Hawaiian Grilled Chicken

Back in college our friend Jeff was famous for his Hawaiian grilled chicken that was inspired from some tips from his Hawaiian buddy. One weekend Jeff threw a big Kirkland (Costco’s brand) sponsored BBQ serving only foods with the Kirkland brand. That’s when I tasted this chicken and fell in love. It’s honestly one of my favorite grilled chicken dishes to serve a crowd. And grilling season is here!

Don’t be a chicken thigh hater. I used to be but really the chicken does not soak up the marinade unless you use thighs. I like to marinate this overnight if I have the time so the flavors really get absorbed.

Jeff’s recipe is for a ton of chicken so here is my downsized version.
*As of March 2014 this recipe has been updated. I’ve made it so many times since then that I was able to fine tune the marinade amount to be more efficient. Hope you enjoy!

Hawaiian Grilled Chicken

Yield: about 12 servings depending on the size of the thighs

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds of boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 cup low-sodium soy sauce (See Note; the soy sauce and water just needs to be a 1:1 ratio)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 bunch of green onions, chopped (reserve the other half for garnish)
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon of sesame oil (not essential but add it if you have it)
  • 1 (13.5 ounce) can of coconut milk

Instructions

  1. Trim chicken thighs of any visible fat. Mix soy sauce, water, brown sugar, onions, garlic, sesame oil, and coconut milk in a large bowl. Marinade chicken for at least 8 hours or overnight to make sure the flavor gets infused.
  2. Grill chicken at a low heat so that the marinade does not burn for 5-7 minutes per side or until done. If you do not have a grill you can use a indoor grill pan.
  3. Serve over a platter of coconut rice and garnish with green onions and a drizzle of additional soy sauce.
  4. *Coconut rice can be made by just replacing half of the water in your rice recipe with coconut milk. A trick my SIL told me! So good with just the right amount of coconut flavor.

Notes

Note: Jeff says the real key is the soy sauce. Kikomen's is way too salty. He prefers the Aloha Shoyu soy sauce. If you can only find Kikomen at least get the low sodium kind.

I often buy a bag of frozen thighs and thaw them, discard any liquid from thawing, then marinate them in the same bag I bought them in. So convenient!

Source: my friend Jeff Tibbitts

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Comments

  1. Yum! I can never have too many chicken recipes!

  2. mmmmmm, yummy, Looks very tasty :)

  3. This looks like a perfect grill dish for the holiday weekend.

  4. Perfect timing! I have chicken thighs unthawing in my refrigerator and needed some inspiration as to what to do with them! Thanks!

  5. Chicken thighs are my favorite part! It’s practically impossible to overcook those things! This recipe sounds really delicious – can’t wait to try it out =)

  6. This sounds sooo scrumptious! Definately going to put on my meno plan this week!

  7. This looks lovely. Great idea!

  8. I think my men will love that recipe. Thanks for sharing!

  9. this sounds really yummy
    http://urbanprettygirl.blogspot.com/

  10. YUMMY!!!!

  11. Sounds wonderful, and I’ve got to try that coconut rice!

  12. Oh dude, this sounds incredible. My partner is a BIG TIME thigh hater, but I think this could turn to the ‘dark meat’ side. thank you for posting!

  13. This looks amazing! I cannot wait to try your recipe!

  14. I love this…especially the coconut milk!

  15. this looks delicious! Do you think it would work with shrimp as well?

  16. this looks delicious! Do you think it would work with shrimp as well?

  17. I made this today! I used Agave in place of the Brown Sugar. And it turned out so yummy! Thx for this recipe.

  18. I like this chicken recipe. I have been looking for something to serve along side my new Nicoise salad and this looks perfect. Btw, if you want to check out the recipe of the salad, here is a link http://cuceesprouts.com/2011/05/nicoise-salad/

  19. Oh my gosh- I’m so glad I stumbled upon this recipe! We just bought a grill last week and I’m trying to find as many things as possible to grill up. This would be perfect and thanks SO much on the tip for coconut rice. That sounds AMAZING. Love your blog!

  20. Thanks for converting a previous chicken thigh hater to a chicken thighs are fine as long as it’s this recipe lover! AH-MAZING. I made this last night and it was yummylicious.

