3 Thanksgiving Recipes from Hawaii Chefs

Chefs Sam Choy, James Donahue and Mark Noguchi share their favorite (and, a formerly secret) Thanksgiving recipes.

photo: thinkstock

James Donahue

executive chef, Wolfgang’s Steakhouse

“This is actually an old—and formerly secret!—recipe from my grandma.  I make it whenever I cook Thanksgiving dinner for friends or family, and it always come out perfect. This recipe never fails! The brine really gives the turkey a delicious flavor and also makes it super juicy and tender.  I haven’t been able to cook this for them in a while, though, because Wolfgang’s is always so busy and I have to work during the holidays.  But now that I’m sharing this with the world, I hope many people will try it out this Thanksgiving!”

Chef James’ Local Style Roast Turkey

  • 1 (20-30 lb) whole turkey
  • brine
  • 2 cups water
  • 7 cups pineapple juice (128 fl oz)
  • 2 cups brown sugar, packed
  • 1 cup Kikkoman Lite soy sauce
  • 3/4 cup kosher salt
  • 6 cloves garlic, cut into halves
  • 4 – 6 whole bay leaves
  • 1 Tbsp red pepper, crushed


1) Start brine with 2 cups water and add remaining ingredients. 

2) Place turkey into brine, making sure it is fully submerged.  Place in refrigerator for 14 hours.  It is important not to brine the turkey too long, to avoid excessive saltiness.

Turkey Cooking:

1) Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  If you choose to add stuffing, make it a light version.  (I choose to omit the stuffing.)  Completely drain the turkey of all juices and particles from the brine and pat down till dry.   Place the turkey into a shallow roasting pan and cook for 3 to 4 hours, or until a thermometer reads 170 degrees.

A 20 lb. turkey serves approx. 12 to 15 people.

Cooking tips:

  • Use a shallow roasting pan.
  • Roast turkey breast side up.
  • If you choose to baste your turkey, limit the amount of time that the oven is open.  Once an hour is fine.


photo: david croxford

Mark “Gooch” Noguchi

chef/co-founder Pili Hawaii
resident chef/partner TASTE

“When I think of fall, it always brings me back to my time cooking on the East Coast. Hard Squash is in season… In Hawaii, we’ve got some killer kabocha squash coming up.”

Mark “Gooch” Noguchi’s Kabocha Stew with Kuahiwi Brisket
(6-8 servings)

  • 1, 3- to 4-pound kabocha squash, skinned, seeded and large diced
  • 1 pound kuahiwi ranch beef brisket, large diced
  • 1 cup dried chickpeas, soaked overnight
  • ½ tsp. coriander seed, toasted and grounded
  • ½ cumin seed, toasted and grounded
  • 1 tsp. onion seed (kalonji), toasted and grounded
  • ½ cinnamon stick
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 Hawaiian chili pepper, minced
  • 2 onions, large diced
  • 3 celery, small diced
  • 3 carrots, small diced
  • 10 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 16 oz. can whole tomatoes, crushed by hand
  • ½ bunch flat leaf Italian parsley, rough chopped (reserve stems for stew)
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil

photo: thinkstock

Salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste.
Crumbled feta and rough chopped mint to garnish.

1. In a heavy pot, add olive oil and get it ripping hot. Add brisket in small amounts and brown evenly. Reserve on the side.
2. Next, add onion and garlic, lightly brown.
3. Add red wine, deglaze pan and add crushed tomatoes. Reduce fire to medium heat. Simmer tomatoes until reduced by half.

4. Add ground spices, cinnamon stick, bay and chili pepper.
5. Add browned beef, stock, parsley stems and chickpeas. Simmer until the beef and chickpeas are almost tender.
6. Add kabocha, celery and carrot into the pot and simmer until the beef, chickpeas and kabocha are pau.
7. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
8. Garnish with feta, mint and extra virgin olive oil.
9. Serve with pita or naan bread.


Sam Choy

chef, owner of Sam Choy’s restaurants

“This was something I created myself! I wanted to play on the traditional stuffing and bring it into the realm of ‘Hawaiian Heritage’ cuisine, utilizing more interesting herbs such as cilantro and of course incorporate Portuguese sausage, really giving the dish a kick! The dish is a unique take on the traditional Thanksgiving stuffing, highlighting Island-inspired ingredients that truly speak to my background as a chef. Hawaii is composed of many different cultures, all with their own approaches to cooking, and so, in turn, the food on the Islands is a unique blend of flavors. This recipe is great because it still has that home-cooked flavor, but coupled with a soulfully spicy punch!”

Sam Choy’s Portuguese Sausage Stuffing
(4 servings)

  • ½ pound butter
  • 1 pound diced bacon
  • 1 pound diced portuguese sausage (or chorizo)
  • 2 cups diced onions
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 2 cups toasted, cubed Portuguese sweet bread
  • 1 cup peeled and diced sweet potatoes
  • ½ cup chopped cilantro
  • ½ to 1 cup chicken broth
  • 2 tsps. poultry seasoning

photo: thinkstock

Salt and pepper to taste.

1. Begin by boiling the potatoes for about 6 to 10 minutes until mid-tender.
2. Add butter and bacon to a large pre-heated pan until they begin to render. Then add onions, celery and sausage and cook until onions are translucent.
3. Put in the potatoes, seasoning and the broth and stir together.
4. Add the sweet bread until it has the desired consistency. If stuffing is too solid, water down with broth. Garnish with cilantro and add salt and pepper to taste.