What is Pulehu Chicken? Secret Hawaiian Grilling Technique!

Ever found yourself curious about pulehu chicken and its making? Trust me, you’re not alone! I remember scratching my head too when I first heard of this tantalizing Hawaiian gem. In my adventure through the vibrant lanes of Hawaiian cuisine, I stumbled upon a savory secret – Pulehu Chicken!

This is not just grilled chicken; it’s a delicious dance of flavors tickling your taste buds and whisking them away on an unexpected journey. Ready to fire up that grill for some tropical magic? Let’s jump in together!

Key Takeaways

  • Pulehu chicken is a savory and smoky Hawaiian dish made by grilling marinated chicken thighs over an open flame.
  • The marinade for pulehu chicken typically includes soy sauce, ginger, garlic, black pepper, and sea salt.
  • Pulehu chicken has a unique flavor profile compared to teriyaki chicken – it is more savory and tangy rather than sweet.

What is Pulehu Chicken?

Pulehu Chicken is a flavorful Hawaiian chicken dish that is cooked over an open flame, resulting in smoky and savory flavors.

Definition and origin

Pulehu chicken, a well-known Hawaiian dish, boasts savory and smoky flavors that come alive when cooked over an open flame. Its name “pulehu” translates to “grilled” or “broiled” in the native language.

Traditional recipes call for marinating chicken thighs in a tangy soy sauce blend before grilling it, infusing each bite with unforgettable flavor. This dish has been celebrated for centuries by locals, making it a staple at popular Hawaiian barbecue restaurants like Mo’ Bettahs.

Cooking method

To cook Pulehu chicken, start by marinating the chicken thighs in a tangy soy sauce-based marinade. This marinade typically contains ingredients like soy sauce, ginger, and garlic to infuse the meat with flavor.

Once marinated, the chicken is then grilled over an open flame or hot coals. The high heat from the grill gives the chicken a smoky flavor and helps to lock in juiciness. As it cooks, you’ll want to flip the chicken occasionally to ensure even cooking on both sides.

After grilling, let the chicken rest for a few minutes before serving. This allows the juices to redistribute throughout the meat and ensures maximum tenderness.

Traditional ingredients

Pulehu chicken is made using traditional ingredients that enhance its savory and smoky flavor. The marinade typically includes soy sauce, ginger, and garlic, which adds tanginess and depth to the dish. Other key ingredients used in Pulehu chicken are black pepper, which adds a hint of spiciness, and sea salt for seasoning. These flavors come together to create a mouthwatering dish that is beloved in Hawaiian cuisine.

How to Make Pulehu Chicken

To make Pulehu Chicken, start by marinating chicken thighs in a tangy and savory Hawaiian-style soy marinade. Then, grill the chicken over an open flame until it is juicy and smoky, creating a delicious grilled delight that captures the flavors of traditional Hawaiian cuisine.

Step-by-step instructions

To make Pulehu chicken, follow these simple steps:

  1. Start by marinating the chicken: In a bowl, combine soy sauce, ginger, garlic, and other desired seasonings. Place the chicken thighs in the marinade and let them soak for at least 30 minutes or overnight in the refrigerator.
  2. Prepare the grill: Preheat your grill to medium-high heat. If using charcoal, wait until the coals are hot and covered with white ash.
  3. Grill the chicken: Remove the chicken from the marinade and discard any excess liquid. Place the chicken thighs on a well-oiled grill grate. Cook for about 5-7 minutes per side, or until they reach an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C).
  4. Baste with marinade: While grilling, baste the chicken with some of the reserved marinade to enhance its flavor and keep it moist.
  5. Let it rest: Once cooked, remove the chicken from the grill and allow it to rest for a few minutes before serving.
  6. Serve and enjoy: Plate up your Pulehu chicken alongside some rice and a refreshing macaroni salad for a complete Hawaiian-style meal.

Marinating and grilling techniques

To make delicious Pulehu chicken, it’s essential to master the marinating and grilling techniques. Start by marinating your chicken thighs in a tangy blend of soy sauce, ginger, and garlic for at least an hour.

This allows the flavors to penetrate the meat and make it tender and juicy. When you’re ready to grill, preheat your grill or light up some hot coals. Place the marinated chicken directly over the heat source, whether it’s open flames or hot coals.

