Grilled Huli Huli Chicken with pineapple and rice makes a delicious and simple summer meal. The easy marinade has sweet and savory flavors thanks to brown sugar, pineapple juice, soy sauce, ginger, and garlic, and using chicken thighs means the meat is extra flavorful and moist!

We love grilled chicken! Some of our other favorites are Grilled Cilantro Lime Chicken Thighs, Spicy Honey Chicken, and Smoked Spatchcock Chicken.

Two grilled chicken thighs on a plate with white rice, macaroni salad, and spinach salad.

When summer hits it gets way to hot in our house for much indoor cooking. But we're not complaining because that means it's grilling season! Whether we are firing up the gas grill or going the extra mile and using our charcoal grill (our preference for the best flavor), it's so easy to throw some meat in to marinade early in the day and then just grill it up and serve it with some of our favorite sides for a delicious meal.

We like to grill up some sliced pineapple to serve with our huli-huli chicken for a perfectly wonderful tropical side to our Hawaiian chicken dinner.

A close image of grilled huli huli chicken thighs with grilled pineapple rings.

Tell Me About This Hawaiian Chicken Recipe

This easy chicken marinade and method of preparation comes from Hawaii where the Hawaiian word huli means "turn". There the chicken is either grilled or roasted on a spit over coals and turned to bastes in its' own juices, with a little extra help from more huli-huli sauce being brushed on to caramelize during the cooking process. Mesquite wood chips are also sometimes used to add a smoky flavor to the meat.

  • Flavor: Huli huli sauce has many similarities with teriyaki sauce with a sweet, savory, and salty taste that's absolutely delicious. And when you use a charcoal grill the juicy, tender meat has a smoky flavor as well.
  • Ease: It only takes a few minutes to whisk together the marinade, and grilling the meat on a hot grill is fast too. The longer part is waiting for the chicken to marinate and absorb some of those flavors.
  • Homemade: You can purchase bottles of huli-huli sauce in Hawaii, but it's not easy to find where I live and I already have the ingredients on hand to make homemade huli huli sauce anyway.

Ingredient Notes

This is a quick overview of some of the important ingredients you'll need for this huli huli chicken recipe. Specific measurements and full recipe instructions are in the printable recipe card below.

  • Chicken: We like boneless skinless chicken thighs for our huli-huli chicken because they cook quickly with just a few minutes on each side on a hot grill. But the marinade and sauce can be used with bone-in chicken thighs, chicken breasts, or whole chicken leg quarters. Basically any cut of chicken you like. And it would go great with pork tenderloin, pork chops, and many types of fish as well.
  • Brown sugar: This adds a hint of molasses and sweetness to the sauce.
  • Ketchup: A little ketchup gives body and depth to the sauce, as well as a nice color.
  • Soy sauce: For the coveted umami notes and saltiness.
  • Garlic and ginger: Use fresh minced garlic and fresh ginger for best results and flavor.
  • Pineapple juice: Another sweet element, this also helps tenderize the chicken. We usually just use pineapple juice drained from a can of pineapple slices, which we grill up with the chicken.
  • Rice vinegar: The sour tang of an acid like vinegar balances out the sauce so it isn't overly sweet. Apple cider vinegar is a good substitute.
  • Sesame oil: One of our favorite ingredients with a really unique flavor. We don't use it in a lot of dishes, but it lasts for at least a year in the fridge so we usually have it on hand.
  • Chicken broth: You could also use water to thin out the marinade and sauce.
Ingredients in separate bowls for making huli huli chicken.

How to Make Huli-Huli Chicken

It's easy to make this recipe. This is a quick overview with step-by-step images to help you visualize the process. Scroll down to the recipe card for printable, detailed instructions. Here is the basic approach:

  • Marinade. Whisk all the marinade ingredients together in a bowl. Set aside 1 cup for basting the chicken while grilling. Then pour the remaining soy sauce mixture over the chicken pieces in a large, resealable zip-top bag or shallow dish covered with plastic wrap and let it marinate in the fridge for 8-24 hours. You may want to squish or turn the chicken pieces a few times during the marinating process to make sure it all gets exposed to the marinade.
  • Grill. Preheat your grill to medium heat, then remove the chicken from the marinade, discarding the leftover marinade liquid. Grill for 12-16 minutes, turning the chicken partway through and basting with the reserved marinade during the last five minutes until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees F when tested with a digital meat thermometer (affiliate link). We grill the pineapple at the same time, turning it partway through to get grill marks on both sides until it is warm all the way through.
Boneless, skinless chicken thighs on the grill with pineapple rings.
  • Garnish and serve. Let the chicken rest for a few minutes after removing it from the grill to allow the juices to redistribute. We like to serve it on a large platter, family style, with the grilled pineapple and green onions sprinkled on top for color and freshness.
An overhead image of a platter of grilled huli huli chicken and pineapple slices.

