8 Traditional Hawaiian Foods You Must Try

When you think of Hawaii, chances are you picture stunning beaches and hula dancing at luaus. While we all love a white sand beach and island spirit, the true Hawaiian delight is in its food. From the freshest fish to kalua delicacies, here are 8 traditional Hawaiian dishes you must try!

1. Poke


This local Hawaiian meal has quickly become one of the most popular nationwide, with people all across the U.S. (and beyond) feasting on this delectable dish. Typically made with some type of raw fish, seaweed, and kukui nuts, poke is often compared to sushi with its rich fishy taste and sesame oil flavors. Other variations of this raw-fish salad include adding avocado, spicy mayo, onions, tobiko, and wasabi. Pick up some poke and enjoy a beach picnic! 

2. Saimin


An extremely traditional Hawaiian food is saimin, which is similar to a Chinese egg-noodle soup with an island twist. The bowl features chow mein-like noodles in a Japanese broth, mixed with kamaboko, green onions, Portuguese sausage, Spam, and kimchi. You can also add a fishcake or make the protein seafood. So popular has this dish become that you can even eat it at McDonald’s across Hawaii!

3. Laulau

Traditional Hawaiian Plate

A staple of traditional Hawaiian food, laulau is a hearty dish that’s sure to warm your stomach. Your choice of meat is wrapped in folds of taro leaves which is then cooked underground in a hot rock until it becomes soft and smokey, a process which takes a few hours. Though this dish is typically made with pork, it can also be made with fish or chicken. 

4. Kalua Pig

Kalua Pig

Probably the most famous dish in Hawaii, the Kalua pig is similar to southern-style pulled pork. The main difference? Kalua pig is slow roasted and cooked underground, and features a tantalizing smokey flavor as opposed to barbecue. In fact, the word “kalua” actually translates to “cooked in an underground oven”, so you may encounter other kalua meat dishes in Hawaii. This particular iconic dish is typically served at luaus, so don’t be afraid to try it after hula dancing!

5. Lomi Salmon

Lomi Salmon

You may think this dish resembles a salsa-like appearance, and you’re not far off! Lomi salmon is made with a blend of sliced tomatoes, onions, and raw salmon which combine to create a deliciously distinct flavor. It’s a perfect side dish to your main meal, or an addition to a mixed plate!

6. Poi

Poi Parfait

This locally-loved dish is a staple starch that’s often served with most Hawaiian dishes, especially mixed plates. Poi is a pudding-like cuisine made with taro root that’s steamed, pounded, or baked with water until it reaches a thick pasty texture. Poi has a distinct, slightly sour flavor which makes it a popular pair with salty dishes like kalua pork and lomi salmon.

7. Haupia


You can’t leave Hawaii without sampling their classic dessert! This gelatin-like dessert is simply made with fresh coconut milk and is usually served in chilled tiny squares. Haupia is also used as an ingredient in other desserts including pies, ice cream, and malasadas. You can find this staple dish pretty much anywhere, and it’s especially refreshing after dinner! 

8. Malasadas


Speaking of Malasadas, this famous Hawaiian dessert is pretty much the best donut you’ll ever try. With Portuguese origins, this pastry is made with fried dough flavored with lemon zest and generously sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon. These circular, no-hole donuts are golden on the outside and fluffy on the inside, often ordered with Haupia. 

Be sure to try these classic Hawaiian dishes on your next trip to the islands!

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Happy Travels!

Cindi Taylor, Taylored Tours

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