A Modern-Day Twist on Hawaiian Shoyu Chicken
The first time I visited a Hawaiian restaurant, I was introduced to the wonders of Hawaiian food, with plate lunches being the star. One of the most popular Hawaiian was the Aloha Shoyu Chicken recipe.
This chicken dish is comfort food, often with macaroni salad and white rice.
Last year, I stumbled upon a local recipe in the Makawao History Museum that used an Instant Pot to make this popular Hawaiian dish. Intrigued by the modern-day recipe twist, I decided to try it out.
The best part? The cooking time was significantly reduced, making it one of the easiest meals I’ve ever prepared!
Serves: 4 people
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes
Resting Time: 5 minutes
Type of Meal: Main Course
Country or Region Recipe Originated From Hawaii, USA
- Large mixing bowl
- Measuring cups and spoons
- Whisk or spoon for stirring
- Ziplock bag or marinating container
- Large skillet or frying pan
- Tongs or spatula
- 4 bone-in chicken thighs or boneless chicken thighs (skin-on chicken thighs recommended for the crispy chicken skin)
- 1 cup shoyu (Japanese soy sauce)
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 thumb-sized fresh ginger, grated
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 small bowl of cornstarch slurry
- 2 green onions, chopped
- Optional step: a pinch of rice vinegar for tang
- In a heavy Dutch oven or large pot on the stove top, heat it to medium heat. Once hot, place the skin on the chicken thighs skin side down. Keep a close eye and sear until the chicken skin becomes golden brown. It’s important to check for doneness around the 30-minute mark.
- While the chicken is browning, in a small bowl, mix the cup shoyu, Japanese-style soy sauce (or Aloha Shoyu for that authentic taste), brown sugar, cloves of garlic, fresh ginger, and both peppers. This shoyu mixture is the dish’s essence, bringing together Japanese and local-style foods harmoniously.
- Once the chicken is browned, pour the shoyu mixture over it. If you have any remaining sauce, keep it aside.
- Now, transfer the chicken and sauce ingredients into the Instant Pot. If you do not have an Instant Pot, a slow cooker works just as well. For the slow cooker, let it cook on low heat for 5-6 hours until the meat is bone tender. For the Instant Pot, set it to high pressure for 25 minutes.
- Once done, release the pressure and add the cornstarch slurry to thicken the shoyu juices. If you do this on the stovetop, you’d do this step on medium-high heat.
- Serve hot, garnished with green onion pieces.
For those wanting to go the extra mile, pair this tender meat with Hawaiian mac salad and maybe even some Spam musubi or Kalua pork. Or, if beef is more to your liking, a side of teriyaki beef or beef stew would be magnificent.
- Buying Aloha Shoyu from the grocery store is recommended. It’s one of the main reasons the chicken has that authentic local food taste. The difference between shoyu soy sauce and the Aloha Shoyu is noticeable. Last time, I made a double batch using Aloha Shoyu, and it was the talk of the evening!
- Bone-in thighs will give you a richer flavor compared to boneless thighs.
- Wipe the chicken dry with a kitchen towel before browning; this helps get a crispy skin.
- While not used in this recipe, if you ever come across teriyaki chicken in a Hawaiian restaurant, it’s another must-try!
- If you’re interested in the products I used, I have some affiliate links on my recipe card. Purchasing through them gives me a small commission at no extra cost to you.
- Using a meat thermometer to check for an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C) for chicken is a good practice.
Lastly, if you liked this easy recipe, next time, maybe we can delve into the state of Hawaii’s other favorite dish – the teriyaki beef or the beef stew. But for now, enjoy this delicious plate and maybe even indulge more by making it the next day!
A Memory with Hawaiian Shoyu Chicken
There’s a warm, golden memory I hold close, nestled deep in my heart, of a time when life was simple and moments were savored like the last rays of a sunset. This story revolves around the comforting embrace of a dish – the Hawaiian Shoyu Chicken.
I remember it was during the summer, right after I graduated from college. The world seemed vast and intimidating, yet thrilling with its endless possibilities. My best friend, Mia, and I had decided to embark on a spontaneous trip to Hawaii to rediscover ourselves and celebrate our newfound freedom.
One evening, after a day spent frolicking on the pristine beaches and hiking through lush trails, we stumbled upon a quaint, family-owned eatery by the coastline. The setting sun painted the sky with hues of pink and gold, and the gentle sound of waves provided a serene backdrop.
The aroma wafting from the kitchen was enticing, drawing us in like moths to a flame.
We settled into our seats, and the owner, an elderly woman with a warm smile and wise eyes, recommended the Hawaiian Shoyu Chicken. Trusting her judgment, we ordered it without hesitation.
