How to Make a Hawaiian Plate Lunch (or Mixed Plate)

5 from 9 votes

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There are few things in this world better than a good Hawaiian Plate Lunch. Here you will find everything you need to make a Hawaiian Plate Lunch at home!

An Hawaiian Plate Lunch (or Mixed Plate) with Kale Pork, Hawaiian Macaroni Salad, and Rice

Hawaiian Plate Lunch

If you have ever been to Hawaii, chances are you have had this kind of lunch. I literally lived right across the street from L & L on Oahu and went there all the time for their plate lunches. So. Good. There were also several little lunch wagons in the area that had plate lunches with meat and scoops of white rice or another starch. My favorite, however, is when we would get together with our local friends and they would dish up a homemade plate lunch. THE BEST.

What is in a Plate Lunch?

A true plate lunch is made up of 2 scoops of rice (or 1 big scoop), a healthy portion of mac salad, and an “entrée” (usually meaning some kind of protein). The “entrée” is typically grilled teriyaki chicken, Kalua pork, or teriyaki beef. Sometimes you can find plate lunches with chicken katsu (a Japanese-style breaded chicken), shoyu chicken, shrimp, hamburger patties, mahi mahi, BBQ chicken or spam. I have also seen plates that have potatoes, fried egg, salmon, or sausage.  It just totally depends on the plate lunch spot.

Plate Lunch vs. Mixed Plate

Sometimes people can get confused between a plate lunch and a mixed plate. The only difference is that with a mixed plate you have more than one “entrée” dish. A typical plate lunch only has one big serving of one thing (like JUST teriyaki chicken or JUST Kalua pork etc..) A mixed plate usually consists of two or more smaller servings of a combination of entrees. For me, I usually like the mixed plate because I like a little taste of everything!

Just for fun, I will break all the different components down for you:

Best Rice To Use

The rice is usually a sticky-type rice. Calrose rice is common for lunch plates. Jasmine rice or long grain white rice definitely don’t make the cut. And definitely not brown rice if you are going for authentic. Sometimes you will find that restaurants put a bit of sauce (or brown gravy) over the rice for you. I love this because it gives the rice just a little flavor boost. Most of the time the rice is just plain, which is great too. Season with a little salt and pepper for extra flavor.

Close up of Hawaiian Macaroni Salad in a white Dish

The Best Hawaiian Mac Salad

A plate lunch is not a REAL plate lunch unless it has Hawaiian macaroni salad. You simply MUST have mac salad on there. Don’t as me why, it just makes a the meal complete. I am totally a food mixer when it comes to plate lunches. I love getting a little mac salad, a little rice, and a little bit of meat for each bite. HEAVEN I tell ya. Mac salad, the good kind with mayonnaise and everything. Don’t skip it.

Close up of several pieces of Grilled Hawaiian Teriyaki Chicken

Hawaiian Teriyaki Grilled Chicken

Grilled teriyaki chicken has got to be the most common entree ordered. I could be wrong on this but it seems like it is always a safe option for people who are unsure about trying out new foods. If you are throwing a luau or party and just wanted to cook up one entree for everyone, this may be the one you want to do. Be sure, though, if you do this, that you are using chicken THIGHS. Chicken breasts do not make the cut and I promise you, it will not taste anywhere nearly as good as chicken thighs. Don’t be tempted to make the switch!

Pieces of Hawaiian Beef Teriyaki on a white tray.

Hawaiian Beef Teriyaki

The grilled beef teriyaki is probably my husband’s favorite entrée (and it may be mine, too, it’s so hard to say). I love tender, SUPER thin slices of beef that you can cut with a fork. The marinade for the teriyaki beef is also just downright delicious. I love cooking up the leftover marinade and pouring it over the beef (and sometimes over the rice) to make sort of a beef stew. So, so good.

Kalua Pork

Our Favorite Kalua Pork

Kalua Pork is another very common plate lunch entrée. Traditional Kalua big is slow cooked in a pit (an imu) with ti leaves and/or banana leaves. That method is a little intense for a typical weeknight meal at our house so we usually do the “cheater” method. This version is made in the slow cooker and tastes just like authentic shredded Kalua Pig. We love adding cabbage to the mix, which is also very common for this style of lunch.

Lucky for you, we have recipes for ALL of the components of a plate lunch. These are ALL tried and true recipes, approved by locals. Serve any plate lunch with a side of fresh pineapple and you’re in business. We are so excited to share all these recipes with you! Enjoy!

More Hawaiian Recipes

Hawaiian food is so fun to make and eat for every meal. Our Hawaiian Banana Pancakes or Spam Musubi are always favorites. For lunch, read above for everything you need to know about assembling the BEST lunch plate, and for dinner try our Grilled Huli Huli Chicken. For dessert, try this Hawaiian Guava Cake or our Duke’s Hula Pie Copycat Recipe. YUM!

How To Make a Hawaiian Plate Lunch (or Mixed Plate)

How to Make a Hawaiian Plate Lunch (or Mixed Plate)

How to Make a Hawaiian Plate Lunch (or Mixed Plate)

5 from 9 votes
There are few things in this world better than a good Hawaiian Plate Lunch. Here you will find everything you need to make a Hawaiian Plate Lunch at home!
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 0 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Course Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine Hawaiian
Servings 8



  • For each plate, add rice, macaroni salad and an entree (one of the meats).
  • You can choose one entree, mix and match 2 of the proteins, or have a little of all three to make a “mixed plate” (see notes above).

Nutrition Information

Calories: 732kcalCarbohydrates: 147gProtein: 17gFat: 4gSaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 11mgSodium: 236mgPotassium: 289mgFiber: 3gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 114IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 57mgIron: 2mg

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About the author

Erica Walker

Erica lives in Boise, Idaho with her husband, Jared, an attorney, and her three beautiful girls. Beyond the world of recipes, she loves adventuring with everything from kayaking, to cruising, to snowboarding and taking the family along for the thrill ride.

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  1. Thank you for sharing this! I can’t access the recipe for the mac salad. It jumps me to web story of the mac salad which doesn’t give measurements of the ingredients. I would love to get the recipe! 🙂

  2. 5 stars
    I am with you on liking a taste of everything, mixed plate for me! When everything tastes this good, how could you leave anything out?

  3. 5 stars
    Found this on Pinterest. What a great set of recipes for putting together an authentic Hawaiian meal! My daughter and I will be making it this weekend.

    1. 5 stars
      It’s all great. Soon we will be getting an L&L close enough to us in Texas. (Killeen). It’s a 1/2 hr drive but I can hardly wait. In the meantime I do a lot of what u have here. I love Mac salad and use the L&L recipe. Mayo is the key !
      I was born and raised in Hawaii and what I miss most is the food.
      I don’t need sauce on the rice. The main entree usually has enough sauce
      I can eat plain rice every day ! Thanks for posting this

  4. 5 stars
    Do you have any idea what sauce you use for the rice? I LOOOVE Honolulu Grills (in St George) that they use so much I could probably drink it!

    1. It has been so long since we have been to Honolulu Grill, I will have to go back and see what kins of sauce they put over the rice. I will see if I can duplicate it and make a post out of it! Thanks for the suggestion!