Host a Hawaiian Luau: Recipes for a Tropical Feast

Want the taste of Hawaii without the cost of the flight? These recipes will help you put together an authentic Hawaiian luau in your own backyard

Planning your own Hawaiian luau is a great way to bring the tastes of a tropical holiday home

You don’t need to go all the way to Hawaii to enjoy the tastes of the islands. Preparing a Hawaiian-style feast is as easy as firing up the BBQ and knowing which ingredients will turn your dishes into tropical delights.

Hawaii’s cuisine is a testament to the state’s cultural diversity, and reflects strong inspirations from the Pacific Rim with influences from Japan, the Philippines, Korea and Thailand—often combined with a playful twist that makes them distinctly Hawaiian.

While a luau traditionally takes place outdoors in a tent, it’s not a necessity, but definitely a nice touch. 

Encourage your friends to put on their Hawaiian shirts and dresses, and greet them with leis—flowers for the ladies and beads for the guys. Hawaiian music and a few torch lights will also set the tone.

Click through for ideas and recipes for drinks, appetizers, mains and desserts that’ll carry your tastebuds straight to the tropics.

Credit: Social Graces / iStock/laartist


Rainbow Slush

If your get-together includes kids, prepare a rainbow slush ressembling the ice cups served in Hawaii, but use a punchbowl and make it on a much larger scale. The kids will love it, and it makes a great centerpiece. Follow this rainbow slush how-to.

Pineapple Martini

For the adults, go with a vodka and coconut-rum infused pineapple martini topped with chunks of fresh pineapple. Let the pineapple soak in the coconut rum and vodka mixture for at least a day. Decorate your drink with a floral touch or try making different versions with mango, pineapple or coconut.


  • 45ml (1.5 ounces) of Grey Goose Vodka
  • 30ml (1 ounce) Malibu Coconut Rum
  • 45ml (1.5 ounces) pineapple juice
  • 45ml (1.5 ounces) coconut juice
  • 4 ice cubes


  1. Add all ingredients into a shaker and strain into your martini glass.
  2. Decorate with a large chunk of vodka and coconut-rum-infused pineapple.

Hawaiian Punch

A Hawaiian punch is also a convenient option for a big party, and it’s so easy to make.


  • 500 ml Bols Blue Liqueur
  • 500 ml Grey Goose Vodka
  • 2000 ml ginger ale
  • 500 ml pineapple juice


  1. Combine everything into a punch bowl and add plenty of ice (cubes or crushed).
  2. Decorate with pineapple, rubber ducks, cherries or watermelon (put a toothpick in each so guests can pick a garnish for their drink).

Credit: Saimin by Flickr / Kanaka Menehune



Start the night out with a small serving of this yummy Hawaiian mainstay, an Asian-style noodle soup 
that’s so popular among Hawaiians, you’ll find it at any Hawaiian McDonald’s. Prepared in a large bowl with chicken broth and wheat-flour noodles, this soup has green onions, pink fish cakes, and pieces of omelet and Chinese pork roast (you may also come across recipes with SPAM). Here’s a yummy Saimin recipe.

Tangy Shrimp

There’s no debating Hawaiians love their shrimp; as evidenced by shrimp trucks all over the islands. Make it at home by grilling shrimp on skewers with pineapple, mango, garlic and/or lime. 

SPAM Musibis

Believe it or not, Hawaii’s most popular snack is SPAM musubi. It’s a square bed of rice with a slice of SPAM on top, all neatly held together with a piece of seaweed. You’ll spot these little treats next to the cash register in most Hawaiian grocery/convenience stores. SPAM is clearly popular in Hawaii, selling in the vicinity of 5 million cans per year. Here’s a step-by-step guide to preparing musibis.

Fresh Poke

Ahi tuna or octopus (tako) poke is made from fresh raw seafood chopped in small chunks and mixed with scallions, onions, seaweed, chilies and tomatoes. Make it your own by adding other ingredients like black beans or avocado. Season it with salt and fresh pepper and dip it in soy sauce and wasabi.


  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, smashed and chopped
  • ½ white onion, diced
  • 1 pound of ahi tuna or octopus (squid), ¼-inch chunks


  1. Add all ingredients into a bowl and toss lightly. Serve in small bowls and dip into soy and wasabi.

Main Dishes

Lomi Salmon

Also called lomi-lomi salmon, this seafood dish was first created in Hawaii by mixing salted, diced salmon with tomatoes, crushed ice and green onions.


  • 2 cups of raw salmon, diced
  • 5 medium tomatoes, diced
  • 1 white onion, chopped
  • 2/3 cup green onion, chopped
  • pinch of sea salt
  • cayenne pepper to taste (optional)


  1. Stir salmon, tomatoes, white onion, green onion, sea salt and cayenne pepper together until mixed.
  2. Chill before serving. 

Bento Box

Hawaii is no stranger to bento boxes; you can find them at any Hawaiian grocery store. Custom make your own as a playful way to serve dinner. Build your bento with a combo of fruits, veggies, crackers and cheese, or try some of these bento box ideas. You can also let your guests get creative and prepare their own bento box.

Kalua Pork

If you’re feeling really ambitious, you can make a traditional kalua pig without digging a hole in your backyard. Get out your slow cooker out and add sea salt and liquid smoke flavouring. Leave the pork in for 10 to 12 hours and then shred the meat.


  • 4 – 6 lbs pork shoulder
  • 1 tbsp liquid smoke
  • 3 tbsp Hawaiian salt


  1. Wash and dry the pork roast.
  2. Place in the slow cooker.
  3. Pour liquid smoke over the roast and add sea salt liberally over top.
  4. Leave in slow cooker for 10 to 12 hours.
  5. Shred meat with a fork and then place in the slow cooker on low to keep warm.

Loco Moco 

A loco moco is a hamburger patty that sits on a bed of white rice with a fried egg on top—all topped with gravy. A true favourite with Hawaiian surfers, this high protein dish is sure to satisfy the biggest of appetites, and it’s a good substitute for traditional burgers at your Hawaiian soirée. Of course, if you’d prefer a healthier variation, make it with brown rice, a turkey patty and go easy on the gravy. Here’s a great loco moco recipe.

Credit: Cupcakes: Flickr / Paula Morrison Pineapple Cake: Flickr / totbakedesign


Cupcakes and Ice Cream 

Hawaiian-themed cupcakes dusted with coconut or served with a bowl of pineapple ice cream topped with crushed ginger are irrisistible treats. Add to the Hawaiian flare with some colourful umbrella toppers.

Upside Down Cake

Put a new twist on pineapple upside down cake by switching it up with bananas, carrots or apples. Or keep it traditional with this pineapple upside down cake recipe. Eaikākou! (That’s Hawaiian for bon appetit!)

Recipes for a Tropical Feast