Cook each side for about 5-7 minutes until they are beautifully charred with a smoky flavor. Keep an eye on them to prevent burning, but be sure to cook them long enough so that they are fully cooked through.

Recommended seasonings and flavors

For a mouthwatering Pulehu chicken, I recommend using the following seasonings and flavors:

  1. Black pepper: Add a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper for a hint of spice and earthiness.
  2. Garlic: Crushed or minced garlic cloves will infuse the chicken with a rich and savory flavor.
  3. Sea salt: Use sea salt to enhance the natural flavors of the chicken while adding a touch of brininess.
  4. Soy sauce: Opt for a Hawaiistyle soy marinade, which typically includes soy sauce as its base ingredient.
  5. Ginger: Grate fresh ginger into the marinade to provide a subtle kick and aromatic taste.
  6. Green onions: Finely chop green onions and mix them into the marinade for an added layer of savory freshness.
  7. Sesame oil: Drizzle in some sesame oil to give the Pulehu chicken a nutty and slightly sweet undertone.
  8. Brown sugar: Balance out the tanginess with a touch of brown sugar to add sweetness and caramelization.

Pulehu Chicken vs Teriyaki Chicken

Pulehu Chicken and Teriyaki Chicken may both be delicious grilled chicken options, but they have key differences in flavor, preparation, and ingredients. Discover the distinct characteristics of these Hawaiian favorites and find out which one suits your taste buds best.

Key differences in flavor and preparation

Pulehu chicken stands out from teriyaki chicken in both flavor and preparation. While teriyaki chicken has a sweet and smoky taste, pulehu chicken offers a savory and tangy marinade.

The cooking techniques also differ – teriyaki is typically pan-seared or grilled with the sauce applied during the cooking process. However, pulehu chicken is marinated first before being cooked over an open flame.

In terms of ingredients, while teriyaki relies heavily on soy sauce, sugar, and mirin, pulehu uses Hawaiian-style soy marinade along with black pepper, garlic, and sea salt for seasoning.

Comparing cooking techniques and ingredients

When it comes to Hawaiian cuisine, Pulehu and Teriyaki chicken are two popular dishes that often come to mind. While they both involve grilling chicken, the ingredients and cooking techniques used in each recipe are distinct, giving each dish its unique flavor and appeal. Let’s compare:

Pulehu ChickenTeriyaki Chicken
Cooking TechniqueChicken is typically marinated in soy sauce-based marinade and then grilled over an open flame.Chicken is often marinated in teriyaki sauce and then grilled or broiled. The sauce is usually reduced to a glaze and then applied to the chicken as it cooks.
Main IngredientsChicken thighs are commonly used. The marinade usually includes soy sauce, ginger, garlic, black pepper, and sea salt.Chicken thighs or breasts are used. The teriyaki sauce is typically made with soy sauce, mirin, sake, and sugar or honey.
Flavor ProfilePulehu chicken is known for its savory and smoky flavor, with a hint of tanginess from the marinade.Teriyaki chicken has a sweet and tangy flavor, with a sticky glaze from the reduced teriyaki sauce.

While both dishes are delicious and have their own unique characteristics, it’s the choice of marinade and cooking method that truly set them apart. I love the tenderness of the Pulehu chicken and the savory smoky flavor from the grill. On the other hand, the sweet and tangy glaze of Teriyaki chicken is also irresistible. Both are certainly worth trying if you’re a fan of Hawaiian cuisine.

Variations and Substitutes for Pulehu Chicken

Explore the world of alternative seasonings, marinades, and even vegetarian options to create your own unique twist on this classic Hawaiian grilled chicken dish. Discover new flavors and techniques that will enhance your grilling game and impress your guests.

Ready to get creative? Keep reading!

Alternative seasonings and marinades

When it comes to pulehu chicken, there are various alternative seasonings and marinades that you can try to give this Hawaiian dish a unique twist. Here are some options to consider:

  1. Pineapple Ginger Marinade: Add a tropical touch to your pulehu chicken by blending pineapple juice, grated ginger, soy sauce, and a hint of brown sugar.
  2. Spicy Chili Rub: For those who enjoy a little heat, create a spicy chili rub using red pepper flakes, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne pepper, salt, and black pepper.
  3. Citrus Herb Marinade: Give your pulehu chicken a refreshing flavor by combining citrus juices (such as lemon or lime), fresh herbs like thyme or rosemary, garlic cloves, olive oil, and salt.
  4. Teriyaki Glaze: If you prefer sweeter flavors, brush your grilled pulehu chicken with teriyaki glaze made from soy sauce, honey or brown sugar, minced garlic, grated ginger, and cornstarch for thickening.
  5. Coconut Curry Marinade: Explore the fusion of Hawaiian and Southeast Asian cuisines by marinating your chicken in a mixture of coconut milk, curry powder or paste (red or yellow), turmeric powder for color, fish sauce or soy sauce for seasoning.

