Recipes for a Tropical-Inspired Plate Lunch: Hawaiian

hawaiian chicken plate top

This Hawaii-inspired meal is still one of our favorites. Try it sometime!

Hi, friend! If you’ve been hanging with me here at MBB for a while, you might already know that my husband (the infamous El Hub!) is from Oahu in Hawaii, and we try to visit when we can to see our family.

We had trips planned for this year to celebrate some big birthdays for the grandparents, but, as you know, “The ‘Rona” was like “HAHAHAAAAAA,” so we haven’t been able to make it back in a while. Hopefully, sooner than later though (fingers and toes crossed).

We’ve been missing Hawaii a great deal lately, so I’ve been making this Hawaiian lunch plate-inspired meal to help us feel a little more connected to the islands.

hawaiian chicken plate side

A Hawaiian lunch plate typically has a scoop of rice, a scoop of sweet and tangy macaroni salad, a protein of some kind (like spam or teriyaki chicken) and a side of veggies. El Hub grew up eating them, and I’m all about ’em now too.

Granted, the plate lunches that I, an SF Bay Area girl, make here probably won’t be considered “authentic” (air quotes) by Hawaiian lunch plate culinary die-hard standards, my family really likes them. Babygirl says this one has “the yummiest chicken ever,” and El Hub has put in more than a few requests for this dish over the last month.

hawaiian chicken with sauce
A little sweet, a little salty, and all kinds of yum!

The protein in this meal is a pineapple and soy sauce marinated Hawaiian chicken, which I cooked in my Instant Pot!

I like using the Instant Pot because I can set it and forget it, and the results are consistently fan-frickin’-tastic. The chicken is always tender and bursting with flavor.

If you are culinarily-inclined, you could probably adapt it to a stovetop or a grill, but I haven’t tried either of those yet. But seriously, the Instant Pot is a foolproof tool for me, so that’s what I use for this meal.

instant pot hawaiian chicken
My much-loved Instant Pot!

I serve the chicken with coconut rice, a creamy Hawaiian mac salad (usually with whatever pasta shape I can find!) and a Thai-inspired cucumber and carrot salad, and when I posted a pic of it a while back here, there were quite a few requests for the recipes…

So, here they are below! Enjoy.


Tender, juicy chicken cooked in an Instant Pot! Sweet pineapple perfectly balances with the soy sauce sauce, ginger and garlic in this easy, kid-friendly dish.

  • Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Cook time: 45 minutes
  • Total-ish time: 4-8 hours, depending on how long you marinade the chicken
  • Yield: 6 servings


  • 2-3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs or tenders (I use a mix of 1 pound thighs and 1 pound tenders)
  • 1 cup pineapple juice
  • 1 cup low-sodium soy sauce (I used gluten-free Tarmari)
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
  • 6 cloves finely minced garlic (or 1 teaspoon garlic powder)
  • 1/2 cup of low-sodium chicken broth or water


Marinate the chicken:

  1. Place the chicken thighs and/or tenders in a shallow dish or in a gallon-size plastic bag.
  2. Whisk together the pineapple juice, soy sauce, brown sugar, ginger and garlic until the brown sugar is dissolved (or mostly dissolved); then divide it in half.
  3. Pour half the marinade over the chicken in the bag so the chicken is evenly coated. Seal the bag and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or up to 24 hours.
  4. Refrigerate the remaining marinade until the chicken is ready to be cooked.

Cook the chicken in the Instant Pot:

  1. When you’re ready to cook the chicken, place the trivet into the bottom of the Instant Pot, and layer the chicken on top evenly. Pour in one cup of the marinade from the bag, and then a 1/2 cup of broth or water. Cook on Manual at high pressure for 12-14 minutes, do a 10-minute natural steam release, and then a quick release.
  2. You can remove the trivet and shred the chicken directly in the pot to mix into the juices if you want. Or, you can take them out and shred them outside of the pot and the juice. I usually take the chicken out, shred it, then top it with the sauce, but really it’s up to you!