As we waited, she regaled us with stories of her ancestors, of age-old traditions, and of how recipes like the one we were about to savor had been passed down through generations.
When the dish finally arrived, it was a sight to behold. The chicken gleamed under the dim lights, coated in a glossy, caramel-colored sauce. White rice and macaroni salad accompanied it, making the plate look like a canvas of comfort.
The first bite was transformative. The tender chicken, infused with the flavors of shoyu, brown sugar, ginger, and garlic, melted in my mouth. Each morsel was a symphony of flavors, perfectly balanced between sweet and savory.
The stories the owner had shared seemed to come alive with every bite, making the meal feel like a journey through time.
Mia and I shared stories of our childhood, dreams, and fears, all while relishing the dish in front of us. The meal transcended being just food; it became an experience, a memory etched into our souls.
As we left the eatery, the owner handed us a small card with the recipe scribbled, a piece of her legacy that she wanted to share. Tears welled up in my eyes, not just because of the gesture, but because, in that moment, I realized how food could be a bridge, connecting people, cultures, and generations.
To this day, whenever I’m feeling lost or overwhelmed, I recreate that Hawaiian Shoyu Chicken in my kitchen. With every bite, I’m transported back to that beauty.
Hawaiian evening it reminded me of the warmth of shared meals, the importance of preserving traditions, and the unspoken magic that food holds in binding hearts together.
FAQs – Aloha Shoyu Chicken Recipe
What’s the difference between Japanese soy sauce and Aloha Shoyu?
👉 Both are soy sauces, but Aloha Shoyu has a unique blend and flavor profile that’s often considered sweeter and less salty than traditional Japanese. It’s specifically designed to suit the palate of Hawaiian cuisine.[verified6]
Can I use chicken breasts instead of thighs for this recipe?
👉 Yes, you can use chicken breasts. However, thighs, especially bone-in, provide a richer flavor and are juicier after cooking. If you opt for breasts, you might need to adjust the cooking time slightly to avoid overcooking.[verified7]
Is the cayenne pepper necessary? I wouldn’t say I like spicy food.
👉 The cayenne pepper is optional and primarily adds a hint of heat. If you’re not a fan of spicy food, you can easily omit it without compromising the overall taste of the dish.
How long can I store leftovers?
👉 Leftover Shoyu Chicken can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days. When reheating, ensure it’s warmed thoroughly, and you can even add a splash of water or chicken broth if the sauce thickens too much.
I don’t have an Instant Pot or slow cooker. Can I still make this dish?
👉 Absolutely! You can cook the chicken in a heavy Dutch oven or a large pot on the stovetop. After adding the shoyu mixture, bring it to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, covering the pot.
Let it cook for about 40-50 minutes, checking for tenderness and ensuring the chicken is cooked. Adjust the cooking time as needed based on the thickness of your chicken pieces.
Final notes with verification links
The differences between Japanese soy sauce and Aloha Shoyu lie in their flavor profiles and usage preferences. Aloha Shoyu is described as sweet and mild, making it suitable for Hawaiian cuisine. In contrast, Japanese soy sauce, represented by brands like Kikkoman, is noted as salty and tangy, which could be preferred for cooking to impart a stronger flavor123.
Concerning the substitution of chicken breasts for thighs, you can indeed substitute them in most recipes. However, chicken thighs are generally more flavorful and juicier, owing to their higher fat content. When substituting, one may need to adjust the cooking method and time and also consider the change in texture and taste that will occur in the dish4567.
Cayenne pepper is known for its bold red hue and fiery taste, providing a heat level of medium intensity (30,000 to 50,000 Scoville heat units). It’s a versatile ingredient used in various recipes to add a hint of heat. If you’re not fond of spicy food, omitting cayenne pepper from the recipe shouldn’t drastically affect the overall taste, although the hint of heat it provides will be missed891011.
Lastly, if you don’t have an Instant Pot or slow cooker, Shoyu Chicken can still be made on the stovetop or in the oven. Here are some suggested methods based on different recipes:
- One method involves using a heavy bottomed pot like a Dutch oven or a ceramic oven-safe baking dish, preheating the oven to 350°F, placing the chicken in the pot, and baking it16.
- Another method requires bringing the Shoyu mixture to a boil on medium-high heat on the stovetop, then reducing the heat to medium-low, covering the pot, and letting it simmer for about 30-40 minutes1718.
These methods provide alternative ways to prepare Shoyu Chicken without needing an Instant Pot or slow cooker, ensuring that the dish can still be enjoyed regardless of the available kitchen appliances.
Born and raised in a family of foodies, Georgia’s passion for cuisine was nurtured from a young age as she learned the intricacies of flavor and texture from her grandmother’s kitchen. As an adult, this early fascination blossomed into a full-fledged love affair with the culinary world.