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20 Mouthwatering Polynesian Recipes That'll Give You A Taste Of Island Life

If you weren't hungry before, you will be now.

Sweet, succulent, and fresh, Polynesian recipes represent the cuisine of the Pacific Islands known as Polynesia. 🌴

A number of distinct islands actually make up Polynesia, including Hawaii, New Zealand, Easter Island, Tuvalu, Tokelau, Wallis and Futuna, Samoa, American Samoa, Tonga, Niue, the Cook Islands, French Polynesia, and Pitcairn Island.

Each island has distinct cuisines, but many popular dishes are shared across the Pacific Ocean. Here, we've compiled some of the most delicious meals you can have in Polynesia. From ahi poke and Samoan chicken to coconut sweet rolls and dumplings in coconut caramel, there's something here for everyone!

1. Hawaiian-Style Slow Cooker Kalua Pork

What is it? This tender, fall-apart pork shoulder is traditionally cooked in an underground oven (made by digging a hole in the ground) called an imu. This recipe makes use of a slow cooker and liquid smoke to replicate that mouthwatering BBQ taste.

Recipe: Hawaiian-Style Slow Cooker Kalua Pork

2. Hawaiian-Style Ahi Poke

Bowl with poke, rice, and half of an avocado filled with soy sauce, with pair of chopsticks perched on top.
Luchezar / Getty Images

What is it? This raw fish dish, which gained far and wide popularity in the last decade, has its origins in Hawaiian cuisine. At its most basic level, poke consists of cubed fish tossed with sesame oil and soy sauce. It is wildly popular in Hawaii and continues to be one of the state's favorite foods.

Recipe: Hawaiian-Style Ahi Poke

3. Lomi Lomi Salmon Salad With Avocado

Close-up of Lomi samon cubes mixed with cubed avocado, tomato, and pepper.

What is it? If you like poke, you'll love this dish, which comes together with cubed salmon and a tomato-and-avocado salad.

Recipe: Lomi Lomi Salmon Salad With Avocado

4. Moa Fa’Asaina (Samoan Chicken With Coconut Rice)

Plate with Samoan chicken on bed of coconut rice, all sprinkled with sesame seeds. A large coconut is placed next to plate

What is it? This chicken gets its color and depth of flavor from a combination of dark soy sauce, apple cider vinegar, and plenty of onion. Like many Polynesian dishes, it goes well with a helping of coconut rice.

Recipe: Moa Fa’Asaina (Samoan Chicken With Coconut Rice)

5. Alaisa Fa’apopo (Samoan Coconut Rice)

Metal spoon piled high with coconut rice

What is it? Alaisa fa'apopo, which literally means rice that’s been coconut’ed, comes together with its two namesake ingredients, water, and salt. It's simple, delicious, and a must-have base for many island dishes.

Recipe: Alaisa Fa’apopo (Samoan Coconut Rice)

6. Faikakai Malimali (Dumplings in Sweet Coconut Syrup)

Spoon drizzling coconut caramel on top of five sweet coconut dumplings.

What is it? There's no way to go wrong with dumplings made with ripe bananas, coconut, and butter, but you add coconut caramel and then it's really game over for all other desserts out there.

Recipe: Faikakai Malimali (Dumplings in Sweet Coconut Syrup)

7. Pani Popo (Samoan Coconut Bread Rolls)

Single sweet bread roll with crunchy, darkened top

What is it? If you haven't realized it yet, the secret ingredient in Polynesian dishes that makes everything taste better is called coconut milk. Try out these angelic sweet rolls to taste the difference when a full can of coconut milk is added to your bread.

Recipe: Pani Popo (Samoan Coconut Bread Rolls)

8. Hawaiian Meatballs

Large bowl of rice with Hawaiian meatballs piled high

What is it? These meatballs get elevated with a sauce that's sweet and savory thanks to crushed pineapple, honey, and soy sauce. Make sure you make enough rice to mop up all the leftover sauce on your plate.

Recipe: Hawaiian Meatballs

9. Kiwi Meat & Cheese Pie

Mince-and-cheese pie with a single slice placed on a plate next to pie plate.

