Bring a Wave of Tropical Flavor to Your Grill with the Best Hawaiian Chicken

It’s hot out, but I’m not on an island sipping a fruity cocktail while watching the waves crash on the shore… If only I could teleport to Hawaii for an afternoon.

A bowl of grilled chicken, pineapple, jalapeno, white rice, green herbs, and lime wedges, on a dark and light blue cloth placemat with a geometric pattern and a gold fork, beside a piece of white parchment paper topped with more cooked poultry and half of a green citrus fruit, on a reddish brown wood table.

Well, I might not be going to the Hawaiian islands anytime soon, but that doesn’t mean I can’t bring those tropical flavors to the kitchen right here at home – or more specifically, to the grill.

This chicken dish is not only a delicious way to bring your taste buds to the islands, it also just so happens to be the easiest way to do it, because it only requires 5 minutes of prep time.

Yes, you read that right. There’s only 5 minutes of prep time required to make this recipe, and about 10 minutes of cooking time.

And since we’re talking numbers, this is probably a good time to mention that it’s also made with just 6 ingredients!

Top-down shot of a white bowl of white rice, lime wedges, pineapple chunks, jalapeno slices, chopped fresh herbs, and grilled chicken thighs, with a gold fork, on a blue patterned cloth with half of a green citrus fruit, and a piece of white parchment with more cooked poultry on it in the background.

It’s the simplest dinner you can make, and you probably have most of what you need to make it already on hand.

Anytime you grill, remember that a marinade is key. This Hawaiian-inspired soak brings big, bold flavor to the chicken thighs, made with simple ingredients that you likely already have sitting in your pantry.

You can let the marinating meat sit overnight in the refrigerator, or you can make it in the morning, letting the poultry soak up all those juicy flavors until you get home from work.

Top-down shot of two grilled chicken thighs on a piece of white parchment with pineapple chunks, lime wedges, and chopped green herbs, on a striped brown wooden surface.

You can also make this recipe with boneless and skinless breast meat, but I find that the thighs tend to be more tender and juicy after the marinade, making a wonderful pairing of the richer meat with the tart and tangy pineapple chunks that you serve it with.

In fact, an enzyme in pineapple called bromelain actually breaks down protein, helping to tenderize meat. But if you’re looking for that effect, you’ll have to use fresh fruit. The enzyme is actually destroyed by the high heat of the canning process.

Super Serving Suggestions

Want some more ideas for how to serve up this Hawaiian chicken? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Make a burrito bowl by shredding the thighs and serving them over rice with pineapple chunks, black beans, jalapeno, and your favorite tomato-based salsa.
  • Grill or stir fry seasonal vegetables to serve alongside the juicy, flavorful chicken thighs.
  • It’s easy to make tacos with this Hawaiian chicken, for a tropical take on Taco Tuesday that no one will forget.
  • You can even make a Hawaiian chicken grilled cheese by shredding the meat and layering it on bread with diced pineapple and white cheddar cheese.
  • Double or triple the marinade and soak more poultry, beef, pork, shrimp, or fish of your choosing. Seal in zip-top freezer bags and freeze until you are ready to use them. It’s a fantastic and easy way to meal prep.

No matter how you choose to serve up this sweet and tangy Hawaiian chicken, you are going to be 100% satisfied with your own customized version.

Two boneless skinless grilled chicken thighs on a piece of white parchment paper with yellow pineapple chunks, lime wedges, and a spinkling of fresh cilantro.

I particularly love serving these grilled thighs up with chopped pineapple for an extra burst of tang and sweetness. It an ideal pairing that brings out the flavors in the marinade even more.

Chopping up a fresh pineapple? Visit our review of the best corers and slicers to get the job done right.

Of course, you may want a little heat to go with that sweet. If that’s the case, slice up some fresh jalapeno, or keep some red pepper flakes handy to sprinkle over the dish along with a squeeze of lime. If you like spicy sweet bites of juiciness, you are going to be doing backflips of happiness after the first forkful.

Print
Top-down shot of a white bowl of grilled chicken, rice, pineapple, jalapeno, lime wedges, and fresh chopped herbs, on a dark and light blue patterned cloth, on top of a striped wood table.

Hawaiian Grilled Chicken Thighs


  • Author: Meghan Bassett
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 6 hrs, 15 min
  • Yield: 4 servings
  • Category: Barbecue and Grill
  • Method: Grilling
  • Cuisine: Entree

Description

Go tropical and make the best Hawaiian grilled chicken. It’s an easy dinner dish that’s tangy and sweet, featuring simple ingredients.


