut into 8-10 lengths.
  3. Heat a large skillet or wok over high heat. Add vegetable oil and marinated chicken pieces and cook until the chicken in no longer pink, stirring frequently to prevent burning.
  4. Reduce heat to low and add chicken broth, remaining 4 tablespoons of soy sauce, mushroom, scallions and noodles. Simmer until hot, stirring often (will take less than 5 minutes). Do not overcook the noodles! Only cook them until they are clear in color.

Shoyu Chicken

  • 5 lbs. chicken thighs
  • 1 cup shoyu (soy sauce)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup fresh ginger root, grated
  • 1/4 cup fresh garlic, minced
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • green onions, chopped, for garnish
  1. Mix all ingredients, except chicken, in a large pot or Dutch oven. Adjust seasonings to taste.
  2. Add chicken and boil for 30 minutes or until chicken is tender. Serve on a large platter and sprinkle with green onions.

Caramelized Sweet Potatoes

  • 8 sweet potatoes (or equivalent amount of canned yams, rinsed)
  • 1 cup butter
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup shredded coconut
  1. Boil potatoes until tender, about 30 minutes. Let cool and then peel and cut into 1-inch thick slices.
  2. Place butter in a large saucepan or skillet and melt. Stir in sugar and water and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes.
  3. Lower heat and add potatoes. Simmer for 20 minutes, tossing lightly to coat. Sprinkle with coconut before serving.

Mango Bread

  • 2 cups sifted flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cloves
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 2 cups mangoes, diced and partly mashed (leave some lumps)
  • 1/2 cup macadamia nuts, chopped
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.Grease and flour two loaf pans.
  2. Combine flour, baking soda, cloves, allspice, salt and sugar in bowl and set aside.
  3. Beat eggs with an electric mixer and add oil and butter. Beat for two minutes. Add dry ingredients, mangoes and nuts and mix until combined.
  4. Pour evenly into loaf pans and bake for 45-55 minutes or until bread tests done.


This coconut pudding is served as a dessert at Hawaiian luaus.

  • 2 cups coconut milk
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 6 tablespoons to 1/2 cup of granulated sugar (depending on desired sweetness)
  • 5 tablespoons corn starch (or more if you want a thicker pudding)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  1. Heat one cup of coconut milk in a saucepan over low heat.
  2. Gradually add cornstarch, and then sugar and vanilla. Stir constantly over medium heat until thickened (about 5 minutes or so).
  3. Add the remaining cup of coconut milk and the whole milk, stirring as the mixture continues to thicken. Pour into an oiled 8-inch square pan and chill until firm, at least 1 hour. Cut into cubes and serve.