The best Hawaii comfort food and what locals love to eat on the islands with recipes (updated)

What is Hawaii comfort food you may ask? It really spans the many different cultures of people from around the world during early Hawaiian plantation days , moving to Hawaii for a better life while working the pineapple and sugarcane fields. Along with Hawaiian people, all these immigrants shared their favorite and easy to make meals together at lunch and even after work or Pau Hana and eating different kinds of Hawaiian food . These easy meals comprise of many favorite foods of Hawaii that were everyone’s favorite dish to share and eat at every potluck occasion and create all the popular Hawaiian food to eat on the islands.

Hawaii comfort food

Hawaiian traditional comfort foods and recipes

Many of these Hawaii comfort foods are easy to find at food stalls, market delis or small hole in the wall take out spots all around the islands. If you your not here, you can easily make most of these traditional comfort foods. Check out these Hawaii comfort foods and recipes below to enjoy some of the favorite foods of Hawaii now.

CHicken adobo as Hawaiian comfort food

Chicken adobo recipe

Nothing says comfort food in Hawaii like this popular Filipino dish that was brought to plantation day potlucks and immediately became a hit at all potluck meals in Hawaii. This iconic adobo chicken is easy to make dish you’ll be able to find at many take out places, cafes, food trucks and outdoor famers markets all over Hawaii. Although chicken is the most popular type of adobe dish, other variations include using pork, seafood, beef and even vegetable adobo style.

If you’re looking for an easy and basic adobo style recipe, check out the video below for all the highlights and you’ll want to try making this dish real soon.

spam musubi hawaiian comfort food

Spam Musubi

One of the most popular foods of Hawaii is a take away snack called spam musubi and combination of rice wrapped around a big slice of spam and wrapped outside with a nori seaweed wrap. Easy to make and store for a snack without refrigeration, it’s hard to keep this little bite for long when you have a salty craving for this nice salty spam and rice dish.

Check out the easy instructions on how to make a spam musubi on this video here to get started on making your own spam musubi.

Plate lunch comfort food in Hawaii
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Hawaiian plate lunch

This typical take away lunch is varied depending on the many different styles and ingredients used from any particular café/cook. But outside of the typical meat or seafood entrees that are chosen, you also have some of the usual sides to this plate lunch including two scoops of rice, a scoop of macaroni salad and the entrée that you choose. You definitely have your choices of plate lunch with this popular take away meal.

Moco loco is delicious Hawaiian comfort food

Loco Moco

A definite comfort food and local food of Hawaii dish, the loco moco has many variations in the type of entrée chosen. The classic meal consists of a few scoops of rice with a hamburger type of meat patty with a nice fried egg on top and then smothered with some gravy to create a delicious comfort food that everybody loves to eat regularly.

Different entrée meat substitutions are offered from take out places, food stands and even food trucks, but you can create your own favorite style below. Check out this basic recipe below for instructions to making your own.

Hawaiian wrapped Lau lau

Hawaiian Lau Lau

One of the most popular Hawaiian dishes and favorite of all locals, lau lau is delicious, comfort food that really embodies this classic passed down dish. Really easy to make and an easy to go dish, lau lau is made primarily with lau lau or luau leaves, pork, fish and sweet potato.

Check out this classic lau lau recipe below for a step by step guide on how to make your own delicious meal. You’ll want to have this dish on your menu over and over again for sure.

traditional  Hawaiian saimin

Hot Saimin

Everyone in Hawaii loves a hot bowl of Saimin which is basically a mixture of plantation era Japanese, Filipino and Chinese rice noodle soup. With so many different variations made of this type of soup, its an easy to make dish with left overs in your fridge.

You can see the classic recipe below and add whatever you have in the fridge to create your own version of this comfort food in Hawaii. Basic ingredients include saimin noodles, shitake mushrooms, ham, eggs, seaweed, green onions and other herbs to make your rice noodle dish.

Chicken long rice in Hawaii

Chicken Long Rice

Who doesn’t love a nice soupy noodle dish with chicken for that classic comfort food? Brought originally by Chinese immigrants that made a nice soup and chicken dish, the Hawaiian version is not as soupy but still wet with chicken, rice noodles, garlic and ginger to a perfect combination of flavors. A popular side dish at any luau or potluck gathering, chicken long rice is always a crowd pleaser.

