Hawaiian Haystacks: Chicken Sauce Reinvented

Stick with me during this complete recipe throwback to the 80’s.

After seeing the title of this post, I’m betting about 50% of you are nodding your head and saying, “Yep, had ’em” and the other 50% have no idea what I am talking about.

A staple in my home growing up, this is a simple meal consisting of rice smothered in some type of chicken sauce and topped with anything from chow mein noodles to mandarin oranges. Our favorite toppings of choice include: olives, tomatoes, shredded sharp cheddar cheese, green onions, mandarin oranges and chow mein noodles…but seriously, people, you can let your imagination go wild and top these with anything that sound good to you and yours.

What I really want to focus on is the chicken sauce. Hawaiian Haystacks are notoriously made with a gravy concocted from cream of chicken soup, milk and sour cream (or some such variation on this theme). In my quest to eliminate many processed foods from our diet, I have long since stopped cooking with condensed soups, but I happen to love this meal and wanted to recreate a from-scratch chicken sauce to make an average Hawaiian Haystack become out of this world (wait, then would it be called a Galactical Haystack??).

Enter my reinvented chicken sauce. Simple and quick to make, this saucy mixture is light, creamy and packed with flavor, thanks to the fresh garlic and onions. I was thrilled with the outcome and have a feeling Hawaiian Haystacks will be making a major comeback in our house, thanks to the gravy reinvention.

What To ServeBaked Brown Rice
Buttery Peas with Thyme
Toppings of choice, such as olives, tomatoes, shredded sharp cheddar cheese, green onions, mandarin oranges and chow mein noodles

Two Years Ago: Classic Buttermilk Waffles

Hawaiian Haystacks: Chicken Sauce Reinvented

Yield: Makes about 4 cups chicken sauce (enough to serve 4-6 for Hawaiian Haystacks)

Hawaiian Haystacks: Chicken Sauce Reinvented


  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size chunks (or leftover cooked chicken, cubed)
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • ½ onion (about ½ cup), finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic; finely minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 cup chicken broth


  1. In a large skillet melt the butter over medium heat and add the onion and raw chicken (if using leftover cooked chicken, don’t add it to the skillet now, you’ll add it later). Saute the onion and chicken, if using, until the onions are soft and translucent and the chicken is cooked through, about 5 to 6 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for about one minute, stirring, until fragrant.
  2. Sprinkle the flour over the onions and chicken and stir to combine. Cook over medium heat for one minute – this helps get rid of the starchy, flour taste. Slowly whisk in the milk and chicken broth. Cook, stirring constantly with a whisk, and bring the sauce to a simmer over medium to medium-high heat. Add the salt and pepper. If you are using leftover cooked chicken, add it now. Continue simmering, stirring the sauce frequently, until the sauce has thickened, about 5-8 minutes.
  3. Serve the chicken sauce over rice with your toppings of choice, such as olives, tomatoes, shredded sharp cheddar cheese, green onions, mandarin oranges and chow mein noodles.

Recipe Source: My Kitchen Cafe

162 Responses to Hawaiian Haystacks: Chicken Sauce Reinvented

  1. Leslie says:

    I'm right there with ya in eliminating processed stuff so I am going to put this back on the menu. Thanks for the revamp! You're awesome! Your's is the first place I come to in planning dinners. 🙂

  2. Anonymous says:

    Thank You so much I love Hawaiin Haystacks

  3. If eliminating processed food you might consider removing the mandarin oranges and replacing with fresh mango slices, or clementine sections, or orange sections…

  4. Chrissy says:

    I had to Wikipedia it:A Hawaiian Haystack (also known as a Chicken Sundae) is a convenience cuisine. The dish did not originate in Hawaii, but derives its name from the Hawaiian character of pineapple, a staple ingredient. It is popular in the western U.S. both as a school lunch and as a quick, creative meal for family dinners.This makes sense now… guess its = to Loco Moco….it does fit the bill of gravy over rice which Hawaiians seem to pour over everything… lol… I will have to try this…

  5. me says:

    Any idea if there any way to turn this into a crock pot recipe?elizabeth

  6. Romney Family says:

    I love Hawaiian haystacks and Haven been wanting to find a good recipe for the sauce other than condensed soup. Thank you!! I am printing this off and going to try it out!!

  7. Steph says:

    we LOVE hawaiian haystacks!!!! i can't wait to try this recipe!!! thank you.

  8. Splendid Things says:

    i'm glad you posted this. my mom used to make a version of this when i was in high school and i have tried many times to find the recipe or a version of it. (she passed away several yrs back). she always called it " japanese stack" I think my family and friends would really like this….thanks!

  9. Sarah says:

    No pineapple on your Hawaiian Haystacks? Come on! Anyway, thanks for the recipe. I too am working on cutting out processed foods so this is great! We love Hawaiian Haystacks.(I'm your cousin Rob Weaver's sister-in-law by the way. He married my sister Amy. She introduced me to your blog and now I just started a recipe blog of my own!).

  10. Jonathan and Shantai says:

    WE LOVE Hawaiian Haystacks!! Gonna make these tomorrow. Thanks!

