5 Tasty ‘Ulu Recipes for Your Hawai‘i Thanksgiving
Put down that potato. Locally grown ‘ulu takes center stage in every course on our holiday table. Here are five recipes that go from creamy starter to sweet ending.
There isn’t much of Hawai‘i in the traditional mainland-centric Thanksgiving menu. But bring the versatile breadfruit to the table, and you can create everything from a luscious dip to a rich dessert.
This year, our ‘ulu-focused Thanksgiving menu dishes up familiar flavors alongside new twists: Crunchy bits of water chestnut lend texture to a dreamy ‘ulu play on spinach-and-artichoke dip. Scalloped ‘ulu mingles with onion and gooey cheese. Spicy Italian sausage and fall aromatics make ‘ulu stuffing feel like a just-out-of-the-oven hug, while cool ‘ulu-tato salad co-stars purple sweet potato with bright pops of Hawaiian chile pepper. And pumpkin, that quintessential sidekick, gets replaced by ‘ulu in a silky pie redolent with holiday spices.
‘Ulu used to carry something of an “if you know, you know” reputation, with only those with easy access to a tree reaping the tasty benefits. But that’s changed dramatically: Recognition of breadfruit as a sustainable crop with growth potential is increasing, largely thanks to eat-local campaigns nudged forward by the Hawai‘i Breadfruit Institute and the Hawai‘i ‘Ulu Cooperative.
So now, rather than relying on your cousin’s ex-boyfriend’s neighbor for your breadfruit, you can find it fresh or frozen year-round in stores and online at eatbreadfruit.com, along with lots of recipes. No matter how you choose to ‘ulu this holiday season, this homegrown fruit can infuse your favorites with depth, flair and a taste of home.
Warm ‘Ulu and Kale Dip
Source: Hawaiʻi ʻUlu Cooperative
- 12 ounces mature ʻulu, peeled, cored and parcooked (if using frozen precooked ʻulu, defrost and bring to room temperature)
- 1 bunch kale, stems removed
- 1 cup cream cheese, room temperature
- ½ cup mayonnaise
- ½ cup Greek yogurt
- 1 clove garlic, chopped
- 8-ounce can of water chestnuts, drained and chopped
- ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- ⅛ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper, ground
- 2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
- Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil.
- Add the kale, cook 1 minute, drain and chill in ice water. Once cold, squeeze out all of the water, pat the kale dry with paper towels and chop.
- In a medium bowl, mash the ʻulu with a fork or potato masher. Combine the rest of the ingredients in a large bowl, reserving the 2 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese.
- Add the ʻulu and kale to the large bowl and mix well.
- Spread the dip into a 10-inch cast-iron skillet or nonstick pan, sprinkle with remaining Parmesan cheese and bake for 15 minutes.
- Broil for 5 minutes until golden brown.
- Serve with crackers, a baguette or raw vegetables.
Local Style ‘Ulu/‘Uala Salad
Source: Robbie Dingeman’s family recipe
- 1 ½ pounds ‘ulu, mature but not soft, steamed on stovetop or in pressure cooker
- 1 ½ pounds ‘uala (purple sweet potato), steamed on stovetop or in pressure cooker
- 1 cup mayonnaise of your choice (but we used avocado)
- 1 tablespoon avocado oil or other neutral oil
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 1 clove minced garlic or ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- 2 Hawaiian chile peppers, minced (add more to taste)
- 2 stalks celery, chopped
- ½ cup sweet onion, diced
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt (adjust to taste)
- ½–¾ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 1 tablespoon flat leaf parsley, chopped
- 1–2 green onions, chopped (can use some for garnish)
- 1–2 stalks of garlic chives, chopped (optional)
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika or seasoned Hawaiian salt
- Cook ‘ulu and ‘uala, cool and peel; or defrost if using frozen. Cut into ½-inch cubes and place in large bowl. Add chopped celery and onion.
- Combine minced chile peppers with oil. Stir pepper-oil mixture into a small bowl with mayonnaise, mustard, garlic, salt, pepper and parsley.
