Hawaiian-Style Barbecue Chicken Sandwiches

Hello and Welcome! Today we are headed out to the grill for Hawaiian-Style Barbecue Chicken Sandwiches. Sesame teriyaki-marinated chicken thighs grilled and sandwiched with coleslaw and crispy onions, between a pillowy-soft Hawaiian sweet bun. These sandwiches require minimal effort; they are super flavorful and perfect after a day at the beach or by the pool. Plus, there is a possibility of leftovers, which work out just as well cold to pack along for the next day’s activities. So let’s do it!

Hawaiian-Style Barbecue Chicken Sandwiches

Overnight Marinade

To give these chicken thighs more bang for their buck, marinate the thighs overnight in a teriyaki-style marinade. I was hoping to find Soy Vay Island Teriyaki Marinade and Sauce, I was out of luck on that front, but I did find a similar sesame teriyaki marinade that worked out just fine.

overnight marinade

Place the chicken thighs in a gallon size zipper bag and pour in about half the bottle of marinade. This is a 14 ounce bottle so I ended up pouring in about 1 cup of the marinade. We will use some of the remaining marinade to brush on the thighs and the buns, so be sure to reserve about 1/2 cup of the marinade.


An hour or two before you’re ready to grill, toss together one bag of pre-shredded coleslaw mix and about 1/4 to 1/3 cup of your favorite coleslaw dressing. We really like the store-bought brand, Marie’s Coleslaw Dressing. Cover the coleslaw and refrigerate until you’re ready to serve.

Head Out to The Grill

Pull the bag of thighs out of the fridge then prep and fire up the grill. When the grill is ready to go, transfer the thighs from the bag of marinade to a plate or sheet tray and discard the bag of marinade. Have everything at the ready, grill-side: a landing tray for the cooked chicken, the remaining marinade (poured into a small bowl) with a brush for brushing on the marinade, and your grill tongs. Also don’t forget your meat thermometer!

grilling chicken thighs

We have the charcoal grill set up so that about 3/4 of the grill is direct heat, which is where we will do most of the grilling. The indirect side will keep some the faster-cooking smaller thighs hot while the others cook through. We will brush the thighs with more of the reserved marinade at the very end.

brush grilled chicken with marinade

Grill the thighs for about 6-7 minutes on each side until they reach an internal temperature of 165-170. Don’t be afraid to move them around on the grill to avoid large flare-ups and to account for different sizes and thicknesses of the thighs. When they reach temp, move them over to the indirect heat and brush them with marinade. Close the lid for about 1 minute, flip the the thighs, brush on more marinade and close the lid for another minute. Then transfer the thighs to the clean plate or tray.

Hawaiian-Style Barbecue Chicken

So we have our chicken ready, gather the coleslaw from the fridge, then we have Hawaiian sweet buns, which we won’t toast, so they stay soft and pillowy.

Hawaiian-Style Barbecue Chicken Sandwiches components

Hawaiian-Style Barbecue Chicken Sandwiches

Brush some of the reserved marinade on the bottom bun and lay a chicken thigh on top. Top the chicken thigh with a heaping spoon full of coleslaw.

Then, for extra crunch and onion flavor, top with crispy fried onions.

Hawaiian-Style Barbecue Chicken Sandwiches with crispy onions

Place the top bun on top, and there you have it: Hawaiian-Style Barbecue Chicken Sandwiches! The thighs were perfectly cooked and the teriyaki flavor really comes though thanks to the overnight marinade and the caramelization of the marinade we brushed on while it was grilling. I love the cooling coleslaw and by all means, do not skimp on the crispy onions; the extra crunch and onion flavor they bring to this sandwich really makes it!

Hawaiian-Style Barbecue Chicken Sandwiches

I am already thinking about when I can make this again! It was such a satisfying sandwich with harmonious flavors and a wonderful variety of textures. The mouth-full muffled “mmmm”s were all I needed to know this one is a winner. Consider it for any of your end-of-summer cookouts! For another vacation-friendly recipe, try the Foil Packet Fish and Summer Vegetables we made for our first Tybee dinner.

