The Ultimate Guide to Hui Hui Sauce: Hawaii’s Culinary Gem

huli huli sauce

Hawaii, with its pristine beaches and vibrant culture, is not just a paradise for travelers but also for food enthusiasts. Among the myriad of flavors that the Hawaiian cuisine offers, this sauce stands out as a true gem. But what exactly is this sauce, and why has it captured the hearts and palates of many? Let’s embark on a flavorful journey to uncover the secrets of the Hui Hui sauce.

Hui Hui Sauce: An In-Depth Exploration

Hui Hui sauce, a name that resonates with the heartbeats of Hawaii, is more than just a sauce. It’s a reflection of the island’s rich culinary heritage, a blend of flavors that tells a story of tradition, innovation, and passion. Let’s delve deeper into understanding this iconic marinade.

Origins of the Name

The term “Huli Huli” might sound exotic to many, but its roots are deeply embedded in the Hawaiian language. As mentioned earlier, “Huli” means “turn” in Hawaiian. The repetitive term “Huli Huli” or “Hui Hui” is believed to originate from the unique method of cooking the marinated chicken by turning it between two grills.

Key Ingredients and Their Role

The magic of Hui Hui sauce lies in its ingredients. Each component plays a crucial role in shaping its flavor profile:

  1. Brown Cane Sugar: Introduces a caramel-like sweetness, which balances the saltiness of the soy sauce.
  2. Soy Sauce: Acts as the base, providing depth, umami, and a rich color to the sauce.
  3. Ginger: Adds a spicy and aromatic kick, enhancing the overall zest of the marinade.
  4. Other Aromatics: Ingredients like garlic, onion, or even green onions can be added to give the sauce more layers of flavor.

Comparison with Teriyaki Sauce

While Hui Hui sauce is often compared to the famous teriyaki sauce, there are subtle differences:

  • Sweetness: This sauce tends to be sweeter due to the generous use of brown cane sugar.
  • Texture: Teriyaki sauce is often thicker, while Hui Hui sauce has a more liquid consistency.
  • Usage: While both can be used as marinades, Hui Hui sauce is also popular as a basting sauce during grilling.

Variations and Customizations

The beauty of Hui Hui sauce is its adaptability. Depending on personal preferences, one can:

  • Add a splash of pineapple juice for a tropical twist.
  • Introduce chili flakes or hot sauce for some heat.
  • Use honey or agave as a sweetener instead of brown sugar for a different kind of sweetness.

Popular Dishes Featuring Hui Hui Sauce

Hui Hui sauce is not limited to just marinating chicken. Here are some dishes where this sauce shines:

  • Hui Hui Grilled Chicken: The classic dish, where chicken is marinated and grilled to perfection.
  • Pork Ribs: Tender ribs glazed with the sauce and grilled.
  • Stir-Fry: A delightful mix of vegetables and protein stir-fried with the sauce.
  • Tofu: A vegan delight where tofu cubes are marinated and pan-seared.

Hui Hui sauce, with its intricate blend of flavors, is a testament to the culinary diversity of Hawaii. Whether you’re a food enthusiast or someone just getting introduced to Hawaiian cuisine, this sauce promises a journey of taste, tradition, and tropical delight.

The Origins of Hui Hui Sauce

Hui Hui sauce, a name that evokes the flavors and traditions of Hawaii, has a fascinating origin story that intertwines language, innovation, and culinary artistry. Let’s embark on a journey to uncover the rich history behind this iconic Hawaiian marinade.

The Linguistic Connection: “Huli”

The Hawaiian language, known for its melodic tones and rhythmic patterns, plays a pivotal role in the naming of the Hui Hui sauce. The term “Huli” directly translates to “turn” in Hawaiian. This seemingly simple word holds the key to understanding the essence of the sauce and its preparation method.

Ernest Morgado: The Culinary Innovator

Ernest Morgado, often hailed as the father of Hui Hui sauce, was not just a culinary enthusiast but an innovator. His approach to cooking was rooted in tradition but always had a touch of creativity. It was this blend of respect for tradition and the desire to innovate that led to the birth of the Hui Hui sauce.