  11. Norah says:

    Yay for you on the journey to eliminate processed foods. I've been working on that goal for 4 years now. I'm so glad you posted this recipe cause I've attempted making chicken haystacks before with recipes calling for cream of something soup and to be honest I thought the dish was horrible and didn't fit into my goal of non-processed foods. I'll have to give your recipe a try and I can't believe I never thought of making a white sauce instrad.

  12. juli says:

    THANK YOU! My kids love this dish, but I am also trying to eliminate processed foods….this will be perfect. Can't wait to try it.

  13. NaDell says:

    We also had coconut, raisins, and peas depending on what was in the cupboard at the time. The most important ingredient is always the cheese.I'm going to try this again.

  14. Brittany says:

    This is why I enjoy your blog so much!! You like to make things for your family as healthy as possible and don't use condensed soup!! I am the same way-I loath recipes that use condensed soup! Thanks for reinventing this one-now I think Hawaiian Haystacks will be in my life once again!

  15. Sonya says:

    This looks really good. I was just thinking I needed to start working on finding a good recipe to replace condensed soup. Once again you have perfect timing.

  16. Cammee says:

    This was the only thing I still bought cream of blob in a can for. My family loves Hawaiian Haystacks so I had to keep making them. My son actually asked for them for dinner this week so I'm definitely using this recipe! Thanks!

  17. Kate says:

    This came just in the nick of time! My daughter has been begging for Hawaiian Haystacks, but I've been putting it off because the Cream of Chicken gravy makes me gag. I was going to bite the bullet and make them tonight … I will definitely be trying this version instead!

  18. Jen says:

    I'm surely going to try this. So far my experience is: if it comes from this blog it is GOOD. Thanks for spicing up the menu at our house!

  19. Anonymous says:

    So can we presume that this cream of chicken recipe is a good substitute for any recipe calling for cream of chicken soup? I'm just trying to recall if you are supposed to add water to those typed of canned soups. If we substitute this recipe, would we add some water, also?Thanks a bunch!

  20. Jenny says:

    Hah! Oh the endless possibilities this new chicken gravy brings…I just bought gag-in-a-can for a creamy chicken enchilada recipe. Huzzah! I'm using this one instead!You are the galactic food bloggette.

  21. Mirien says:

    Can't stand the canned stuff either. I make Hawaiian Haystack gravy very similar to your recipe but with an extra addition–I puree white or garbonzo beans and add that to the gravy, and usually I add a little curry powder. People love it and have no idea they're eating beans. They give the sauce a smooth texture and add extra fiber and protein. Sometimes I don't even add chicken and make it a vegetarian meal. I'm with you–I love making the old favorites more nutritious. Here's one I'd like to see you re-make. Remember the chicken crescent bundles? Chicken and cream cheese rolled up into canned crescent roll dough, then dipped in butter and dried stuffing crumbs, baked, and served with a cream of chicken soup gravy. Did your mom ever make those? I'm still searching for a dough recipe that yields light, tender bundles that aren't too bready, yet don't have too much fat in the dough. Any suggestions?

  22. Kara@ Creations by Kara says:

    I've been trying to eliminate the canned stuff too. Can't wait to try this sauce recipe. Our family uses Bugles instead of chow mein noodles. Delicious!

  23. Debbie says:

    I'd also love to eliminate processed foods…and so many of the ready made products. This looks delicious.

  24. Anne says:

    I've always wanted to make Hawaiian Haystacks, but can't bring myself to use the cream of chicken soup. This sounds perfect and I'm going to make it this weekend. Thanks.

  25. Melanie says:

    Elizabeth – to be honest, I don't know the answer if this would work in the crockpot because I've never tried it. I don't know how the gravy would thicken up so I would say it probably works best on the stove.

  26. ARUNA says:

    wat a gorgeous recipe, nice click!

  27. Melanie says:

    Anonymous – I definitely made this recipe as a sauce and not a substitution for the cream of chicken soups, so I hesitate to recommend it as such. I don't know how the equivalents of this sauce recipe compare to a can of condensed soup. I've actually tried the substitution recipes I've found on other blogs and online for recipes that call for condensed soup and have been less than pleased with the results, so I don't want to claim that this recipe can suffice as a replacement!

  28. grace says:

    now wait a hot second–are you implying that there's something wrong with using cream of chicken soup? :)i'm unfamiliar with this dish, but i like how you reinvented the sauce. the possibilities for toppings are pretty much endless–olives??? 🙂

  29. Darcy says:

    I had never had these until college. We love Hawaiian Haystacks and have them at least 2x/ month. A friend gave me a good coconut curry sauce recipe: Make a roux with butter and flour, add a 1 can coconut milk and and a cup of chicken stock and a T. of curry and lots of salt and pepper. I add a little of the pineapple juice to give it a sweet hint, too. I have recently added craisins to my toppings as well as cilantro, bell peppers, tomatoes and french fried onions.

  30. Joie de vivre says:

    I've never had them before, but I was reading one of my mom's cookbooks and Hawaiian haystacks were something you made if you were having company. It's fun to pull out the old recipes for new time favorites!

