Popular Foods in Hawaii

How to Eat Like a Local

If you’re reading this, chances are you have an appetite for travel. But if you have an appetite for travel and… well, just an appetite, then get ready to book a flight to Hawaii, as the Aloha State serves up more than its fair share of delicious eats.

Thanks to its multicultural influences, Hawaii is home to a variety of culinary offerings. What do the following all have in common? From sweet to savory to a little of both, these Hawaiian dishes are all delectable. Whether you’re looking for a quick snack or a meal that warrants a belt extender and a nap, you’ll surely find what you’re looking for in these Hawaiian foodie favorites.

John Derrick
Published on: 08-20-2020
Published by: John C. Derrick
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Hawaiian Portuguese Sausage Breakfast

Here’s to starting the day off right! This popular Hawaiian breakfast plate varies from place to place (and Auntie to Auntie), but you’ll likely find it includes sliced Portuguese sausages, Spam or sliced ham, fried eggs, rice, and maybe even some home-fried potatoes or beans. Add a glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice and you’ll be ready for an adventure-filled day. This delicious dish is so ubiquitous that even some fast food chains have it on the menu.

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Mac ‘n’ Cheese Pancakes 

Two of just about everyone’s favorites come together in a blissful union of flavors known as mac ‘n’ cheese pancakes. Yum! Think you’re in paradise? You will be when you’re at Morning Glass Coffee & Cafe, where they make dreams come true. This heavenly combination features crispy edges and a creamy, cheesy center that’s oh so satisfying. Round it out with an order of applewood smoked bacon and top with syrup- making for the perfect sweet/savory combination. And don’t forget a perfectly-brewed cup of Kona coffee

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Acai Bowls 

Food crazes come and go, but in Hawaii this much-loved and healthy option is here to stay. Whether you’re out to sample this Brazilian superfood deliciousness at a food truck, a casual cafe, or a seaside grill, you’ll surely love it. Perfect for breakfast, lunch, or an anytime snack, acai bowls feature a variety of fruits with optional Greek yogurt or ice cream along with toppings like cacao nibs, granola, hemp seed, and coconut flakes. You’ll feel light yet satisfied- not to mention full of energy- after sampling an exotic acai bowl. 

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Loco Moco

Here’s a hefty lunch/dinner option that’s not only traditional Hawaiian fare, but also loved by nearly anyone who digs in. There are variations to the loco moco theme, so to speak, but the dish generally consists of rice topped with a hamburger patty, fried egg, and brown gravy. Trust that the rich gravy, creamy egg yolk, and juicy patty join forces in a tasty and warm comfort food utopia you won’t soon forget. You can find different variations across the islands, but be sure to try one of the more than 30 varieties at Cafe 100 in Hilo. 

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Poke Bowl

Even if you’re still planning your first trip to Hawaii, you may have sampled the trendy poke bowl on the U.S. Mainland. But even though it may be trendy in some areas, poke has actually been around for centuries. The simplicity of this dish is what makes it truly extraordinary. Poke bowls start with (usually) raw fish cubes seasoned with ginger, sesame oil, soy sauce, and other basic yet flavorful seasonings. Add rice and a few salad greens of your choice for the best fish salad you’ll ever eat.

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Coco Puffs 

Ready to tone down the savory and amp up the sweet? If so, then a trip to Liliha Bakery in Honolulu is in order. Lest you confuse coco puffs with the similarly-named breakfast cereal, know that these coco puffs are a chocolate pudding-filled cream puff pastry topped off with Chantilly cream. They are simply magic! Well, maybe not magic, but there aren’t enough superlatives to describe just how wonderful they are. Liliha Bakery has been lovingly crafting coco puffs for decades and produces between 4,800 and 7,200 of these delightful confections a day.

*Photo Courtesy Liliha Bakery

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A reflection of the Chinese culinary influence in Hawaii, manapua is Hawaii’s version of char siu bao, or steamed pork buns. Chinese immigrants who arrived in the Islands to work the sugar and pineapple plantations would fill 2 large cans or buckets with delicious char siu bao, attach them to ropes on either end of a pole, hoist the pole over their shoulders, and sell their wares throughout towns and cities. These vendors became known as the “Manapua Man.” And while there may not be a walking manapua vendor on every street, you can find these steamed pork buns in restaurants, cafes, food trucks, and even convenience stores island-wide.

Manish Singh
About the Author

Manish Singh
Travel Enthusiast

Manish is a travel enthusiast who believes that traveling is the best form of meditation in the world. Outside of travel, he heads the content and marketing at Untravel.com.

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