The Legendary Cooking Technique

The legend goes that Morgado, in a stroke of genius, decided to marinate chicken in a soy-based sauce and then cook it between two grills. But there was a twist! He turned the grills on their sides, ensuring even cooking and a unique flavor infusion. This method not only ensured that the chicken was evenly cooked but also that it absorbed the flavors of the marinade in its entirety.

Key Steps in the Process:

  1. Marination: Chicken pieces are soaked in the Hui Hui sauce, allowing them to absorb the flavors.
  2. Setting Up the Grills: Two grills are placed opposite each other, with the chicken positioned in between.
  3. Turning the Grills: The grills are then turned on their sides, ensuring the chicken is cooked evenly from all sides.
  4. Basting: As the chicken cooks, it’s continuously basted with more sauce, enriching the flavor.

The Rise to Fame

Morgado’s innovative cooking technique, combined with the mouthwatering flavors of the sauce, was an instant hit. Word spread quickly across the islands, and soon, Hui Hui sauce became synonymous with Hawaiian feasts. From local gatherings to grand luaus, the sauce found its way to every table, making it a staple in Hawaiian culinary traditions.

The origins of Hui Hui sauce are a testament to the power of innovation, tradition, and passion. It’s not just a sauce; it’s a story of a man’s love for food, a community’s embrace of innovation, and an island’s celebration of its rich culinary heritage. So, the next time you savor the flavors of the sauce, remember the legend, the innovation, and the tradition that gave birth to this Hawaiian gem.

Huli Huli Sauce Recipe

Ryan Yates
Huli Huli sauce is a Hawaiian treasure, known for its sweet and savory flavors that perfectly complement grilled dishes. This recipe will guide you through the process of making authentic Huli Huli sauce at home.
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Course marinade, Sauce
Cuisine Hawaiian
Servings 4



  • 1 cup brown sugar: Adds a rich sweetness to the sauce.
  • 3/4 cup soy sauce: Provides saltiness and depth.
  • 1/3 cup chicken broth: Enhances the overall flavor and consistency.
  • 1/4 cup ketchup: Introduces a tangy touch.
  • 1/4 cup dry sherry or pineapple juice: Adds a fruity note and complexity.
  • 1 piece about 2 inches fresh ginger, grated: Gives a spicy kick.
  • 3 cloves garlic minced: Adds an aromatic punch.
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce: Enhances the savory profile.
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil: Provides a nutty aroma.
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes optional: For those who prefer a bit of heat.



  • Combine Ingredients: In a medium-sized saucepan, combine brown sugar, soy sauce, chicken broth, ketchup, dry sherry or pineapple juice, grated ginger, minced garlic, Worcestershire sauce, and sesame oil.
  • Simmer: Place the saucepan over medium heat and bring the mixture to a gentle simmer. Stir occasionally to ensure the sugar dissolves completely.
  • Add Heat: If you prefer a spicier sauce, add the red pepper flakes at this stage.
  • Reduce: Allow the sauce to simmer for about 10-15 minutes, or until it thickens slightly. This will also help meld the flavors together.
  • Cool and Store: Remove the saucepan from the heat and let the sauce cool to room temperature. Once cooled, transfer the sauce to an airtight container or bottle.
  • Refrigerate: Store the Huli Huli sauce in the refrigerator. It will keep well for up to two weeks.


Usage Tips:
Marination: For best results, marinate chicken, pork, or tofu in the sauce for at least 2 hours or overnight.
Basting: Use the sauce to baste meats or vegetables while grilling. Remember to set some sauce aside for basting to avoid cross-contamination.
Dipping: Huli Huli sauce also makes a delightful dipping sauce for various appetizers.
With this comprehensive recipe, you can now enjoy the authentic flavors of Hawaiian Huli Huli sauce in the comfort of your home. Whether you’re grilling on a sunny day or hosting a themed dinner party, this sauce is sure to be a hit!
Keyword Huli Huli Sauce

Hui Hui Sauce: Ingredients, Preparation, and Culinary Magic

Hui Hui sauce, a culinary treasure from the heart of Hawaii, is a delightful blend of flavors that captures the essence of the islands. Its ingredients, each with a unique role, come together to create a sauce that’s both versatile and flavorful. Let’s delve deeper into the components of this iconic marinade and understand the art of its preparation.

