Try these Popular Hawaiian dishes -snacks, appetizers, & local foods (updated 2023)
Why eat these popular Hawaii dishes you need to try on the islands? Hawaiian foods is a melting pot of so many different foods, flavors, ingredients and nationalities that blend to create unique Hawaiian food style for today. This quick guide will give you an overview of the local street food, Hawaiian appetizers and snack foods (appetizers or snacks), Hawaiian desserts, early plantation style comfort food and the authentic Hawaiian food that have been passed through the generations and created favorite local foods of the islands.
Hawaii cuisine is unique and also comforting at the same time, you’ll find some of the best local bites below to enjoy.
So what’s good to eat in Hawaii – check out all our favorites below.
A little history on local food Hawaiian stye
With the immigration of plantation workers from around world, they came to Hawaii to work the fields and shared their favorite comfort foods and helped to create an eclectic melting pot of dishes along with traditional Hawaiian foods.
Eventually, this style of mixed plates became local Hawaiian foods that everyone craves with tasty pupus, entrees and desserts.
Check out some of these popular Hawaii dishes you need to try when you visit and see which ones end up being some of your favorite Hawaiian food to eat.
Try some of these local Hawaiian comfort foods
Are looking for some things to eat in Hawaii that is local, Hawaiian comfort food or just plain delicious? Well here are most common Hawaiian local food to eat below that you’ll love to try and experience on the islands now.
Enjoy these Hawaiian appetizers or pupus
Hawaiian appetizers or pupus are a typically served Pau Hana or end of day. Enjoying some delicious small bites and a nice beverage with good friends and just relaxing is how we celebrate Pau Hana.
The popular Hawaiian food, Pupus, snacks and quick bites are always around at happy hour venues or just a takeout dish brought to the beach to eat and enjoy outdoors. Here are some of the local Hawaiian appetizers favorites you’ll always find in a café, take out counter or a grocery prepared food section.
Check out these delicious Hawaiian appetizers and pupus that locals love to eat and not just before the main meal of the day.
Poke – A traditional Hawaiian food, raw sushi or poke in Hawaii is prepared in a myriad of ways originated in Hawaii and has become well known worldwide. Typically eaten as a side dish, Hawaiian pupu or in a combination dish with other popular dishes.
Typically using local fish like Ahi, Ono and mahi mahi, poke is usually prepared with the freshest raw fish cuts and ingredients in a variety of styles and taste. There are many poke shops, grocery deli areas and even restaurants that do their own take of this tasty Poke appetizer or pupu dish.
Eggrolls or lumpia – another local food in Hawaii is a take off from Chinese style egg rolls or Filipino lumpia. Egg rolls are a favorite Hawaiian appetizer or a side dish eaten with or without a freshly made sauce.
These Hawaiian pupus can be sold traditionally in take out counters, mom and pop shops to fine dining establishments with their on take on an elevated eggroll Hawaiian pupu presentation.
Spam musubi – One of the most famous Hawaiian snacks take away snacks, spam musubi is found everywhere. This easy to eat pupu appetizer is made of sticky rice, spam and seaweed wrap. A popular pupu food snack that is a quick filler in between the main meals and a cheap food to buy anywhere.
You can find Spam musubi at any at local mom and pop counter food places, farmers markets and even a local grocery or gas station that sells Hawaiian snacks.
Probably one of the best pupus to eat in Hawaii are steamed manapua. A slightly different take on Chinese pork buns, the Hawaiian manapua is typically larger with BBQ style meat or charsui with a yummy sweet/sour style sauce that is easy to devour by yourself.
Best eaten when right out of the steamer, it is also delicious eaten at room temperature and is a very filling pupu snack.
You’ll find steamed manapua at small mom and pop shops, bakeries, farmers markets and other specialty to go shops around the islands.
Edamame – A very popular Hawaiian appetizer that originally comes from Japan, this simple snack of edamame is simply prepared with garlic, sesame oil and some chili flakes on the boiled beans that absorbs all the delicious flavors from the mixed ingredients.
A perfect Hawaii pupu snack to go along with any popular Hawaiian beer, cider or cocktail drink
An easy Hawaiian appetizer pupu are Boiled peanuts. Originally from various Asian cultures, boiled peanuts are easy to make and eat this pupu snack. Boiled peanuts are just that boiled in water and salt and drained and ready to eat typically with some local Hawaiian beer to drink it down.
Whenever locals crave a bit of salt and something nutty, this is definitely the choice of pupu they will look for.
Portuguese Sausage – grilled, baked or fried, Portuguese sausage is delicious as a pupu or a meat side dish that is often served with a mixed plate dish. It is always a local favorite sausage you will find in any local café or takeout counter.
Popular Hawaiian dishes and main entrees
Plate lunch – one of the most popular food in Hawaii is the plate lunch special. Sold in many take out places, small store delis or even cafes sell to go plate lunches with local favorite entrees over two scoops of rice and two scoops of macaroni.
