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Loco Moco

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Loco Moco is a popular Hawaii dish. It's made of rice, burger patty, gravy, and fried eggs. It's easy to make at home and onolicious. Here's the recipe and a bonus section on the best Loco Moco in Hawaii!

Homemade Loco Moco on a plate
Loco Moco, ready to eat!

We love Loco Moco in Hawaii.

What is Loco Moco?

Loco Moco is a famous Hawaii dish.

Loco Moco comes on a plate. It features rice topped with a hamburger patty, lots of gravy, and a fried sunny-side up egg. It makes for a hearty meal ^_^

Eat it with a fork, spoon or chopsticks...I've seen it all ways. 

Where did Loco Moco come from?

Loco Moco was invented in 1949 in Hilo (on the Big Island). Some say it was invented at Lincoln Grill. Others say it was at Cafe 100. We'll never know the actual truth!

But both restaurants are located in Hilo, so we can be sure it was invented in Hilo.

A group of teenagers came to the restaurant and wanted to eat something that was different from their usual order. The owner brainstormed this fun, filling creation that layered everything the teenagers loved. 

They joked that the first boy who tried it was completely, "loco" (Hawaiian pidgen slang for "bonkers/nuts"). The word "moco" rhymed nicely. There you have it...Loco Moco! 

Note from a local: Sometimes visitors call this dish Hawaiian Loco Moco. That is incorrect. It is just called Loco Moco. No need to put the word Hawaiian in front of it because this is not a Hawaiian dish, it is a local dish.

Loco Moco served at Four Seasons Hualalai (Big Island)
Loco Moco at Four Seasons Hualalai (Big Island)

Variations on Loco Moco

Loco Moco is comfort food, it's diner food, it's food you make at home. It is not fancy food. But! Like all popular Hawaii foods (think malasadas and saimin), many restaurants make fancy/premium versions.

I've seen Loco Moco topped with truffled gravy and truffles shaved all over. Loco Moco made with waygu beef. Others with super fancy rice and rare mushrooms. There are a million ways to gussy up the dish.

If you haven't tired Loco Moco before, make sure you try a simple version first. And then go experiment with all the fancy ones!

Loco Moco served at Moke's Bread & Breakfast on Oahu
Loco Moco at Moke's Bread & Breakfast (Oahu)

Four Main Parts

Because there are only four parts to a Loco Moco, each part should be thoughtfully considered:

Loco Moco with kalua pig, luau stew, and sweet potato served at Travaasa Hana on Maui
Loco Moco with kalua pig, luau stew, and sweet potato at Travaasa Hana (Maui)

Rice

The rice should be Japanese short grain rice.

Sidenote: I was born/raised in Hawaii and moved to NYC for college/work. In college I learned that on the mainland, when people say "rice," they're referring to rice that doesn't stick together (eg. Uncle Ben's).

What we call "rice" in Hawaii is called "sticky rice" on the mainland. I witnessed this firsthand at our college dining hall! Can you believe the shock haha. I grew up thinking that ALL rice sticks (and it's still weird to me that non-sticky rice is a thing).

Hamburger patty

Keep it simple. Good ground beef, don't mess around with it too much. I like beef, panko, onions, soy sauce, and an egg (to bind everything together).

Gravy

The gravy part is personal. Some people like it thick and rich, other people like it thinner. I like something in the middle, a beef gravy with onions and a bit soy sauce (because that's how you do it local style).

Egg

Must be fried, sunny-side up. One egg for each hamburger patty.

Loco Moco served at Diamond Head Grill on Oahu.
Loco Moco at Diamond Head Grill (Oahu)

Where to get Loco Moco!

You can find Loco Moco everywhere in Hawaii, no joke. Every diner, every plate lunch place, everyone has loco moco. And everyone's has their favorites.

