Latter-day Saint Life

5 Tasty Luau Recipes Straight from the Polynesian Cultural Center


If there’s one thing I love about Polynesian culture, it’s the food! From fish and pig to taro rolls and coconut cake, there’s something tasty for everyone. One of the best locations to taste authentic luau dishes is at the Polynesian Cultural Center in Laie, Hawaii.

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Kalua Pua'a (Pig)

A luau isn't a luau without this delicious meal! Some of my favorite meat has come straight from kalua pua'a prepared like this! The photo below shows how they cook and serve it at the Ali'i Luau at the Polynesian Cultural Center.

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Photo by Scot Proctor

Kalua pua'a, or roast pork, as it is prepared in the Hawaiian imu, or underground steam oven. Kalua pork is usually seasoned with sea salt and sometimes green onions and is a staple at all luaus.

- Pork butt (3 lbs.)

- 3 tablespoons Hawaiian (or sea) salt

- 1.2 gallons of water

- Ti leaves, enough to cover pork

Defrost pork butts and preheat oven to 350° F. Rinse pork with cold water and place in medium roasting pan. Rub salt on center and add water. Cover pork with ti leaves and cover roasting pan with aluminum foil. Bake at 350 degrees for 2 to 3 hours, or until meat is soft. Remove foil and ti leaves, debone and shred pork; add more Hawaiian salt if needed for taste.

Baked Mahi Mahi (White fish fillets with mild or sweet flavor)

Mahi mahi isn't the only delicious meat at a luau! While at the Polynesian Cultural Center, I also tried some of the most tender pork, chicken, and beef I've ever tasted. From the macaroni salad and yams to the meat, there's something for everyone.

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- 2 lbs mahi mahi (fish) fillets

- 1 lemon, juiced

- 1/4 teaspoon garlic salt

- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

- 1 cup mayonnaise

- 1/4 cup white onions, finely chopped

- 1–2 bags bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 425° F. Rinse fish and put in a baking dish. Squeeze lemon juice on fish then sprinkle with garlic salt and pepper. Mix mayonnaise and chopped onions and spread on fish. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and bake for 25 minutes. Serves 4 people.

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Potato Salad

Potato salad isn't just a staple at Mormon barbeques—it's also a part of Hawaiian feasts. See how this recipe measures up against your own!

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- 4 large red and/or yellow potatoes, cut into cubes

- 1-1/2 cup shell or elbow macaroni, dry

- 1/4 cup red onion, thinly sliced and chopped

- 2-3 pickles, chopped

- 2-3 green onions, chopped

- 3 hard-boiled eggs (whites chopped, set aside yolks)

- 1 cup frozen peas (optional)

- 2 celery stalks chopped (optional)

- 1-2 carrots chopped (optional)


- 1-1/4 to 2 cup mayonnaise

- 1/2 cup Zesty Italian dressing

- 1 tablespoon prepared mustard

- Yolks from boiled eggs in salad

- 1 teaspoon garlic salt

- Ground pepper, to taste

- 2 tablespoon or less pickle juice (optional)

- Dill, parsley, curry powder, to taste (optional)

Boil cubed potatoes until tender. Drain and rinse with cold water, set aside to allow to fully cool. Cook macaroni according to directions on the macaroni package, then rinse with cold water and set aside to allow to fully cool. While the macaroni is cooking mix all dressing ingredients together in a small bowl and set aside. Once cooked macaroni and potatoes are cool, lightly toss with remaining salad ingredients. Once tossed, mix in dressing. Serves 8—10 people.

Taro Rolls

Taro is the tropical substitute for potatoes. Made largely of poi (mashed taro root), these amazing rolls not only taste delicious, they are also my favorite shade of purple!

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- 1 1/3 cups warm water (90° F)

- 1 egg

- 1 cup poi*

- 1/2 cup softened butter

- 1 teaspoon purple food coloring

- 1 cup sugar

- 1/4 teaspoon salt

- 2 1/2 teaspoons dry yeast

- 4 cups flour, added gradually

Using table mixer, combine all wet ingredients; then gradually add dry ingredients. Adjust amount of flour depending on stiffness of dough. The texture should be smooth. (If your mixer does not have a dough hook, remove dough from mixer before it becomes too stiff and add remaining flour by kneading on floured table top.)

Once dough is smooth, knead on a floured surface. Break off pieces of dough to knead and form into small balls. Place balls in greased 9X11 pan. Cover with cloth, place in warm, dry area and allow to rise until doubled in size. Bake at 325° F for 20 to 25 minutes.

Makes approximately 1 ½ dozen rolls.

*Possible substitutions if you do not have access to poi include well-cooked and mashed taro root, new potato, parsnips, sweet potatoes, or yams.

Coconut Cake

A meal just isn't complete without dessert! And coconut desserts are especially good from the islands.

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- 2-1/2 cup cake flour

- 2-1/4 teaspoon baking powder

- 3/4 teaspoon salt

- 2 cup sugar

- 1 cup butter, softened

- 4 eggs, separated

- 1-1/2 teaspoon vanilla

- 1 cup milk

- 3/4 cup shredded coconut

- 1-1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind

Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease and flour three 9-inch cake pans. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt into bowl. Cream butter in electric mixer bowl. Gradually add sugar to butter and beat until consistency is light. Add one egg yolk at a time to butter mixture, beating between additions.

Add 1/3 of flour mixture at a time to butter mixture, alternating with ½ of milk. End by adding flour mixture. Scrape down sides of bowl and beater. Add coconut and lemon rind.

In separate bowl, beat egg whites until stiff but not dry. Fold egg whites into cake batter and pour equal amounts into cake pans Bake until a toothpick comes out clean from center of cakes. Cool cakes for 10 minutes before inverting onto wire cake racks. Layer and frost as desired.

Find more delicious luau recipes on the Polynesian Cultural Center website!

All images courtesy of Ali Eisenach unless otherwise indicated

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