Dinner Recipes

DIY Huli-Huli Grilled Chicken

Many of the world’s famous sauces were born in a home kitchen — and so it was with the gorgeous teriyaki-style sauce that inspired this recipe. In 1955, Ernest Morgado, a Hawaiian businessman and co-founder of Pacific Poultry Co., was barbecuing up a bunch of chicken for a farm-bureau meeting and used his mother’s sauce recipe to marinate it. According to family lore, the chicken was such a crowd-pleaser, Morgado started serving it at fundraising barbecues, raising millions of dollars for Honolulu charities. (One of his fundraisers even made the Guinness Book of World Records for largest chicken barbecue with 46,386 chicken halves!)

Morgado famously barbecued the chicken on a kind of spit made with two grill grates. As the story goes, when one side of the meat was nicely charred, hungry onlookers would shout, “Huli!,” the Hawaiian word for “turn.” Morgado trademarked the name Huli-Huli Sauce in 1958 and then, after many, many requests, started bottling it in 1986. All these years later, huli-huli chicken is made throughout Hawaii and the sauce is sold all over the world. The original recipe, of course, is triple top secret, but the internet is abound with copycats.

In this version, we whisk up ketchup, soy sauce, brown sugar, vinegar, ginger, and garlic — and let the chicken marinate in it overnight. Once the chicken is on the grill, you turn it every five minutes (huli, huli!), marinating it with the rich sauce after every turn. The result is tantalizing! The chicken comes off the grill deeply charred in a wonderful caramelized-brown-sugar way. The skin is crispy and the meat is super juicy and redolent with the tangy, smoky-sweet glaze.

Like Morgado, we like to make huli-huli grilled chicken for a big cookout crowd, but it’s also fantastic for midweek meals because it’s so easy to throw together. We grill ours with pineapple, which tastes amazing with huli-huli sauce. And leftovers of both the pineapple and the chicken are fantastic served over a rice bowl and garnished with a fistful of fresh cilantro.

DIY Huli-Huli Grilled Chicken



DIY Huli-Huli Grilled Chicken

Serves: 4


½ cup ketchup
½ cup soy sauce
½ cup packed brown sugar
¼ cup rice vinegar or apple cider vinegar
1”-piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely grated
3 ½ to 4 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken (thighs, legs, wings, or breasts)
Grapeseed oil, for brushing the grill
Chives, chopped, for garnish (optional)


  1. In a large bowl, combine the ketchup, soy sauce, brown sugar, rice vinegar, ginger, and garlic. Stir until combined. Reserve and refrigerate ½ cup of the marinade for basting the chicken.

  2. Add the chicken to the remaining marinade and stir until the chicken is evenly coated. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or up to overnight, turning the chicken at least once.

  3. When you’re ready to cook the chicken, generously brush the grill grates with oil and heat the grill to medium.

  4. Put the chicken on the grill, cover, and cook, turning every 5 minutes to keep the chicken from burning and basting with marinade after every turn. Chicken is done when the internal temperature reaches 165º on an instant-read thermometer, 25 to 35 minutes.

  5. Garnish with chopped chives and serve immediately.

Recipe source: New York Times

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