6 Must-Try Authentic Hawaiian Dishes

Even though Hawaii is part of the United States, it still maintains its ethnic and diverse flavor of food. If you want to eat like a local on your next trip to the islands, make sure you try out some of these authentic Hawaiian dishes.

Spam Musubi

While the rest of the world looks at Spam with caution, Hawaiians absolutely adore it. The most popular Hawaiian dish made with Spam is Spam musubi. This dish consists of fried Spam over rice and wrapped with seaweed. This classic Hawaiian snack is available for purchase at just about any store on the island including gas stations, convenience stores, cafeterias, and supermarkets.

Plate Lunch

A plate lunch was originally served to plantation workers and day laborers who needed an economical but filling meal. Today, it’s still huge, so make sure you’re hungry before ordering one of these. Most plate lunches consist of a couple of pieces of meat as the main entrée, two scoops of rice, and a scoop of macaroni salad. While the meats will differ depending on where you order, it’s typically chicken, pork, or shrimp.

Taro Root

In Hawaii, the starchy taro root is a substitute for the potato. Therefore, anything you normally find made with potatoes is also made with taro root, including taro chips, taro fries, and mashed taro. If you’re adventurous, you can also give poi a try. This thick paste is made from a cooked taro root that’s pounded down to create a side dish for meat. Some locals like to let poi sit for a day or two so that it develops a sour taste.


While the mainland may have their doughnuts, the Hawaiians have their malasadas. These delectable bites of fried dough are covered in sugar and are usually filled with custard, guava, or chocolate. They were originally brought over by the Portuguese; however, today you can find them at just about any carnival or bakery.


Pronounced poh-kee, this dish is typically served as an appetizer. It’s usually made with bite-size chunks of raw salmon, tuna, or cured octopus. The seafood is then marinated in soy sauce and mixed with onions, chili pepper, salt, and nuts. However, there are countless ways to make this dish and switching out just one ingredient can completely change the taste.

Kalua Pig

Kalua pig is traditionally cooked in an imu, or an earth oven created by digging a large hole in the ground and lining the bottom with hot stones. When it’s time to start cooking the pig, the entire animal is lowered into the hole and covered with banana leaves to lock in the heat and the flavors. Once the pig comes out, it’s tender and smoky. Kalua pig is often served at luaus, but many Hawaiian hotels will also have their own restaurants that serve a unique variation of this dish. Be sure to checkonline to find recommendations for the best hotel restaurants in Hawaii that serve kalua pig, like the Outrigger Waikiki. Before you leave Hawaii, make sure you’ve tried these traditional dishes so you can truly experience authentic and delicious Hawaiian culture.


Spam Musubi

Image via Flickr by bandita