  31. Sook says:

    Hawaiian haystacks is one of my favorites! I haven't had it in so long! Now, I'm craving it. 🙂

  32. Ben says:

    We love Hawaiian Haystacks at our house and I have been looking for a gravy recipe that doesn't use condensed soup for awhile. I will definitely try this. Thanks!

  33. Stacie Aho says:

    I LOVE you! I am so happy that you posted this. I am in love with Hawaiin haystacks, but I hate that they have cream of chicken in them. My favorite toppings are pineapple and coconut, along with all the other goodies.So yummy!

  34. Barbara says:

    Used to make Hawaiian Haystacks! It's been a while though, and I love that you don't use canned soup! As I recall, I added pineapple to mine. Have to go look it up!

  35. teresa says:

    oh man, this was my ALL TIME favorite growing up! we called it "build your own dinner." i couldn't get enough of it! i'm trying this next time i make it!

  36. michelle says:

    Okay Melanie, I have been a lurker for almost two years, but this brings out the commenter in me! We love love LOVE Hawaiian Haystacks! The idea of ditching the C of C is sheer brilliance. The next time you make these, along with the cheese, chinese noodles,green onions, and mandarin oranges, you MUST try toasted coconut, pineapple, HAM (in order to only use one kind of meat, I don't put chicken in the sauce, just broth,etc.) and MY personal favorite: toasted sliced almonds. Absolutely fanflippintastic. May I also say how much I enjoy your blog. I have 6 kids (you heard me!) ranging in age from 3 to 18 and finding something we all enjoy can be difficult. Your blog is a blessing. Keep up the good work and know that you are making a diference….one recipe at a time!

  37. Barbara Bakes says:

    I've avoided making haystacks for the same reason. Your version sounds great!

  38. Katy ~ says:

    Grins..I'm in the 50% that never heard of Hawaiian haystacks, and now feel a terrible gap in my life for this surely sounds like a keeper! Many thanks for your efforts in reworking and posting this delicious recipe.

  39. Kathy says:

    I am going to try this, they look sooooo good. I will be using rice noodles instead of chow mien noodles, they are my new favorite thing to sprinkle on salad, they will be great on the Hawaiian haystacks. I am Danielle's mom.

  40. Alisha says:

    Had this tonight for dinner. We love Haystacks in our family. The sauce was good! I used skim milk though & it probably would have been better with at least 2%. Or even whole… 🙂

  41. Callie says:

    You have to try raisins, celery, sunflower seeds, pineapple, coconut and add pineapple juice to the sauce. Adds a little something. Love your blog!

  42. Danielle says:

    What a quick meal this is! We had this tonight, and I was able to get everything else ready while the rice was cooking. Plus, they are so yummy. Nothing like the haystacks I had as a kid for school lunch. Everyone loved making them with whatever toppings they wanted. This will definitely become a regular in our meal plan.

  43. Emily says:

    LOVE THESE! I love that you added a little flare to it too!

  44. Melanie says:

    Hi Michelle! I'm glad that you have enjoyed the recipes on here and am SO impressed that you are a surviving mother of six. Amazing! Your comment was so nice and made me feel great so thanks for coming out of lurkdom to let me know. And I love your variation on the haystack toppings!

  45. Melanie says:

    Alisha – yes, I can see that skim milk might have made the sauce a little thin – it definitely is better as you increase in "fat" but I try to keep it healthy, too, and usually use 1%. Glad you liked it!

  46. Melanie says:

    Danielle – I love seeing your comments pop up. You are a faithful taste tester of my recipes! I'm glad this worked out for you…and I also love that everyone can customize their own dinner!

  47. Melanie says:

    Mary Karlee – you are so sweet! Ok, on the already peeled garlic, yes you can definitely substitute it straight across for the cloves of garlic you have to peel and mince. However, you wouldn't be able to roast it the same way that you can roast a whole head of garlic, obviously, since it is already peeled and separated into cloves. Also, I've seen the already minced garlic in jars that has a lot of liquid in it and I've never used that and would probably stick with the "fresher" cloves of garlic. Hope that helps! (By the way, I always use the garlic cloves that come in a head.)

  48. Mary Karlee says:

    Looks good. My husband loves this meal, but I don't, so now I'll give a go around again. My question is about garlic. It seems now that I cook most meals from scratch I use garlic most days. I use fresh garlic, but I've been wondering about the pre-peeled in a jar stuff. Does it make a difference? What do you use?Thanks for being my cooking mentor. 🙂 I love your blog.

  49. Melanie says:

    Stacie – glad you liked this meal and thanks for the tip on the short grain brown rice!

  50. Stacie Aho says:

    This was awesome Melanie! Thank you :)We also make the baked brown rice. I was really good. Although I have to say, I prefer short grain brown rice made on the stove. I buy the kind with the orange label… can't remember the name (not uncle bens). It is so sticky and delicious!

  51. Jessica says:

    This was wonderful! It was great to have such a quick meal in the plan this week! This came together just in time for the rice to be done 🙂 my family really enjoyed this meal. I added pineapple and a dash of soy sauce. I love your blog 😀

    Oh, and thanks for the tutorials you’ve been adding. This last month I used your idea of planning meals 2 weeks in advance. It has been a wonderful. Not having to go to the store as often, and not having to spend every Sunday night/Monday morning trying to come up with the meal plan has made my life so much simpler! Thanks for sharing you system and your wonderful recipes!