- Add the mixture to the large bowl of cubed breadfruit and sweet potato. Toss gently to coat all cubes without breaking them up. (If you stir too vigorously, the purple sweet potato turns the breadfruit pink.)
- Gently mix in green onions, chives and paprika. Garnish with more green onions, chives and paprika or seasoned salt, to your taste.
- Serve room temperature or make it ahead and chill.
My mom used to make a salad very much like this for holidays and potlucks. When I couldn’t find her recipe, I tinkered with this one. She sometimes did a version with vinegar, too. She liked that this salad used local ingredients and could be made tastier, with different textures and healthier than a traditional potato-mac salad. —Robbie Dingeman, editor at large
Spiced ‘Ulu Pie
Source: Martha Cheng (adapted from Tartine pumpkin pie recipe)
- 2 cups of ripe breadfruit (brown, mushy and sweet stage)
- 2 eggs plus 1 egg yolk
- ½ cup dark brown sugar, packed
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
- ½ teaspoon lemon zest
- 1 ½ cup coconut milk
- 1 pie crust, unbaked
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
- Beat the eggs in a large bowl. Mix in the brown sugar, salt and spices: cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, cardamom and lemon zest.
- Blend the breadfruit with the coconut milk in a blender. Mix it into the egg mixture. Beat together until everything is well mixed.
- Pour the filling into an uncooked pie shell. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes. Then lower the temperature to 350 degrees and bake for 40 to 50 minutes more. The edges should be set, but the center still slightly jiggly.
- Serve with whipped cream.
Source: Steve Parker, Kailua General Store
- 1 ½ cups stale bread pieces cut into ½ to ¾ inch cubes
- 1 ½ cups ripe (dull green with the sap running down to bottom of fruit) baked ‘ulu, cut into cubes
- 2 stalks celery, diced
- 1 medium carrot, peeled and diced
- ½ container cremini mushrooms, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 pound fresh sausage, removed from its casing
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter
- ½ teaspoon each dry sage and thyme, or 1 tablespoon each fresh sage and thyme
- 2–3 sprigs flat parsley chopped
- 1 cup chicken stock (or more)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Crumble sausage into a hot pan, brown, drain and set aside. Add butter to medium-hot pan and melt. Sauté celery, carrots and mushrooms until softened, then add green onions and garlic and cook for 30 seconds.
- Add sausage, herbs, ‘ulu and bread then add stock and stir well. Season with salt and pepper.
- Bake in pan or a baking dish, covered with foil, for 40-45 minutes. Remove cover and bake until top is crispy and brown.
‘Ulu notes: Pick an ‘ulu with sap dripping down the sides; it’s best if the sap drips all the way to the bottom. Bake at 375 degrees for about an hour or until a knife easily slides into the center of fruit and comes out clean. Cool, remove skin and seeds if any. You can also cook it whole in a pressure cooker for 1 hour.
This can easily be vegan or vegetarian. Just replace the chicken broth with vegetable broth, omit the sausage and use one container each of two different types of mushrooms.
‘Ulu Au Gratin
Source: Adapted from Hawaiʻi ʻUlu Cooperative’s recipe from Thyme Gourmet
- 24 ounces of ‘ulu, peeled, cored and steamed, or two 12-ounce bags of precooked ‘ulu, defrosted
- ½ medium onion sliced very thinly. Use a mandoline, if possible
- 3 egg yolks
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 cup milk (we used skim)
- 1 teaspoon garlic salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 cup cheddar cheese or vegan cheese substitute
- Green onions, sliced for garnish
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-inch-by-9-inch baking dish.
- Cut cool ‘ulu into ⅜-inch-thick slices.
- Place half the ‘ulu in the bottom of the pan, slightly overlapping the slices, if possible.
- Layer sliced onions on top. Finish with a final layer of ‘ulu.
- Combine all ingredients, except the green onion, in a bowl and mix. Pour evenly over the ‘ulu and cover tightly with foil.
- Bake for 45 minutes. Uncover, then bake for another 15 minutes.
- Top with cheese then bake for another 15 minutes until melted, or broil briefly if you want to brown the cheese.
- Garnish with green onion and serve.