10 Traditional Hawaiian Food In Hawaii You Cannot Miss

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Hawaii is known for its fresh seafood, tropical fruits and vegetables, and a variety of spices that create an unforgettable flavor profile. From traditional dishes like poi to modern favorites such as poke bowls, Hawaiian food boasts vibrant colors and bold flavors that are sure to please!

What’s Special About Hawaiian Food

The food in Hawaii is a unique fusion of flavors that draws inspiration from the island’s Polynesian roots, as well as the influence of immigrants from Japan, China, Portugal, and beyond. It’s a mouthwatering melting pot that truly embodies the spirit of aloha.

A huge advantage of Hawaiian cuisine is its access to fresh and local ingredients blessed by its rich surrounding environment. From juicy, sun-ripened pineapples to quality seafood, Hawaii’s food scene is definitely a celebration of the islands’ bountiful harvest.

The tropical, laidback vibe of Hawaii is also a big part of the food culture and traditions. There is a focus on communal sharing and gratitude toward the earth’s blessings. It’s all about enjoying good food with good company.

So be prepared to kick back, relax, and savor every delicious bite. These are some of the famous food in Hawaii to look out for on your vacation!

Most Famous Hawaiian Food

Hawaii Poke Bowl

Poke, hawaiian for “to slice or cut,” is a traditional Hawaiian food made with raw fish. If you are familiar with global cuisines, this is like the ultimate combination of sushi and ceviche, and it has taken the international food scene by storm. 

You can find this in many different countries now; but hey, if you are at its place of origin, you always gotta try it!

Traditionally, it’s made with cubed, sashimi-grade ahi tuna, tossed in a blend of soy sauce, sesame oil, green onions, and seaweed. But now people put all sorts of stuff inside (e.g. salmon or octopus) based on their preference to make a fancy bowl of just delicious goodness.

Want some avocado for that creamy goodness? You got it! How about some pickled ginger to add a zesty kick? No problemo! The possibilities are endless so even vegetarians can enjoy a refreshing bowl at the poke joint.

One of the best things about the Hawaiian Poke Bowl though is that it takes advantage of the fresh seafood in the area – a gift of Mother Nature. It’s the perfect way to embrace island life and savor the flavors of Aloha.

Best Traditional Hawaiian Foods

Kalua Pig or Pork

When it comes to irresistible and smoky flavors, Kalua pork is the stuff of dreams. While you are chilling by the beautiful Hawaiian beaches, you might sometimes catch the intoxicating aroma of Kalua pork wafting through the air.

The secret behind this heavenly food in Hawaii is none other than its slow cooking method. In true island style, an entire pig is cooked in an underground pit known as an imu. Talk about an oven from the earth.

It is filled with hot rocks, and the seasoned pork, wrapped in banana leaves is buried in the imu to slow cook for hours on end. This is what gives it the tender, melt-in-your-mouth texture.

In all honesty, we could devour this succulent Hawaiian delight on its own, but its commonly served with a wide variety of traditional food in Hawaii such as Poi. You can also stuff the meat in sandwiches, tacos, or even salads.

This Hawaiian food has a long history that goes back to ancient times. It’s one of the most iconic dishes in Hawaii and an absolute must-try.


Laulau is another famous food in Hawaii that is often cooked in an underground oven using hot stones. This staple Hawaiian dish consists of tender, succulent pieces of pork, chicken, or fish, all snuggled up within a bunch of taro leaves.

This rich bundle of yum is then slow-cooked to perfection, creating a plate of earthy, savory goodness that just breaks down in your mouth. 

The best part is that no two laulaus are the same. Since it is a highly customizable dish, you’ll find many variations across the islands. They come with different meats, seasonings, and even vegetarian options; it’s always a surprise!

That said, it is fairly easy to find this dish in restaurants and lunch spots. They will usually serve it with rice, Hawaiian mac salad, or traditional sides like poi. This wholesome dish really embodies the spirit of Hawaiian culture and is also extremely satisfying. 

Loco Moco

In addition to its amusing and catchy name, this classic dish is a real comfort food in Hawaii; and it’s not all that different from things you are probably familiar with. 

Loco Moco is a hearty meal that combines rice, a juicy hamburger patty, fried egg, and rich gravy. All things simple, but when combined together, it’s just muy delicioso. 

Legend (ok not really a legend but…) has it that this iconic dish was created in 1949 when a bunch of hungry teenagers hit up a cafe in Hilo, requesting something that’s both affordable, simple and delicious. 

Now you can see why this turned out to be sort of a mishmash of some typical comfort and simple foods. Loco Moco, though, has one of Hawaii’s signature dishes.

Of course, you can even further top the dish up with other ingredients such as bacon, Spam or even Kuala pork for an even more indulgent meal. This is a popular food in Hawaii for breakfast or lunch, particularly if you’re looking for something filling to start off a day of exploring the stunning landmarks in Hawaii.

Snack Foods In Hawaii

Hawaiian Poi

If you want to get into the roots (literally) of traditional Hawaiian food, then you cannot miss out on Poi. This is a smooth, starchy, purple-hued delight that’s as versatile as it is nutritious. 

Made from the mashed taro root, Poi has a subtle, slightly sweet flavor that makes it the perfect pairing option for all your favorite Hawaiian dishes. From the juicy Kalau Pork to the tangy Lomi Salmon, they all work with Poi.

That said, it can even be sweetened with honey, sugar, or other ingredients to give it different flavors and textures. However, don’t be fooled into thinking you have to enjoy Poi with other dishes, it works perfectly as a standalone snack too, and is typically eaten cold or at room temperature. 

