Are you looking for the best Hawaii snacks? This guide from a Hawaii local has everything you need to know!
One of the coolest parts of Hawaii is the food. There are so many fun flavor combinations, thanks to the influence of the many different immigrant cultures in Hawaii. Hawaiian, Japanese, Chinese, Filipino, Korean, Portuguese, and American cuisines all play a role in Hawaii’s local flavors. In other words, you won’t be able to try these foods anywhere else in the world!
While you can certainly taste these local flavors in full-on meals, you can also experience bite-sized versions of them through Hawaii snacks! With everything from espresso bites to li hing mui gummy candy to dried fish jerky, there’s no shortage of mouthwatering snacks from Hawaii.
Disclosure: This article is written in partnership with Big Island Coffee Roasters. All opinions are from Borders & Bucket Lists.
The Newest Hawaii Snacks
There are a lot of classic Hawaii snacks that have been popular in the islands for decades – and I’ll get to those later. But there are also loads of innovative snacks from Hawaii that deserve some time in the spotlight.
Espresso Bites from Big Island Coffee Roasters
The espresso bites from Big Island Coffee Roasters are arguably the coolest new Hawaii snack. It’s basically a chocolate bar, but with the cocoa beans swapped for coffee beans! How incredible is that? Plus, since Big Island Coffee Roasters is already known as one of the best Hawaiian coffee companies, you know you’re getting the best quality products.
There are three espresso bites flavors offered by Big Island Coffee Roasters: the classic espresso bites, the sea salt espresso bites, and the latte espresso bites. If you’re not sure which one to get, you can try all three in Big Island Coffee Roasters’ espresso bites mixed pack.
Guava Caramels from Kauai Sweet Shoppe
Another one of the best Hawaii snacks are guava caramels. Caramels are already fantastic on their own, but when you add the tropical, fruity flavor of guava to the mix, things get even better!
As far as I know, Kauai Sweet Shoppe is the only local business that makes and sells guava caramels – and they’re absolutely delicious! You’ll definitely want to buy a bag or two if you get the chance.
*Pro Tip: If you decide that Kauai Sweet Shoppe’s guava caramels are one of your new favorite treats, you should consider trying some of their other flavors from their caramel collection bundles.
Coconut Candy from Uncle Mikey’s
Uncle Mikey’s coconut candy is made with just two ingredients: coconut and brown sugar (and Kona coffee espresso or cacao, if you get one of the flavored coconut candy options). And while that may seem simple, it actually takes three whole days to make this tasty treat! That said, once you take a bite, you’ll admit that it’s worth the effort.
Macadamia Nut Butters from Tiny Isle
Most of us grew up eating peanut butter – or at least some nut butter variation. Tiny Isle has put their own Hawaiian spin on this traditional snack by using macadamia nuts!
Tiny Isle’s macadamia nut butter comes in a variety of flavors, including Kauai honey macadamia nut butter, chocolate macadamia nut butter, and original macadamia nut butter. Which one will you choose?
(Shout out to Sam from Sam’s Gift Boxes for this recommendation and a couple of others on this list.)
Venison Bars and Sticks from Maui Nui Venison
If you’re looking for a Hawaii snack that’s jam-packed with protein, the venison bars and venison sticks from Maui Nui Venison will not disappoint. All of the meat used to make Maui Nui Venison’s products are humanely harvested from Hawaii’s wild axis deer.
And these venison bars and sticks aren’t just protein-packed. They’re flavor-packed too, thanks to Maui Nui Venison’s perfected spice recipe.
*Pro Tip: If you’re a Hawaii local, you can get certain products from Maui Nui Venison shipped to a Hawaii address for a discounted price.
Taro Chips from Hawaiian Chip Company
Taro has been an important part of Hawaii’s culture for hundreds – if not, thousands – of years. Ancient native Hawaiians turned taro into poi, a purple pudding-like food that was a staple Hawaiian dish.
Today, taro in Hawaii has been reincarnated into many different forms, including the taro chips from the Hawaiian Chip Company. These extra crispy chips come in original, zesty garlic, and kiawe BBQ flavors.
*Pro Tip: To get yourself acquainted with taro chips before you buy a whole bag of them, you can purchase one of the Hawaiian Chip Company’s taro and sweet potato chip mixes.
Ulu Chips from Ulu Mana
Ulu is the Hawaiian word for breadfruit, so all of the ulu chips from Ulu Mana are made from breadfruit. Try these tasty chips in either the garlic sea salt or cool lime flavor.
