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Authentic Hawaiian Food You Need To Try


Modified: December 27, 2023

by Euphemia Polson



Food is an integral part of any travel experience, and when it comes to exploring new cultures, trying out local dishes is a must. If you’re a food lover and an avid traveler, combining your passions for food and travel through food travel can be an exciting and fulfilling adventure. One destination that is sure to tantalize your taste buds is the breathtaking Hawaiian Islands.


Hawaii is not just famous for its stunning beaches and lush landscapes but also for its unique and delicious cuisine. Hawaiian food is a fusion of different cultures, including Polynesian, Asian, and American influences. The result is a diverse and flavorful culinary scene that offers something for every palate.


In this article, we’ll take a closer look at some of the most authentic and must-try dishes in Hawaii. From refreshing poke bowls to succulent kalua pig, these local delights will give you a true taste of the islands and leave you craving for more. So, buckle up and get ready to embark on a gastronomic journey through the flavors of Hawaii.


Poke Bowl

One of the most popular dishes in Hawaiian cuisine is the poke bowl. Pronounced as “po-kay,” this delicious dish consists of diced raw fish, commonly ahi tuna, marinated in a flavorful combination of soy sauce, sesame oil, seaweed, onions, and other seasonings. The word “poke” actually means “to slice” or “to cut” in Hawaiian, which perfectly describes the preparation of this dish.


The poke bowl is a versatile dish that allows for customization to suit individual tastes. Along with the marinated fish, it is typically served over a bed of steamed rice or fresh salad greens. Toppings and garnishes such as avocado, cucumber, sesame seeds, and spicy mayonnaise can be added to enhance the flavors and add texture.


One of the reasons why the poke bowl has gained worldwide popularity is its freshness and simplicity. The dish celebrates the natural flavors of the fish and showcases the use of high-quality ingredients. Each bite offers a burst of umami flavors combined with the delicate texture of the raw fish.


While traditional poke bowls focus on ahi tuna, there are also variations that feature other types of fish, such as salmon, octopus, or shrimp. Additionally, vegetarian and vegan versions with tofu or marinated vegetables are also available, making it a versatile option for a wide range of dietary preferences.


Whether you are enjoying a poke bowl as a light lunch or as part of a larger meal, it is a dish that exemplifies the essence of Hawaiian cuisine. It represents the abundance of fresh seafood found in the surrounding waters and reflects the cultural diversity that has shaped the islands’ culinary traditions.


When in Hawaii, sampling a poke bowl should be high on your food travel itinerary. You can find these delectable bowls in casual eateries, food trucks, or even high-end restaurants, allowing you to experience this Hawaiian classic no matter your budget or location.


Kalua Pig

When it comes to traditional Hawaiian food, one dish that stands out is the flavorful and succulent Kalua pig. This iconic dish is a must-try for anyone looking to indulge in authentic Hawaiian cuisine.


Kalua pig is a slow-cooked pork dish that is traditionally prepared in an underground oven called an imu. The pig is seasoned with Hawaiian sea salt and wrapped in banana leaves before being placed in the imu. The pig is then covered with hot rocks and left to cook for several hours, resulting in tender, smoky, and incredibly flavorful meat.


The cooking process infuses the meat with a unique earthy flavor and imparts a mouthwatering smokiness that sets it apart from other roasted pork dishes. The meat is typically shredded or pulled apart before being served, making it perfect for sandwiches, tacos, or simply enjoyed on its own.


Kalua pig is often the centerpiece of traditional Hawaiian feasts and celebrations such as luaus. It is a dish that represents the importance of community and coming together to share a delicious meal.


While cooking Kalua pig in an imu may not be feasible for most of us, you can still enjoy this delectable dish at many local eateries and food trucks throughout Hawaii. Some establishments use modern cooking techniques to recreate the flavors of traditional imu-cooked Kalua pig, while others offer their own unique twists on the dish.


When you take your first bite of Kalua pig, you’ll be greeted with the smoky aroma and rich flavors that reflect the cultural heritage of Hawaii. The tender meat, combined with the subtle saltiness of Hawaiian sea salt, creates a culinary experience that is unforgettable.


So, if you find yourself in Hawaii, make sure to seek out a place that serves Kalua pig and indulge in this mouthwatering delicacy. The taste of this traditional dish will transport you to the heart of Hawaiian cuisine and leave you with a newfound appreciation for the flavors of the islands.


Lomi Lomi Salmon

When it comes to traditional Hawaiian cuisine, Lomi Lomi Salmon is a dish that beautifully showcases the flavors and ingredients of the islands. This refreshing and savory dish is a staple in Hawaiian culture and is a must-try for any food traveler.


