Hawaiian-Style Lemongrass Adobo Grilled Chicken With Pineapple

Savor a taste of Hawaii -- in the comfort of your own backyard.
Savor a taste of Hawaii — in the comfort of your own backyard.

If you’re braving the record-setting crowds to fly off to some tropical paradise this Fourth of July, more power to you.

Me? I’ll be mellowing out at home instead, and creating my own sunny island feast with “Lemongrass Adobo Grilled Chicken With Pineapple.”

Marinate the chicken overnight with plenty of fresh ginger, garlic, lemongrass, and adobo seasoning. When ready to eat, fire up the grill to cook the flavorful chicken plus juicy sweet rings of pineapple. Then, sit back and enjoy.

This easy recipe is from “Islas” (Chronicle Books, 2023), of which I received a review copy.

It was written by Von Diaz, an Emmy Award-winning documentarian, food historian and food writer who was born in Puerto Rico and raised in Atlanta, GA.

A celebration of tropical cuisines, this cookbook is all about summer cooking from beginning to end. It’s a collection of 125 recipes from the Indian, Atlantic, and Pacific Ocean Islands.

Savor everything from the Dominican Republic’s “Carne Guisada” (stewed beef), the Philippines’ “Sinigang Sa Mangga” (sour seafood stew), and Trinidad’s “Stewed Curry Eggplant” to Fiji’s “Curried Green Jackfruit,” Puerto Rico’s “Churrasco” (grilled marinated skirt steak), and Puerto Rico’s “Cazuela” (pumpkin, plantain, and coconut pudding).

This grilled chicken recipe calls from boneless, skinless thighs. I used skin-on, bone-in thighs because I do love my chicken skin. But feel free to go with either option.

Burlap & Barrel Adobo seasoning by Illyanna Maisonet.
Burlap & Barrel Adobo seasoning by Illyanna Maisonet.

Make the marinade paste by pulverizing in a food processor the lemongrass, ginger, garlic, adobo seasoning, rice vinegar, yuzu juice, cilantro, and mirin. If you can’t find yuzu easily, just substitute fresh lime juice mixed with a little orange juice.

I’ve included Diaz’s recipe for adobo seasoning. However, I used an adobo seasoning created by the Bay Area’s Illyanna Maisonet, a Puerto Rican cookbook author and food writer, for spice company, Burlap & Barrel. Made with single-origin spices from small farms, it’s a blend of garlic powder, black pepper, oregano buds, turmeric, and cumin.

Pineapple rings get wonderfully caramelized on the  grill.
Pineapple rings get wonderfully caramelized on the grill.

Because the pineapple rings will cook faster than the chicken, my husband put those on the grill to cook first. Once they were done and removed to a serving platter, the chicken thighs were placed on the grill. The recipe says to baste the chicken with any remaining marinade. I found that almost all the marinade paste clung to the chicken pieces already, so none was really left to baste with.

Once the chicken is cooked, add it to the platter of pineapple, along with wedges of lemons or limes for serving.

Although you might immediately think “vinegary,” when you hear the word, “adobo,” this chicken does not take after that tangy-salty style of chicken from the Philippines. With only a small splash of rice vinegar and citrus juice, this Hawaiian-style chicken has a more robustly savory taste. It’s smoky and garlicky, with a more floral lemony quality from the lemongrass.

The pineapple is the perfect partner with its charred caramelized edges and sweetness that gets concentrated by the heat.

Diaz recommends serving this dish with coconut rice and sauteed bok choy or atop a green salad with lots of crunchy cucumber.

I think flip flops are a must, too. But don’t worry, the grass skirt is optional.

Hard to beat juicy grilled chicken with warm, caramelized pineapple on a summer night.
Hard to beat juicy grilled chicken with warm, caramelized pineapple on a summer night.

Lemongrass Adobo Grilled Chicken with Pineapple
(Serves 4 to 6)

2 tablespoons chopped fresh lemongrass

1 tablespoon chopped peeled fresh ginger

3 large garlic cloves

1 tablespoon Adobo Seasoning, store-bought or homemade (recipe below)

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

2 tablespoons yuzu juice or sour orange juice (or 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice mixed with 1 teaspoon orange juice)

3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves, plus more for garnish

1 teaspoon mirin

6 large chicken thighs, boneless and skinless or bone-in and skin-on (about 1 1/2 pounds or so)

1 fresh pineapple, peeled and sliced into 1-inch rounds

1 to 2 tablespoons grapeseed or vegetable oil

Lemon or lime wedges, for garnish

In a small food processor, combine the lemongrass, ginger, garlic, adobo, and salt and pulse until well chopped, stopping to scrape down the sides with a spatula as needed. Add the vinegar, yuzu juice, cilantro, and mirin and pulse to combine, scraping down the sides and lid of the food processor as needed, to form a loose paste.

Pat the chicken dry with paper towels, then place in a large resealable bag. Pour in the marinade and seal the bag, leaving a little air so the marinade can fully cover the chicken. Shake well and gently massage the marinade into the meat. Marinate in the refrigerator for 12 to 24 hours if possible, or for at least 30 minutes at room temperature.

When ready to cook, heat a grill to 400°F (200°C).

In a large nonreactive mixing bowl, toss the pineapple slices in the grapeseed oil until fully coated.

Remove the chicken from the bag, shaking off any excess marinade. Reserve the remaining marinade (if there is any) for basting.

Place the chicken and pineapple on the grill, turning every few minutes and basting the chicken between turns (if you have any marinade left). If anything starts to burn, move it to the cool side of the grill. Grill for 15 to 25 minutes, until the chicken is tender and breaks easily when pressed with tongs. The pineapple may cook more quickly than the chicken, so keep a close eye on it and flip often, brushing with additional oil if it starts to look dry.

Transfer the cooked chicken and pineapple to a rimmed baking sheet and tent loosely with foil. let rest for 7 to 10 minutes before serving with lemon or lime wedges.

Adobo Seasoning

(Makes about 4 1/2 teaspoons)

2 teaspoons garlic powder

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more as needed

1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

In a small bowl, combine all ingredients and mix well with a fork. Taste and add more salt if desired.

Adapted from “Islas” by Von Diaz

More Recipes With Pineapple: Pineapple, Thyme, and Coconut Water Whip

And: Ad Hoc’s Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

And: Martha Stewart’s Pineapple-Banana Upside-Down Cake

And: Sheet Pan Soy Sauce Chicken with Pineapple and Bok Choy

And: Tahitian Pineapple Pie

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