Pipi Kaula (Hawaiian Jerky)

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Recently I’m become obsessed with homemade jerky, as I have seen the price for the store-bought stuff continue to rise. This recipe has become my personal favorite.

Hawaii has a surprising cowboy culture that began in the early 1800’s. George Vancouver gave 5 longhorn cattle to King Kamehameha, who promptly set them free to roam the island. When the herd had multiplied into the thousands, experts were called in to help control them—the Mexican vaqueros. They brought the horseman’s skill and it’s related arts, including leatherwork, metal work and guitar music (which evolved in to the ukulele craze).   By the mid 20th-century beef was the main export from the Hawaiian Islands, and half of the island lands were devoted to the cultivation of beef. Today that number has greatly diminished, but the Hawaiian cowboy traditions linger on. This recipe is a favorite trail snack of these paniolos.


2 pounds flank steak, frozen for about an hour for easy slicing

½ cup soy sauce

2 tablespoons Alaea Hawaiian salt

2 tablespoons raw or brown sugar (I leave this out when I am counting calories)

1 clove garlic, minced

1 inch ginger root, grated

¼-1 teaspoon red chile flake

1 tablespoon cinder vinegar

¼ cup pineapple juice


  1. Slice beef into thin strips (about 1/3 inch thick). Combine in a large bowl with remaining ingredients, and toss to thoroughly coat.   Marinate overnight in the refrigerator.
  1. Drain marinade off meat and spread out in a single layer on a dehydrator tray, or on a baking sheet that has been lined with a drying rack. Dehydrate for 24 hours, or bake at 175° F for 5-8 hours, until very dry. Store airtight.

Tuna Jerky

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This is a fantastic cocktail food. And, of course, because it’s jerky, it’s good on the trail. (Especially if your trail is in Hawaii.) If you are tuna free, this works with any good meaty fish.


2 pounds tuna, snapper, trout, bass, or other firm-fleshed fish, cut into strips about ¼ inch thick

2 cups pineapple, finely chopped (or canned crushed pineapple with the juice)

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1 tablespoons brown sugar

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated

1 teaspoon unrefined salt—try a Hawaiian salt, like Alaea or Black Lava, Japanese shio, Arabian Fleur de Sel, a smoked salt, or a salt infused with roasted garlic, dashi, seaweed, sesame, Szechuan peppercorns, or chile


  1. Toss all ingredients, toss to coat fish, and refrigerate overnight ( at least 12 hours).
  1. Place a wire rack onto a baking sheet, and coat it well with pan spray. Drain off the marinade and arrange the fish on the rack. Cook at 150° F for 2 hours, then turn the temperature down to 130° F (or open the oven door) and continue cooking for another 2-4 hours, until the fish is dry, but not crisp. They should crack when bent, but should not break easily. Cool completely, then store airtight in the refrigerator.


Dehydrator and Smoker—This jerky dries better in a dehydrator, and has more flavor when made in a smoker. If you have either of those contraptions, by all means, go for it. Follow the manufacture’s instructions, and use the same guidelines for temperature and doneness.

Commercial sauces – The addition of commercial teriyaki or BBQ sauce into your marinade will certainly work. Most contain a lot of sugar, so consider omitting the brown sugar from the recipe.