  21. I made this last week (along with your suggestion of coconut rice) and it was a huge hit. The marinade gave the chicken a really good flavor. I’ve recently discovered your blog & love it. We must have similar taste in food ;)

  22. I just recently experienced the wonders of coconut milk! I’m adding this chicken to my “to try” list!

  23. We tried this tonight. Mine didn’t turn out reddish like the pic, but it was good. I only had 4 hrs to marinate, though. Also, I couldn’t find boneless thighs, but bone-in worked. 4 pieces at a time in the Foreman grill on medium for 10 minutes came out well.

  24. I found this recipe on another blog and linked over to this one. I’m SO BUMMED I didn’t read yours first. I used the Soy sauce you said is too salty. My chicken is marinating right now. I sure hope it’s still good. I love salty things, but want to make sure the other flavors are in there too. Hopefully it turns out. I think this looks so yummy.

  25. ok so i give this five stars!! its really amazing….i did some things differently though…i simmered the chicken in marinade(after marinating overnight), and then i put them on my foreman grill for 7 minutes and they were delicious..also while i grilled them i basted them with the marinade. i didnt do this at first though, and let me tell you the results really were much better after i basted. also, i thought the marinade tasted so good (the marinade i simmered the chicken in), that i added some water and boiled cabbage in it for 20 minutes. the results were outstanding!! better than expected. i made some noodles to go with..i boiled angel hair pasta and added some soy sauce and seasame seed oil to drained noodles..also added some salt and garlic. then i tossed the cabbage with the noodles…it turned out great!! since it is a hawaiian dish, i ddecided to slice up some fresh pineapple to munch on with the dish ….i must say it almost beat the tastiest dish ive ever cooked!! must try!!

  26. WOW! this recipe was amazing! I made it for my family and they LOVED it! the coconut rice was an amazing idea as well. I served this along with your coconut shrimp with pineapple sauce and for dessert I made your banana/coconut upside down cake. Better believe we feasted!! lol. thank you so much for your recipes. they are total blessing :)

  27. I am from Hawaii…This is another variation of a local favorite called Shoyu Chicken! I do NOT like Kikkoman at all..Aloha is best, BUT if you can’t find it I found another one that is SOOOO Yummy!! It is called: San J Organic tamari Soy Sauce. The Low sodium and gluten free one is the kind I get. Shoyu is important, and this has good flavor!! :)

    Hugs,
    Michelle

  28. Wonderful recipe! Kudos to Jeff for sharing and you for posting! We ran out of shoyu so used diluted vegetarian oyster sauce.Thank you!

  29. Can this be made in advance, then frozen? I am having a luau party next week and would like to prepare the chicken this week, then just thaw and cook the day of the party. Thanks :)

  30. @Anonymous,
    I’m not sure about that. There’s something about this right off the grill. I just don’t think it would taste right frozen then thawed. I could be wrong though.

  31. How coconut-y is this. I hate the flavor of coconut. Do you think it would be good without the milk?

  32. @Anonymous,
    This definitely has a coconut flavor but it isn’t super strong. It’s more of an Asian flavor but if you don’t love coconut I’m not sure if you will like it.

  33. I marinated the chicken around midnight on friday night, then cooked it early sunday evening. The flavor was fantastic.

    i slow cooked the chicken on my round grill by putting all the pieces in a circle around the outside. it stayed nice and juicy that way.

    i was surprised at how much i enjoyed the rice. it is good to eat all by itself. the coconut is not overpowering, but it is quite flavorful. I added some salt to the rice before cooking as the package indicates, only difference was the coconut milk substituting for the water.

    great meal

  34. This might sound stupid, but is there a good way to get the marinade to ‘stick’ to the chicken better? I found mine lost a lot of the flavour when cooked. I don’t have a proper grill or skillet, so I used my George Foreman grill, which may have been the problem.

  35. @Anonymous,
    Not a stupid question. Did you use thighs or breasts? Thighs hold the flavor better. You can poke holes in the raw chicken before you marinade to get it to stick better and also the longer you marinade the more it will have the marinade flavor.

  36. I made this over the weekend and my husband and I both absolutely loved it!!! I followed the recipe exactly and it is really yummy as is, but we drizzled our chicken with a tad bit if honey after serving and it just put it right over the top!! I can’t wait to cook this for company! Love this! Thank you for sharing!

  37. I have this in my fridge chillin till I can cook it tomorrow for the 4th. I have now made it 4 times in 2 months. So stinking good. Hubby hates chicken, but loves this recipie! We dont have access to the special soy sauce, so I use a reduced sodium store brand that is really tasty. Love these, thanks so much Christy!