Core Ingredients of Hui Hui Sauce

Each ingredient in the sauce has a specific purpose, contributing to its unique taste and texture:

  1. Brown Sugar: This natural sweetener brings a caramel-like depth to the sauce. It not only balances the saltiness of the soy sauce but also adds a rich, molasses undertone.
  2. Soy Sauce: A staple in many Asian cuisines, soy sauce imparts a deep umami flavor, giving the sauce its characteristic saltiness and dark hue.
  3. Dry Sherry: This fortified wine enhances the sauce’s flavor profile, adding a touch of sophistication and complexity.
  4. Ketchup: A surprising addition for many, ketchup introduces a tangy and slightly sweet dimension to the sauce.
  5. Fresh Ginger: Ginger’s spicy and aromatic qualities infuse the sauce with warmth and zest, making it truly stand out.
  6. Garlic: An aromatic powerhouse, garlic adds depth and a pungent kick that complements the other ingredients.

Customizing Your Hui Hui Sauce

While the traditional recipe is a delight in itself, the sauce’s adaptability allows for various customizations:

  • Sesame Oil: A few drops can add a nutty aroma and a richer texture.
  • Worcestershire Sauce: For a tangy twist and added depth.
  • Red Pepper Flakes or Hot Sauce: If you’re looking to introduce some heat to the sauce, these additions can spice things up.

The Art of Preparation

Creating the sauce is a simple yet rewarding process:

Gathering Ingredients: Ensure all ingredients are fresh and of good quality. This ensures the best flavor outcome.

Mixing: In a bowl, start by combining the liquid ingredients first. This creates a base for the sauce.

Dissolving the Sugar: Add brown sugar gradually, stirring continuously to ensure it dissolves completely. This step is crucial to achieve the sauce’s signature smooth texture.

Incorporating Aromatics: Finely mince or grate the ginger and garlic and add them to the mix. This ensures their flavors are evenly distributed throughout the sauce.

Taste and Adjust: Once all ingredients are combined, taste the sauce. Depending on your preference, you can adjust the sweetness, saltiness, or spiciness.

Hui Hui sauce, with its harmonious blend of ingredients, is a testament to the beauty of Hawaiian cuisine. Whether you’re using it as a marinade, a dipping sauce, or a stir-fry base, its flavors promise to elevate your dishes to new culinary heights. So, the next time you’re in the mood for some Hawaiian magic, remember the simple yet profound beauty of this sauce sauce.

Using Hui Hui Sauce in Cooking

This culinary gem from Hawaii, is not just a marinade but a versatile ingredient that can transform ordinary dishes into gourmet delights. Its rich flavor profile makes it a favorite among chefs and home cooks alike. Let’s dive deeper into the myriad ways you can incorporate Hui Hui sauce into your cooking repertoire.

The Traditional Uses

This sauce has its roots in Hawaiian cuisine, where it’s traditionally used in specific dishes:

  1. Hui Hui Grilled Chicken: Chicken pieces are marinated in the sauce, then grilled to perfection, resulting in a caramelized exterior and juicy interior.
  2. Hui Hui Pork Delight: Pork, especially ribs or tenderloin, marinated in Hui Hui sauce, takes on a sweet and savory flavor that’s hard to resist when grilled or roasted.

Beyond Tradition: Expanding Culinary Horizons

The versatility of Hui Hui sauce extends far beyond traditional Hawaiian dishes:

  1. Vegetable Stir-Fry: Drizzle the sauce over a medley of stir-fried vegetables for a quick and flavorful meal.
  2. Tofu Transformation: For a vegan treat, marinate tofu cubes in the sauce and then pan-sear or grill. The result is a delightful dish with a crispy exterior and a flavorful core.
  3. Seafood Sensation: Use the sauce as a glaze for grilled fish or shrimp. The sweet and savory notes complement the natural flavors of the seafood.
  4. Rice and Noodles: A splash of this sauce can elevate a simple bowl of rice or noodles, giving it a Hawaiian twist.

