22 Foods You Must Have at Your Next Luau Party

Summer is a great time for a luau and all that delicious food can make you feel like you’re on the sands of Hawai`i! But really, any time can be the right time for a luau. Even if cool weather forces you and your guests indoors, the enticing flavors and aromas of Hawaiian party food will keep everyone feeling warm and welcomed. If you’re planning a Hawaiian luau party and aren’t sure what food to serve for a luau, try these ideas to keep guests well fed and having a great time.

Foods and Flavors of Hawaii

Some of the most popular kinds of Hawaiian food and flavors include fresh poke, pineapple, mango, coconut, and macadamia nuts. But there’s much more to Hawaiian cuisine, and luau party food, than these few items.

The Main Event

1. Kalua Pua`a: This is roast pork, and the traditional Hawaiian method of cooking it is slowly. A whole pig, or large pieces of pork, is slow-cooked in an underground oven called an imu.

This is something you can do at home, but it’s a very long process of 12 hours or more, and can be difficult if you’re inexperienced—especially with all the other party prep going on. Instead, slow-roast smaller cuts of pork in your kitchen oven or slow cooker, or even on your outdoor grill.

2. Huli Huli Chicken: If you’re grilling outdoors, make sure to add huli huli chicken to your menu. For this mouthwatering recipe, chicken is marinated in soy sauce, pineapple juice, ginger, and garlic, making it a tangy, spicy experience.

3. Hawaiian Meatballs: This slow-cooker recipe for Hawaiian meatballs is easy to make, with flavors of pineapple and smoky barbecue. It’s sure to be one of your top luau party foods!

4. Hawaiian Luau Sliders: Your roast pork and your huli huli chicken become fun finger foods when served shredded or in chunks atop Hawaiian sweet rolls. Provide your guests with a variety of condiments, including pineapple salsa (Find the recipe below.), and they’ll love building their own!

5. Kabobs: For a simple take on kalua pua`a and huli huli chicken, dice up chunks of boneless pork and chicken for grilled kabobs. It’s a quicker way to cook the meat, and by using the same flavors, you can still evoke the taste of authentic luau party food. Try alternating chunks of grilled pork and pineapple, or chicken and mango, on your skewers for tasty treats that kids as well as adults will love.

6. Hawaiian-Style Shoyu Chicken: Many Hawaiian dishes have Japanese influence. Here, it’s in the use of soy sauce, ginger, and other flavorsome additions that make this succulent shoyu chicken extremely delicious.

7. Garlic Shrimp: On Oahu’s north shore, people flock to food trucks for tasty snacks and meals, including fresh shrimp sautéed in plenty of butter, oil, and garlic. Don’t skimp on the garlic shrimp, if you choose to serve them—chances are they’ll be one of your most popular luau appetizers.

8. Plate Lunch: When you put together a scoop or two each of white rice and macaroni salad and add a side of pork, chicken, or other meat, you get the plate lunch, a dish that’s as common to Hawai`i as macadamia nuts and aloha shirts. In Hawaii, you can get this simple-but-satisfying dish just about anywhere, in an infinite range of variations—from food trucks to drive-ins to restaurants. But while it’s called a plate lunch, there’s no reason you can’t serve these plates at an evening luau too.

9. Poke: Traditional poke is a side dish made with bite-size chunks of raw fish, such as yellow fin tuna, in a simple lemon or lime marinade. When preparing tuna poke, make sure to choose sashimi-grade fish, as though you were making sushi.

10. Lomi Lomi Salmon: Similar to poke, this dish consists of raw, salt-cured salmon, diced with tomatoes, green onions, and chilis. It tastes similar to salsa, but the extra kick of salmon takes it up a level.


1. White Rice: Plain white rice is a traditional side dish for a wide range of authentic Hawaiian meals. Don’t forget to provide a big bowl of white rice for your next luau party. The Hawaiian meatballs and even the huli huli chicken above are wonderful served on top a pile of fresh white rice.

2. Macaroni Salad: But not just any macaroni salad! Hawaiian macaroni salad is particularly creamy and flavorful because it tends to go a little heavy on the mayo. It’s so, so worth it!

3. Hawaiian Coleslaw: For a Hawaiian take on this classic party side dish, add pineapple and mango to your slaw, plus a tangy honey, lime, and soy dressing.

4. Fresh Pineapple Salsa: Perfect with chicken, fish, and pork, this pineapple salsa recipe makes a sweet and spicy batch full of tasty tropical flavor.

5. Baked Sweet Potatoes: These can be served on their own or alongside baked potatoes, with plenty of butter!

6. Hawaiian Sweet Rolls: Don’t forget the all-important sweet rolls. Most people know and love King’s Hawaiian Bakery sweet rolls, but you can make your own at home, too.

Don’t Forget the Dessert Table!

Your luau party guests will love finishing their meals with a great cup of coffee and a delectable dessert (or two!).

1. Hawaiian Coffee: For guests who enjoy coffee with dessert, add some authentic Kona or Ka`u  coffee to your dessert table. Rich and smooth, these coffees pair with dessert beautifully.

2. Piña Colada Cupcakes: The classic flavors of coconut and pineapple are amazing in a cupcake—just make sure to garnish each one with a paper umbrella!

3. Haupia Pie: This luxurious dessert pie is similar to a coconut cream pie, but with the flavors and the creaminess dialed up to 11. Made with coconut milk to provide an authentic Island flavor and with the addition of chocolate, this one is pure heaven. To add to the decadence, the pie is usually topped with roasted macadamia nuts (Find some great ones here.), toasted shredded coconut, or both.

4. Upside-Down Cake: This can make a great centerpiece for a Hawaiian luau dessert table, especially when it’s flavored with coconut and macadamia nuts, and studded with sticky pineapple.

5. Hawaiian Fruit Salad: Add a simple-but-tasty tropical fruit salad full of pineapple, mango, melon balls, kiwi, mango, and banana for anyone who prefers a lighter option to round out their Hawaiian luau meal.

6. Let Us Handle It! If you’ve got too much luau prep to think about whipping up dessert, don’t worry! Big Island Candies has you covered. Our luscious shortbreads, manju, candies, and other treats can be spread out on a dessert table or sent home with your guests in luau party favors. Simply order as many items as you think you’ll need, plus a few extras. We’ll ship them out to you, and your Hawaiian dessert table is all set..

Great Food Makes for a Party to Remember

When you want to throw a luau party where every guest goes home happy and satisfied, you can’t go wrong with adding plenty of tasty food into the mix. Slot these delicious Hawaiian food ideas into your luau, and your guests may find it hard to go home until every serving plate is empty!

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