Whether your luau-themed event is planned as an evening cocktail affair or day-time pool party, serving tasty hors d’oeuvres that incorporate island flavors is sure to be a hit.    

Offering a variety of fresh fruits and succulent, marinaded meats will satisfy your guests’ hunger by being more filling but still short of a meal. Here is a collection of savory Hawaiian Luau appetizer recipes with a unique tropical-inspired twist on perennial party favorites.   

Grilled Fruit Kabobs 

The variety of colors and shapes on a fruit skewer are pleasing to the eye and the warm, complex and caramelized flavors brought out by grilling will tantalize the tastebuds. 

Set out bowls of fresh fruit next to the grill along with skewers for guests to make their own kabobs. We suggest using 3 to 6 types fruits of various colors and textures for best results, such as: watermelon, strawberries, pineapple, peaches, bananas, kiwis, papaya, mango, and plums. 

Grill some fresh coconut on the side to top it off, and your guests will be blown away. 

Note: There are several methods for safely opening a coconut. Check out this tutorial for more http://www.wikihow.com/Open-a-Coconut.   

Cook Time: 6 min 
Prep Time: 30 min 
Cooking Level: Very Easy 
Yield: 18 skewers   

  • Grill
  • Pastry brush
  • Grilling Tongs
  • Paring knife
  • Vegetable peeler
  • 18 wooden skewers
  • Fruit of choice for 18 skewers
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons butter or coconut oil
  • Optional: flesh of 2 brown coconuts
  1. Preheat the grill to medium-low heat.
  2. Soak the skewers in water for 10 minutes to prevent burning on the grill.
  3. Chop fruit into similarly sized pieces, about 2”x2”. If using peaches, leave the skin attached so that it will not fall apart when grilling. Strawberries can be halved or roasted whole.
  4. Mix honey and butter or coconut oil until well-mixed, heating just until butter/oil is melted in a small saucepan if necessary. Set aside.
  5. Optional: After opening coconuts, break into 2” pieces leaving the brown shell attached.
  6. Slide fruit on to kabobs. If using coconut, you will need to grill it separately.
  7. Brush the honey-oil mixture onto the kabob, then grill on first side for 4 minutes or as desired, basting after two minutes.
  8. Flip the kabob over, brush with honey-oil mixture, and grill for 2-3 minutes until done.
Recipe & photo source:  camillestyles.com    

Glazed Pork and Pineapple Buns 

This delicious option incorporates the traditional luau pork dish, but without the need for a whole-roasted pig. Asian culinary ingredients give a wonderful depth of flavor to the meat, and is perfectly suited for serving in bite-sized portions on Hawaiian King Rolls. 

This dish is even better made a couple of days in advance, which allows the pork to soak up the flavors in the brine and give the tastes in the glaze time to meld.   

Cook Time: 45 minutes 
Prep Time: 4 hours-overnight 
Cooking Level: Intermediate 
Yield: 12 servings   

  • Grill
  • Pastry brush
  • Grilling tongs
  • Meat thermometer
  • 9x13” casserole dish
  • Large saucepan
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Aluminum foil
  • Serrated bread knife
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 pork tenderloins (about 1 lb. each)
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1/2 cup hoisin sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons minced ginger
  • 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 12 1/4” slices fresh pineapple
  • 24 King's Hawaiian sweet rolls
  • 1 cup cilantro sprigs

