Hawaiian foods

Hawaiian foods with huli-huli on the grill

Hawaiian food, local potluck style: What to try on the islands with local food (updated 2023)

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 foods in Hawaii

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.

You’ll find a variety of Hawaiian traditional food, comfort foods and even snack foods in Hawaii that locals love to eat all day long.

Hawaiian foods

Hawaiian foods with Kalua pork

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. Check out this very simple Kalua pork recipe you can do in a crock pot slow cooker.

Check out our post on Hawaiian Kalua pork here for more information and recipes to do now.

Here’s how to make simple and easy kalua pork

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? Check out this simple huli huli recipe below for instructions and easy directions on how make your own huli huli chicken.

A visit to this famous huli huli chicken shack

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.

Check out our post here on Ulu and some fantastic recipes that you can try now.

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 poke 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.

Check out our extensive guide and recipes on Hawaiian poke here for more information and images.

Poke on the islands done different ways and a little history

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 hopefully made with local Hawaiian chocolate. 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.

Check out our post on the best shave ice here for the best icy deserts in Oahu now.

Here’s some delicious food to try on the islands below

Check out these other related food posts

Looking for more food inspiration about Hawaii, check out these other topics below for you to discover and enjoy.

Popular Hawaii dishes you need to try

Hawaii chocolate making and tour

Traditional Hawaiian foods

How to eat cheap in Hawaii

Best Luau to choose in maui

Hawaii comfort food

Pineapple season in Hawaii

Conclusion on Hawaiian food, local potluck style

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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