Here are a few spots to get started:

  • Cafe 100 (Big Island) - Claim to fame as the one of the original inventors of Loco Moco! In addition to original loco moco, they have a bunch of variations on the dish like loco moco with Portuguese sausage (first photo at top of the post), ahi or mahi, and even chili loco moco.
  • Zippy's (Oahu, Maui, Big Island) - Always can count on Zippy's to have solid versions of all our local favorites. This is a one stop shop if you want to try a bunch of other local dishes like saimin and teri burgers. Full post on Zippy's here.
  • Rainbow Drive-In (Oahu) - This is where you go for loco moco classic! Open since 1961 and still family run. A must-stop on Oahu. 
  • Moke's Bread & Breakfast (Oahu) - One of my favorite breakfast spots in Honolulu. I go with a friend and split: lilikoi pancakes, corned beef hash, and a loco moco. You can also sub regular rice with fried rice! Two locations (Kailua and Kaimuki).
Loco Moco served at Cafe 100 on the Big Island
Loco Moco from Cafe 100 (Big Island)

FAQ and Tips

Can I make this recipe in advance?

You can make the individual parts (rice, burger patty, and gravy) in advance. Warm them up before serving. And then when you are ready to eat, fry a fresh egg and assemble!

No stress.

In the end, loco moco should be a fun and low stress situation. Just go home, cook rice. Fry a burger patty. Make gravy. Fry an egg. Layer it all together.

How long does loco moco keep?

Definitely eat an assembled loco moco the day of. If you must have leftovers, finish eating the egg (because that will not keep). Then you can keep the rest of the leftovers in the fridge for 1-2 days. But it is best hot and fresh!

Ok to buy premade parts!

Don't feel bad about buying some of the loco moco components. No one is judging if you prefer to buy pre-made patties or gravy.

Additions and modifications.

A few additions we often do:
- Add sauteed mushrooms to the gravy (when we are feeling fancy!)
- Sprinkle chopped green onions on top right before eating
- Add minced garlic to the ground beef mixture for the patty.

Homemade Loco Moco on a plate
Loco Moco, ready to eat!

Loco Moco Recipe

See below and enjoy ^_^

Yield: Lunch for 4

Loco Moco

Homemade Loco Moco on a plate

Loco Moco is a popular Hawaii dish. It's made of rice, burger patty, gravy, and fried eggs. It's easy to make at home and onolicious!

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes

Ingredients

Beef Patty

Gravy

Fried Egg

  • 4 eggs

Rice

Instructions

    1. Prepare the beef patty first. Mix together the ground beef, minced onion, panko, and soy sauce. Divide into four portions and form 4 patties (make them flatter or more round, up to you!)
    2. Pan fry the patties over medium heat until browned and cooked through, about 4-5 minutes. Remove the patties to a plate and set aside.
    3. Next, make the gravy. Leave the leftover beef drippings/fat in the pan. Turn the heat down to medium and add the butter, minced onions, and saute for 2-3 minutes until onions start to brown.
    4. Pour in the can of beef broth and add in the Worcestershire sauce. Pour in cornstarch slurry, mix and bring to a boil. The gravy is ready! Set aside.
    5. In a separate pan, pan fry the eggs. Do it sunny-side up style.
    6. To serve, divide the hot rice onto four plates. Top with the beef patty. Top with the egg. Pour the gravy all over. Devour and enjoy ^_^
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Mahalo for Reading!

Brent Tanaka

Saturday 16th of January 2021

Was Googling to remind myself about Da Kitchen's version only to find they are all closed now? They hope to come back at some point post-pandemic but as of now they are done. So sad! Really enjoyed their version. We also enjoyed Liliha (bonus there are those butter rolls!).

Kathy

Saturday 16th of January 2021

Aloha Brent! Thanks so much for catching. Wrote this original post a while back and just updated it with the recipe today! Forgot to add in the note about Da Kitchen. Fingers crossed they come back ^_^ - Kathy

JB

Wednesday 1st of July 2020

Feeling a bit homesick so I was looking around for loco moco recipes - glad I checked here first because I definitely was starting to stress, so this was a good reminder that loco moco is all about *not stressing*! Thanks for sharing the variations too, now that I'm destressed, I can feel creativity coming back :)

P.S. I totally had the same shock about rice when I moved to the mainland!

Kathy Chan

Wednesday 1st of July 2020

Hi JB!

Ahaha so happy someone can share in the mainland-rice-shock understanding ^_^

Yes, no stress! Just rice, beef, gravy, and egg...all good. Hope you made a tasty loco moco :)

- Kathy