  52. Mel says:

    Jessica – thanks for your comment! I’m thrilled to know that the menu planning tips have come in handy. I’m also really glad that you liked the Hawaiian haystacks meal. Thank you so much!

  53. Deanna says:

    I tried the recipe for Hawaiian Haystacks today. This is the first time I have tried your recipes. The “sauce” was good, but more like a white gravy complete with onion and garlic. Very good taste but I didn’t find it went well with pineapple, mandarin oranges, olives, etc. I had chopped green onions and some peas and those went best with the sauce. Talked to the men in my family and they all agreed this is a great sauce for over rice, pasta and potatoes but told me they did not like the fruit on the top. Oh well…I tried. I am anxious to try another of your recipes. Thanks for including pictures. Great web site.

  54. Mel says:

    Deanna – sorry you weren’t thrilled with the results of this sauce. You are right, this really is a white/chicken gravy and that’s how I intended it to be because I wanted to get away from the traditional taste of the cream of chicken soup. Sorry you all didn’t feel it paired well with the fruit. Bummer! I hope your attempt at other recipes here works out better.

  55. Jen says:

    I have made a similar recipe but instead of using 1 cup broth I used 1/2 cup broth 1/2 cup pineapple juice. Some may think it sounds strange but at my abode we swear by it and it goes oh so well with the meat , veggies and the fruit. Thanks for your recipes they are fab!

  56. Jami says:

    I’m not usually a fan of Hawaiian Haystacks, but I tried it for something different and this sauce is excellent! Thanks, I looove your recipes!

  57. Mel says:

    Jami – I’m glad that despite you not loving this meal it tasted pretty good anyway! Thanks for letting me know.

  58. […] Hawaiian Haystacks I’ve never prepared this meal myself, but I’ve certainly consumed it. It’s quick, flexible, kid-friendly, and as healthful as the toppings you choose. […]

  59. We love these! Add pineapple and coconut to the list!

  60. Felicia says:

    I had never made Hawaiian Haystacks for myself, although I have fond memories of them as a child, because of that cream of chicken sauce. However, your recipe totally inspired me to give them a try again and they were so much better that anything from a can. Thanks so much!

    • Mel says:

      Felicia – I was like you – a tad bit hesitant to make these again based on childhood memories so I’m very glad that this recipe came through for you and you liked it!

  61. Erin says:

    Along with haystacks, I used this sauce for Funeral potatoes, in place of the cream of chicken soups, and it tasted just fine. Healthier, too! Thank you!!

  62. NaDell says:

    I finally tried this and everyone loved it! Thank you for sharing it. I was going to make it sooner, but then I had Hawaiian Haystacks at my in laws house and wanted something different…

  63. Nicole says:

    Thank you for this post! I feel the same way about condensed soups and always ignore recipes that use them. Your recipe was a wonderful re-invention of a food that I really missed. Thank you for sharing it!

  64. V Roush says:

    I love love love your blog. This recipe is great! It even tastes amazing with brown rice flour substituted in for a gluten version.

  65. Paula says:

    this looks so delicious!

    have a nice time!

  66. Vicky says:

    I had been wanting to make Hawaiian haystacks but didn’t because I didn’t have cream of chicken on hand (because I don’t like to spend the money on it, not necessarily because I’m opposed to it as a food). I used this recipe, and it’s one I’ll keep on hand for the future, but I found it to be a little too oniony for me. I think I’ll halve the amount of onions and garlic next time so the chicken taste can come through more and not be overpowered.

  67. Vickie says:

    I have been making Hawaiian Haystacks for a long time and usually boil the chicken then make chicken gravy from the stock. I’m not big on the condensed soup gravies. To top it off, you really should try a couple of maraschino cherries….hence the name, Chicken Sundaes…Yum!!!

  68. I’ve been trying to get away from processed foods a well. I just bought a can of Campbells cream of chicken soup and realized that it has MSG! What? So, I’m excited to try this and some of your other no-processed food recipes! I already know that I love everything I’ve tried from your site 🙂 Thanks Mel!

  69. chelsea says:

    i can’t wait to try this out! i love the idea that mirien left about using pureed garbanzo beans. as a vegetarian, i’m always having to figure out new twists for old flavors. and since my husband currently doesn’t like hawaiian haystacks, maybe this new sauce will convert him.

  70. saltorfer says:

    My husband and his missionary companions used bugles for the crunch. So, we have bugles and chow mein noodles.

    If you use the crock pot or like to make 2 meals out of one, here is another way to prepare chicken that is awesome:

    Creamy Italian Chicken

    Chicken/Turkey meat
    block of cream cheese cubed
    Cream of Chicken Soup
    1 packet of Good Seasons Dry Italian dressing mix.

    Mix it all together and cook until the sauce boils or throw it in the crockpot for 6 hours on low.

    The day after I make this, I stir in another can of cream of chicken soup and we make Hawaiian haystacks.

  71. kate says:

    actually it does not appear to be brown rice in the photo, at all. Looks yummy though!