*Pro Tip: Pair your ulu chips with Ulu Mana’s “Hawaiian hummus” dip, which is also made from breadfruit!
The Classic Hawaii Snacks
Besides the new, innovative snacks, there are also the classic Hawaii snacks. Some are traditional Hawaiian snacks – as in, eaten by the ancient native Hawaiians – while others are local favorites that have been around for a few decades. But all of them are delicious!
Macadamia nuts are one of the classic Hawaii snacks – and they make for great Hawaii gifts too. This simple treat is both tasty and filling.
Mauna Loa Macadamia Nuts is by far the most popular macadamia nut company in the islands. With over 70 years of experience and fun flavors like honey roasted, kiawe smoked BBQ, and Maui onion & garlic, there’s no question of why.
That said, there are a few lesser-known Hawaiian macadamia nut companies that deserve some time in the spotlight, including Kauai Gourmet Nuts. Kauai Gourmet Nuts has a completely different selection of exciting macadamia nut flavors. Try their coconut bliss macadamia nuts, Pele sweet heat macadamia nuts, or coco-mocha macadamia nuts.
Li Hing Mui Gummies
Li hing mui is a sweet, spicy, and sour powder that comes from dried plums, also called “crack seed” in Hawaii. To be technical, “crack seed” refers to a few different kinds of dehydrated fruits, but it’s most commonly used in reference to the dried plums used to make li hing mui powder.
While you can enjoy the full crack seed (as long as you spit out the pit) and still taste the li hing mui flavor, most people opt to just put the li hing mui powder on something else – like a gummy snack! In Hawaii, you can find li hing mui gummy bears, li hing mui sour belts, li hing mui sour patch kids, and so much more!
While there are a few different li hing mui gummy companies out there, Enjoy Snacks Hawaii has always been the best in my opinion.
Li Hing Mui Fruit
But li hing mui powder doesn’t just have to go on gummies! Another popular Hawaii snack is li hing mui fruit. Basically, you just cut up some fresh fruit and top it with some li hing mui powder. This works for everything from pineapple to mango to apples.
You can also find li hing mui on dried fruit. The most popular option is li hing mui dried mangoes.
*Note: The one downside of li hing mui is that it isn’t the healthiest. While it’s plum origin is healthy, there are a lot of artificial sugars, colors, and preservatives added to the mix. If you’d like to have the same li hing mui flavor on your fruits but healthier, check out the products from the Traveling Plum.
But li hing mui isn’t the only way Hawaii locals change up fresh fruit. There’s also pickled mango!
Pickled mango is made by picking green mango slices in vinegar. Most of the time li hing mui is also added to the pickling mixture, so we’re not quite done with the flavorful powder.
You can find pickled mango just about anywhere in Hawaii – from farmers markets to crack seed stores. But it’s pretty hard to find quality pickled mango online.
I like to eat a spam musubi or two as a meal, but many people prefer this local treat as a snack.
A spam musubi is traditionally a spam and rice roll wrapped in seaweed. But recently, Hawaii locals have started to get a bit more creative with musubis. I’ve seen bacon-and-egg musubis, chicken katsu musubis, and even bulgogi musubis! All of them are worth a try.
The most popular place to get a spam musubi in Hawaii is at 7/11. (I know, it sounds weird, but ask any local, and they’ll tell you that 7/11 is the place to go.) As an alternative, the newly opened Musubi Truck – which just so happens to be one of the best restaurants on Kauai – also has loads of fantastic musubis and fun variations.
Arare, also known as mochi crunch, are crunchy Japanese rice crackers flavored with soy sauce. This savory Hawaii snack is definitely a local favorite and can be found at just about every grocery store in the islands.
Nori is a type of flat, green seaweed. It’s used in furikake and in sushi rolls. But it can also be eaten as a snack!
Now, to be clear, I’m not saying you should go out and eat the outside of a sushi roll by itself. Not at all. But there are seasoned, toasted, snackable nori sheets for you to try.
These tasty nori sheets are only about three inches by five inches, so they’re the perfect size for snacking. And they usually come in containers of eight to ten sheets, so you can eat the whole pack!
Hawaiian Hurricane Popcorn
If you’re having a movie night, a bowl of popcorn is a must. And while most people opt for extra butter or cheesy powders on their popcorns, Hawaii locals love Hawaiian Hurricane Popcorn.
Hawaiian Hurricane Popcorn combines arare, nori, and sesame seeds to make a salty, tasty topping. There’s no other popcorn topping quite like it.
