Food in Hawaii

Native Hawaiians enjoyed a diet of tropical fruits and planted crops including taro, arrowroot, and yams. Seafood was abundantly present in their diet, as was poi, a starchy paste made from the taro plant.

Modern Hawaii Cuisine

Although traditional (and we use that word lightly) Hawaiian cuisine can be found at a luau, modern dining in Hawaii reflects the fusion of Asian and Polynesian cooking style and ingredients. Below are some common and interesting foods you should try while visiting Hawaii.


A purple paste made from the corm (similar to a root) of a taro plant, poi is a traditional Hawaiian staple that is often served at luaus.

Lomi Lomi Salmon

Diced tomatoes, Maui sweet onions, and salmon salted, mixed, and served chilled. A common side dish at luaus and occassionly found in Hawaii restaurants.

Lau Lau

Lau Lau refers to the method of preparation and includes rolling and cooking food in taro leaves. Pork lau lau and chicken lau lau are very popular dishes found at luaus.

Kalua Pork

A local favorite found in many Hawaii restaurants as well as luaus. Kalua refers to the cooking method of cooking in an underground over, or imu. The pig is often wrapped in banana or ti leaves, placed between slabs of koa wood and hot stone and left to cook for several hours.

Plate Lunch

Common at casual restaurants and food trucks, a plate lunch in Hawaii usually consists of rice, macaroni salad, and meat (chicken, beef, pork, or spam).

Huli Huli Chicken

Found throughout Hawaii, Huli Huli Chicken is marinated with a sweet teriyaki sauce typically made with pure Hawaiian brown sugar, soy sauce, ginger and may contain other seasonings and flavor variations.

Hawaiian Fish

Fresh seafood can be found in nearly every Hawaii restaurant, however you might not recognize the name. Popular fish found on menus in Hawaii include Ono (Wahoo), Mahi Mahi, Ahi, Aku, and Opah.

Blue Hawaii

Really any colorful or blended drink is popular in Hawaii. Blue Hawaii is made with rum, pineapple juice, Blue Curacao and sweet & sour mix. Favorite tropical cocktails include the Lava Flow (pina colada with frozen strawberries) and Mai Tai's!

Shaved Ice

A favorite treat for locals and visitors alike. Shaved ice is mixed with brilliantly colored sugar and served in a plastic cone.


A favorite ingredient in Hawaii. Coconut is widely used in drink, food, and dessert recipes. Haupia pie is a traditional Hawaiian dessert, more like a pudding than a pie. Often found in restaurants and made of coconut milk.

Photo credits: Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA), Hawaii Tourism Japan (HTJ), Tor Johnson