    • Mel says:

      Kate – you are right – I updated the photo a while back. The original photo had brown rice in it but when I made it this last time, I used white rice. I’ll have to edit the post!

  72. Kathleen says:

    Serendipity!! All I wanted was the recipe for the chicken sauce for Hawaiian Haystacks (figuring that IF it was just canned soup and chicken, I could make my own, but I wanted to be sure)…and I found your ‘natural’ recipe AND your website! Thank you…I’ve now got meals/goodies (oh, the Sinless Tiramisu!) and ideas for the whole month!
    I’ll be visiting again, but thank you!

    • Mel says:

      Kathleen – I’m so glad you stumbled upon my site! I hope you find a lot of recipes worth trying (saw your comment on the zucchini dish – glad you loved it!).

  73. Renee says:

    Used your recipe for chicken sauce when we had HH earlier this week. It was a hit! Thanks for sharing a recipe that allows us to enjoy not only a good meal, but one that isn’t filled with processed foods.

  74. Nikki says:

    Ditto to everyone else: thank you for sharing this! As I try to cook healthier, my husband and boys grumble incessantly any time I make unfamiliar healthy dishes, so re-inventing their favorites is definitely my best attack. I’ll be looking around your site for more ideas from now on. Thanks!

  75. Melissa says:

    I added a few shakes of worchestershire and a bit of oregano and it was AwEsOMe!! It was better {and healthier} than the traditional canned soup version. Thanks for your inspiration!
    Ps: I’m pretty sure you would love my Oatmeal Cake recipe that’s on my blog!

  76. Marie says:

    Hooray, for no more processed cream soups! I grew up eating this and instead of a creamy roux sauce we ate it with a slurry based sauce made out of chicken broth and corn starch. Thanks for you recipe, excited to try it.

  77. Trina Chase says:


  78. Tasha says:

    I made this the other night and the whole family loved it. My hubby had never had Hawaiian hay stacks before! He had a deprived childhood 🙂 The sauce was so yummy and so simple, definitely adding this to the menu rotation for those busy nights!

  79. Amanda says:

    I tried this in the crockpot on low for half the day and it was great! With it being in the crockpot i felt like i could have cut back on the butter maybe only 1 tablespoon. I love that there is no canned soup and it has way more flavor! Thanks

  80. Jan says:

    Made this sauce instead of the one I usually make and everyone loved it! Hubby kept saying how good it was. Thanks. YUM.

  81. Jamie says:

    I made this tonight and it was so great! I put a little extra onion and garlic in it because we like strong flavors around here and it was awesome. I will always make it this way instead of the cream of chicken soup way. Oh and I also made the cornmeal rolls to go with our dinner and they were so good! I’m excited to have a dozen put away in our freezer for another night too. Thanks for all the awesome recipes. I think I’ve tried at least 25 of yours alone in the last few months. 🙂

  82. Kapalua Girl says:

    I made these Hawaiian Haystacks last weekend and they were a huge hit with my family. Added fresh pineapple and used whole grain white rice (I try to sneak the healthy stuff in there!). The chow mein noodles combined with fresh fruit and veggies gave these haystacks an amazing texture. Thanks again for another great recipe!

  83. Sarah M says:

    Thank you so much! These are my favorite, but since my son cannot have dairy, I stopped making them. With your recipe I just substituted almond milk for the milk and he was able to enjoy them for the first time! He loved them : )

  84. Lindsay says:

    Just tried this recipe tonight. Very good! Although, I do recommend making it more of a clear broth thickened with cornstarch and seasoned with anything you would a chicken noodle soup. Green onion and parsley add nice bit of color. It tastes lighter and healthier. But my husband definitely was a fan of this thicker version.

  85. Emily says:

    I noticed this recipe a couple months back, but when I asked my husband if he likes Hawaiian haystacks he was very emphatic that he DOES NOT like them. Well, I thought about it and decided that based on some other things he likes there was no way he wouldn’t like this recipe. So I made it last night and told him it was just chicken sauce and rice. Yeah, he loved it. I think he said “this is sooo good” at least three times, and he kept commenting on the smell while it was cooking. Score! I think he just doesn’t like the processed version he probably had at the school cafeteria, etc. as a kid. Thank you, thank you!

  86. Tiffany says:

    LOVED this recipe. I will definitely add it to our rotation!

  87. Samantha says:

    I have followed your blog for several years now, and want to say thank you for sharing your amazing recipes. I have made so many of your dishes and every single one has always been a win. These Hawaiian Haystacks were amazing. I literally licked my plate clean. I think you should consider coming up with your own cookbook. Thank you again.

  88. Ryall says:

    I am excited about this. A family favorite that my parents fix every so often on “special occasions” is Captains Chicken found in the Joy of Cooking, it was actually the meal my grandmother fixed the first time my mom brought my dad over to meet the family. This seems like a less intensive alternative, but Captains Chicken will always be a favorite, check it out! My grandmother even had special condiment dishes she used when serving it, that my parents inherited. Ahhhhh traditions, thanks for a new one!