FAQ's

Can I marinate and freeze the chicken?

One great meal prep idea is to throw your chicken in with the marinade and then freeze them. That way you can just pull it out of the freezer and pop it in the fridge the night before and it's ready to grill the next day.

Recipe Tips and Tricks

  • Don't forget to set aside some of the marinade: Brushing the chicken with additional sauce during the last five minutes of grilling adds even more of that amazing flavor, as well as additional color.
  • For grill marks: If you want beautiful dark grill marks, start with hot, clean grill grates. Not only does this give a beautiful appearance, but it also sears in the juices for more mouthwatering chicken.
  • Grilled pineapple: We usually do pineapple rings because I use the juice from the can as part of the marinade, but fresh pineapple spears work just as well.
  • Great for meal prep: We purposefully always make more than we think we will eat so there is enough for easy lunches through the week or for shredding and using in other dishes like our favorite chicken flautas.
Marinated and grilled chicken thighs on a baking sheet.

What to Serve With Huli-Huli Chicken

This versatile and delicious grilled chicken recipe is great with so many of our favorite barbecue side dishes. Consider going with a starch like white rice or a pasta salad, a green salad, and some veggies for a balanced combination. Here are some of our favorites:

Storage & Reheating Instructions

Leftovers can be kept in the fridge for 3-4 days in an airtight container. They reheat decently in the microwave, air fryer, or covered in foil in a 350 degree F oven for 10 minutes. You can freeze leftovers for up to 2 months, although we think they are better used in other dishes (casseroles, soups, etc.).

A bunch of grilled huli huli chicken on a baking sheet with grilled pineapple rings.

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Huli Huli Chicken

5 from 3 votes
Amy Nash
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Marinating Time 8 hrs
Total Time 8 hrs 30 mins
Course Dinner
Cuisine American
Servings 8 servings
Grilled Huli Huli Chicken with pineapple and rice makes a delicious and simple summer meal. The easy marinade has sweet and savory flavors thanks to brown sugar, pineapple juice, soy sauce, ginger, and garlic, and using chicken thighs means the meat is extra flavorful and moist!

Ingredients
  

  • 3-4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • ½ cup light brown sugar
  • ½ cup ketchup
  • ½ cup soy sauce
  • ½ cup pineapple juice
  • cup chicken broth
  • 2 teaspoons ginger root, peeled and grated
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 Tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon sesame oil
  • Sliced pineapple rings (optional)
  • Sliced green onions, for garnish

Instructions
 

  • Combine all marinade ingredients in a bowl. Whisk well. Reserve 1 cup for basting.
  • Place chicken in a large nonreactive glass dish or resealable Ziploc bag and cover with marinade, turning the chicken to coat. Refrigerate at least 8 hours.
  • Heat grill to medium heat. Drain chicken and discard the marinade. Grill the chicken for 6-8 minutes per side until they reach 170°F when tested with a digital meat thermometer, basting frequently with the reserved marinade during the last five minutes. Grill the pineapple rings at the same time, if using.
  • Rest and serve with chopped green onions sprinkled on top for garnish.

Notes

  • Storage: Leftovers can be kept in the fridge for 3-4 days in an airtight container. They reheat decently in the microwave, air fryer, or covered in foil in a 350 degree F oven for 10 minutes.
  • Freezing: You can freeze leftovers for up to 2 months, although we think they are better used in other dishes (casseroles, soups, etc.).
  • Other proteins: This glaze works well on pork tenderloin, pork chops, and salmon as well. 
  • For grill marks: If you want beautiful dark grill marks, start with hot, clean grill grates. Not only does this give a beautiful appearance, but it also sears in the juices for more mouthwatering chicken.
  • Grilled pineapple: We usually do pineapple rings because I use the juice from the can as part of the marinade, but fresh pineapple spears work just as well.

Nutrition

Calories: 305kcal | Carbohydrates: 21g | Protein: 35g | Fat: 9g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 162mg | Sodium: 1138mg | Potassium: 536mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 18g | Vitamin A: 119IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 37mg | Iron: 2mg
Tried this recipe? Show me on Instagram!Mention @HouseOfNashEats or tag #houseofnasheats!

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About the author

Hi, I'm Amy

I enjoy exploring the world through food, culture, and travel and sharing the adventure with mostly from-scratch, family friendly recipes that I think of as modern comfort cooking.

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