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!
If you have ever been to Hawaii, chances are you have had a plate lunch. I literally lived right across the street from L & L and went there all the time for their plate lunches. So. Good. There were also several little restaurants in the area that had plate lunches that were all delicious. My favorite, however, is when we would get together with our local friends and they would dish us up a plate lunch, homemade. THE BEST.
What is in a plate lunch?
A true plate lunch is made up of 2 scoops of rice (or 1 big scoop), mac salad, and an “entree” (usually meaning some kind of protein). The “entree” is typically grilled teriyaki chicken, Kalua pork, or teriyaki beef. Sometimes you can find plate lunches with chicken katsu (a japanese-style breaded chicken), shrimp, fish, or spam. It just totally depends on the restaurant.
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 “entree” 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 2 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 of the Lunch Plate / Mixed Plate down for you:
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 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.
The 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 plate lunch 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. Don’t skip it.
Grilled Teriykai 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 near as good as chicken thighs. Don’t be tempted to make the switch!
The grilled beef teriyaki is probably my husband’s favorite entree (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). So so good.
Kalua Pork is another very common plate lunch entree. 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 plate lunches.
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. We are so excited to share all these recipes with you! Enjoy!
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).