  89. I can’t remember if I’ve commented on this recipe before, but I’ve used it a lot! I just had a “The Legend of Johnny Lingo” movie activity with a bunch of Taiwanese young women and I made Hawaiian Haystacks, following your awesome sauce recipe and they devoured it. It went over really well. It was their first exposure to this good old standby.

  90. Shaundra says:

    Thanks for this recipe! I have about 25 people coming over for a family thing tonight, crazy! Anyway, I read all the posts and didn’t see mention of cool whip. Sounds disgusting? Yes, it does doesn’t it? But I wouldn’t have a chinese sundae without it. It’s a staple for these, as gross as it sounds 🙂

  91. Mama Misty says:

    Thank you for that yummy recipe!! It was a big hit with my family and much better than the broth concoction I came up with myself to replace condensed chicken soup. 😛

  92. Nicole Peck says:

    Made these tonight. I loved these as a kid. They were a hit! I don’t think I added enough S&P and garlic, though, as the sauce itself was a little bland, needed a little more zip. It took a little time but was really easy to throw together!! Great way to use up leftover chicken!!

  93. Melanie…I just had to stop by and tell you how much we loved this sauce! We love Hawaiian Haystacks, partially because everyone in the family will eat them! But, like you I didn’t want to make them with the condensed soups. But, we tried this and loved loved loved it! I have another recipe that calls for cream of chicken soup that I’m gonna try this with too. Thanks for yet another great recipe!

  94. Marci says:

    I know this is really late, but oh my gosh! Thank you for your sauce recipe! We have Hawaiian Haystacks ALL the time, and I always feed them to the missionaries, but I am trying to stay away from cream of anything soups, so this is an awesome idea! I’ll have to try this in a week or two, we just had Haystacks the other day otherwise I’d make it tonight!

  95. Liz says:

    Hi Mel! Just wanted to say that I am making a variation of these tonight with the addition of coconut milk and some curry powder. I’ve never heard of them in my life but I have always loved baked chicken with cream of chicken soup and rice and this sounds kind of similar. I can’t quite rap my mind around how it’s going to taste but it sounds strange enough to be good. 🙂 We will see how my pregnant self responds to it. My husband is not big on mixing fruit and savory stuff so his reaction should be interesting.

  96. […] recipe from step 1. here, substitute cheddar for the parmesan, and pour it over penne.) Wednesday: Hawaiian Haystacks without a can, topped with celery, pineapple, peppers, tomato, olives and mushrooms. Thursday: Catfish grilled […]

  97. Kelli P. says:

    Almost 2 years later and I just found this. I’ve had Hawaiian Haystacks, but I hate the processed gravy. So I’m so happy to stumble upon this! I’ll be making this tonight!!! Thanks!

  98. Angela says:

    Thank you so much for this recipe! It is awesome. I love that I don’t need any of the canned stuff. It makes it healthier and more affordable:) Keep up the good work!!

  99. Amanda says:

    We made this last night and loved it! Thanks for sharing, it’s so much better than the condensed soup!!!

  100. mauka-makai says:

    I am laughing bc I am from Hawai’i (3 generations) and I’m the “other 50% have no idea what I am talking about.”

    Reminds me of Hawaiian Pizza (ham and pineapple) which no one from Hawai’i ever eats.

  101. brandy says:

    I made this for my large family this last weekend. I doubled the recipe, but only added 3 cups of milk b/c I was afraid it would be too runny. The consistency was perfect. The taste however was a little bland. I thought it needed more salt and pepper. Overall it was received very well by everyone. Thanks for a great recipe!

  102. Brooke says:

    I got a variation. I do my Hawaiian haystacks with ground turkey and then instead of a chicken gravy I thicken pineapple juice with corn starch (I like to add some Orange juice to the pineapple juice) so simple and it adds a nice citrus flavor

  103. CURRENTLY says:

    […] We hosted dinner for our small group last week and I made Hawaiian Haystacks from this recipe. I also added a green pepper and pineapple wedges to the toppings. They were delicious and […]

  104. Rita Hartman says:

    I must admit to never commenting on a recipe but just can’t help chiming in. I made a recipe like this called Javan Sundae in the 80’s and 90’s usually when we had company. We used a rice or chow mein noodle base, grated sharp cheddar, chopped celery and green onion, chicken cubes, spicey gravy followed by the “sundae” part consisting of coconut, pineapple and a maraschino cherry. Surprisingly delicious as your dish sounds! Thanks for reminding me of it and making a homemade gravy! I, too, have not used the condenses soups for years now. LOVE YOUR SITE!! THANK YOU!!

  105. Brittany says:

    Hey Mel, I had to let you know, that once again I have shared one of your recipes on my blog, this time it was this recipe. Thanks for sharing! I have seriously been making this for a while now. http://brittsapron.blogspot.com/2012/08/hawaiian-haystacks-w-homemade-chicken.html

  106. Menu Mondays says:

    […] Tuesday: hawaiian haystacks […]

  107. Ashley says:

    Hi…love that this can be substituted for cream of chicken soup in this dish. Out of curiosity, have you tried to use this sauce in other dishes that call for cream of chicken? I love love love casseroles and they’re in just about every casserole recipe I have (we’re in the deep south!).

