Hawaiian Luau Recipes

These easy tropical desserts will impress your luau party guests

Hawaiian theme food recipes

My free luau printables have been such a hit over the years, I assume you guys must be throwing a lot of luaus! So I thought these easy tropical desserts would be a great compliment to the Hawaiian-themed napkin rings, cocktail picks, cupcake toppers, tiki mask decoration and invitations I've already posted.

You can see images of them below. Scroll down the page for the fun and easy Hawaiian luau recipes. 

I discovered over the years that I'm not a highly technical recipe writer. I'm too much of a seat-of-the-pants cook for that. But I can decorate the heck out of food if you'll pardon my saying so. Long before I designed the rainbow fruit salad, tropical cupcakes and dessert skewers in this post--and I mean VERY long before--I was the designated deviled egg decorator in our house.

Whenever we had a party when I was a child, my mom made deviled eggs. I guess they must have been good to get so many repeat performances but I can't attest to that because I couldn't stand the smell of deviled eggs. Still can't. But that didn't stop me from using them as mini canvases. As soon as I was old enough to use a knife, I was cutting up olives, pimento, and other edible bits and bobs and arranging them on top of deviled eggs to make faces. They were pretty cute if I do say so myself.

Fast forward some intervening decades and I decided to dust off those same skills to provide some really simple luau desserts that are less about cooking and more about decorating. And although they're impressive looking, virtually anyone can make these.

As I mentioned above, there are three categories of tropical desserts show below: three cake, candy and fruit kabob recipestropical cupcakes and a rainbow fruit salad.

Dessert Skewers

First, you'll need some wooden skewers. You can probably get them in your grocery store. They come in varying lengths. Remember that the longer they are, the more difficult they'll be to manage. But the longer ones are also more impressive because they fit more fruit. If you want to stand them up in a stand something like this, stick to shorter skewers. Longer ones can be stood up in vases, shiny metal or brightly colored kiddie plastic buckets. They can also be laid down on platters.

Please use care if there will be children at your luau. These sticks are sharp!

I've designed three types of dessert skewers. Which you choose to make depends on how sweet you want your desserts to be. I'll start with the fruit-only version: 


fruit kabobs recipes

These fruit skewers or kabobs are incredibly simple to make. The key to both their ease and beauty is the combination of ingredients. Here are the ingredients I used:
  • Starfruit
  • Kiwi
  • Strawberries
  • Pineapple
  • Maraschino cherries
Of course, you can use whatever fruit you want. But part of what makes these easy tropical desserts so pretty are the kiwi and starfruit (aka, carambola).

Unfortunately, starfruit must be avoided if you or any of your guests have kidney problems. If you want the same look you can use a small star-shaped cookie cutter with pineapple.

If you can use starfruit, then you'll be happy to know that the skin is edible. The same with kiwis, as long as you don't mind the texture. Keeping the skin on will increase the nutrition benefits, make them much easier to prep and also keep them from drooping on the skewers.

Needless to say, you must wash all the fruit before using it.

1. Once washed, use a sharp knife to cut slices of the starfruit, kiwis and strawberries at about the same thickness. Choose strawberries that are relatively round and slice your knife across them to create circles or ovals. Keep in mind that all pieces have to be thick enough to not tear when on the skewers.

2. Remove the seeds from the starfruit.

3. I cut slices from the core of a pineapple to get the lovely circles shown above. (I bought a whole cored pineapple at the grocery store.) Truth be told, though, those circles are tough and not really edible. So you can either use a small circular or other-shaped cutter on the edible part of the pineapple instead. You can also do the same with papaya or mango.

4. Place all the fruit on paper towels and then cover them with more paper towels on top to absorb excess moisture.

5. Select well-shaped maraschino cherries, rinse and dry them. I used my grocery store's in-house version and wouldn't recommend them. They tasted great but were loaded with all kinds of chemicals, which gave me a bit of an unwelcome chemical buzz. So I suggest trying to find a more natural version. These cherries are expensive but highly rated on Amazon. I haven't tried them though. Sprouts or Whole Foods might also be a good place to look for more natural versions of these.

5. Once all your ingredients are prepped, poke each piece with the pointed end of a skewer and then assemble them similar to the fruit kabobs shown in the photo above. The cherries make great tropical-looking spacers, no matter which fruits you use.


To make this version, follow the instructions above for FRUIT SKEWERS but add cubed cake to the kabobs. For easier slicing, freeze the cake for about an hour before cutting it.

I used angel food cake but I think I would use a pound cake next time to give a richer flavor. You could also use plain white or yellow, marble, strawberry, or any other flavor cake you want. You could even cut brownies into circles and use those if you want to give your guests a chocolate fix.