Check out this classic recipe for chicken long rice below and you’ll be craving to make this on a rainy day or really any day you’re in the mood for a rice noodle dish.

Hawaiian comfort food and kalua pork

Kalua pork

A hawaiian staple meat dish that you’ll always find at a luau or potluck in any social gathering in Hawaii. Kalua pork is that iconic dish that really centers around comfort food that families love to make over and over again. Normally done in an imu or pit for large hawaiian luau, modern day ovens are used to quickly make the pork from pork butt and served with cabbage, the typical sides along with poi, ulu as starch and rice.

If you are looking for a simple and basic Kalua pork recipe, check out the video below for more inspiration on how to make your own.

These are some of the classic Hawaiian style comfort food that you’ll come across the islands and there are so many other regional favorites that you’ll discover here.

Have any more local favorite Hawaiian dishes? Please share yours in the comments below.

Check out these other food related posts from Hawaii

Popular Hawaii dishes you need to try

Traditional Hawaiian food favorite dishes

Time to try some Poke in Hawaii

Hawaii chocolate making and tour

How to eat cheap in Hawaii

Comfort foods of Hawaii

Hawaiian style banana bread

Mango season in Hawaii

Hawaii love for Spam and recipes

Pineapple season in Hawaii

How to eat cheap in Hawaii

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What’s your favorite Hawaii comfort food?

Do you have a favorite comfort food from Hawaii, please share your thoughts in the comments below, thanks.

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16 Comments

  1. Jeff & Crystal Bryant

    Thanks for sharing these Hawaiian comfort foods. We saw some that we were familiar with and a couple of new ones. Somehow we knew that Spam would make it into the list. What a fun way to incorporate it.

    Reply
    • emorata

      All these Hawaii comfort foods come from many different cultures that came to plantations and shared some of their popular foods that are now island favorites.

      Reply
  2. Irene S. Levine

    I’ll take a take-out order of the hot saimin!

    Reply
    • emorata

      Good choice, a very popular Hawaiian comfort food

      Reply
  3. Carole Terwilliger Meyers

    I’d love to enjoy a Hawaiian plate lunch about now. And I adore chicken adobo. Your collection of Hawaiian comfort foods has me salivating!

    Reply
    • emorata

      These are all popular Hawaiian food favorite dishes that locals love.

      Reply
  4. Ashley

    Yummmm!!! I visited Maui several years ago, and I still dream of Spam Musubi!

    Reply
    • emorata

      Yes spam musubi is a local favorite along with all these Hawaiian comfort foods.

      Reply
  5. Tom Bartel

    Some great ideas here, and now all I have to do is find the ingredients to the more “Hawaiian” staples. We do have Spam here (it’s made in Minnesota.) But I honestly don’t know of anyone who eats it. I don’t think I have since I was about 9 years old. The chicken adobo is definitely going on the list to make soon, though.

    Reply
    • emorata

      Spam is definitely very popular here in Hawaii and is an iconic Hawaiian comfort food indeed

      Reply
      • Max

        Very interesting list! I hope I can try some of these one day.

        Reply
        • emorata

          You can always learn to make these Hawaiian comfort foods with the recipes, they are all relatively simple if you can get the ingredients.

          Reply
  6. Carol Colborn

    Wow, a lot of great recipes here. I wonder if it’s because I am Filipino? I will try the spam musubi, laulau, kalua pork and chicken long rice. Thanks, lots.

    Reply
    • emorata

      Yes these are all local hawaiian comfort food that were shared by original plantation workers coming to Hawaii

      Reply
  7. Sabine

    I just love comfort food and you have listed some really delicious recipes that are worth trying. Especially the Hawaiian Lau Lau looks very interesting to make.

    Reply
    • emorata

      Lau Lau is very Hawaiian and the rest are plantation era foods that are typically Hawaii comfort food to is local in all the islands

      Reply

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Noel Morata is the creator of This Hawaii Life along with a small team of contributors. Living on the Big Island and traveling regularly to the neighbor islands, Noel and team actively search and share the latest information and updates to Hawaii travel, food, adventure and various lifestyle activities on the islands for your planning and vacation. Aloha and enjoy This Hawaii Life.