Bursting tropical flavor fills this Huli Huli Chicken that is marinated and then basted in sweet garlic and ginger sauce. If you’re dreaming of distant shores this easy recipe can be made at home and grilled to sticky perfection.
Why This Recipe Works
This simple recipe for super sticky teriyaki-inspired chicken doesn’t require you to travel to the island of Honolulu, Hawaii. Instead, you can prepare this with ease at your own home and transport yourself to a tropical place with every single bite.
First, a simple marinade is prepared, some reserved for basting later, and then you let your chicken marinate anywhere from 30 minutes to 48 hours (longer is better, but sometimes you don’t have that kind of time. Lastly, you’ll grill your chicken on the grill or using a grill plate while basting it as your flip the chicken from side to side during the cooking process.
Whether you need a delicious weeknight dinner everyone will eat or you want to serve up something on a warm evening outdoors, this chicken is a great option.
Ingredients You’ll Need
- Soy Sauce: any version of soy sauce, tamari, or soy sauce alternative will work for this recipe.
- Ginger: I prefer to use minced ginger, however, many huli huli chicken recipes will call for fresh ginger, this is entirely up to you. I prefer to save time and using minced ginger doen’t take away from the taste either.
- Chicken Thighs: you will need boneless, skinless, chicken thighs for this recipe, which will result in a super tender and juicy chicken.
- Chicken Broth: to keep the sodium down in this recipe I like to use a low-sodium chicken broth, however, you can also use water or canned pineapple juice too.
- Pineapple Juice: in this recipe I used chicken broth to create a slurry, but you can switch it out for pineapple juice to create a more tropical flavor. If you choose to do this make sure to buy canned pineapple juice, not fresh pineapple juice or homemade pineapple juice. The reason is due to pineapple containing a natural tenderizer that will make the chicken too soft. This tenderizer is removed when the pineapple and pineapple juice is canned.
- Sherry: instead of using rice wine vinegar you can also use sherry, Chinese cooking wine (Shaoxing wine), or even Mirn.
- Toast the garlic and ginger. Heat the sesame oil over medium heat in a large heavy-bottomed skillet. Add the ginger and garlic and cook for about 1 minute, stirring occasionally.
- Prepare the marinade. Add the soy sauce, rice vinegar, brown sugar, and ketchup to the skillet and stir to combine.
- Create a slurry. Whisk the cornstarch and chicken broth (or pineapple juice) together until fully mixed. Add the mixture to the skillet and bring to a soft boil, remove from heat. REMEMBER: Pineapple juice must be canned.
- Marinate. Reserve a ½ cup of the marinade and set it aside. Place the chicken in a baking dish or pan and pour the remaining marinade over the chicken and toss it to coat it completely. place it in the fridge to marinate for 30 minutes up to 6 hours (optional, but recommended).
- Grill. Set the grill to medium-high (or place a grill pan on the stove set to medium-high) and oil the racks. Cook the first side of the chicken for 2 to 3 minutes or until golden and flip to the other side and cook for 2 minutes.
- Baste and flip. Baste the already cooked side with the reserved marinade and then flip the chicken to that side to cook for another minute. Repeat this process every minute for about 10 minutes until the thickest part of the chicken registers 165ºF.
- Let rest. Transfer the chicken to a place and cover loosely with foil and let rest for 5 minutes before serving (optional).
Reserve Notes: After you’ve made the marinade you will need to reserve about ½ a cup and the rest will be poured over the chicken. Once you’ve poured the marinade over the chicken you can’t use it for basting since it’s mixed with raw chicken and will contaminate it unless cooked long enough. During this cooking process, we will be flipping the meat and basting it quickly, which is less than the recommended time for cooking anything that has been mixed with raw chicken.
How Long to Marinate Huli Huli Chicken
There is a wide range on what is a minimum and maximum for marinating chicken. According to Bon Appétit depending on your marinade ingredients you should never marinate chicken for longer than 24 hours and should, in fact, be way under that timeframe otherwise you’ll potentially end up with meat that is stringy or mushy.