Marination Tips for Optimal Flavor Infusion

Marinating is an art, and with Hui Hui sauce, there are certain tips that can ensure the best flavor infusion:

  • Duration: While a quick 30-minute marination can impart flavor, letting your protein or vegetables marinate for an hour or, better yet, overnight allows for deeper flavor penetration.
  • Refrigeration: Always marinate in the refrigerator. This ensures the ingredients remain fresh and safe to eat.
  • Turning Occasionally: If marinating for longer durations, ensure you turn the ingredients occasionally to allow even flavor distribution.

Basting and Safety Precautions

Basting during cooking, especially grilling, can enhance the flavor and keep the ingredients moist. However, safety first!

  • Boil Leftover Marinade: Before using the marinade as a basting sauce or serving it on the side, always boil it for a few minutes. This step eliminates any potential bacteria and makes it safe for consumption.
  • Separate Bowls: If planning to use the sauce for both marinating and basting, always separate the required amounts into different bowls to avoid cross-contamination.

Hui Hui sauce, with its rich flavors and versatile nature, is a must-have in every culinary enthusiast’s kitchen. Whether you’re sticking to traditional recipes or venturing into new culinary territories, this sauce promises to be your trusted companion, elevating every dish to gourmet status. So, the next time you’re in the kitchen, let the magic of Hui Hui sauce inspire your culinary creations.

Hui Hui Sauce: Beyond the Traditional

While the traditional recipe is delightful, don’t hesitate to get creative! Add a dash of red pepper flakes for some heat or a splash of Worcestershire sauce for a tangy twist. The possibilities are endless, and experimenting can lead to some delightful culinary surprises.

Pairing Suggestions

Hui Hui sauce pairs beautifully with a variety of dishes. Some popular choices include:

  • Grilled Chicken or Pork: The classic choice.
  • Stir-Fried Vegetables: For a vegetarian delight.
  • Tofu: For a vegan alternative.
  • Rice or Noodles: As a drizzle or stir-fry base.

Storing Hui Hui Sauce

If you’ve made a large batch, you can store the sauce in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week. For longer storage, consider freezing it in ice cube trays for easy portioning later.


What is the main flavor profile of Hui Hui sauce?

Hui Hui sauce offers a sweet and savory flavor, primarily from brown sugar and soy sauce, with aromatic hints from ginger and garlic.

Can I use Hui Hui sauce as a dipping sauce?

Absolutely! It makes for a delightful dipping sauce for appetizers or grilled dishes.

Is there a vegetarian version of Hui Hui sauce?

Yes, the basic Hui Hui sauce is vegetarian. Just ensure any additional ingredients or pairings align with dietary preferences.

How does Hui Hui sauce differ from regular teriyaki sauce?

While both have a similar sweet and savory profile, Hui Hui sauce often has a more complex flavor due to the addition of ingredients like ginger.

Can I buy Hui Hui sauce in stores?

Yes, many specialty stores or online platforms offer pre-made Hui Hui sauce. However, making it at home allows for customization.

Is Hui Hui sauce gluten-free?

The primary ingredient, soy sauce, usually contains gluten. However, you can opt for gluten-free soy or tamari sauce to make a gluten-free version.


With its rich history and delightful flavor profile, is a testament to the culinary brilliance of Hawaiian cuisine. Whether you’re a seasoned chef or a home cook, incorporating this sauce into your dishes can transport you straight to the beaches of Hawaii. So, the next time you’re looking to elevate your meal, remember the magic of Hui Hui sauce!

This article was reviewed and published by Ryan Yates, an Executive Chef, Restaurant Manager, Professional Mixologist and Level 1 Sommelier. Ryan has over 15 years of experience in the food and beverage industry. With multiple degrees from Le Cordon Bleu in Hospitality and Restaurant Management as well as Culinary Arts; Ryan has successfully grown and managed a variety of establishments, from casual dining to Michelin rated restaurants. Ryan uses his diverse experience to provide a comprehensive and knowledgeable guide on all aspects of the food and beverage industry.

Ryan Yates

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