I am hitting the pause button on Pizza and a Movie this week, but we will back next week with an all new pizza and movie. Thank you for spending some time with me today, take care and be well! xo Kelly

Key Equipment

Hawaiian-Style Barbecue Chicken Sandwiches

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Dinner, Main Course American
By Kelly Djalali Serves: 2-6
Prep Time: 15 Minutes (Plus Overnight Marinade) Cooking Time: 15 Minutes Total Time: ~30 Minutes (Plus Overnight Marinade)

Sesame teriyaki-marinated chicken thighs grilled and sandwiched with coleslaw and crispy onions, between a pillowy-soft Hawaiian sweet bun.


  • 6-8 Chicken Thighs
  • 14-oz. Bottle of Sesame Teriyaki Marinade, divided
  • 1 bag Pre-Shredded Coleslaw Mix
  • 1/4-1/3 cup Coleslaw Dressing (like Marie's)
  • 1 Package Crispy Fried Onions
  • 1 Package (8 count) Hawaiian Sweet Buns (like Pepperidge Farms)



Marinate the chicken thighs overnight in a gallon-size zipper lock bag with 1/2-3/4 cup of the Sesame Teriyaki Marinade


A couple hours before service, thoroughly mix the coleslaw dressing in a mixing bowl with the bag of Pre-Shredded Coleslaw Mix, cover and refrigerate until service.


When the grill is ready, transfer the chicken thighs from the bag of marinade to a plate and discard the bag of marinade.


Grill the thighs over direct heat for about 6-7 minutes on each side until the internal temperature reads 165-170 degrees.


Transfer the thighs to the indirect heat side of the grill and brush one side with reserved marinade, close the lid for 1 minute. Flip the thighs and repeat.


Transfer thighs to a clean plate or tray.


Build the sandwiches by brushing the bottom bun with remaining, reserved marinade. Top with grilled chicken thigh, then coleslaw and then fried onions. Top with top bun.

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  • Mari
    August 19, 2021 at 9:34 am

    I love these easy recipes. When it’s hot, using the grill makes perfect sense. We don’t use ours as much as we should. People like something filling but not too heavy in the summer months, and my guys would live on burgers and sandwiches if I let them. This one is great because it sneaks cabbage in so they are getting a vegetable! I buy the two pound bag of coleslaw mix from Sam’s Club, and it makes a lot of Cole slaw. I mix ranch dressing with mayo and use that to toss the slaw.. They eat it almost faster than I can make it. This recipe is on the menu for the weekend. You are making meal planning so much easier for me! Thank you so much.

    • Kelly Djalali
      August 19, 2021 at 9:45 am

      Hi Mari, It’s true; we eat a lot more sandwiches in the summer than in the winter. This was such a great combination of flavors, I love the tangy/sweet coleslaw dressing with the barbecue chicken, they go so well together. I am so happy to give you easy, good ideas your family will love! Try a poppyseed dressing or Marie’s coleslaw dressing when you make the coleslaw for these, I think you will really like the flavor combination. Let me know how it goes this weekend! xo Kelly

  • Terry
    August 19, 2021 at 10:04 am

    This looks really good. I will be making these I think on Saturday so I can marinade over nite.
    The leftovers would be great on a pizza.with the Cole slaw on the side. Yumm I’m hungry I’ll keep you posted ❤️Mom

    • Kelly Djalali
      August 19, 2021 at 10:12 am

      Hi Mom, This would be another great one for the family Sunday dinner. I think the kids would really enjoy it! Talk soon, xo Kelly

  • Deanna
    August 19, 2021 at 10:21 am

    These sound delicious! Will head to the store for ingredients to get the meat marinating! Hope I can find the marinade.

    • Kelly Djalali
      August 19, 2021 at 10:28 am

      Sounds great, Deanna! If you can’t find Soy Vay, go for a teriyaki/sesame marinade and get a small can of pineapple juice to add to the marinade. I’d add about 1/4 cup pineapple juice to the marinade. Let me know how it turns out for you! xo Kelly

      • Deanna
        August 19, 2021 at 11:26 am

        Thanks for the tip on the pineapple juice addition. Just came back to print the recipe and head to the store. Can’t wait to try these! Enjoy your vacation!