  1. In a large pot, bring 3 1/2 cups water to a boil. Stir in salt, brown sugar, and vanilla. Refrigerate until cool.
  2. Place tenderloins in a 9” x 13” casserole dish and cover with brine. Chill for 3 to 12 hours.
  1. In a small bowl, mix together ketchup, hoisin, sesame oil, garlic, ginger, and soy sauce. 
  2. Set aside half of the sauce to apply just before serving.
  1. Preheat grill to medium heat (between 350°F to 450°F; or so that you can hold your hand 5 in. above cooking grate only 5 to 7 seconds).
  2. Lay pork over indirect-heat area and cook, covered, until meat reaches 135°F on a meat thermometer, between 15 to 20 minutes.
  3. Brush the pork with one half of the glaze, reserving 2 tablespoons for pineapple. Cook pork (if using charcoal, add 6 to 8 briquets to maintain temperature), turning occasionally, until glaze has caramelized slightly and meat thermometer reaches 145°F,  between 5 to 10 minutes.
  4. Transfer pork to a cutting board, tent with foil, and let sit for 15 minutes.
  5. Lay pineapple slices on direct-heat area of grill, brush with 2 tbsp. reserved glaze and cook on each side until grill marks appear, about 4 minutes per side.
  1. Warm the bowl of glaze to around 100°F.
  2. Cut pineapple slices in half.
  3. Cut pork into 1/2” slices.
  4. Cut a deep diagonal slit across the top of each roll with a serrated bread knife.
  5. Place a piece of pork, half a grilled pineapple slice, a cilantro sprig, and pour 1/2 tsp of warm glaze from second bowl.
Recipe & photo source:  www.sunset.com   

Bacon-Wrapped Pineapple Bites 

If you aren’t planning to actively grill during the party or prefer something lighter than the above sandwich recipe, here is an easy option of which to partake the superb pairing of pineapple and pork.   

Cook time: 26 minutes 
Prep time: 5 min 
Cooking level: Very Easy 
Yield: 16 bites   

  • Kitchen knife
  • Shallow bowl
  • 16 toothpicks
  • Can opener
  • Wire cooling rack
  • Cookie sheet
  • Aluminum foil
  • 1 pound sliced bacon
  • 1 can (14 oz) pineapple chunks
  • ½ cups brown sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 375F.
  2. Soak toothpicks in water to prevent burning in oven.
  3. Cut bacon strips in half.
  4. Add the brown sugar to a shallow bowl.
  5. Dredge the half-slices of bacon in brown sugar.
  6. Place a chunk of pineapple on one end of the bacon slice and roll it up, securing with a wet toothpick.
  7. Lay bacon pineapple bites on a wire rack which has been placed atop a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil.
  8. Bake for 25 minutes until the bacon is brown and crispy. If desired, broil for 30 to 60 seconds for optimal crispness.
Recipe & photo source:  tastykitchen.com   

Japanese Beef Rolls 

The Hawaiian islands are a popular place for vacationers from Asia, and not surprisingly much of the local cuisine incorporates flavors from that continent. The result is a glorious melting pot of tastes, which is sure to be reflected in the menu of any successful backyard luau. 

Here is a recent Japanese-inspired fave that is sure to impress.   

Cook Time: 8 minutes 
Prep Time: 10 minutes 
Cooking Level: Easy 
Yield: 10 rolls   

  • Small mixing bowl
  • Mixing spoon
  • Paring knife
  • Measuring spoons
  • Large skillet
  • Pastry brush
  • Toothpicks
  • 1 lb. thinly sliced sirloin steak 
  • 5 stalks asparagus
  • 5 stalks green onion
  • 4 oz. fresh or canned enoki mushrooms
  • 4 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 4 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon cooking oil
  • Optional: 2-3 tablespoons sake
  1. In a small bowl, mix together the soy sauce and rice vinegar marinade. Add pepper or wasabi to marinade if desired. Set aside.
  2. Cut the thick ends of the asparagus off where the turn pale, cutting off about 1” from that end and discard. Cut the asparagus in half.
  3. Cut the bulbs off of the green onions, about 1/2” from the root end and discard. Trim off 1” of the top end and discard. Then cut the onion in half.
  4. Place asparagus, green onion, and Enoki mushrooms atop strips of meat.
  5. Roll up tightly and place seam side down, securing with toothpick.
  6. Heat oil in a large skillet over high heat. Place rolls in hot oil and cook each side for about 2 minutes, brushing each with the marinade.
  7. If desired, splash the cooked rolls with sake and top with chopped scallions.
Recipe & photo source: www.seasaltwithfood.com    

Luau Thai Chicken 

For a delicious Thai-inspired treat, try this tasty chicken skewer recipe. This is another recipe that can be started the night before for easy preparation the day of the party.   

