The best way to make Huli Huli chicken! We turned your favorite Hawaiian chicken recipe into kabobs. This recipe is the best of sweet and savory. Marinated chicken with pineapple and veggies on kabobs and grilled to perfection.
Please read the entire post for tips and tricks to ensure a perfect recipe every time. And don't forget to tag @peelwithzeal on Instagram so we can admire your creation!
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Have you ever hear some say they are looking for the easiest five-star chicken dinner recipe? Well, this Huli Huli chicken recipe is it! And we have made this version gluten-free. Not familiar with it?
What is Huli Huli Chicken?
Huli-huli chicken is a grilled chicken dish with a teriyaki-like sauce originally from Hawaii. The word huli means to turn in Hawaiian and the chicken is turned frequently during cooking to mimic a rotisserie chicken.
Huli Huli chicken is typically marinated in sauce of pineapple, soy sauce, ketchup, and ginger and cooked over an open flame.
Recipe Ingredients & Substitutions
For this version, we chose to make the chicken marinade gluten and refined sugar-free. Plus a few substitutions to make it easier to throw together on a whim.
Huli Huli Marinade Ingredients
- Soy Sauce- To keep this gluten-free we use tamari (gluten-free soy sauce) but you can use regular soy sauce if gluten is not a concern.
- Tomato Paste- Ketchup is not a condiment we typically have on hand so I always have used tomato paste as a substitute. If you want to use ketchup reduce the rice vinegar and the honey by 1 tablespoon.
- Pineapple- To be honest I NEVER use pineapple juice. I always use orange juice because I usually have juice or a fresh orange on hand. The purpose of the juice is for the acid to tenderize this chicken. Because we have pineapple on the kabobs we get plenty of pineapple flavor. You can use either juice.
- Honey- First off, we limit our intake of refined sugar so I started substituting honey. Now I am a convert. I think the honey as a more complex flavor. You can substitute an equal amount of brown sugar.
- Rice Vinegar- The vinegar adds a sour note and a hint of tartness. If you do not have rice vinegar on hand try champagne, white wine, or red wine vinegar.
- Aromatics- Fresh grated garlic and ginger. A lot of ginger. I do not recommend substituting dried powders.
- Salt- I do not typically add salt because of the soy sauce. You can taste your marinade before pouring over the chicken and add salt if you think it is needed.
Chicken Kabob Ingredients
Most recipes for Huli Huli chicken are bone-in and skin on and served with grilled pineapple. By combining the pineapple with the veggies onto the kabob skewers we are getting two dishes in one- a protein main and a veggie side.
- Chicken- You can use any skinless, boneless cut of chicken for the kabobs. I typically use chicken breast, but tenders and thighs work as well. I always brine the chicken for the juiciest result.
- Pineapple- One small pineapple peeled and cored. I do not recommend using canned pineapple as it falls apart on the grill and often has extra sugar. Frozen pineapple can be used in a pinch but that is not my preference. I would skewer while frozen, no thawing.
- Veggies- I used green bell peppers and red onion. Other options include any color of sweet bell peppers, white onions, zucchini, summer squash, and button mushrooms.
How to Make This Recipe
Marinade the Chicken Pieces
Huli Huli chicken needs to be marinated. Preferably overnight but for at least one hour. To make the Huli Huli marinade you simply combine all the ingredients in a small bowl and whisk until combined.
Be sure to reserve a little bit of marinade for brushing on during grilling. The sauce can be kept in a seperate container in the fridge for up to a week.
Assemble the Kabobs
Cut the pineapple, bell pepper, and red onion into one-inch pieces. This recipe makes about 8 kabobs. Alternate the veggies, chicken, and pineapple as you thread the pieces onto the skewer.
Grill the Kabobs
Preheat the grill to medium-high heat. Aim for about 400 degrees as you will lose a bit of heat when you put the kabobs on. You can use a gas or charcoal grill.
Place the chicken kabobs on the grill, turning the skewers every few minutes so that each side has grill marks. The kabobs are done when the chicken reaches 165 F degrees. This typically takes 12 to 15 minutes.
During the last few minutes of cooking brush on the reserved marinade. Allow to just barely caramelize. You do not want it to blacken.
