Hawaiian Lau Lau – moist, nutritious, delicious, easy recipes (updated 2023)

One of the most popular traditional dishes on the islands to eat is Hawaiian lau lau, and yes it is everyone’s favorite comfort food to eat on the islands. Basically Lau Lau is wrapped pork and butterfish in a luau leaf (leaf from a taro plant) and steamed.

What you get in the end is moist, melt in your mouth goodness and everyone loves eating delicious Hawaiian lau lau when it is brought to a gathering. What is lau lau and why is it a traditional Hawaiian food favorite?

Laulau is so good and you can actually make your own. Check out the details and an easy-to-follow Hawaiian Lau Lau recipes below that you can make on your own.

Hawaiian lau lau a popular traditional Hawaiian dish also spelled laulau

What is Hawaiian Lau Lau?

An essential dish in any Hawaiian traditional meal or it can also be a side dish, basically lau lau is a fatty pork with fish which is typically butter fish (black cod or any other soft and boneless thick fish) that is wrapped in taro leaf called lu’au and then steamed to perfection.

It is then served with sweet potato, poi and lomi lomi salmon, kalua pork for a delicious meal. People wonder if the lau lau do you eat the leaf, and yes the inner leaf is edible but the outside which is basically a ti leaf is not edible and just used as a steaming cover.

A freshly made lau lau is always delicious and oh so juicy, flavorful and meaty packed with fish and pork combination along with Hawaiian sweet potato.

What is Hawaiian lau lau or laulau

History of Hawaiian Lau Lau and making this traditional dish

The Kalo (taro) plant is an essential plant in Hawaiian culture and every part of the plant is used for eating. Kalo in Hawaiian culture is Hawaiian origin stories the elder brother of man and both the root and leaves being central to the Hawaiian diet.

The leaves of Lu’au (taro) are an essential part of the lau lau dish and is also full of antioxidants, healthy vitamins and minerals. The ti leaf is the outer leaf covering the Lu’au left and holds ceremonial and medicinal purpose and for the lau lau dish wraps all the filling and lu’au as a protective covering and helps in the steaming process. A lau lau dish is essential to any Luau gathering and served with other traditional Hawaiian dishes to complement the lau lau. Lau lau pork is probably most the popular of laulau dishes to try.

** Did you know that lau lau is not really a type of dish but more of a form of cooking process that includes some fatty pork with lau lau fish like butterfish or cod along with some sweet potato wrapped in the lu’au leaf and then tied with the ti leaf and typically steamed in an imu pit (underground pit).

The lau lau are laid out on top of the banana leaves to be steamed and covered with another layer of banana leaf and then cooked for hours underground.

Today’s version of making Lau Lau is typically done in a rice cooker, instant pot, or pressure cooker to make the cooking process faster. More health-conscious eaters might substitute chicken or turkey for the fatty fat that is typically used in lau lau dishes or if someone doesn’t like pork lau lau or fish lau lau, then a vegetarian version is also doable with taro leaf, stem and other vegetable ingredients.

Everyone seems to have their own preference for the type of meat or fish used as a filling in this dish.

History of lau lau

What are Lu’au leaves and ti leaves used in Hawaiian Lau Lau

The skin of the dish has a typical inner wrapping of Lu’au  or taro leaf and the outer leaf is basically a ti leaf and both wrap around the filling and then later the ti leaf is disposed of the inner lu’au leaf is edibe and eaten along with the filling. Lau’au leaves are very nutritious and delicious once they are steamed to perfection.

Lu’au and ti leaves

How to eat Lau Lau

It is pretty basic and straight forward on how to eat lau lau to just unwrap the string and ti leaf and discard both. The inner leaf and filling are eaten at once and a good helping of everything makes for a really delicious bite.

Lau Lau needs to be served at the table fresh and hot so it matches the temperature of the rice and room temperature condiment dishes for a savory flavor mixed with hot and cold, fatty and solid taste and flavor.