  • Suzanne Smith
    August 19, 2021 at 12:43 pm

    I agree: love easy recipes summertime. Yum

    • Kelly Djalali
      August 20, 2021 at 9:14 am

      This recipe feels and tastes like summertime, Suzanne! Have a great weekend! xo Kelly

  • Trish
    August 20, 2021 at 9:45 am

    I love that this is so simple, using premade ingredients and not having to mix up marinade or coleslaw dressing. Looks delicious! Great Saturday night meal. Thank you for sharing.

    • Kelly Djalali
      August 20, 2021 at 10:40 am

      I hear ya, Trish! Sometimes it feels like no big deal to whip up a marinade or dressing, but other times it’s so nice to just open a jar or bottle! Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving a note. Have a wonderful weekend! xo Kelly

      • Trish
        August 22, 2021 at 11:18 am

        Kelly, this was wonderful! We’re in isolation right now and need simple but tasty meals ( couldn’t smell but boy it was delicious!) I’m making another order to make more and going back over other recipes of yours that I’ve made or wanted to make. Your recipes always have a zing to them that we love. Thanks for helping us out in a tight spot!???

        • Kelly Djalali
          August 22, 2021 at 4:47 pm

          Hello Trish, I am so sorry you’re in isolation right now, that really is a drag and I hope you’re feeling better very soon. I am really happy you enjoy the recipes, it is really special to me that they bring you some joy and that they’re helpful to you and your family. Get well soon, xo Kelly

  • Roberta
    August 14, 2022 at 10:52 am

    Hi, Kelly. Perfect timing on this post. Heading to the Oregon coast for a beach getaway. This recipe sounds delish!
    Where do you buy the crispy onions? Taking Lillet Blanc or Lillet rose and Proscecco to make spritzes. Add some orange
    slices and mint sprigs.This will be the perfect combo with the sandwiches.

    • Kelly Djalali
      August 14, 2022 at 4:26 pm

      Hi Roberta, I purchased the crispy onions at the local supermarket. Your spritzes will be a fantastic holiday drink! Have a great time on the Oregon coast, I know it’s very beautiful there. Thanks for stopping by today! xo Kelly

  • Pat
    August 14, 2022 at 2:39 pm

    Mouthwatering to look at the pics. On the menu this week. Although mine will be chicken breast. Different tastes, but I feel the marinade will still shine thru. And the Crispy Fried Onions. Recently had those served on a hamburger. Would have never thought to use them like this before. An old dog can learn new tricks😁
    Coincidentally just reading about binchotan charcoal. It was mentioned on chef so I investigated. Are you familiar with it, or used it?
    Like Trish above, I go back over your recipes. Thanks for doing all the work for us to have tried and true recipes❣️

    • Kelly Djalali
      August 14, 2022 at 4:28 pm

      Hello Pat, thank you so much for being such a wonderful part of our Djalali Cooks community. I have not heard of binchotan charcoal, I will have to look into it…Enjoy this sandwich, it will be wonderful with chicken breasts! Have a great day! xo Kelly

  • Sylvia Espinoza
    August 14, 2022 at 7:03 pm

    Hi, Kelly! Still taking in every post with love 🥰 This looks so good was tempted to lick my phone to taste test! Our son and daughter-in-law are currently enjoying a Hawaiian vacation. Will share this recipe with them. Enjoy your Tybee vacation! Hugs~

    • Kelly Djalali
      August 15, 2022 at 7:53 am

      Hi Sylvia, Thanks so much for stopping by! I bet your son and daughter-in-law have had a lot of wonderful Hawaiian barbecue on their vacation. I am sure they will enjoy replicating the flavors when they return home. Have a great day! xo Kelly

  • Diane
    August 17, 2022 at 9:30 pm

    I just made these to night for my husband and myself. They were excellent. Thanks for a great recipe.

    • Kelly Djalali
      August 18, 2022 at 8:27 am

      Hello Diane, I am so glad you gave these sandwiches a try and that they were such a hit for you! Thanks so much for writing in to let us know this one is a winner! xo Kelly

  • Pay pray
    August 29, 2022 at 4:55 pm

    I’m wondering could I substitute chicken breast. I’m not too fond of chicken thighs.

    • Kelly Djalali
      August 30, 2022 at 7:49 am

      Hello Pay pray, of course you can substitute with chicken breast. I am sure it will be wonderful! Thanks for your question, have a great day! xo Kelly