  38. I am having a Huge luau party and wanted to know if you could give me the recipe that Jeff uses for larger amounts. I think would be hard for to 20-30x this amount. Would really appreciate it.

  39. @mwelsh,
    Wow. That’s a lot of chicken. The marinade in this recipe above as stated could probably marinade twice as much chicken. Here’s Jeff’s recipe but I also changed his recipe to infuse more flavor so I’m not sure if his version will help or be the same but here it is:

    Soy sauce and water (1:1 ratio)
    2-3 cups brown sugar
    1 stalk of green onions (chopped)
    1/8 of a white onion (chopped)
    1-2 teaspoons of sesame oil
    1 can of coconut milk

    I didn’t really specify the amount of soy and water, but i normally make this recipe with a $13-15 rack of boneless, skinless thighs from Costco. With that amount of chicken, I probably use like 3-4 cups of water and 3-4 cups of soy sauce. With that amount of chicken I’d use about 3 cups of brown sugar. It’s not important to be exact, so don’t worry too much.

  40. Hi. This looks so yummy. I am planning to use this a tailgate dish when we play Hawaii next month. What is the best kind of rice to use? Thanks,
    Nichole H.

  41. @Nichole H,
    I just use regular long grain rice. Good luck!

  42. Best recipe from Pinterest I have ever tried. Family said it was the best chicken they have ever eaten.

  43. Marinating now! Can’t wait to try it tonight. Mine might be weird because I had no coconut milk…. thought I did…. but I substituted pineapple chobani. Sounds good to me…. and smells amazing!

  44. This was delicious! I’m very thankful for your recipe since my husband doesn’t like Asian cuisine but I do. I’ve been wanting a rice dish for a while now, something we both like…. Turns out he loves the Hawaiian flavor! I didn’t have low sodium soy sauce, and I only used 1 1/4 cup with same for water, but I followed everything else and still had way too much marinade at the end. I even used bone-in thighs and cooked it in a saucepan with some of the marinade. Didn’t matter, this is a recipe not easily screwed up! Thank you. :-)

  45. How many does this serve?

  46. This is the best!!!! We had it for 2 days in the roll..

  47. That looks delicious! And thanks for the tip on making coconut rice.

    I pinned this to The Home Depot’s Grills and Outdoor Cooking board on Pinterest. Thanks!

    -Craig, from The Home Depot

  48. Oh my god, this chicken is absolutely amazing. I made this for dinner tonight with the coconut rice and it was a hit. Love it, love it, love it!

  49. Nannette M Rudy says:

    Can’t have coconut milk can I just use reg. milk

  50. Nannette M Rudy says:

    What can I sub for the coconut milk

    • Christy {The Girl Who Ate Everything} says:

      I guess you could use just regular milk? The coconut flavor is mild even with the coconut milk.

      • If coconut milk is not available, you can take whole milk or even half & half and blend it with unsweetened coconut, strain it and use it. Coconut milk is in most stores, but do not confuse it with “cream of Coconut” that is VERY SWEET, and used for making tropical drinks.

  51. I made this for my family and they loved it! Super moist flavorful chicken that cooked perfectly. I tried the marinade before I put the chicken in and I seriously could have drank it from the bowl it was so good. I had never used coconut milk before, I’m not a big coconut fan, but I was super surprised how delicious it was. I made it with an Asian salad and coconut rice. Thanks for the recipe. I will definitely be making this again.

  52. I just made this for the girls for lunch and it was a big hit (I cook for a sorority). Thank you!

  53. About how many servings does this make? I would be interested in the larger recipe if you have it. If not, I’ll need to multiply this one, but can’t seem to find where it says how many servings. Thanks.

    • Christy {The Girl Who Ate Everything} says:

      This makes around 12 servings or thighs depending on how big they are. The marinade makes a lot so you could probably get away marinating 4 pounds in it.

  54. What type of sesame oil is used, toasted or raw? I have never cooked with sesame oil and so cannot ascertain which is correct. I purchased toasted merely because it was cheaper. Hope its right!

  55. Can you reuse the marinade?

    • Or cook it to make a sauce? It had raw chicken in it, so I’m not sure what to do with it and there is so much left!