How to eat lau lau

There is Vegan Lau Lau

If your not into pork lau lau or a fish lau lau, then there is a vegan version of lau lau. Instead of pork and fish you can substitute kalo bulb (taro), sweet potato and Ulu (breadfruit) and wrapped in the same lu’au leaf and ti leaf and steamed the same fashion into melt in your mouth perfection.

Where to buy Lau Lau on the islands?

You’ll find lau lau at many different cafes, restaurants, farmers markets and even road side stands.

Typically lau lau is offered in a mixed plate dish or bento style. But you’ll also find that lau lau is sold separately as its own dish at many small mom and pop take out places or even road side stands selling lau lau to go.

If you are also craving lau lau and can’t find it close by, why not make some with the easy to follow recipes below?

Check out this easy-to-follow recipe ingredients list below

Check out these easy-to-follow lau lau Hawaiian Lau Lau recipes below to make your own ono lau lau

If you can’t find any lau lau in your area, here are some easy recipes to follow below.

This lau lau recipe below is simple, fast and easy to follow to make your own delicious lau lau. With just a few basic ingredients, you can make your own lau lau in no time. Just have to see if you can actually find all these ingredients in your own area.

In this recipe below large collard green leaves are used as a subsitute for the Taro Lua’au leaves and apparently it also tastes great.

Steaming lau lau is easy with a pressure cooker or even do a lau lau in insta pot verion to make them faster and ready to eat.

Delicious Hawaiian Lau Lau bundles

How to make Hawaiian Lau Lau in an Instant pot

Yes you can make easy and fast Lau Lau done in an instant pot, hot and ready to eat!

Recipe for Vegan Lau Lau

Check out these other popular Hawaii food topics

Hawaiian breadfruit or Ulu

Hawaiian breadfruit or Ulu

Locally grown breadfruit is a staple Hawaiian food that is used for savory to sweet dishes on the island. This plant that grows so well on the islands produces a variety of breadfruit that can translate to so many delicious dishes and we share our favorites on the islands to try.

Check out our post to Hawaiian breadfruit here for more inspiration and images.

 laulau using sweet potatoes

Hawaiian sweet potatoes

The original canoe plant and staple food, Hawaiian sweet potatoes are locally grown with Okinawan purple sweet potatoes. These healthy foods are used for a variety of sweet to savory dishes or simply eaten freshly steamed with their earthy and sweet taste.

Check out our Hawaiian sweet potato post here for more inspiration, recipes and the story about this very important crop grown around the islands.

Hawaiian poi

Eating Poi

One of the most traditional staple starch eaten on the islands and a traditional Hawaiian food favorite is poi. Made with the roots of the taro plant, poi is considered a sacred dish to Hawaiians and is a popular staple dish you’ll find served with traditional foods like Kalua pork, lau lau and lomi salmon which is the main starch that complements the salty and fatty foods of the Hawaiian diet.

Check out our post on Hawaiian poi here for more information, recipes and the story about this important food.

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Hawaiian Lau Lau (moist, nutritious, delicious, easy recipes)
Hawaiian Lau Lau (moist, nutritious, delicious, easy recipes)

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Are you hungry for some Hawaiian lau lau?

Are you hungry for some Hawaiian lau lau?

Thanks for visiting today and checking out this post on Hawaiian lau lau.  Do you have any other tips or suggestions to add to this post about laulau or more recipes – please share in the comment section below thanks again.

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  1. Bibi

    Thanks so much for sharing this video. Years ago I bought some pork Lau Lau at the farmer’s market in Hilo and we went back a couple of times because it was sooo good. It was made in a crockpot and it was cooked in (sweetened?) coconut milk. I’ve not seen any Lau Lau recipes with coconut milk, but is that a common way to make it?

    • emorata

      Yes coconut milk is typically used for lau lau recipes like the ones shown on the videos.



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Noel Morata this Hawaii Life

Meet Noel Morata

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.