Lomi Lomi Salmon consists of diced, salt-cured salmon that is mixed with tomatoes, onions, and sometimes, green onions. The ingredients are gently tossed together with a touch of Hawaiian sea salt, creating a vibrant and flavorful salad-like dish.


The name “Lomi Lomi” comes from the Hawaiian word “lomi,” which means to massage. In the traditional preparation of Lomi Lomi Salmon, the ingredients are gently massaged together, allowing the flavors to blend and meld. The result is a harmonious combination of salty, tangy, and slightly sweet flavors.


This dish is often enjoyed as a side dish or a topping for other dishes, such as poke bowls or traditional Hawaiian plate lunches. The cool and refreshing nature of Lomi Lomi Salmon makes it perfect for the warm Hawaiian climate.


With its simple yet delightful combination of ingredients, Lomi Lomi Salmon is a true representation of the vibrant flavors found in Hawaiian cuisine. The salt-cured salmon adds a rich umami taste, while the tomatoes and onions provide a crisp and refreshing texture.


Many Hawaiian families have their own variations of Lomi Lomi Salmon, with some adding ingredients like chili peppers or fresh herbs to enhance the flavor profile. Regardless of the specific recipe, this dish remains a beloved favorite among locals and visitors alike.


When you try Lomi Lomi Salmon, you’ll experience a unique harmony of flavors that speaks to the cultural diversity and the bounty of the Hawaiian islands. Each bite offers a taste of the ocean, the farm, and the traditions that have shaped Hawaiian cuisine for generations.


So, if you’re looking to immerse yourself in the flavors of Hawaii, be sure to seek out a taste of Lomi Lomi Salmon. Whether enjoyed on its own or as part of a larger meal, this dish is guaranteed to leave you craving for more of the vibrant tastes and textures that make Hawaiian cuisine so remarkable.



Poi is a unique and traditional Hawaiian food that has been a staple in the islands for centuries. Made from the starchy root of the taro plant, poi is a thick, purple-gray paste with a slightly tangy and earthy flavor.


Preparing poi involves cooking and pounding the taro root until it reaches a smooth consistency. The texture can range from thick and viscous to thin and watery, depending on personal preference and the specific type of taro used.


Poi holds deep cultural significance for the Hawaiian people, and it is often enjoyed during important gatherings and celebrations. Its smooth and slightly gooey texture is reminiscent of baby food, and it is typically eaten by scooping it up with two fingers and then slowly swallowed.


While poi may seem strange or unfamiliar to those who are not accustomed to it, it is a delicacy that should be experienced when visiting Hawaii. The taste and texture may take some getting used to, but it offers a unique and authentic glimpse into the rich cultural heritage of the islands.


In addition to its cultural importance, poi is also highly nutritious. It is a good source of dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals, making it a healthy addition to any meal.


For those looking to explore the flavors of Hawaii, trying poi is a must. It is often served alongside other traditional Hawaiian dishes such as Kalua pig or lomi lomi salmon. The combination of flavors and textures creates a balanced and satisfying meal that is truly representative of the Islands.


When you try poi, you are not only experiencing a traditional Hawaiian food, but you are also connecting with the land and the people. It is an opportunity to embrace the customs and traditions that have shaped the Hawaiian culture for generations.


So, when you have the chance, be sure to dip your finger into a bowl of poi and savor the unique taste and symbolic significance. It is an experience that will leave a lasting impression and deepen your understanding and appreciation for the diverse cuisine of Hawaii.


Lau Lau

Lau Lau is a Hawaiian dish that showcases the art of slow cooking and the use of traditional cooking methods. This flavorful and aromatic dish consists of meat, typically pork or fish, wrapped in taro leaves and then steamed or baked to perfection.


The preparation of Lau Lau begins with the careful selection of ingredients. The meat is seasoned with a variety of spices and seasonings, such as Hawaiian sea salt, garlic, and butterfish (known as “lomi lomi”) for added richness and flavor. The seasoned meat is then wrapped tightly in taro leaves, creating a tidy and compact package.


The bundles of meat and taro leaves are then traditionally wrapped in ti leaves, which impart a unique earthy flavor and help to retain moisture during the cooking process. The entire package is then steamed or baked for several hours until the meat becomes tender and infused with the flavors of the leaves and seasonings.


When Lau Lau is unwrapped, the aroma that fills the air is irresistible. The meat is incredibly tender, and the taro leaves have imparted a subtle and delicate taste. The combination of flavors and textures is truly remarkable.


