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Are Hawaiian Haystacks, Hawaiian? NOPE!

In general “haystacks” refers to a meal where you pile everything into one bowl stacked on top of each other. For example, when I married my husband I was surprised/confused when they said they were making “haystacks” but really it was what I would’ve called a Taco Salad or Southwest Bowl.

Nowadays the the trend is to call this type of meal a “Bowl” as opposed to a “haystack”.

I have learned in my research that Hawaiian Haystacks are particularly popular and well known in Utah. I couldn’t find confirmation of who started it, but as far as I can tell some time in the 1950’s a busy mom made haystacks for her family with rice, a creamy chicken sauce, and then toppings that included pineapple and coconut. This is SO 1950’s housewife, isn’t it? To make it even more 1950’s housewife, many make these haystacks using cream of chicken soup. That is how my grandma always did it.

Then one magical day my friend Emily shared her grandma’s recipe for Hawaiian Haystacks. She made the sauce from scratch! Duh! Why hadn’t I ever thought to do that? So for the last 15 years, this is the recipe I have used.

Get your rice cooking and you may prep toppings earlier in the day, or after you make the sauce. If you have kids around have them help get the toppings ready. Put shredded cheese in a bowl, slice olives, and chop up veggies.

For the sauce start by making a roux. This is French Cooking 101. A roux is the base for many sauces. Begin by melting the butter in a medium-sized pot. Turn the heat to low and add the flour. Next, the broth, while whisking. Turn the heat to medium. Once it starts to thicken, add the cream. Whisk or stir till it is a good thickness. Remove it from the heat.


I like to season this sauce with salt, pepper, poultry seasoning and/or a garlic blend that I like. Add in whatever cooked chicken you have. If I don’t have any leftovers to use, then you can grill some or buy a rotisserie chicken.

Use whatever toppings you want! Our favorites are –

  1. Shredded Cheddar or blend
  2. Olives
  3. Cucumbers
  4. Bell Pepper
  5. Tomatoes
  6. Crunchy Noodles
  7. Pineapple tidbits or crushed
  8. Shredded Coconut

The BEST part of Haystacks or Bowls is that everyone can dish up what they like. If you do not want olives or coconut then leave them off. Do what you want. This is great for a crowd, and great for kids.

Other Bowls you should try –

  1. Chicken Carnitas, Squash & Rice Bowls
  2. Mediterranean Bowls with Chicken
  3. Lamb Kebabs & Mediterranean Bowls

Hawaiian Haystacks

A creamy chicken sauce over rice loaded with many vegetables on top. Great for a crowd and my youngest's favorite meal. I always double this. It makes a great leftover, and it also freezes really well. This is one my grandma made often when everyone was coming over.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Course Entree, Main Course
Cuisine American



  • ½ cup butter
  • ½ cup flour
  • 2 cups water with chicken soup base or chicken broth
  • 1 cup half & half can use 2% or whole milk in a pinch
  • 1 tsp poultry seasoning
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 2 cups shredded, precooked chicken Rotisserie or leftover chicken is great


  • 3-4 cups cooked rice for under the sauce
  • shredded cheese
  • cucumbers, sliced and diced
  • olives, sliced
  • bell pepper, diced
  • tomatoes, diced
  • crunchy Chinese noodles
  • pineapple tidbits
  • shredded coconut


  • Prep all the toppings and put them into individual bowls for serving and get the rice cooking.
  • Start by making a roux by melting the butter in a medium sized pot. Turn the heat to low and add the flour with a whisk.
  • Slowly whisk in the chicken broth over medium heat. Whisk and cook till it starts to thicken. Add in the half & half. Stir over the heat till it starts to thicken again. Remove from the heat.
  • Stir in the shredded chicken, season with poultry seasoning, salt and pepper. Serve over rice and with whatever toppings you like on top.
  • **The sauce, fully made with the chicken, freezes really well. Thaw in the refrigerator and slowly heat in a saucepan before serving.


  • To freeze – Let the sauce cool. Warm slowly in a pot, while stirring often to prevent scorching. Then, it is ready to serve with rice and toppings. 
Keyword Buffet, chicken, Colleen Mott Approved, Crowd Pleaser, Haystacks, rice, Rotisserie chicken