If a marinade has lemon juice, lime juice, vinegar, or yogurt you want to keep the marinate time around 5 to 6 hours. Since this recipe calls for rice wine vinegar the longest I recommend marinating it is for 6 hours and the minimum is 30 minutes.
What to Serve it With
Keep the sides simple and serve it with steamed rice, or herbed potato salad, or macaroni salad. You can also try some tropical sides such as pineapple fried rice, Hawaiian coleslaw, or Poi.
- Grill Plate. For years we didn’t have an outdoor grill. I learned to grill on my grill pan for this reason. This recipe will work just as well if you don’t have a grill.
- Heavy-Bottomed Skillet. I use my Lodge skillet almost daily and love the two handles that this one has.
- Thongs. With all the marinade and basting on this chicken it gets slippery. You’ll need a pair of thongs with teeth or groves at the end to help.
- Basting Brush. I’m constantly using my basting and pastry brushes, which is why I love this set.
- Measuring cup with a handle. When you’re flipping the chicken with one hand it makes it easy to hold the measuring cup in the other. Then you can quickly pick up your basting brush.
Recipe Notes and Tips
- Grill some pineapple while you’re also grilling the chicken to add a complimentary flavor and garnish for the chicken.
- You don’t have to have a grill to prepare this chicken! In fact, huli huli chicken in Hawaii is often cooked on a rotiserie. If you have a grill pan for your stove then that’s all you need.
- After you have fully cooked the meat set it on a plate and cover it lightly with foil. This allows the juices to reabsorbe into the fibers of the meat, which boosts the flavor. This is optional but hightly recommended.
- If you want to add a little kick to the marinade you can mix in of sriracha sauce.
Absolutely. The chicken thighs result in slightly more tender meat, but you can also use chicken breast. If one side of the chicken breast is far thicker than the other I recommend tenderizing the meat on that side or using the meat in the plastic bag and pound it with a rolling pin option to even it out.
Yes. To cook this chicken in the oven following the directions through step 5. Then heat your oven to 420ºF and lay the chicken in a single layer on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake the chicken for 15 minutes and remove the pan from the oven. Set the temperature to BROIL and use a spoon to drizzle the basting marinade over the top of the chicken. Broil for 8 to 10 minutes until the marinade begins to char and become sticky. Remove and let rest for 5 minutes covered in foil.
Huli Huli Chicken
- Heavy-Bottomed Skillet
- Basting Brush
- Measuring Cup with Handle
- 1 tablespoon Sesame Oil
- 1 teaspoon Fresh Ginger or minced ginger
- 3 Garlic Cloves minced
- ½ cup Soy Sauce
- 1 tablespoons Rice Vinegar
- ½ cup Brown Sugar
- ⅓ cup Ketchup
- ¼ cup Chicken Broth or pineapple juice
- 1 tablespoon Cornstarch
- 2 lbs Boneless, Skinless, Chicken Thighs
- Heat the sesame oil over medium heat in a large heavy-bottomed skillet. Add the ginger and garlic and cook for about 1 minute, stirring occasionally.
- Add the soy sauce, rice vinegar, brown sugar, and ketchup to the skillet and stir to combine.
- Create a slurry by whisking the cornstarch and chicken broth (or pineapple juice) together until fully mixed. Add the mixture to the skillet and bring to a soft boil, remove from heat.
- Reserve a ½ cup of the marinade and set it aside. Place the chicken in a baking dish or pan and pour the remaining marinade over the chicken and toss it to coat it completely.
- Follow through with cooking the chicken immediately or place it in the fridge to marinate for 30 minutes up to 6 hours.
- Set the grill to medium-high (or place a grill pan on the stove set to medium-high) and oil the racks.
- Cook the first side of the chicken for 2 to 3 minutes or until golden and flip to the other side and cook for 2 minutes.
- Baste the already cooked side with the reserved marinade and then flip the chicken to that side to cook for another minute. Repeat this process every minute for about 10 minutes until the thickest part of the chicken registers 165ºF.
- Transfer the chicken to a place and cover loosely with foil and let rest for 5 minutes before serving (optional).