Traditionally, Lau Lau is often served with steamed rice, poi, or sweet potatoes, creating a well-rounded and satisfying meal. The dish is a favorite at family gatherings, luaus, and other special occasions, where it is enjoyed as a centerpiece that brings people together.


Trying Lau Lau is a must for anyone seeking an authentic Hawaiian food experience. The slow cooking process and the use of traditional ingredients and techniques make this dish a true representation of the culinary traditions of Hawaii.


Fortunately, Lau Lau can be found at various local Hawaiian restaurants and eateries, allowing visitors to sample this delicious dish throughout the islands. Each bite is a sensory delight, showcasing the harmony of flavors and the cultural significance that Lau Lau embodies.


If you’re looking to savor the essence of Hawaiian cuisine, be sure to seek out Lau Lau. It is a dish that will transport you to the heart of the islands and leave you with a newfound appreciation for the rich heritage and flavors of Hawaii.



When it comes to satisfying your sweet tooth in Hawaii, Haupia is a dessert that should not be missed. This creamy and coconutty treat is a beloved staple in Hawaiian cuisine and is a delightful way to end a meal.


Haupia is a traditional Hawaiian pudding-like dessert made from coconut milk, sugar, and a thickening agent such as cornstarch or arrowroot. The mixture is cooked until it reaches a smooth and velvety consistency, then chilled until set. The result is a luscious and creamy dessert with a rich coconut flavor.


Haupia is often served in square or rectangular blocks and can be enjoyed on its own or as a topping for other desserts such as shaved ice or chocolate cake. Its smooth texture and subtle sweetness make it a refreshing and indulgent treat, especially on a warm Hawaiian day.


While Haupia is traditionally made with just a few simple ingredients, there are variations of the dessert that incorporate additional flavors such as chocolate, mango, or pandan. These variations add an interesting twist to the classic Haupia and offer even more options for culinary exploration.


The coconut flavor in Haupia is a nod to the abundant coconut trees found throughout the islands. It is a taste that invokes the tropical paradise and the lushness of the Hawaiian landscape.


When you take a bite of Haupia, you’ll be greeted with the creamy, melt-in-your-mouth texture and the unmistakable taste of coconut. Its simplicity and richness make it a popular choice among locals and visitors alike.


No trip to Hawaii is complete without trying Haupia. Whether you enjoy it as a standalone dessert or as part of a larger sweet creation, it is a taste of the islands that will leave you craving for more.


So, be sure to save room for Haupia on your food travel itinerary and indulge in this delectable Hawaiian treat. Your taste buds will thank you for the creamy coconut goodness, and you’ll gain a deeper appreciation for the delightful flavors of Hawaii.


Spam Musubi

If you’re looking for a unique and tasty snack in Hawaii, look no further than Spam Musubi. This beloved Hawaiian treat combines the flavors of spam, sticky rice, and a touch of soy sauce into a portable and satisfying snack.


Spam Musubi is a fusion of Japanese and Hawaiian cuisines, with Japanese origins and a distinct Hawaiian twist. It consists of a slice of grilled spam, a popular canned meat product, placed on top of a block of seasoned sushi rice, held together with a strip of nori seaweed.


The combination of the salty, savory spam with the slightly sweet and sticky rice creates a delightful flavor profile that is irresistibly addictive. The nori wrap not only provides a contrasting texture but also adds a hint of umami to the overall taste.


Spam Musubi is a favorite snack that can be enjoyed any time of the day. It is commonly found in local convenience stores, food trucks, and even on restaurant menus as an appetizer or a light meal option.


The popularity of Spam Musubi in Hawaii can be attributed to its convenience, affordability, and the unique history of Spam’s presence on the islands. During World War II, Spam became widely available and heavily consumed by American GIs stationed in Hawaii. It eventually became ingrained in the local culinary culture and has remained a beloved ingredient ever since.


Whether you’re a fan of spam or not, trying Spam Musubi is a must when visiting Hawaii. It is a unique and memorable snack that encapsulates the fusion of cultures and flavors that make up Hawaiian cuisine.


So, next time you’re in Hawaii, be sure to grab a Spam Musubi and savor the delicious combination of ingredients. It’s a tasty and quintessentially Hawaiian treat that will leave you craving for more.


Plate Lunch

Plate Lunch is a quintessential Hawaiian meal that offers a delicious and satisfying combination of flavors and a generous portion size. This local favorite consists of a protein, two scoops of rice, and a scoop of macaroni salad, all served on a single plate.


The origins of Plate Lunch can be traced back to Hawaii’s multicultural history and the plantation era. Plantation workers from various ethnic backgrounds would bring their favorite dishes to share during their lunch breaks, resulting in a diverse and eclectic mix of flavors on a plate.


