Hawaii's Kiawe Wood

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Fire Starter
Original poster
Mar 20, 2007
Honolulu, Hawaii
Kiawe is the name used in Hawaii for what is known as Mesquite or Algarobba on the mainland, and is the choice for smoking meats and roasting Kalua Pig in the islands, mainly because it grows wild (it's classified as an invasive species) and abundant.

Kiawe is often found growing along our islands' mountainsides, hillside plains and near beaches. If you ever visit a beach out on Oahu's countrysides, Maui or the Big Island, chances are those trees surrounding the area are Kiawe.

Here's how a large branch looks, and also a few chunks that's been dried out for a long time...


As you can see in those chunks to the left, the larger, more mature Kiawe branches are extremely DENSE, making them very difficult to cut.. even with a chain saw. It's like cutting through metal.

And here's a sample of 3 woods in one grouping..


The wet chips on the bottom are store-bought mesquite, the reddish-brown v-shaped branch above that is Guava wood (branch), and the grayish colored ones above that are small Kiawe branches - some for kindling, some for smoking.

Guava and Lychee (the fruits) wood is also used in by some folks in Hawaii, but it's not as common as Kiawe. Kiawe (mesquite) is by far the hottest and longest burning of them all.

Fortunately my cousin owns a ranch in Waimanalo, where he has Kiawe Trees growing all over, so I'm in good supply of smoking wood whenever I need it. I have enough Kiawe stockpiled at home to last for the next few years, perhaps.

The name Kiawe immediately brings to mind something smoke-flavored. So much that we now have a restaurant named Kiawe Grill (genious!). The food has a Korean flare, plus they serve exotic burgers such as Buffalo, Ostrich and Kobe Beef.

Here's a burger from Kiawe Grill...

Well, the picture may look like any other burger, but the TASTE certainly has that smokey, flame-broiled flavor from the Kiawe wood-burning grill.

So next time you visit the islands, keep a lookout for those Kiawe trees and think about all the wonderful things (like fresh-caught fish) you could be smoking while you're on a Hawaiian vacation!


Thank you for the great post! I have found all of your posts most informative and interesting!

Thank you for taking us "to school" on Hawaiin cuisine. Looking forward to more!

Anyone know where to get kiawe and guava wood chips at a decent price? I found one site, but they are very expensive.
Anyone know where to get kiawe and guava wood chips at a decent price? I found one site, but they are very expensive.

I just got some Kiawe and Guava chips at walmart here on Kauai but the company name is Kiawehi and they have a website.
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