Furikake Chex Mix
Furikake Chex Mix, also known as Hawaiian Chex Mix, is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a combination of Chex Mix cereal and the Japanese seasoning known as furikake. Furikake is essentially nori, sesame seeds, salt, and a dash of sugar. So when its added to the Chex Mix to make Hawaiian Chex Mix, it’s bursting with salty flavor!
You can buy furikake Chex Mix at just Costco, Sam’s Club, Long’s, or Foodland during your trip to the islands.
The manapua was one of the first food items to make it onto my Hawaii food bucket list. This Hawaii snack staple has its origins in the Chinese dish cha siu bao.
Today, you can get these meat-filled steamed buns at many different local eateries. While the famous, yet elusive Manapua Men (and their food trucks) are the most famous manapua makers, you can also go to one of the many Chun Wah Kam Noodle Factory locations on Oahu.
Hawaii has managed to put its mark on boiled peanuts, a snack that’s also popular in China and the U.S. South.
The main difference between Hawaii’s boiled peanuts and the versions found throughout the rest of the world is the seasoning. Hawaii’s boiled peanuts are seasoned with ginger, star anise, black peppercorns, and Hawaiian sea salt.
You can find boiled peanuts at a bunch of local snack shops and stores, including Alicia’s Market and Fort Ruger Market.
Dried Fish, Dried Seafood, or Fish Jerky
Dried fish is one of only two traditional Hawaiian snacks on this list. The rest of the items have influences from immigrant cultures, including Japanese, Chinese, and Portuguese food.
The other traditional Hawaiian snack on this list is pipikaula. There are two kinds of pipikaula: a pan-seared short rib version and a Hawaiian beef jerky version. Obviously, the jerky version is more ideal for snacking, so that’s the one that we’ll talk about in this article.
*Side Note: If you want to try the pan-seared short rib version, check out some of the most authentic Hawaiian restaurants in Hawaii.
Maui Crisps makes some of the best pipikaula in the islands. Rather than being chewy like beef jerky though, Maui Crisps are cut extra thinly so they have some crunch! And we certainly can’t forget to mention all of the fun flavors, like teriyaki, Hawaiian chili, and lemon pepper.
So far on this list of Hawaii snacks, I’ve included some interesting chips, including ones made of taro and breadfruit. But shrimp chips might be the weirdest of them all – and maybe the tastiest too.
Shrimp chips are snacks made of dried shrimp and tapioca flour. It is believed to have originated in Indonesia or Malaysia. They are traditionally sold in stick-form or circular-form, and they have a texture that’s similar to Veggie Straws.
If you’d like to try this unique Hawaii snack, I recommend getting some from Ono Giant Shrimp Chips.
There aren’t many spicy Hawaii snacks, but wasabi peas are a popular exception. Wasabi peas are exactly what they sound like. They’re crunchy peas covered in wasabi (also known as Japanese horseradish).
You can buy wasabi peas at just about every local grocery store in the islands. And if you’d like to buy some online, Enjoy Snacks Hawaii is happy to help!
You know when you really need something sweet, so you’ll count a dessert as a snack? That’s why malasadas made this list.
Malasadas are a type of Portuguese donut with a slight island twist. They’re definitely one of the best desserts in Hawaii.
Historically, Leonard’s Bakery has been known as the place to get the best malasadas in Hawaii, but there are other bakeries who have joined the competition. Pipeline Bakeshop & Creamery on Oahu, Sugar Beach Bake Shop on Maui, Tex Drive In on the Big Island, and Village Snack Shop & Bakery on Kauai are all worthy competitors.
While it’s a bit of a stretch to call shave ice a snack, it’s such a quintessential Hawaii food that it had to make the list anyways.
Shave ice is a scoop of tiny ice particles drizzled with fruity syrup. While this sounds simple, there is undoubtedly good shave ice and bad shave ice.
The first tip for getting good shave ice is to make sure the place says “shave ice” and not “shaved ice.” If it’s called “shaved ice,” it’s likely not authentic and it won’t taste right.
But there are really two factors that separate good shave ice from bad shave ice: the flavors and the ice texture. Many shave ice places use super sugary artificial flavors, and those aren’t the greatest. Instead, look for ones that use flavors made from real fruits! And as for the ice texture, you don’t want the ice to be rough and sharp. Instead, you want it to be nice and smooth.
In my opinion, the best shave ice spot in Hawaii is Ululani’s Hawaiian Shave Ice. You can find them on both Maui and the Big Island.
Are there any other Hawaii snacks that you think should’ve made it onto this list? Let me know in the comments!
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