Huli-Huli Chicken

Another new discovery, this time from Hawaii, Huli-Huli chicken is a delicious alternative to your everyday, classic roast chicken dish. Cooked with a simple spice rub and glazed with a sweet, aromatic sauce, it makes a tasty talking-point for your dinner guests.

Huli-Huli Chicken

15 mins preparation
75-90 mins cooking
2-4 servings
Serve with
Grilled pineapple
Wine match
Two Hands “Angel’s Share” Shiraz

What is Huli-Huli Chicken?

Simply put, it’s Hawaiian grilled chicken, basted with a sweet, spicy sauce. Created in the 1950s by Ernest Morgado, the name comes from the term “huli”, the Hawaiian word for turn. The dish was originally cooked over open coal barbecues, the chicken being rotated every 5 minutes or so. People watching would proclaim “huli!” when the turns happened, and the name stuck.

Morgado never divulged the recipe, so cooks have tried to reverse engineer it. Thus, there are many recipes available, with and without a marinating stage and/or a flavoured rub. The method below is a mashup of these, augmented so it can be cooked in an oven or covered barbecue.

Chicken with rub applied, ready to cook

Cooking the chicken and pineapple rings

Grilled pineapple rings with huli huli sauce


  • Sharp knife
  • Chopping board
  • Measuring spoons and jugs
  • Poultry scissors (or a very sharp pair of scissors)
  • Roasting tin and rack (if using oven)
  • Small saucepan


The traditional approach uses mesquite flavours from wood. I personally find these aromatics a little strong, so cook with cherry wood instead.


  • 1 whole chicken (3-4lb)
  • 1 mesquite or cherry smoking chunk (for BBQ cooking)
  • 6-8 pineapple rings
  • Toasted sesame seeds


  • 1 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 2 tbsp smoked salt
  • 2 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp black pepper


  • 100ml tomato ketchup
  • 200ml fresh pineapple juice
  • 100ml light soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2-3 finely chopped garlic cloves
  • 1 tbsp very finely chopped ginger


The timings below are for a 3lb chicken, larger birds will take longer.


  1. With great care, spatchcock the chicken. This BBC Good Food video explains the spatchcocking process.
  2. Combine all of the sauce ingredients together in a small pan. Place the pan over high heat, bring to the boil and then simmer for 10-15 mins to thicken it.
  3. Meanwhile, combine all of the rub ingredients together. Pat the chicken dry and season liberally with the rub.

Cooking in a Conventional Oven

  1. Pre-heat oven at 200°C/390°F (180°C/355°F for fan ovens).
  2. Place the spatchcocked chicken breast side up in a roasting tin raised up on a roasting rack. Cook for 75-90 mins, or until the breast meat is at 74°C/165°F.
  3. With 20 mins to go before the chicken is ready, baste it generously with the sauce. Heat up a separate grill, brush the pineapple slices with sauce and cook them for 8-10 mins per side.

Cooking in a Big Green Egg

  1. Preheat the Big Green Egg (direct setup) to 175°C/350°F. When the coals are smouldering, toss on the smoking chunk and wait for the thin blue line of smoke.
  2. Place the chicken on the grid. Cook for 50-60 mins or until the internal temperature of the breast meat is 57°C/135°F.
  3. Generously coat the chicken all over with the sauce. At the same time, add the pineapple rings to the Egg, drizzling a little sauce over them. Cook for another 25-30 mins, until the internal temperature of the breast meat is 74°C/165°F. Turn the pineapple rings over after 15 mins and apply some more sauce.


Carve the chicken and serve with the pineapple rings. Drizzle a little sauce over the rings, and garnish the chicken with toasted sesame seeds.

Huli huli chicken with grilled pineapple

Hints and Tips

  1. If using a Minimax, limit the amount of charcoal in the base so there will be a good air gap between the charcoal and the grid. Cooking the pineapple rings needs to be done after the chicken is cooked, rest the chicken for 10 mins.
  2. The rub and sauce can also be used for other cuts of chicken, e.g. breast, wings.

2 thoughts on “Huli-Huli Chicken

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