Vegetarian or vegan options

If you prefer a vegetarian or vegan option, there are alternatives to traditional Pulehu chicken that can still satisfy your taste buds. Here are some options to consider:

  • Grilled tofu: Substitute chicken with tofu and marinate it in a soy sauce-based marinade. The tofu will absorb the flavors and deliver a satisfying smoky taste.
  • Portobello mushrooms: These meaty mushrooms are perfect for grilling and can be marinated in a similar tangy blend of seasonings to mimic the flavor of Pulehu chicken.
  • Seitan “chicken” strips: Made from wheat gluten, seitan offers a chewy texture similar to meat. Marinating seitan in a soy sauce-based marinade will create a flavorful alternative to Pulehu chicken.
  • Grilled vegetables: Create a delicious array of grilled vegetables, such as bell peppers, zucchini, onions, and eggplant. Toss them in the same tangy marinade used for Pulehu chicken to elevate their flavors.

Other grilled chicken recipes from Hawaii

When it comes to grilled chicken in Hawaii, there are various delicious recipes to explore. Here are some Hawaiian-style grilled chicken dishes that you should try:

  1. Huli Huli Chicken: This mouthwatering dish features tender chicken marinated in a sweet and tangy soy sauce-based marinade. It is then cooked over an open flame until it is juicy and charred to perfection.
  2. Mochiko Chicken: Another popular grilled chicken recipe from Hawaii is Mochiko Chicken. The chicken is marinated in a mixture of soy sauce, sugar, ginger, garlic, and rice flour. It is then grilled until it becomes crispy on the outside while remaining juicy on the inside.
  3. Kalbi Chicken: Kalbi Chicken is a flavorful dish made with boneless chicken thighs marinated in a Korean-style marinade consisting of soy sauce, brown sugar, garlic, and sesame oil. The marinated chicken is then grilled to create a caramelized and smoky flavor.
  4. Shoyu Chicken: Shoyu Chicken is a simple yet delicious grilled chicken dish that showcases the flavors of soy sauce, garlic, ginger, and brown sugar. The chicken is marinated in this savory blend before being grilled to perfection.
  5. Teriyaki Chicken Skewers: Teriyaki-style grilled chicken skewers are always a hit at backyard barbecues or luaus in Hawaii. The chicken pieces are threaded onto skewers and basted with a homemade teriyaki sauce made with soy sauce, ginger, garlic, brown sugar, and pineapple juice.


Pulehu chicken is a delicious and flavorful dish that originates from Hawaii. Made with marinated chicken thighs cooked over an open flame, it has a savory and smoky taste that is truly unique.

Whether enjoyed at a Hawaiian barbecue restaurant or made at home, pulehu chicken is sure to be a grilled delight for your taste buds.


1. What is pulehu chicken?

Pulehu chicken is a savory, smoky and juicy dish made by cooking chicken over hot coals using the traditional Hawaiian Pulehu cooking method.

2. How is the flavor of pulehu chicken created?

The flavor of Pulehu Chicken comes from a blend of soyu and spicy seasoning, including Pulehu salt seasoning that gives it its unique taste.

3. Is broiling involved in making pulehu chicken?

Yes, broiled chicken forms an essential part of this dish’s preparation process which involves open flame cooking to achieve the desirable smoky layer.

4. Does Pulehu only refer to a type of cooked meat?

No, while commonly associated with grilled meats like our featured broiled chicken; “pulehu” refers more generally to Hawaiian-style open-flame grilling coupled with savory seasonings including delicious soy marinade & spices.

5. Where can I find a recipe for pulehu chicken?

You’ll find numerous comprehensive recipes online outlining each step required in creating your own tasty rendition of this traditional Hawaiian favorite right at home!

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