Ingredients


Instructions

  1. Place all ingredients in a large zip-top bag. Seal and turn the chicken to coat well. Refrigerate for 6 hours or overnight.
  2. Heat grill on high. Place chicken on the hot grill, and discard the bag and marinade.
  3. Cook for 4 minutes on each side, or until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165°F.
  4. Serve immediately, with pineapple, white rice, and a sprinkling of red pepper flakes or jalapeno, lime wedges, and chopped cilantro or parsley.

Keywords: chicken, grill, summer, pineapple, Hawaiian

Cooking By the Numbers…

Step 1 – Mince, Slice, Grate, and Measure

Mince the garlic and set it aside.

Thinly slice the green onion, including both the white and green parts.

Five small glass dishes of pineapple juice, minced garlic, soy sauce, grated ginger, and chopped scallions, with a black plate of boneless skinless chicken thighs in the background, on a brown wood surface.

Grate 1 teaspoon of fresh ginger. I like to use a microplane – you can read our review of the best models here, if you don’t happen to have one already. It makes the job a lot easier.

Measure the soy sauce and pineapple juice, either fresh or canned. Trim the chicken if needed.

Step 2 – Marinate

In a large zip-top bag, combine all of the ingredients. Seal the bag and use your hands to turn the chicken thighs and combine the marinade mixture. Make sure the meat is coated well.

Raw chicken thighs in a brown marinade in a zip-top plastic bag, on a brown wood tabletop.

Refrigerate for about 6 hours, or overnight.

Step 3 – Grill

Once you are ready to cook, heat your grill on high.

When the grill is hot, remove the chicken thighs from the marinade and place on the grill.

You can throw away the bag with the marinade at this time.

Four boneless skinless chicken thighs on a black metal grill.

Cook for about 4 minutes per side, or until the internal temperature reaches 165°F.

Remove from heat and serve immediately. I like to serve mine with chunks of pineapple over a bed of rice.

How to Grill the Perfect Dark Meat

When it comes to cooking chicken thighs, getting the perfect grilled poultry can be a little intimidating. I mean, no one wants to bite into a pink piece of chicken, after all.

Talk about mortifying.

Two golden brown grilled chicken thighs on a piece of white parchment paper, with yellow pineapple chunks, chopped fresh herbs, and lemon wedges, on a brown wood surface.

Here are some quick tips for making sure your grilling game is on point this summer:

1. Trim the Fat

While the extra fat on thigh meat helps to lock in moisture, many producers leave excess skin and fat on the thighs – and those large pockets of fat are what causes flare-ups on your grill.

Inspect each thigh and trim away the excess folds of fat as needed.

2. Focus on a Flavorful Marinade

Obviously, a seriously flavorful marinade is key to make that rich meat truly shine. That’s why this recipe is such a success.

It’s key to make sure the thighs marinate for a good amount of time before you grill, so those flavors get locked in.

3. Heat Things Up

Finally, make sure your meat is cooked all the way through when you remove it from the grill. The ideal temperature you are looking for is 165°F.

It can help to allow the meat to return to room temperature on the counter before grilling, after you remove it from the refrigerator. Never grill frozen meat that hasn’t been defrosted.

Remove the thighs from the grill and then allow them to rest for a couple of minutes before you serve. And make sure you are measuring the temperature of the thickest part of the thigh with a meat thermometer for the most accurate temperature reading.

It’s Island Time!

Even if you’re stuck at home on a hot night this summer, you can travel to a tropical paradise with your cooking.

Top-down shot of a white bowl of grilled chicken, rice, pineapple, jalapeno, lime wedges, and fresh chopped herbs, on a dark and light blue patterned cloth, on top of a striped wood table.

Throw some grains of your choosing in the rice cooker, fire up the grill, pour yourself a cooling beverage, and settle in for a delicious meal. You deserve it!

How will you serve this chicken, or change up the recipe to make it your own? We love to hear from you, so leave us a comment below. And be sure to leave the recipe a rating when you try it.


Don’t forget to Pin It!

A collage of photos showing different views of a Hawaiian Grilled Chicken recipe.

Photos by Meghan Yager, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published on March 17th, 2013. Last updated: August 28, 2018 at 15:30 pm. With additional writing and editing by Allison Sidhu.

Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.

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About Meghan Yager

Meghan Yager is a food addict turned food and travel writer with a love for creating uncomplicated, gourmet recipes and devouring anything the world serves up. As the author of the food and travel blog Cake 'n Knife, Meghan focuses on unique foodie experiences from around the world to right at home in your own kitchen.

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