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Hawaii Local Foods

Find Local Foods in Hawaii

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Find great local foods on the Hawaiian Islands - Oahu, Kauai, Maui, and the Big Island. This guide is a work-in-progress, so add your favorite things about local foods in Hawaii here!

Hawaii Seasonal Fruits & Vegetables

Image of Bananas at Hilo Farmers Market
Photo © Molly Watson

The Hawaiian growing season lasts all year long. The varied micro-climates on each island - rainy sides and dry sides and mountains in the middle - mean that cooler, shade-loving vegetables like lettuce and heat-soaking plants like tomatoes can thrive all year long within a relatively small geographic area (of, say, an island). Add to that the range of tropical fruits that flourish on the islands and you have the makings for some delicious local eating. Learn what to expect when with this Guide to Hawaii Seasonal Produce.

Hawaii Farmers Markets

Image of Hilo Farmers Market Sign
Photo © Molly Watson

The islands are full of farmers markets. Find farmers markets in Hawaii, whether you're a local looking for groceries for a week or a tourist in need of a supremely ripe pineapple. If you're not local, be warned: most farmers markets in Hawaii have serious start-times for which shoppers line up and wait for the rope to drop or gate to open at which point they run in to claim the freshest lettuce and most fragrant pineapples. Find a market with this Guide to Hawaii Farmers Markets.

Can't make it to Hawaii anytime soon? Take a virtual tour of the Hilo Farmers Market, the Waimea Homestead Farmers Market, or the Waimea Town Farmers Market - all on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Hawaii Community Supported Agriculture

Photo © Molly Watson

Most Hawaiian CSAs have staples that would be familiar to Mainlanders (carrots, green beans, spinach), except they're on offer much more of the year and are joined by tropical crops like ginger, taro, and fruits of all kinds. Check out Hawaii CSAs with this guide.

Hawaiian Luau Foods

Locals already know what's what with Hawaiian party food, but visitors may need a quick guide to what to expect at a luau. For visitors to the islands: luaus can be fun and cheesy hotel affairs but they are also an alive and vibrant local tradition and they're how many big events - birthdays, graduations, etc. - are celebrated on the islands. If you are lucky enough to be invited to a real luau, say yes! I predict there will be an impressive amount of food and even more aloha spirit to greet you.

Hawaiian Purple Sweet Potatoes

Image of Hawaiian Purple Sweet Potatoes at the Hilo Farmers Market
Photo © Molly Watson
The purple potatoes grown in Hawaii - slightly sweet, fluffy with starch, and an almost jewel-like purple hue - are hands-down delicious. Also known as Okinawa sweet potatoes, these tubers are highly nutritious. When cooked in coconut milk and a bit of garlic (I like to add some ginger to mine as well), they may well blow you mind.

Hawaii Specialties: Banana Flower

Banana Flowers
Photo © Molly Watson
Didn't know that bananas have flowers and that they're edible? You'll find that at farmers markets in Hawaii—just peel away the tough outer layers to reveal the tender leaves inside, delicious chopped into salads, added to soups, or used in stir-frys. Learn more about banana flowers here.

Hawaii Specialties: Haupia

Haupia is a cross between Knox blocks Jello desserts and a creamy pudding - all with that crazy coconut flavor that is at once familiar and unlike anything else. It is a local staple, served at events big and small for dessert. Make it at home with this Haupia Recipe.

Hawaii Specialties: Huli Huli

Huli Huli Chicken Cooking
Photo © Molly Watson
Huli huli is a marinade and a cooking method. The original way of making huli huli involves turning two grills to face each other ("huli" means "turn" in Hawaiian), but most versions are made on a rotisserie or just a grill, but a live fire is always part of the equation. The marinade is a riff on teriyaki (get the recipe for huli huli marinade here) and works particularly well with chicken (get the recipe for Huli Huli Chicken here), but is delicious with pork - especially ribs - as well.

Hawaii Specialties: Cascaron

Cascaron, Sweet Rice Fritters
Photo © Molly Watson
These fritters made from mochi, a paste made from pounding sweet rice, fried until crispy on the outside, and dipped in sugar are amazingly chewy and toothsome on the inside. Look for them at plate lunch vendors and in Hawaiian markets.

Hawaii Specialties: Ohi'a 'ai (Mountain Apples)

Ohi'a 'ai (Hawaii Mountain Apples)
Photo © Molly Watson
Ohi'a 'ai are crazy shiny, bright red fruits that grow in the humid areas of the Hawaiian islands. They have a taste and texture remarkably like pears and are usually eaten fresh. Find them at farmers markets and farm stands. Note that they have thin, delicate skins and thus require gently handling. Learn more About Ohi'a 'ai (Mountain Apples) here.
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