Planning a trip to Honolulu and don’t know what to eat? Check out this post on the 10 most delicious and satisfying must eats in Honolulu!
Honolulu cuisine is influenced by many different cultures that include but are not limited to Polynesian, Japanese and American. Together, these cultures offer Hawaiians a unique and delectable cuisine that can only be found in Hawaii. So, if you’re planning on visiting Hawaii for the first time, I highly recommend trying the local Hawaiian food. This post will highlight some of the most delicious and satisfying must eats in Honolulu if you’re looking for a place to start.
Oahu Bucket List Series
P.S. This is a post in my Oahu Bucket List series. Here is the complete series:
Instagram: The 10 Most Instagrammable Places in Oahu
Hidden Gems: 8 Secret Things to Do in Oahu Hawaii
Malasadas (must eats in Honolulu)
Malasada is a yeast-leavened doughnut composed of eggs, butter and milk. It is said to be a specialty of the island, Sao Miguel, in the Azores, which was first settled by the Portuguese in 1427. Its name “malasada” roughly translates to the English phrase “poorly cooked”. This is because it is referring to the almost crisp, sugary exterior of the doughnut that is contrasted with the soft, doughy crumb. However, this doughnut can also be called “filhoses” or “fritter” in other parts of the world. So, if you’re planning on trying a malasada for the first time, I highly recommend getting one from Leonard’s Bakery in Honolulu.
Poke (must eats in Honolulu)
Poke is a dish in Hawaii that is composed of raw, marinated fish, rice, vegetables, and umami-packed sauces. So, in other words, think of poke as the next generation of sushi in Hawaii. In Honolulu, you can find this dish anywhere from the gas stations all the way to the roadside stands. In regard to the rice, most poke bowls start off with a base layer of jasmine rice. For fish, raw yellowfin tuna (ahi) is used as well as salmon and snapper. Seasonings like sesame seeds and pink sea salt are also mixed into the poke bowl to enhance the flavor. For vegetables, these include but are not limited to avocado, shaved onion and seaweed. So, if you’re planning on trying poke for the first time in Hawaii, I highly recommend getting a poke bowl from Poke Bar in Honolulu.
Poi (must eats in Honolulu)
Poi is a dish in Hawaii that is made from baked taro root pounded into paste. As a starch low in fat and protein, poi contains several vitamins that include but are not limited to vitamin B, phosphorous, and calcium. To make poi, each baked taro root must be mashed and fermented. The longer the poi ferments, the more sour it becomes. Poi can also be made in various different consistencies to reflect the number of fingers needed to dip and carry it into your mouth. So, in other words, poi can sometimes be eaten with one, two or three fingers. Therefore, if you’re planning on trying poi for the first time in Hawaii, I highly recommend getting it from the Poi Bowl in Honolulu.
Katsu (must eats in Honolulu)
Katsu is a popular local Hawaiian dish that originated from Japan in the late 1800s. It is composed of chicken, flour, whisked eggs, oil and Japanese bread crumbs. This dish is not only made in Hawaii but it is also made in other parts of the world like California, Australia and London. When served, the dish is also complemented with a side of tonkatsu sauce. This sauce is a thick Japanese version of pureed brown sauce. So, in other words, most locals like to think of it as a substitute for ketchup. The only difference between the two is that the tonkatsu sauce is well-seasoned. So, if you’re planning on trying katsu in Hawaii for the first time, I highly recommend getting it from the Ginza Bairin Tonkatsu & Yoshoku Bistro in Honolulu.
Loco moco (must eats in Honolulu)
Loco moco is a contemporary Hawaiian dish that is composed of white rice, brown gravy, a fried egg and a hamburger patty. Although this is the typical model for the dish there are many other variations to it as well. These variations include but are not limited to bacon, ham, tofu and shrimp. Created by Richard Inouye and his wife, Nancy, in 1949, the dish was first made at a Lincoln Grill Restaurant in Hilo, Hawaii. It was done as a request to a bunch of teenagers who were looking for a different, cheap, and quickly prepared sandwich. So, if you’re planning on trying loco moco for the first time in Hawaii, I highly recommend getting it from the Rainbow Drive-In in Honolulu.