It is believed that Poi was one of the Hawaiian’s main dietary staples and still plays an important part in local culture today. In addition, there is a mythological element to this traditional food in Hawaii as well. Locals believe that the gods gave them Poi to sustain life, so Poi has spiritual importance as well as culinary.

Taro Rolls

Now while we are talking about Taros, they are an integral part of Hawaiian cuisine. Apart from Poi, Taro rolls are another staple food in Hawaii that takes advantage of this resilient and versatile plant.

If plain bread gets too boring, how about a warm, pillowy-soft roll with a slightly sweet, earthy flavor, and a vibrant purple hue that’s as stunning as a Hawaiian sunset?

The dough is prepared by mixing taro flour or Poi and adding ingredients like water, oil, eggs, and sugar to form a soft dough for baking. Food coloring is often added to give that deep purple color to these Hawaiian buns; it doesn’t actually come from the taro itself.

Not only do these Hawaiian sweet rolls look and taste amazing, but they’re also packed with vitamins and minerals to keep you energized for all your island adventures!

They are often served as a side dish and made with taro root, which is a staple food in Hawaii. Taro rolls also make great accompaniments to Hawaiian dishes like kalua pork or lualua.

Spam Musubi

Alrighty my fellow snack-loving foodies, if there’s a tasty finger food that you should not miss, that would be Spam Musubi.

We all know about Spam, don’t we; well, the truth is almost everything goes well with it. But how about a Hawaiian twist for a change? Picture a perfectly grilled Spam, nestled atop a block of warm, fluffy rice, and wrapped in a cozy blanket of crispy nori seaweed.

It’s a tad bit like a giant sushi of Spam. In all honesty, this makes for a rather filling Hawaiian snack. And you can also find plenty of variations of this, from teriyaki-glazed to furikake-dusted ones. 

You can get your hands on this delectable treat at many local convenience stores or food trucks. But of course, nothing beats a freshly made one. This simple food has really become a staple in Hawaiian cuisine.

So when life gives you spam, make musubi! Be sure to try this food Hawaii is known for.

Lomi Salmon

When it comes to island life, it is no surprise that seafood features rather heavily in Hawaiian cuisine as well. And Lomi salmon is one of those delish dishes that take advantage of the fresh seafood and simple yet strong flavors.

This iconic Hawaiian food is made from raw cubes of salmon that are “lomied,” or massaged together with ingredients like tomatoes, onions, and scallions. While it is often served as a Hawaiian appetizer or side in restaurants, it can also be enjoyed on its own too. 

Lomi Salmon pairs perfectly with a variety of traditional Hawaiian foods, like a bowl of poi, tender kalua pork, and even some crisp, refreshing greens. It’s a great way to indulge in the flavors of Hawaii with its unique blend of salty, sweet, and tangy ingredients.

A rough origin of Lomi Salmon dates back centuries ago to around the 1700s. During that age of discovery, salted meats were common as preservation food. This allows fish and meat to last longer for sailors who are out at sea for long periods. 

This makes Lomi Salmon extra special because it is a testament to Hawaii’s sailing and exploration history.

Hawaiian Desserts And Sweet Foods In Hawaii


Haupia is a traditional Hawaiian dessert that has been around since the 1940s. This is a smooth, creamy coconut pudding that’s as refreshing as a cool ocean breeze.

It is an incredibly simple recipe of coconut milk, sugar, and cornstarch which is boiled together until it thickens into a custard-like consistency. Haupia are typically served as squares at gatherings and special occasions.

Despite its simplicity, this tropical delight has also made its way into the world of fine dining, where it’s used as a flavorful topping for cakes or pies. You will find that many Hawaiian restaurants now include haupia on their menu.

And if you attend a traditional Hawaiian luau, haupia is almost always available as a dessert option. You can savor this sweet treat under the stars, surrounded by the magic of the islands. 


Hawaiian food is not just based purely on native culture, you do see influences from other parts of the world too. Malasadas are a type of Portuguese doughnut that are beloved in the Hawaiian Islands.

This sweet, fried treat is made from a simple yeast-based dough and is shaped into balls before being dropped in hot oil. Once golden, they get rolled in sugar or cinnamon while they’re still warm.

These sugary pastries in Hawaii will look rather familiar and similar to many European bakery treats. But that does not make it any less delicious. 

Brought to the islands by Portuguese immigrants, these fried delicacies quickly became a local favorite, and it’s easy to see why. They’re the perfect blend of crispy, chewy, and sweet, 

Malasadas have become an integral part of Hawaiian culture, especially on special occasions. No matter what, these treats will surely bring smiles to everyone’s faces!

Even better, they can be filled with custard, jam, or even Haupia for extra flavor and texture. Malasadas are one of those Hawaiian delights you won’t want to miss.

Discovering Traditional Hawaiian Foods

Hawaii is a foodie paradise, with its unique mix of flavors and ingredients. The islands are brimming with tasty treasures just waiting to be discovered, and you won’t want to miss a single bite. From Loco Moco to Poke Bowls, Spam Musubi to Kalua Pork, you will be hard-pressed to find such a diverse range of dishes in one place.

Hawaiian food brings together cuisines from different part of the world while incorporating its special twists. Coupled with the beautiful scenery and aloha vibes, the culinary scene in Hawaii has its own unique charm.



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Welcome To NomadsUnveiled
This is Rax. For over a decade, I have traveled to over 60 countries - from a budget backpacker to a business traveler, expat and then a digital nomad. You can find insights and perspectives from myself and other world travelers that will inspire your journey of discovery.


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