Hawaiian food, local potluck style

Hawaiian foods

Hawaiian foods with huli-huli on the grill

Hawaiian food, local potluck style


It’s going to be a feast when you enjoy a picnic outdoors in Hawaii. You really can’t go wrong on a sunny day being close to the ocean and sharing some local food with friends in the typical potluck style that is so prevalent in Hawaii. Potlucks here are a cross culture of different cuisines from around the world when immigrants from various countries came to Hawaii to work the sugar, pineapple and various plantations around the Hawaiian Islands. What resulted is a mixture of flavors mixed in with some local favorites and combined into the ‘local’ style’ or mixed plate lunch. Enjoying the different offerings of local food and sharing delicious and familiar dishes from the many cultures is part of enjoying potlucks in Hawaii.

Local favorites

Following are some Hawaiian food dishes that you will always find in a potluck gathering in Hawaii. It’s always good to try find local ingredients grown on the island and using whatever products that are fresh or in season, and prepared in a simple way.


Hawaiian foods

Hawaiian foods with Kalua pork


It can’t be a potluck gathering in Hawaii without someone bringing some just made Kalua pork. The traditional method used in luaus involves taking a whole pig and putting it in pit wrapped in banana leaves under some very hot lava rocks and eventually buried in the pit for a certain period. Currently, most cooks use a slow cooker or an oven to bake the pork covered in aluminum to seal the flavors and cooked the pork until it’s nice and flaky soft. Adding potatoes, roots and other vegetables tossed into the dish makes it a complete meal.


Hawaiian foods

Hawaiian huli huli chicken


Another typical Hawaiian food brought to potlucks would include some huli-huli chicken. You can always find a someone cooking at the local farmers market or a street vendor set up with outdoor grill and rotisserized, the chicken is always done perfectly and oh-so-tender and delicious. Doesn’t it look so yummy in this presentation above?



Hawaiian foods

Hawaiian ulu (breadfruit)


Hawaiian ‘ulu or breadfruit was one of the original canoe plants (plants brought with the ancient Hawaiians from Polynesia) that was used as a staple crop starch for their diets. Ulu is a highly nutritious food that can be prepared in a variety to ways to suit any traditional or modern preparation of this staple food.  Above, the presentation is baked with some dried tomatoes, garlic and herbs to make a simple side dish.



Hawaiian foods

Hawaiian foods with local fish

Hawaiian fish or Poke

Local fish is a food staple at any potluck either prepared as poke (raw fish marinated in a sauce) or presented in a variety ways.  Local Hawaiian fish includes favorites like ono, mahi mahi and ahi. Usually a simple grill, stir fry or baked fish in a simple preparation is the best way to serve it here in Hawaii.


Hawaiian foods

Hawaiian foods with warabi and long beans

Local greens

Vegetables found in the wild or can be easily grown are included in the two dishes above.  The long style green beans are easy to grow on the island and have a long harvest cycle, they are best prepared in a very simple saute or stir fry. The warabi or young fiddle head fern shoots are always a local favorite dish. Found year-round in the wet forests in many areas of Hawaii, these ferns are easy to harvest in the wild.  Called Ho’i’o (Hawaiian) ostrich or fiddle head (Mainland) or Warabi (Japanese), the shoots are ready to harvest after they start to uncoil from their tight heads.  Served in a simple salad mixed in with onions, tomatoes and a vinagrette, it becomes a tasty dish.

Hawaiian Foods

Hawaiian dessert with coconut and pineapple filling.

Tropical Desserts 

In any Hawaiian food potluck, there is always as much desserts brought in as the appetizers and entrees. Everybody loves desserts here especially when fresh fruit like coconuts, pineapples and mangoes are mixed into the recipe. Sometimes people start on the wrong end of the potluck line and just go with the desserts first.

This is just a small sampling of local Hawaiian food that you will find in any potluck. Have you tried something else in Hawaii that was so Ono (delicious?), please share what you tasted in the comments section below.

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9 Responses to Hawaiian food, local potluck style

  1. Wendy July 14, 2013 at 1:37 am #

    I ate a big dinner a few hours ago, but after reading your post, I sorta feel hungry again! There are SO MANY ono grinds at potlucks … always LOVE if there’s malasadas and andagi! (yes, I’m guilty of having a serious sweet tooth) Thanks for the mouth-watering post, Noel. 🙂

  2. Dana Carmel @ Time Travel Plans July 13, 2013 at 4:37 pm #

    Oh my gosh – you’re torturing me here, Noel! All of this food has my tummy rumbling and I have no food in the house for dinner (need to go grocery shopping). Everything looks so delicious! I especially like the kalua pork – I remember having it at a luau in Maui. Yum!

  3. Anita Mac July 13, 2013 at 11:02 am #

    OMG-it all looks so good, I don’t even know where to start! Love the flavours and combinations of foods when visiting the Caribbean – I can only imagine that Hawaii is equally good!

  4. Irene July 13, 2013 at 9:13 am #

    You’ve succeeded in making me hungry! That dessert looks outrageous~

  5. Kimmy @ AfterGlobe July 12, 2013 at 1:06 pm #

    Love Hawaiian potlucks. we have one about once a month. I make a mean Kalua pork and Hawaiian style mac salad. Yum! Now if I just had some of those coconut cupcakes to go with it.

  6. zof July 12, 2013 at 12:04 pm #

    COCONUT AND PINEAPPLE FILLING. I bet it tastes as great as it looks in the picture!

  7. Savi July 12, 2013 at 9:18 am #

    That huli-huli chicken looks amazing. This post made me VERY hungry Noel 😉

    • Noel July 12, 2013 at 9:29 am #

      You’ll have to drop by for our next potluck meal Savi, thanks for dropping by

      • Uhuru December 19, 2013 at 9:34 am #

        Your pictures are btuaeiful! My family and I are traveling to Kona December 22nd and staying until the 29th. I was wondering if there was any chance you may have an opening available for a photo shoot. I have 2 children- 7 and 9. We are interested in family shots (My husband, myself and 2 children and my parents are also coming.) So several different arrangements. We are from Tennessee and are looking forward to visiting Hawaii! Please let me know you availability, please.Thank you so much!Jenifer Scott

I look forward to hearing from you and continuing our discussion with any comment you would like to add

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