Luau Stew is a traditional Hawaiian dish made by cooking fresh luau leaves (which come from the taro plant). Eat it with rice and/or poi! You can find luau stew plain (happens to be vegetarian), or with squid, chicken, or beef.
Luau stew is saucy, savory, and so good spooned over rice!
He’s (octopus) over stewed luau leaves at Mud Hen Water (Oahu)
What Is Luau Stew
It’s a flavorful, saucy stew that you eat with rice and poi. Luau stew is made by cooking luau leaves (which come from the taro plant) with water and a bit of salt.
You first clean and chop the luau leaves. Boil the leaves for 10 minutes in water. Then drain the water, and cook the leaves again in a new pot of water for 1-2 hours until the leaves are all broken down into a stew. Season to taste with Hawaiian sea salt.
Some places add coconut milk and brown sugar to the stew (gives it so much flavor). Others add onions and garlic. You can also add squid, chicken or beef (these items are cooked separately, and then stirred into the cooked luau leaves).
Making luau stew is simple because it doesn’t require many ingredients or special equipment. But it’s also complicated because it requires time and patience…and luau leaves are pretty hard to find outside of Hawaii.
Luau stew isn’t a very pretty dish (some might say it’s “ugly-delicious”). But this deep green dish is one of my favorite Hawaiian dishes! It actually looks a lot like a Vietnamese eggplant dish we make at home (we steam, peel, and mash up the eggplant).
Endless fields of taro/kalo at Haraguchi Farm in Kauai
What Are Luau Leaves
We’ve talked a bit about luau leaves in the lau lau and kalua pork posts. Luau leaves come from the taro plant (the Hawaiian word for taro is kalo). This leaves are big and heart-shaped. They are so green and beautiful, and super delicious.
We can grow the taro plant throughout Hawaii, but everyone knows that Kauai island grows the best taro.
Luau leaves cannot be eaten raw (they will make your throat super itchy). You must clean them very well before cooking. And also cook them throughly!
Squid luau at Young’s Fish Market (Oahu)
How To Pronounce Luau Stew
Luau is a Hawaiian word. You need pronounce each syllable for Hawaiian words. There are two syllables in luau:
- lou (like the “lou” in “louis”)
- ow (like “ow, I bumped my arm!”)
Stew is just English 🙂 So, lou-ow stew!
Luau versus Lu’au
You’ll see both spellings on menus in Hawaii. Traditional Hawaiian restaurants likely spell it lu’au (which is the Hawaiian spelling). Other places spell it luau (which is the local/English version). They both refer to the same dish.
Squid luau at Helena’s Hawaiian Food (Oahu)
Squid Luau, Chicken Luau, and Beef Luau
Basic luau stew has no meat, but you often find luau stew with squid, chicken, or beef!
The protein is first browned (usually with onions, salt and pepper), braised, and then shredded or chopped into smaller pieces. It’s then mixed in with the luau leaves (mix it in when the luau leaves are almost done cooking). Adding the protein gives the stew more heft and flavor.
You should try “plain” luau stew first, and then branch out to the other ones. Squid luau is my favorite of the meat options.
How To Eat Luau Stew
Eat luau stew with rice and poi! You only need one or the other, but heaven is when you can eat luau stew with rice and poi at the same time. Luau stew is savory and saucy, some places make it thicker and other more thin. It’s like spooning gravy over a bowl of rice/poi. Make sure to splash some chili pepper water on top.
Luau stew often serves as a one bowl meal for me, but you typically eat it with other Hawaiian dishes like kalua pig (aka kalua pork), lomi lomi salmon, and lau lau. And of course, you must finish the meal with haupia or kulolo ^_^
Squid luau at Poi By The Pound (Maui)
Where To Eat Luau Stew
- Helena’s Hawaiian Food (Oahu) – my favorite Hawaiian food spot! Dine-in or takeout.
- Yama’s Fish Market (Oahu) – my other favorite Hawaiian food spot! Takeout only.
- Mud Hen Water (Oahu) – grilled he’e (octopus) served atop stewed luau leaves with inamona dukkah. (Fun fact: Inamona is a key ingredient in making poke.) Dish is pictured in the second photo from top of this post.
- Young’s Fish Market (Oahu) – Takeout spot
- Highway Inn (Oahu) – Dine-in or takeout.
- Poi By The Pound (Maui) – Squid luau and beef luau on the menu. Big bowl of luau stew hits the spot.