What is it? There's nothing more comforting than this mince-and-cheese pie, whose surprise ingredient of Marmite adds complexity to an already savory dish.

Recipe: Kiwi Meat & Cheese Pie

10. Whitebait Fritters

Flat whitebait fritters stacked on a plate, along with slices of lemon

What is it? Whitebait fritters are a popular New Zealand finger food made with the coveted tiny fish that swarm New Zealand rivers.

Recipe: Whitebait Fritters

11. Malasadas

Hand holds up a Malasada donut with a bite taken out of it, revealing the filling inside

What is it? These sugar-dusted puffs of dough are Hawaii's version of donuts. In this recipe, they're filled with haupia (coconut) custard for a decadent touch.

Recipe: Malasadas

12. Anzac Biscuits

Crunchy, white Anzac biscuits stacked on a plate

What is it? Enjoyed across Australia and New Zealand, these flat cookies came about during World War I, when eggs were in short supply. They're made with oats, flour, butter, and golden syrup (and, as always, no eggs).

Recipe: Anzac Biscuits

13. Tahitian Poisson Cru

A hand holds out a halved coconut shell filled with Poisson Riu drenched in coconut milk.

What is it? One day you'll discover that Polynesian ceviche is an aphrodisiac, and I'll say I told you so. This juicy, savory fish dish is smothered in lime juice, coconut milk, and mixed with chopped tomatoes and peppers. It's savory, tart, crunchy, and absolutely perfect.

Recipe: Tahitian Poisson Cru

14. Kelaguen Mannok (Chamorro-Style Chicken Salad)

Plate with coconut-mixedchicken salad along with a scoop of rice

What is it? I love Polynesian cuisine because it inspires me to try new techniques I would never have considered before. Here, chicken is mixed with fresh lemon juice and shredded coconut and then combined with onions and chilis. The texture and marriage of flavors is sublime.

Recipe: Kelaguen Mannok (Chamorro-Style Chicken Salad)

15. Huli Huli Chicken

Platter filled with sticky Huli Huli chicken on a bed of grilled pineapple slices

What is it? Even if you don't have a grill to cook this chicken over, a sticky-sweet huli huli sauce made with pineapple juice and soy sauce will make sure you get all the original flavor of this recipe.

Recipe: Huli Huli Chicken

16. Hawaiian Macaroni Salad

A large bowl filled with creamy macaroni salad

What is it? Everyone loves a macaroni salad. In Hawaii, it's a side dish served with as few ingredients as macaroni, carrots, mayo, salt, and pepper.

Recipe: Hawaiian Macaroni Salad

17. Banana Po'e

Small bowl filled with cubes of Banana Po'e dessert, drizzled with banana cream

What is it? If you're into bananas, this milky banana "bread" is about to be your new favorite dessert. It's made with an entire bunch of ripe bananas and coconut milk, then cubed and drizzled with coconut cream.

Recipe: Banana Po'e

18. Samoan Spice Cake

Large slice of Samoan spice cake, with a spoon that's taken a big chunk out of it hanging out on the plate. The cake is drizzled with thick sweet custard

What is it? This spiced cake is made with the trifecta of nutmeg, cloves, and cinnamon and served with a generous helping of custard sauce or butter.

Recipe: Samoan Spice Cake

19. Firi Firi (Coconut Donuts)

Donuts in the shape of a twisty number 8 dusted with granulated sugar

What is it? Usually eaten for breakfast, these fried "8"-shaped donuts are made with equal parts coconut water and coconut milk. You usually eat them with sugar sprinkled on top, but they're just as scrumptious and amazingly coconutty without.

Recipe: Firi Firi (Coconut Donuts)

20. Kapisi Pulu (Simmered Corned Beef)

A bowl filled with corned beef and a coconut milk soup

What is it? This festive recipe is originally made by combining canned corned beef with vegetables, then baking the mixture in banana leaves. If banana leaves are not available at your local grocery store, this recipe might work better for you!

Recipe: Kapisi Pulu (Simmered Corned Beef)

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