Cooking Time: 6 minutes 
Prep Time: 3 hours-overnight 
Cooking Level: Easy 
Yield: About 15 skewers   

  • Grill
  • Kitchen knife
  • Measuring spoons
  • Skewers
  • Gallon-size storage bag
  • Medium mixing bowl
  • 2-1/2 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into one inch strips
  • 14 oz coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon red curry paste
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  1. Wash and cut chicken into one inch strips, then add to plastic storage bag.
  2. Blend together coconut milk, cilantro, brown sugar, red curry paste, lime juice, garlic, and salt in a medium mixing bowl.
  3. Pour over chicken in storage bag, seal, and rotate bag to coat.
  4. Refrigerate for 3 hours or overnight.
  5. Soak the skewers in water before cooking, then stick longways through raw meat strips.
  6. Grill for 5 to 6 minutes until meat reaches an internal temperature of 165F.
  7. If using an electric grill, cook the chicken first for roughly 8-10 minutes, then skewer the meat using tongs.
  8. Serve with peanut sauce (recipe follows).
Peanut Sauce:
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 2/3 cup coconut milk
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sweet chili sauce
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk together until well blended.  

Recipe & photo source:  casadelindquist.com   

Vegetarian Laulau 

Laulau is a staple at traditional Hawaiian luaus, which usually includes a mixture of pork and fish wrapped in taro leaves, and is then steamed. This recipe uses collards as a substitute for taro leaves due to their availability in most of the Lower 48. 

It is also a tasty vegetarian version if you are wanting to incorporate some veggies into your menu. Coconut milk is the secret ingredient in this simple recipe that is sure to impress.   

Cooking Time: 13 minutes 
Prep Time: 20 minutes 
Cooking Level: Easy 
Yield: 8 rolls   

  • Large pot with steamer basket
  • Plate/platter
  • Large mixing bowl
  • Measuring cups
  • Kitchen knife
  • Tongs
  • 8 large whole collard leaves
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes cut into ½-inch cubes (about 4 cups)
  • ½ cup chopped fresh spinach
  • ½ cup coconut milk
  • ¼ cup sliced scallion
  • ? tsp. red pepper flakes, or more to taste
  • 1 tsp. smoked paprika or a few drops liquid smoke
  1. Fill large pot with 1 inch water, and bring to a boil. Drop collard leaves in water one at time, and cook 1 to 2 minutes, or until slightly soft. Transfer to plate to drain. Set aside.
  2. Place steamer basket over boiling water in pot, add sweet potatoes, cover, and steam 8 minutes, or until just tender. Transfer to large mixing bowl, and stir in spinach, coconut milk, green onion, red pepper flakes, and paprika. Season with salt and pepper, if desired. Keep steamer basket in pot over low heat, adding more water, if necessary, to maintain 1 inch depth.
  3. Lay 1 collard leaf face down on work surface, with stem pointing away from you. Spoon 1/4 cup sweet potato filling 2 inches from bottom of collard leaf. Fold bottom edge of collard leaf over filling, fold in sides, and roll away from you, creating as tight a roll as possible.
  4. Increase heat under steamer to high. Transfer rolls to steamer basket, cover pot, and steam 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to serving platter with tongs.
Recipe & photo source:  www.vegetariantimes.com   

Sweet & Sour Meatballs   

This low-stress, easy meatball recipe uses the sweet and tangy flavors of Asian cuisine to create slow-cooked, flavorful deliciousness. Simply combine all ingredients in a slow cooker, and go about your business. Serve with toothpicks or over rice if desired.     

Cook time: 4 hours 
Prep time: 15 minutes 
Cooking level: Very Easy   

  • Kitchen knife
  • Slow cooker/crock pot
  • 1 (10 oz) jar sweet and sour sauce
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 lb frozen meatballs (any variety, need not be thawed)
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, cubed
  • 1 medium green bell pepper, cubed
  • 1 medium onion, cubed
  • 1 (20 oz) can pineapple chunks, drained
  1. Cut vegetables into similarly sized cubes for even cooking.
  2. Spray inside of slow cooker with non-stick cooking spray.
  3. Place all ingredients inside the slow cooker and stir gently.
  4. Place lid on slow cooker and cook on low for 7-8 hours or on high for 4-5 hours.
Recipe & photo source:  www.sixsistersstuff.com

Check out more Hawaiian Luau ideas, products, and recipes here.
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