These Hawaiian chicken wings are my way of capturing the flavors of the islands in a bite size package and paying homage to the tradition of the grilled huli huli chicken, but without out any of the junky ingredients you’d find in a bottled sauce or the barbecue grill which is likely buried under snow this time of year on the mainland! The recipe is free of refined sugar and soy and can be made nightshade free as well, if you are following the paleo autoimmune protocol (AIP) or know you are sensitive to them.
Mr. Gutsy and I spent a week on the lovely island of Kauai last month with my mother and father, celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. We had an incredible time exploring, relaxing, and eating! Every night we fell asleep to the sounds of the surf and woke every morning to watch sunrises like this one…
We visited farmer’s markets daily and made most of our meals in our condo kitchen from the fresh bounty of the island, but also visited a few of the local establishments as well, where I was pleased to find gluten-free and mostly paleo options easily. One dish I had to skip, however, was the barbecued chicken – referred to locally as “huli huli” (which means “turn, turn”) because I couldn’t verify the ingredients of the sauce. I was told it was delicious though, so upon returning home I was determined to research it and create a gluten-free and paleo-friendly version.
The occasion came when we decided to host the friends who teamed up to take care of our spirited 2-year-old chocolate lab while we were gone to a Hawaiian-inspired dinner. That dog is our baby and we love her dearly, but we know she is a handful and a half, so they deserved a feast! I made the slow cooker kalua pig from Nom Nom Paleo: Food For Humans along with some picnic-esque sides like coleslaw and tropical fruit. For dessert we had coconut rice pudding from The Ancestral Table. (Have I mentioned how much I love these two cookbooks? I have a pretty big cookbook collection but honestly, most just collect dust. Not these two. Use them ALL THE TIME.)
We had plenty to eat of course, but I also wanted some snacky foods to go with the mai tais I planned on serving as our guests arrived. What’s better for soaking up strong alcohol than chicken wings?
I studied multiple different recipes on the internet for huli huli sauce and saw a few commonalities: soy sauce, pineapple juice and/or pureed pineapple, ketchup, brown sugar, ginger and garlic, and vinegar. My version uses coconut aminos (though if you aren’t sensitive to soy you could use a quality wheat-free tamari), a can of pineapple chunks, tomato paste and honey, and fresh ginger and garlic. I also add in a tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, which is a bit of a gray-area ingredient in paleo recipes. I use Lea & Perrins brand because it is gluten free and has a list of ingredients that I recognize as mostly real food. If you aren’t comfortable with this, either omit it or use a homemade substitute like this one.
Notes for healing diets
- Paleo Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) – The Paleo Approach (TPA): Use two tablespoons pumpkin puree instead of the tomato paste. Do not include the optional Worcestershire sauce. Omit the black pepper.
- Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD): Do not include the optional Worcestershire sauce.
- Low-FODMAP: Omit the garlic or use a teaspoon of garlic infused oil. Use a low-FODMAP sweetener such as organic cane sugar or maple syrup instead of the honey.
Paleo Huli Huli Chicken Wings Recipe
- ⅓ cup coconut aminos
- 20 ounce can of pineapple chunks or rings, reserve juice
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
- 4 cloves garlic
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce (optional)
- 24-36 chicken wing segments
- In a food processor or high speed blender, puree coconut aminos, pinneapple (make sure to reserve juice), honey, tomato paste, vinegar, ginger, garlic, black pepper, and optional Worcestershire sauce until smooth.
- Remove approximately half of resulting sauce from blender and place in covered jar or bowl and refrigerate.
- Pour reserved pineapple juice into blender and pulse to combine and make a thin marinade.
- Place chicken wing segments in a shallow dish or zip lock bag. Pour marinade over chicken wings and toss to coat evenly. Place in refrigerator and marinate for at least four hours or as many as 24.
- When ready to cook, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Remove wings from marinade.
- Spread wings in a single layer on one or more baking sheets. Place in oven and cook for 40 minutes or until wings are cooked through and skin is somewhat browned, rotating baking sheets half way through cooking time.
- Before serving, toss wings with the reserved sauce.