Hurricane Popcorn (must eats in Honolulu)
Known as Nori Popcorn, hurricane popcorn is a popular addictive snack from Oahu, Hawaii. Its ingredients include but are not limited to popcorn, melted butter, nori, sesame seeds, and Japanese rick crackers. Nori are dry roasted seaweed flakes and Japanese rice crackers are mochi crunch. Together, these ingredients make up what is known as “Hapa Food” to the Hawaiians. The term “hapa” is usually used to describe anything that refers to being of mixed Asian and Caucasian descent. So, in other words, calling hurricane popcorn “hapa food” indicates that the snack is the perfect harmony between Asian and Caucasian cultures. So, if you’re interested in making hurricane popcorn for the first time in Hawaii, I highly recommend watching the YouTube video called How to Make Hurricane Popcorn.
Lau Lau (must eats in Honolulu)
Lau Lau is a popular Hawaiian dish that is composed of pork, butterfish, ti and lu’au leaves. The dish is always steamed and can be eaten with rice, poi, lomi lomi salmon, kalua pig, and haupia. Good lau lau is also meaty, savory and oh so juicy! The lu’au leaves on the inside come from the taro (kalo) plant. They make the dish delicious by soaking up the pork and fish’s fat and flavor. The ti leaves on the outside come from the ti plant. They bring the dish together by functioning as a wrapper to hold and steam the lau lau. So, if you’re planning on trying lau lau for the first time in Hawaii, I highly recommend getting it from Helena’s Hawaiian Food in Honolulu.
Acai Bowl (must eats in Honolulu)
An acai bowl is a smoothie-like breakfast bowl layered with fruit that include but are not limited to coconut, bananas and berries. In Hawaii, these bowls can also be topped with granola and honey as well. In fact, even though these bowls originated from Brazil, they were able to spread like wildfire in Oahu, Hawaii. These bowls are also not only frosty to taste but they are tangy and refreshing as well. So, if you’re interested in trying an acai bowl for the first time in Hawaii, I highly recommend getting one from the Kahuku Farms or the Island Vintage Coffee in Honolulu.
Spam Musubi (must eats in Honolulu)
Originating from Hawaii, spam musubi is a Hawaiian snack that is composed of rice, spam, nori, and soy sauce. It resembles the Japanese favorite, onigiri, which is a rice ball wrapped in nori. The dish’s existence is due to the result of the military troops that relocated to Hawaii after the Pearl Harbor bomb. The spam was a main ration given to the troops due to its high-calorie content and long shelf life. Instead of eating the spam plain, military troops placed the spam on top of rice in an onigiri fashion. Today, spam musubi continues to spread throughout Hawaii as many grocery stores take stock of it. So, if you’re interested in trying spam musubi for the first time in Hawaii, I highly recommend getting one from the Musubi Cafe Iyasume in Honolulu.
Manapua (must eats in Honolulu)
Manapua are steamed or baked fluffy buns that are Hawaii’s version of a char siu bao. Char siu, for your reference, is seasoned pork that’s marinated in a char siu seasoning, then roasted. The word “manapua” itself also comes from the two Hawaiian phrases, “mea ʻono puaʻa” and “mauna puaa”. “Mea ʻono puaʻa” translates to “delicious pork thing” while “mauna puaa” translates to “mountain of pork”. So, if you’re interested in trying manapua for the first time in Hawaii, I highly recommend getting one from the Island Manapua Factory in Honolulu.
Overall, I really hope you enjoyed this post on the 10 most delicious and satisfying foods you can eat in Honolulu, Hawaii! Please let me know in the comments down below which food you would like to eat the most! I would love to hear from you. 🙂