    Love your blog…look forward to reading it every week when I’m at work.

  108. Mel says:

    Ashley – I use a variation of this creamy sauce in recipes that I want to sub out the cream of chicken soup. Usually I just make a flour roux (like in this recipe) with onions or garlic or whatever other spices might compliment and use chicken broth and/or milk to help thicken it up. I’m working on actually getting the amounts down pat so I can post how to sub it in but for now, I just vary it for each recipe and it usually works great.

  109. Betsy says:

    Hawaiian hay stacks

  110. donna waterson says:

    I bet you haven’t heard these called “Javonese Montains”. Have a printed recipe that goes back 30+ years. I also wanted to make for a group gathering, but just would not consider using canned cream of mushroom soup! I googled “Javonese Mountains” to no avail, but while pinning another recipe from your site stumbled onto your Hawaiian Haystacks.
    Thanks for sharing this new take and I will make a trial run this week.

  111. Jennifer G. says:

    Sometimes to add a bit of depth to the flavor of the gravy I add a dash or two of soy sauce. It gives it a bit more savory flavor. I may try adding some pineapple juice as others suggested. My kids love this standby and it’s fun for company if you don’t know if they are picky. I love meals where everyone can add or leave out what they want.

  112. […] week’s recipe, I tried a new chicken sauce for Hawaiian Haystacks.  I got my recipe from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe, and we loved it!  We love Hawaiian Haystacks because they feel so light and fresh!  I try to […]

  113. Jill says:

    Thank you so much for this! I haven’t made these in years because I didn’t want to make the cream of chicken gravy. This was a fantastic alternative!!

  114. […] hanging with Marquis’s crew. They pulled out a recipe that I have posted on this blog before, this one. Marquis made the sauce and that boy can’t follow a recipe to save his life, but what he did […]

  115. […] without thought, but now I just can’t even touch. I found a great recipe for the real thing here that I can’t wait to try, […]

  116. […] of chicken soup with milk added to it, but this tastes better, we think. Again I found this on a Mel’s Kitchen Cafe Blog I like to read to get great ideas from for delicious food. They were trying to figure out a good […]

  117. Katie P says:

    Hi Mel! If I’m going to use leftover cooked chicken – how many cups should I use? maybe about 1 or 1.5? roasting a chicken (your honey one) this week and will have lots of extra cooked chicken.

  118. Kellie Anderson says:

    I made this last night for dinner and my hubby and I loved it! Thanks for a great, easy recipe. I’m wondering if the sauce would freeze well – what do you think? 🙂

    • Mel says:

      Kellie – I’ve never frozen this but I think it’s probably worth a try (sometimes cream-type sauces get a little grainy after being frozen).

  119. […] Chicken Hawaiian Haystacks -Adding chopped spinach to the sauce. […]

  120. […] Hawaiian haystacks. Most of this was made by my parents and supplemented by my siblings, but here is a recipe you can try. For our part, we brought a watermelon. I love that summer means melon, […]

  121. Neena says:

    I love this. I adore the idea of hawaiian haystacks, but I just can’t do the cream of soup things. I searched all over for a from scratch recipe when I found this and it’s now my go to. It’s been delicious every time.


  122. Lisa Purvis says:


  123. Heidi says:

    I used coconut oil instead of butter and it was to die for!!!!

  124. Bri says:

    Hi Mel, I have now made this several times, and we LOVE it! Such a yummy healthy dinner that the kids love too! We put it over brown rice.

  125. Tanya says:

    So I just have to leave a comment about this recipe…. A couple of years ago I was searching for ideas for this meal because I was in charge of a family reunion dinner for about 40 people. I came across your blog and this recipe, thought it looked great but not practical as we were camping on the beach and I needed super easy, dump it in and be done. Fast forward to now: tonight I made your sauce for dinner and it was delish!! The only thing I added was a dash of curry to the sauce (that’s what I always did when I used C of C soup). We all loved the sauce and I loved making it from scratch instead of the can. And in the intervening years, I’ve used dozens of recipes from your blog, so yummy and amazing! Our family’s favorite is recipe is the outrageous eskimo bars! So anyway, thought I’d share my thanks to you for all your amazing recipes. From another Mom of 5 to you, you’re amazing and appreciated!! 🙂

  126. Nancy says:

    Hawaiian Haystacks!! My most favorite meal! We also add shredded coconut and slivered almonds to your list of yummy toppings. I even like it meatless. Will try your recipe. Sounds very tasty.

  127. Bri says:

    I love this meal! We make it all the time!

  128. Bri says:

    haha, just saw that I already commented on this one.

  129. Jamie says:

    Another grand slam thanks to you 🙂 I had never made this dish before but it was my favorite hot lunch in grade school and my mom used to make it too! I made this version tonight and my husband said that it was the best meal I have made for him ever and we have been married for almost three years! He said I should make it weekly. There is nothing I love more than making people happy with delicious food so thank you, thank you, thank you! P.s. we added salsa and sour cream to the toppings you suggested and it was delicious!

  130. Ronna says:

    I don’t love chicken gravy of any kind, so I bagged it altogether and we top our Hawaiian Haystacks with Coconut milk. It’s a little bit of heaven. Give it a try.

