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posted September 01, 2021

Huli Huli Chicken

Get an authentic taste of the islands with this charcoal-grilled Huli Huli Chicken. Basted with a teriyaki-style BBQ sauce, Huli Huli chicken is perfect for family dinners or weekend BBQs. 

Huli huli chicken on a white plate next to grilled pineapple spears with text overlay - Huli Huli Chicken.

What is Huli Huli Chicken?

Huli Huli chicken is a Hawaiian staple. Huli means “turned” in Hawaiian, and as the name suggests, huli huli chicken is turned and turned to give it nice, even cooking with tons of good flavor.

These chickens are traditionally cooked rotisserie-style over hot flames or coals. The chicken is often smoked a bit, with the addition of wood chips (often Mesquite or something similar) for a nice, smoky flavor.

Huli Huli chicken is tangy and sweet, a perfect mash-up of Asian flavors from the soy sauce and island flavors from the pineapple juice. Add in fresh ginger and some spicy Sriracha and you’ve got a magical elixir that is perfectly made for grilled chicken.

Spatchcocked chicken on a charcoal grill being basted with BBQ sauce.

Grilled Huli Huli Chicken

One of my favorite food memories in Hawaii was stopping at a roadside spot with half chickens turning on a massive spit over a hotbed of charcoal. This recipe is my take on the flavors of the islands without the need for a rotisserie.

However, if you’ve got a smoker or grill equipped with one, please use it for a more authentic experience! You can adapt this recipe however you please to give you a chicken that fits with what you have on your back porch. Gas, charcoal, pellet grill, or anything else will do just fine for this recipe.

Grilled huli huli chicken on a round wooden cutting board.

How to Cook Huli Huli Chicken

As I mentioned previously, huli huli chicken is traditionally cooked rotisserie style, but if you don’t have a rotisserie attachment to your BBQ, you can still make some awesome food at home with a few modifications.

  1. Brine. This chicken is spatchcocked before cooking. If you need a refresher on the process, check out my post for How to Spatchcock a Turkey. Even though this post is for turkeys, the process is the same to remove the backbone in a chicken. 
  2. Brine. Once your chicken is spatchcocked, brine the chicken in 7 cups warm water, 1/2 cup salt, and 1/4 cup brown sugar. Brine in the fridge for 12 hours.
  3. Grill. With your preferred grilled preheated to 350 degrees F for two-zone cooking, grill the chicken over indirect heat for about 45 minutes or until the internal temp of the chicken reaches 155 degrees F. For the most authentic huli huli chicken, cook this chicken over a rotisserie with mesquite charcoal or wood.
  4. Sauce. Scroll to the recipe card below for instructions on making the BBQ sauce. Make the sauce following the directions below.  Place the chicken skin side down over direct heat, baste the chicken with BBQ sauce, and cook for 3-4 minutes. Baste the backside of the chicken with the BBQ sauce and flip again. Cook for an additional 2-3 minutes or until the internal temperature of the chicken reads 165 degrees F.
  5. Enjoy! Serve this chicken nice and hot. I also recommend serving with additional BBQ sauce.

Huli huli chicken on a white plate next to grilled pineapple spears.

More Chicken Recipes

Chicken is my favorite go-to during the week when I want something to feed my whole family, but I don’t have the time to dedicate to a long smoke. Check out these other delicious chicken recipes that are great when you’re in a pinch and want something really, really delicious.

Huli Huli Chicken Recipe

Enjoy a taste of Hawaii in your own backyard with this home-grilled version of huli huli chicken. Here at Hey Grill Hey we’re in the business of helping the everyday BBQer so you can make better BBQ, feed the people you love, and become a backyard BBQ hero. 

If you loved this recipe, make sure to leave a comment below! You can also reach out to us on social media. We love to hear from you!

Huli huli chicken on a white plate next to grilled pineapple spears.

Huli Huli Chicken

Susie Bulloch (heygrillhey.com)
Prep Time : 15 mins
Cook Time : 45 mins
Brine Time : 12 hrs
Total Time : 13 hrs

Ingredients
 

  • 1 whole chicken (spatchcocked)

Huli Huli Chicken Brine

  • 7 cups warm water
  • ½ cup salt
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 2 cups ice

Huli Huli BBQ Sauce

  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • cup low sodium soy sauce
  • ½ cup pineapple juice
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 2 Tablespoons ginger (finely grated)
  • 2 Tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons Sriracha sauce
  • salt (to taste)

Instructions

  • Brine the chicken. Dissolve the salt and sugar for the brine in the 7 cups of warm water. Whisking seems to help this process go quickly. Add your spatchcocked chicken to the brine and top with the 2 cups of ice. Store, covered, in the refrigerator for 12 hours.
  • Preheat. Preheat your grill for 2 zone cooking. Mesquite charcoal, or mesquite smoking chips will add a flavor that mimics traditional Hawaiian kiawe wood. You want the overall temperature on the grill to be running ar about 350 degrees F.
  • Grill the chicken. Remove your chicken from the brine and pat dry. Place the chicken, bone side down, on the indirect side of the grill, and close the lid. Cook the chicken until the internal temperature reads 155 degrees, this will take about 45-55 minutes.
  • Make the BBQ sauce. While the chicken cooks, prepare the huli huli BBQ sauce. Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil while whisking constantly. Reduce the heat to low, cover with a lid, and simmer for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the sauce from the heat and divide into 2 bowls. One for basting the chicken and one for serving on the side.
  • Sauce and finish cooking. When your chicken reaches 155 degrees F, it is time to sauce and flip! Baste the chicken with half of the BBQ sauce and move it over to the direct heat side of the grill, skin side down. Leave the lid open and baste the backside of the chicken while it sears. The sauce will sizzle and pop and caramelize in about 3-4 minutes. Flip the chicken bone side down over direct heat and baste the top again with sauce. Close the lid and cook for an additional 2 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked to 165 degrees F.
  • Serve. Remove the chicken and serve with a bowl of additional sauce for drizzling and basting.
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