Hawai‘i Comfort Food: Vinha d’Alhos Recipe

Cozy up with this homey Portuguese dish on rainy days.


Photo: Karen DB Photography

“When my youngest daughter smelled this dish cooking in October, she told me that it felt like Christmas. Vinha d’Alhos came with our Portuguese grandparents and great-grandparents to the Islands from Madeira and the Azores, where this dish is primarily served on Christmas Eve and often eaten after midnight Mass.”

—Robbie Dingeman, editor at large, HONOLULU Magazine



  • 4-5 pounds boneless pork butt (can substitute pork loin or chicken thighs, add peeled potatoes and carrots) cut in 2-inch pieces, trimming off only large pieces of fat
  • 4 cups vinegar
  • 1 cup dry wine (white or red)
  • 3 to 4 cups water
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 3 large cloves garlic
  • 3 to 6 Hawaiian chili peppers
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons Hawaiian salt
  • 2 to 4 bay leaves (fresh are good but crumple them)
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon ground allspice


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  1. Crush garlic, Hawaiian salt and chili peppers in a bowl. Add remaining spices and mix together.
  2. Mix vinegar, wine and water in a large, nonmetal container (glass, ceramic or plastic). Stir in the spice and garlic mixture.
  3. Add the meat. Check to see that it is covered by the marinade.
  4. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 days.
  5. When ready to cook, carefully pour the mixture into a large pot in the sink. Parboil for about 20 minutes.
  6. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Remove pot from heat. Drain the marinade. Oil a large roasting pan.
  7. Transfer the pieces to the roasting pan. Cook for about 30 minutes, turning the pieces at 10-minute intervals to even the browning. (This last step can be done by frying the pieces in a skillet, but we prefer roasting, then frying leftovers with eggs later.)

(You can vary the recipe to more of this and less of that, but it’s best marinated for at least 36 hours.)