Follow the instructions for the two types of kabobs above but add some gummy candies to the mix. 

I lucked out and found the fun two-tone shark gummy candies at Sprouts. I just love the color they bring to the skewers. I also got the more common red fish gummies at Sprouts. But in case you don't have a source of tropical gummies in your neighborhood, I looked on Amazon for some recommendations. These smiling sharks are adorable but it looks like it's the luck of the draw whether they'll arrive melted or not. These have the same issues apparently. But in both cases, if they actually do arrive, they would be cute choices.

As you'll see further down the page on the cupcake decorations, I also bought some gumdrops. These would make good spaces on the skewers above if you wanted to skip the maraschino cherries.


Hawaiian desserts

The same basic ingredients are used for these tropical cupcake toppers as were used for the dessert kabobs. So just scroll up and follow the methods outlined for prepping the ingredients for them.

As for the look of the cupcakes, it's really about being open to mixing and matching fruit and candy to express the tropical theme. Once you do, you can let your imagination go wild with the ingredients. Don't be afraid to experiment before you find designs you like. I have one or two not-very-attractive options that didn't show up on this page. But I did have a happy accident. I unintentionally made these two cupcakes that when displayed together look like sharks are chasing each other:

It could be fun to have a dessert table with a variety of options and put cupcakes with toppers like this in a line in front of them.

The components I added to these luau cupcake toppers that weren't in the candy kabobs are cupcakes, toothpicks and gumdrops.

I got the cupcakes at Publix grocery store. They happened to have these beautiful colors ready-made but I have special-ordered specifically colored frosted cupcakes from them in the past. If your grocery store doesn't offer that option, you can get the cupcakes from a bakery. If you have a specific color theme for your luau, just bring printed or fabric samples to the baker and ask them to match the colors.

Any toothpicks will work but you might want to get fancy and use some that are colored or embellished. There are lots of interesting and fun options on this page.

Gumdrops make great alternative spacers to the maraschino cherries. They also have the dual advantage of providing different colors and being easy to find. I happened to get mine at Sprouts but you can probably find them in your local grocery store. They also had gummies in different colors in the shape of citrus slices, which would go well with the tropical theme.

In addition to the starfruit shown above, you can also use other fruit slices, such as kiwi, strawberry, pineapple, etc. It's important to dry the slices well before constructing the toppers though. You might be able to get away with fruit kabobs dripping a little fruit juice but that won't work for cupcakes. You'll end up with a goopy mess.   

IMPORTANT: Please note that the same warning for starfruit as stated in the kabob recipes above applies here.

And if you decide you don't want to monkey around with fruit and candy, you can use my free printable luau cupcake toppers:

And you can find all my other free luau printables here.


This stacked Hawaiian fruit salad can be made in any clear container but the taller the better. I used clear plastic goblets I picked up at the dollar store. They have all kinds of fun options on Amazon but needless to say, the ones from the dollar store are less expensive. But you know how it goes with the dollar store, sometimes they have what you want, sometimes not. Party stores and Michael's probably also have some variation of these though. You can see how impressive it looks, in spite of being in a plastic goblet:

Rainbow fruit salad

Believe it or not, this tropical salad recipe is easy to prepare. 

First, make sure you have your choice of the fruit for each layer, as indicated in the chart below. You can use that image as your shopping list.

Then, for fruit that requires slicing, make the pieces small. They can be irregularly shaped; it doesn't matter. Just make them small so they'll fit together well and stay compact in the glass. I discovered this very important tip while using shaped cutters to make decorative fruit platters, such as the one shown in the photo above. The odd-shaped pieces of fruit that were left over were perfect for this salad! The only exception to that was the dragonfruit star on the top. I cut that with a star-shaped cutter.

Hawaiian salad fruit list
If you want to be a purist, you can just stack the fruit as shown above and call it a day. But if you want it a little sweeter, there are several ways you can do that. My preference would be to use agave syrup. It's sweet like sugar but it has a low-glycemic index, making it easier on the body. It's also nice and runny, which means you can just pour some over the top before the dragonfruit layer and let the syrup seep down through the salad. You could do the same with honey, as long as it's in a runny, not crystallized state. You could also add some at every level if you want to amp up the sweetness. You could do this with sugar, too, using just a pinch on top of each layer.  
If you get an assembly line going, you could make a lot of these for a party in a short time--especially if you rope in some help. :-)  

Obviously, if you use a shorter goblet or glass, your fruit pieces should be smaller so you can still get the rainbow effect. You can use this tutorial as a jumping-off point to create your own version.

Leʻaleʻa i kou luau! 

(Translation: Have fun at your luau!)

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