  131. Lyn says:

    Just wanted to say thank you for this recipe! We’ve been using it since 2011 and we are so glad to get away from the cream of chicken soup – tastes so much better! Recently lost my hard copy and had to search again for your post and just so glad its still here! Many thanks for sharing.

  132. Marcie says:

    I thought I would post a comment since this is probably the 15th time I have used this recipe! My family loves it! 🙂

  133. Lorianne says:

    My family has never been a fan of the can soup gravy either. We started putting sweet and sour sauce on top. I think I will give your recipe a try also.

  134. Cathy says:

    Made this tonight for 5 families (including mine) and it was a hit! Multiplied the recipe by 6 and although it took awhile to thicken, it sure did and got rave reviews from my fam! Made it gluten free by using corn starch instead of flour. Thanks for another fab recipe Mel!

  135. Lia says:

    We had this last night for dinner; I used no milk (just more chicken broth) in your awesome recipe. Also used whole grain flour as we have eliminated all the “white stuff” from our pantry, and a pint of home-canned chicken[+ its juices] (which is ridiculously easy with a pressure canner and a good source for fresh chicken). We had it over brown rice and added red pepper, pineapple and sliced, toasted almonds to toppings. Delicious! Thanks so much for contributing a re-do recipe that can now be reinstituted into our recipe rotation.

  136. Lafayette says:

    Mel- I’m wondering what’s the best way to make this for a large group (say, 30 people). It would need to be prepped ahead of time (for a luncheon after a baby blessing). Would a crock pot work? Would I need to change anything?

    • Mel says:

      Lafayette – I think making the sauce on the stovetop according to the recipe (and increasing as necessary) and keeping it warm in the crockpot would work great – just be sure the crockpot doesn’t cook it at too high of heat; just a little warming action.

  137. Kristina says:

    We are gluten free at our house but love Hawaiian Haystacks. I made the sauce with sweet rice flour and it turned out great. I made the sauce and poured it over a few pieces of frozen chicken breasts in a crock pot and let it cook away. It tasted amazing. Today I’m going to make it into a few freezer meals. Thanks for the recipe.

  138. Ann says:

    When I was in school we had Hawaiian Haystacks but I think it was a ground meat sauce!? Served with a churro! I really enjoy the homemade sauce and I like making them!

  139. Jamie says:

    I make my sauce differently every time. I often use leftover cooked frozen turkey. It’s nice to see a recipe with no cream soup. I thought I’d share what toppings my friends and I have come up with. I love making the gravy and rice for a big group and assigning out toppings potluck style!

    The Make-A-Mix Cookbook lists the following as topping ingredients to serve 6:
    8-12 oz of “crunchy” chow mein noodles
    3 med. tomatoes, sliced
    1 cup chopped celery
    1/2 cup chopped green or red bell pepper
    1/2 c. chopped green onions or red onion
    1 (20 oz.) can pineapple tidbits, drained
    1 cup grated cheddar cheese
    1/2 c. slivered almonds or sunflower seeds
    1/2 c. coconut (Cassie prefers it toasted)
    1 (2 oz.) jar pimento drained & diced (opt)
    (in 30 years I have never used pimento)

    My friends and I have also used:
    frozen peas, thawed in warm water
    sliced water chestnuts, chopped
    1 can of beans, drained
    cauliflower broken into small pieces
    raw sliced mushrooms
    grated carrots
    dry crushed Top Ramen noodles
    drained mandarin oranges
    raw or canned bean sprouts

    • Holly W says:

      Love that you posted the recipe from the Make-A-Mix cookbook! My mom always used those toppings too. So now I use the topping ideas from the cookbook and Mel’s sauce recipe. Excellent combination!

  140. Kerry Butler says:

    Has anyone ever tried adding a little lemon-pepper to the sauce? Curious to know.

  141. Brittney says:

    Made this tonight and it was so so delish! Def going on the family menu!

  142. Cassandra says:

    Hi. Love this and so many of your other recipes! Just a logistic request … As I make shopping lists I usually just quickly scroll through ingredient lists. However to really make this dish pop, you need toppings such as those you list in the directions. My request for recipes like this is to make note of those suggested toppings in the ingredients list so I can quickly make my shopping list and am not stuck up the creek when I get set to cook. Many thanks for all your efforts!

  143. Heather says:

    I am in charge of dinner one night for an upcoming reunion, and I am debating how much of the sauce to make. I am feeding 23 people (10 adults, 13 kids). I want enough, but I don’t want a ton leftover, as we drive home the next day. How much would you make? Also, could I make the sauce ahead and freeze it??? Or would that be a bad bad idea?

    • Mel says:

      I haven’t frozen this sauce so I can’t say for sure but you could definitely make it ahead of time and refrigerate (2-3 days ahead of time). For that many people, I’d probably 4X or 5X the sauce. That’s just a guesstimate but should get you pretty close.

  144. susan says:

    make chicken a’ la king — its a great creamy sauce w/o processed soup …. and I would use pineapple, mandarin oranges and coconut and cherry on top along with sliced grewn onions ,peas ,cheese

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