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.
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: How To Open a Coconut.
Soak the skewers in water for 10 minutes to prevent burning on the grill.
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.
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.
Optional: After opening coconuts, break into 2” pieces leaving the brown shell attached.
Slide fruit on to kabobs. If using coconut, you will need to grill it separately.
Brush the honey-oil mixture onto the kabob, then grill on first side for 4 minutes or as desired, basting after two minutes.
Flip the kabob over, brush with honey-oil mixture, and grill for 2-3 minutes until done.
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.
In a large pot, bring 3 1/2 cups water to a boil. Stir in salt, brown sugar, and vanilla. Refrigerate until cool.
Place tenderloins in a 9” x 13” casserole dish and cover with brine. Chill for 3 to 12 hours.
In a small bowl, mix together ketchup, hoisin, sesame oil, garlic, ginger, and soy sauce.
Set aside half of the sauce to apply just before serving.
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).
Lay pork over indirect-heat area and cook, covered, until meat reaches 135°F on a meat thermometer, between 15 to 20 minutes.
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.
Transfer pork to a cutting board, tent with foil, and let sit for 15 minutes.
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.
Warm the bowl of glaze to around 100°F.
Cut pineapple slices in half.
Cut pork into 1/2” slices.
Cut a deep diagonal slit across the top of each roll with a serrated bread knife.
Place a piece of pork, half a grilled pineapple slice, a cilantro sprig, and pour 1/2 tsp of warm glaze from second bowl.
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.
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.
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.
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
1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes, or more to taste
1 tsp. smoked paprika or a few drops liquid smoke
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.