Recipe Roundup: Add Island Ingredients to Classic Dishes for a Spin on Hawaiian Thanksgiving

No matter how you cook your main courses, whether in an imu, an oven, or a fryer, the turkey can’t run the whole Thanksgiving table alone. It needs backup (or, if you’re like some of us at BIP you skip the turkey altogether and go straight for the sides), and that backup comes in the form of yummy side dishes, desserts, and holiday cocktails. Here are a few recipes that help transform island ingredients into more traditional Thanksgiving dishes, giving your holiday table the best of both worlds.


Tropical Fruit & Cheese Plate

Serve lilikoi, guava, or Hawaiian pepper jelly over cream cheese or local goat cheese with crackers for an easy pupu. Make it a little fancier by making a whole spread with multiple kinds of jelly, a few savory varieties of flavored mac nuts, and some dried, tropical fruits.

Bite-Sized Lobster Rolls

Since lobster was a part of the original Thanksgiving table, it only makes sense that it be part of a Hawaiian holiday table, too. This recipe only has a few ingredients (though it’s extra helpful if you have a family member who can go diving for the lobsters for you), so it’s a quick fix that everyone will love. Try switching the white bread for Hawaiian bread if you want a little bit of a sweeter bite.

Veggie Sides

Breadfruit au Gratin

Cream, butter, cheese, and a few other ingredients get comfy and gooey with firm ulu to create a side dish that everyone will be glad they gave a try. Who needs mac and cheese when you can enjoy a tropical starch, instead?

Creamy Kabocha Squash Mashed Potatoes

Trade the standard white mashed potatoes for something with a little extra sweetness (if you’re going to serve gravy with it, make sure it’s well-seasoned to help balance out the sweet). This fairly easy recipe combines kabocha with Yukon gold potatoes to create a bowl full of golden goodness.

Other Sides

Taro Swirl Bread

Skip the Royal Hawaiian rolls (they’re not even Hawaiian, anyway) this year and make your own bread. This Taro Swirl Bread has enough of a yeasty base that it won’t be super sweet, making it the perfect accompaniment to the big meal.

Quick and Easy Desserts 

Easy Toffee Macnut Graham Crackers

If you’re not much of a baker, but still want to be able to serve or bring a dessert, this little treat is a great sweet and salty way to end the meal. With only four ingredients and minimal effort, you’ve got a fun dessert that won’t put everyone into a coma.

Pan Fried Honey Bananas

Another super easy recipe, this one is so easy that making it could be an after-dinner activity with the kids (of you could just leave the older kids to cook it while you relax with one of the cocktails listed below). Experiment with different types of bananas, like apple or ice cream bananas, and be sure to use local honey. Eat them on their own or serve over a locally made ice cream. Add a little extra flair to it by chopping up some mac nuts as a topping. 


Starfruit Pineapple Upside Down Cake

Pineapple upside down cake may not be the first thing that you think of when you think Thanksgiving, but you’ve got to do something with all that starfruit that’s in season. This cake recipe is really easy (be sure to read the notes about adjusting ingredients before getting started). The starfruit really adds a nice extra element and looks really cute. Maybe add a few sliced cherries on top to give it even more connection to the original.  

pineapple upside down cake

Coconut Honey Cake

If you can’t see yourself sneaking pieces of this out of the kitchen before or after dessert time, you must not really love coconut – because this looks delicious. This cake, because it doesn’t use icing and the top gets crusty, is perfect for traveling to someone else’s house with, especially if you really, really like the people you’re going to visit. Though desiccated local coconut may not be easy to find, you can either make your own (if you somehow have the time on Thanksgiving week) or buy whatever you can find. Make sure that honey is local, though!


Island Hot Toddy

A hot toddy is one of the easiest cocktails out there to make, and switching out the standard ingredients for local ones is just as easy. Start with one of the few Hawaiian-made whiskeys on the market (Ko’olau’s Old Pali Road is a nice, lighter choice), drizzle in some local honey, and pick a lemon from your yard (or grab one at your local farmers market). Add some hot water (and a cinnamon stick if you’re really fancy, or maybe even some fresh ginger), and you’re all pau!

Christmas Coffee Cocktail

After that last bite of Thanksgiving dessert, it’s officially Christmas season, right? Usher in the ho ho holidays, give yourself a good perking up after that heavy dinner, and enjoy a nice buzz before the insanity of the next month with this cocktail. Of course, Kona, Ka’u, or another Hawaiian coffee is a requirement.


Have a favorite Thanksgiving recipe that brings together island ingredients with traditional Thanksgiving dishes? Send it our way, and we will share it with everyone!

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