How to Make Chicken Kabobs in the Oven
Preheat your oven to 375 F degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper, these kabobs get sticky! Spread out your chicken kabobs and bake for 25-30 minutes until vegetables are tender and the chicken is cooked through, flipping every 7 minutes.
In the last few minutes of cooking brush on the reserved marinade. You can turn on the broiler for a few minutes at the end to caramelize the sauce.
Huli Huli Chicken Tips and Tricks
- Cut your chicken into even pieces for uniform cooking.
- Huli Huli chickens typically marinated overnight but because we are using 1 in each pieces of chicken the acidity of your juice can start to break down the meat. I think the sweet spot is about 2 hours but if you leave it overnight it will still be pretty tasty.
- When using chicken thighs or tenders the pieces might not be thick enough causing the chicken to be done before the veggies. To prevent this from happening tightly fold the chicken pieces into a "C' shape and skewer.
- Tightly pack the ingredients on the skewers, you want the flavors to meld while grilling. This also helps with the stability of the kabob.
- If you are using wooden skewers, soak them for at least 20 minutes to prevent them from going up in flames.
- If you are using metal skewers let them cool before touching, the ends will be hot!
- Turn the chicken kabobs every 2-3 minutes to ensure even cooking, nice grill marks, and caramelized sauce.
- If you forget to reserve the marinade for brushing on your chicken kabobs you can take the excess marinade (after the skewers are assembled) and add 1/4 cup of water. Bring to a boil in a small pan for at least 2 minutes, reduce to a 1/4 cup.
- Make vegetarian Huli Huli by substituting cremini mushroom caps for the chicken. Marinate the mushrooms for 30 to 60 minutes.
How to Serve and Related Recipes
If you liked this recipe be sure to try out some of our other favorites:
- Crispy Oven Baked Shawarma Chicken Wings
- Vietnamese Grilled Lemongrass Pork
- Charred Cauliflower Steaks (these delicious bad boys are topped with a curry sauce!)
- Spice Crusted Flank Steak
How to Store Leftovers
First off, the marinated chicken can be stored in a Ziploc bag for up to two months! Making this a meal prep dream come true.
Leftover chicken kabobs can be kept wrapped in foil (or stored a covered container) in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. I like to top a big bowl of mixed greens with my leftover chicken kabobs removed from the skewer (top it with a bit of our avocado dressing) or as part of a chicken poke bowl.
Huli Huli chicken kabobs are the ultimate summer grilling recipe. Easy to double the recipe for a crowd or just make a couple of kabobs for yourself. Either way, enjoy!
Huli Huli Chicken Kabobs
- Wooden or metal skewers
- Grill, gas or charcoal
Huli Huli Marinade
- ¼ cup tamari (gluten free soy sauce)
- ¼ cup tomato paste
- ¼ pineapple or orange juice
- ¼ cup honey
- 2 Tbsp rice vinegar
- 3 cloves garlic, grated
- 1 inch fresh ginger, grated
- ¼ tsp black pepper
- 1 pound chicken breast, boneless skinless*
- 1 small pineapple, peeled and cored
- 2 green bell peppers
- 1 red onion, large
Marinade the Chicken
- Combine all the marinade ingredients in a medium mixing bowl. Reserve a 1/4 cup of marinade for grilling. Whisk to combine. Cut the chicken breast into 1-inch pieces. Add to the marinade, toss to coat evenly. Refrigerate overnight (or at least 1 hour).
Make the Kabobs
- Preheat the grill to medium-high heat (about 375 degrees F). Brush the grill grates with canola oil to prevent sticking. If using wooden skewers soak in water for at least 20 minutes to prevent fire.
- Cut the pineapple, onion, and peppers into 1-inch pieces. Thread the kabob, alternating pieces of the chicken, red onion, pineapple, and bell pepper until you've reached the end of the skewer. Repeat with the remaining skewers, discard the excess marinade.
- Grill the chicken until fully cooked through and the internal temperature reaches 165 F degrees, about 12 to 14 minutes, turning the skewers every few minutes so that each side has grill marks. During the last few minutes of cooking brush on the reserved marinade. Transfer to a serving plate.