Try this with favorite fried mochi chicken, deep fried fish or seafood or specials of the day
Bento Box – originally from Japan, bentos are offered at many Japanese places and other take-out spots or cafes that serve up smaller mixes of local Japanese flavored dishes like fried fish, mochiko chicken, chicken or pork katsu and sushi or rolls.
Loco Moco – you can get many different versions of loco moco dishes or stick to the local favorite which typically has two scoops of rice, a hamburger steak type patty and a generous topping of gravy with a fried egg on top.
This local favorite comfort food is always on the menu at local cafes or restaurants.
Where’s the best Loco Moco you ask?
Kalua Pig – a very popular entrée meat dish that is always at every pot luck or luau you might go to, Kalua pig is moist, juicy and a great dish to mix with rice or poi as a starch. Typically done traditionally in an imu (steamed underground pit), kalua pig is now baked in a stove or crock pot.
Kalua pig is so easy to do in a slow cooker, check out how make Kalua pig here for instructions.
Lau lau – a favorite dish in any Hawaiian menu, lau lau is made with taro leaves wrapped around pork and or fish and steamed to create a delicious, moist, comfort style food especially when combined with poi or rice as a starch dish.
If you want to try and make it yourself, check out this simple lau lau recipe here for directions.
Make your own traditional lau lau
Lomi salmon – a typical side dish or a Hawaiian pupu style in a mixed plate made with diced tomatoes, onions and dried fish or salmon to make this a savory, salty side complemented with some poi or rice.
Check out this simple lomi salmon recipe here on how to make some delicious lomi salmon.
Huli Huli chicken – You’ll have to stop if you see huli huli rotisseries at a roadside stand with those amazing smells. It is melt in your mouth perfect chicken that’s moist, flavorful and so delicious with some rice, macaroni salad or lomi salmon on the side.
Gordon Ramsey tries the huli huli chicken
Luau stew – Just like grandma would make comfort food style, luau stew is just that made with taro leaves, coconut milk and some protein like chicken, pork or beef depending on what’s in the fridge.
Everyone has their own favorite style and added flavors, but these basic ingredients make it a favorite Hawaiian comfort food.
Make your own easy luau stew below
Hawaiian Short Ribs – another popular dish that everyone love, short ribs Hawaiian style is typically dried and then grilled or baked to gooey perfection.
There are many different preparation styles, sauces and ingredients used, but typical tropical and Asian flavors in preparing and marinating the meat are the local way to enjoy these ribs.
A more Hawaiian take on ramen soup than Asian counterparts, Saimin is a local favorite soup broth made with fish, pork and chicken stock. Add some Portuguese sausage, fish or pork with this soup and you have a hearty and flavorful local dish everyone loves to eat.
Poi – the traditional Hawaiian poi is made with taro that is pounded and water added to create a sticky consistency. Letting the poi sit and ferment for a few days adds a sour touch that is perfect for the various meats and other side dishes that complement this starch.
Pipi Kaula – Hawaiian jerky style beef that is dried outdoors and then fried or char broiled in an oven to tender goodness. When you add some rice or poi with other sides, this is the most delicious Hawaiian meal you have and will crave for days.
Chicken long rice – When the Hawaiians brought their chickens, they saw that Chinese laborers would combine their noodles into a fantastic soup and chicken which created this fantastic dish and flavored with lots of garlic and ginger to make a favorite local dish.
Purple sweet potato – a staple starch brought as a canoe plant by the Polynesians, purple sweet potato is always part of a Hawaiian mixed plate or potluck style dish that is a perfect complement to all the savory and salty dishes present in any food event or something you’ll find at a café or take out counter.
Delicious desserts cover the gamut of tropical flavors, fried goodies or something cold and perfect for those hot Hawaiian days where you want something easy and refreshing.
Check out some of these popular desserts below that you might want to try soon.
Hawaiian shave Ice – You definitely have to try a local shave ice at any of the popular local venues and on a hot day. Super fine shaved ice is pack into paper cones and you then have a choice of different flavors to top like coconut, mango, lilikoi or a bevy of other popular toppings to choose from to create your own yummy dessert
Haupia – a popular Hawaiian favorite, Haupia is basically a coconut cream dessert that can be served creamy style, more solid and cut or even combined with other sweet ingredients like sweet potato or even sweetened taro to make a more complex dessert.
Malasadas – taken from Portuguese settlers that deep fried this gooey dough and slathered sugar all over the fried goodness. Malasadas are served best hot and also with a bevy of piped
A local favorite dessert you can find at many farmers markets, take out places and even grocery stores. Mochi cakes originate from Japan but with many different variations in Hawaii to include tropical flavors like likikoi, pineapple and coconut. Try some delicious mochi and you will be sold.
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Conclusion on popular Hawaiian dishes to eat
Hope you enjoyed reading these Hawaiian dish that you must try on the islands when you visit. With so many different flavors, ingredients and ethnic foods, these are the most popular and delicious dishes to eat on the islands now.
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