    • Christy {The Girl Who Ate Everything} says:

      I haven’t tried reusing it but you could try cooking it and reducing it down. Definitely get it to boil since it had raw chicken in it.

      • It is NEVER SAFE to REUSE a marinade that has had RAW MEAT in it, no matter how long you boil it!!
        if you want to create the same flavors in a sauce, make extra or set some aside that has not been contaminated with the raw meat. NEVER REUSE a marinade that has had RAW MEAT in it.

  56. Patti Ratkevich says:

    Hi Christy – WOW – this was soo yummy!! thank you :-) all my picky eaters loved the chicken. woop!

  57. Looking for a some what “authentic” Hawaiian chicken recipe, and this sounds like a winner!! love the addition of Coconut milk &Sesame Oil, I will add a little chopped Cilantro to my Batch. I’ll be back to tell you how it came out. & Thanx!!

  58. Can you bake this instead of grilling it? I’m a “new” cook and haven’t ventured to using the grill yet, but I have mastered the oven!

    • Christy {The Girl Who Ate Everything} says:

      Michelle,
      I definitely love it grilled but you could bake it too. If a grill is intimidating you can buy a grill pan for the stove that is great and not too expensive.

  59. Amazing flavor. We loved it!!!

  60. Well hi from washington, christy i tried the grilled hawaiian chicken tonight and it was awesome. Im saving this for special occasions. It was a huge hit with all my boys and my hubby says its one of the best. So you have our vote on this one . Thanks agapin, dixie

  61. Just be cautious as some soy sauce does have gluten in it! But this sounds amazing!

  62. Made it tonight and my picky husband and two little boys said it was pretty amazing! I bought the costco thighs about a year ago and froze the meat. I used some of it and decided that I hated thigh meat and was just going to give my meat away or throw it out. I came across this recipe and I am SOOOOO glad I didnt give it away! Now I have a recipe that I can use it up with!! I didnt have sesame oil and didnt want to spend $5 for it so I left it out and it still tasted amazing. I basted mine with Grill Mates citrus baja marinade and it was awesome! Im not a fan of coconut either but combined with all of the other flavors it really made the meat moist and delicious.
    Ok, im done:)

  63. I tried this recipe for a family BBQ and let me just say…AMAZING. Everyone loved it and was asking for the recipe. We will definitely make this again…and again!!

  64. I am an enthusiastic cook and have tried countless chicken dishes. I lived in Hilo on the Big Island for about 5 years and always enjoyed authentic shoyu chicken. But I must say that without a doubt this is the BEST, I repeat BEST Hawaiian style BBQ chicken I have ever tasted. YUM! I was too lazy to start the BBQ grill, so I broiled it under the oven broiler. I took careful measures, turning it often so that it wouldn’t burn. I must have turned it 3-4 times on each side until it got a nice mild char (I left the skin on the thighs).
    Then, in the last few minutes, as the rice cooked, I added the already broiled chicken to the steaming rice, to make sure that center of the chicken was cooked all the way through. It was tender, juicy, and had the most awesome flavor. I served it with a pineapple coleslaw and coconut rice. This will become a regular on my recipe rotation. And it’s perfect to serve special guests.

  65. Omg I’ve been searching for a bourbon chicken recipe and this tastes exactly like it….keep it up doll you make my Monday thru Wednesday dinners interesting

  66. This chicken is so flavorful. I have made this many times and everyone eaves. It is so nice to prepare in advance, then just toss on the grill. Thank you. Great recipes

    • Christy {The Girl Who Ate Everything} says:

      This is one of my favorites. Glad you enjoyed it too.

      • Hi Christy! I’ve made this chicken and it’s all the reviews say it is–amazing. I wondered if you had the measurements for 40lbs of chicken. I KNOW I KNOW that’s quite a bit of chicken LOL; I seem to overbuy my ingredients so this time my budget is even tighter so any help you could provide with the measurements would be so appreciated.

        Thank You,
        NW Fan!

        • Christy {The Girl Who Ate Everything} says:

          I will say that the marinade is very plentify for this chicken. This marinade would probably be sufficient for 5 pounds of chicken so 5×8 is 40, so you could make this recipe x8. Hope this helps. Can I come to the party?

  67. Hi Christy, I have a quick question… The recipe calls for brown sugar – packed or not packed? I’m making the marinade as we speak. Very excited to taste the chicken – can’t wait!

  68. Loved it the first time and the seconded time when I add pinnapple juice!