Make the sauce:

  1. Bring the refrigerated reserved marinade to a simmer in a small saucepan on the stove. Simmer for 5-10 minutes (the longer it simmers, the more reduced and slightly thickened it will be). Spoon it on top of the chicken and/or rice when serving.

hawaiian chicken marinade ingredients

hawaiian chicken marinade
You can also use ground garlic and ginger if you’re in a hurry


Crunchy, tangy and just a touch sweet! This easy cucumber salad tastes just like something you’d find at your favorite Thai restaurant. I customize ours to suit my four-year-old daughter’s palate, but I’ve added options below if you’d like to dial up the stronger flavors.

  • Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Cook time: 5 minutes
  • Total time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings


  • 1 pound persian cucumbers, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup shredded carrots
  • 1/2 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • Optional: 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, 1/4 cup red thinly sliced red onion, and 1/3 cup chopped peanuts


  1. Place peeled and sliced cucumbers in a colander, and sprinkle salt over them.
  2. Toss the cucumbers to coat them with the salt, and let sit for 10 minutes.
  3. Gently blot the cucumber slices dry with a paper towels.
  4. In a small bowl, mix the rice vinegar and sugar. Microwave for about 30 seconds until sugar is dissolved.
  5. In a large bowl, place the cucumbers and carrots, pour the rice vinegar and sugar mixture over the top, and stir to combine.
  6. Optional: at this point, feel free to mix in the cilantro and sliced red onion as well.
  7. Cover and refrigerate for 20 minutes, or up to 24 hours.
  8. If you’re using peanuts, sprinkle them on just before serving.
cucumber carrot salad
This cucumber carrot salad adds crunch and texture to the meal.

cucumber carrot salad ingredients


A creamy, sweet and tangy salad with some crunch. This is a staple on a typical Hawaiian lunch plate. You can easily customize this salad to make it your own by adding onions, your favorite proteins (eggs or chicken would be good!), or maybe even some diced, cooked potato. Totally up to you. When I make it for our family, I leave out the raw onions because otherwise my kid won’t touch the stuff, but I’ve added options below if you prefer punchier flavors.

  • Prep time: 30 minutes
  • Cook time: 10 minutes
  • Total time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings


  • 1 8-oz box of pasta (macaroni is great, but spirals work too! Because El Hub has Celiac and is gluten-free, I use Banza Pasta)
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup mayonnaise, divided (I used light mayo)
  • 1 cup whole milk, divided
  • 1/2 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt, plus additional for cooking the pasta
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 cup shredded carrot
  • 1 cup minced celery
  • Optional: 5-7 green onions, sliced thin


  1. Generously salt a large pot of water, bring to a boil, and cook your past according to the instructions on the box. Drain, return to the pot and toss with the vinegar. Let cool for 10 minutes.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup of the mayonnaise and 3/4 cup of the milk until fully incorporated. Then, mix in the brown sugar, salt and pepper.
  3. Toss the cooled pasta into the mayo/milk mixture, and let come to room temperature (I usually wait about 15-20 minutes).
  4. Once cool, fold in the carrot and celery. If you’re using the green onions, you can add them at this point. Whisk the remaining mayonnaise and milk, pour over the salad, and toss well to coat. Add additional salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Chill in the refrigerator until the pasta is cold.
hawaiian mac salad
Creamy, tangy and delicious


Lightly sweet and fluffy, this coconut rice is the perfect addition to your Asian-inspired dishes. Long grain rice like Basmati and Jasmine work best; however, I have used short grain rice in a pinch, and although it’s “technically” edible, it’s very gluey and gummy, so I wouldn’t recommend it. Also, I prefer to use the full-fat version of the coconut milk because the fam-bam likes the richer flavor, but you can substitute it with light if you’d like.

  • Prep time: 5 minutes
  • Cook time: 25
  • Total time: 30
  • Yield: 6 servings


  • 1 1/2 cups jasmine or basmati rice
  • 1 can coconut milk, regular or light
  • 1 1/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse, kosher salt


  1. Combine the rice, coconut milk, broth and salt in a large pan.
  2. Bring to a gentle boil over medium heat, stirring on occasion to prevent the rice from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
  3. Reduce the heat to low, then place a cover on the pot, and cook for 16 minutes.
  4. Turn off the heat, leave the pot covered (don’t lift up the lid!), and let it sit on the stove for 10 minutes.
  5. Fluff with a fork if you’d like, then serve.
coconut rice ingredients
The start of something yummy!

coconut rice overview

Aloha and enjoy!

Your friendly neighborhood beauty addict,