Writing a post about the best foods to try in Hawaii is like asking Reese to pick her favorite ice cream flavor. It’s nearly impossible to decide! There are so many amazing food options in Hawaii that it’s hard to know where to start. Well, lucky for you me, and Reese did all the hard work.
We spent a week tasting our way through this fantastic Island and today we’re narrowing down our picks of 10 of the Best Foods to Try in Hawaii. From Mai Tais and Spam Musubi to Loco Moco and Hawaiian Pizza, we got your taste buds covered.
The star of any luau party is the kālua! In Hawaiian, this word means to cook something in an underground oven. You’ll see a lot of meats that are labeled with “kāluas” especially pork or pig meat that was cooked below ground level.
The best part of kālua is that the meat gets so tender and juicy, it just melts in your mouth. Kālua meat is usually served with sweet potatoes and/or mashed taro root (called poi). You will also find places serving them up BBQ style with the meat smothered in barbecue sauce and a side of slaw.
For ages, the people of Hawaii have loved the seafood dish Poké. It is made with sea salt that is only found in Hawaii. Poké also has candlenuts and seaweed that are local to Hawaii.
These combinations, while unusual to some, are actually delicious. Its mild flavor allows you to experience what makes this famous dish so delicious without overpowering your taste buds or palate!
Laulau is a traditional Hawaiian dish that can be found all over Hawaii, usually served up as an appetizer or side to your meal with pieces of meat wrapped inside taro leaves and cooked underground by steaming it or baking at high temperatures (imu).
Traditionally they are seasoned only with salt but you’ll find them today with sugar added for flavor. Don’t let their simplicity fool you, these are a must-try.
Poi is a taro dish popular among the people of Hawaii. It is a purple-gray color with a mushy texture. I know on paper this sounds totally unappetizing (and I’m not going to lie, it is an acquired taste) but when booked right it’s really good.
Poi is commonly served at luaus however I’ve also had it in donuts and it was AMAZING! Even Reese loved it.
Saimin is a delicious dish that’s been enjoyed by generations of people in Hawaii. The ingredients are not typical for the mainland USA, but instead reflect influences from China and Japan; it has even developed some Korean flair along with Portuguese sausage or spam!
The ultimate portable snack, spam musubi is based on the Japanese rice ball of a similar name. It contains a slice of grilled Spam set atop white rice and then wrapped in seaweed. This was probably my favorite thing in Hawaii and I still eat it now that I’m home.
Sure, you can find grilled shrimp almost everywhere but there is something about the grilled shrimp in Hawaii that just hits different. I’ve had a lot of shrimp in my life but the best bar far has come from a food truck and not just any food truck but Giovanni’s
Giovanni is popular with the locals because they serve up generous portions of head-on shrimp sauteed in butter and finely diced garlic. The butter and garlic chunks work their way into every nook and cranny of the shrimp and then they are laid on a bed of white rice. I’m hungry just thinking about it.
This dish is a staple for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Traditionally it consists of white rice topped with two beef patties smothered in gravy and then covered in eggs sunny-side up. However, you can also get this delicious meal served vegetarian style too!
I think we ate our weight in shaved ice while in Hawaii it was so good. Shave ice in Hawaii is prepared with fruit juices from local fruits. The popular choices are guava, pineapple, coconut, lychee, kiwi, passion, and passion fruit. Want to kick it up a notch, as for a “snow cap” or “Japanese style” and it will be topped with sweetened condensed milk.
Huli Huli Chicken
Huli Huli chicken is a sweet and savory dish popular in Hawaii. The name itself means “turn turn” because the chickens are grilled over an open fire while being basted with a sauce made from soy, ginger, garlic, and pineapple juice.
If you’ve never been to Hawaii, take this as your invitation. The food is amazing and it will make for an unforgettable vacation experience! For those of us who have already visited the Hawaiian Islands, we hope these recommendations inspire you to return and bring your taste buds.