The protein component of a Plate Lunch can vary, with popular choices including teriyaki chicken, kalbi short ribs, loco moco (a hamburger patty topped with gravy and a fried egg), or even fresh seafood. Along with the protein, the generous portions of rice and macaroni salad create a hearty and complete meal.


Rice plays a significant role in Hawaiian cuisine, reflecting the influence of Asian cultures on the islands. The rice serves as a neutral base for the other components of the plate, allowing the flavors of the protein and the macaroni salad to shine.


The macaroni salad is what sets the Plate Lunch apart from other meals. It is a creamy and tangy pasta salad, typically made with elbow macaroni, mayonnaise, and a variety of vegetables such as carrots, onions, and celery. The creamy and slightly sweet macaroni salad provides a cooling contrast to the savory protein and the rice.


Plate Lunch is a beloved staple in Hawaii, offering a complete and satisfying meal that reflects the cultural diversity and the fusion of flavors in Hawaiian cuisine. It is not uncommon to find local restaurants, food trucks, and even roadside stands serving up delicious variations of this iconic meal.


Enjoying a Plate Lunch is not just about the food but also about experiencing the spirit of aloha and the laid-back vibe of Hawaii. It’s a meal to be enjoyed leisurely, with friends or family, while soaking in the beautiful island scenery.


If you’re looking to truly immerse yourself in Hawaiian food culture, make sure to savor a Plate Lunch. It’s a fulfilling and delicious meal that will leave you with a whole new appreciation for the flavors and the spirit of the islands.



When it comes to indulging in a sweet treat in Hawaii, Malasadas are not to be missed. This Portuguese-inspired pastry has become a beloved dessert in the islands, known for its fluffy texture, sugary coating, and delightful fillings.


Malasadas are deep-fried dough balls that are typically rolled in granulated sugar, giving them a sweet and crispy outer layer. The dough itself is light and airy, reminiscent of a soft and pillowy donut. While traditional Malasadas are plain, modern variations often feature decadent fillings such as chocolate, custard, or tropical flavors like coconut or lilikoi (passion fruit).


The origins of Malasadas can be traced back to the Portuguese immigrants who came to Hawaii to work on the sugar plantations. These immigrants brought their culinary traditions with them, including the recipe for this delectable dessert.


One of the best ways to enjoy Malasadas is piping hot and fresh from the fryer. The combination of the warm, fluffy dough with the sweet sugar coating is simply irresistible. Each bite is a burst of sweetness and texture that will satisfy any dessert lover’s cravings.


There are numerous places in Hawaii where you can find these delightful pastries, from local bakeries to specialty Malasada shops. They are often made to order, ensuring that you get a warm and fresh treat that will melt in your mouth.


Malasadas have become not just a popular dessert but also a part of Hawaiian culture. They are often enjoyed during special occasions and celebrations, such as fundraisers, carnivals, and even on Shrove Tuesday, also known as Malasada Day.


So, if you have a sweet tooth and find yourself in Hawaii, don’t miss the chance to indulge in some Malasadas. They offer a taste of the islands with a delightful Portuguese twist, and they are sure to leave you craving for more of their sugary goodness.



Exploring the flavors of Hawaiian cuisine through food travel is an incredibly rewarding experience. From the refreshing poke bowls to the tender Kalua pig, and the unique flavors of Lomi Lomi Salmon, Poi, Lau Lau, and Haupia, there is a wide range of authentic dishes to discover and savor in the Hawaiian Islands.


Each of these dishes tells a story, reflecting the cultural diversity and rich heritage of Hawaii. The fusion of different influences creates a culinary landscape that is as vibrant as the islands themselves.


Whether you’re enjoying a plate lunch at a local eatery or savoring the sweetness of Malasadas from a bustling bakery, each bite offers a glimpse into the essence of Hawaiian cuisine.


Food travel in Hawaii is not just about satisfying your taste buds; it’s an opportunity to connect with the local culture, traditions, and the land itself. It’s a chance to experience the spirit of aloha, the warmth, and hospitality of the Hawaiian people.


So, if you’re a food lover and a travel enthusiast, make sure to embark on a food travel journey to Hawaii. Immerse yourself in the unique flavors and culinary delights that the islands have to offer. From the famous dishes to the hidden gems, you’ll discover a whole new world of gastronomic adventures.


Remember, food travel is not just about the destination; it’s about the experiences, memories, and connections you make along the way. So, go forth and explore the world of food travel in Hawaii, and let your taste buds guide you on an unforgettable journey.