There are a lot of things you’ll only be able to find in Hawaii, making it a very popular destination choice for tourists and visitors.
However, some people visit the islands not only to see the amazing culture or rich history – but to try out Hawaii’s specialized McDonald’s menu.
There are several items you will find on the McDonald’s menu in Hawaii that you cannot find anywhere else – but why does McDonald’s do specialized menus and what items are sold in Hawaii that you cannot find in any other part of the world?
If you want to learn more about McDonald’s specialized menus (see also ‘15 Items On The McDonalds 1 Dollar Menu You Have To Try‘) or you’re planning a trip to Hawaii yourself, this is the place to be.
We are going to be doing in depth about McDonald’s specialized menus, what items only appear on the Hawaiian McDonald’s menu and why they are there (see also ‘17 Items Available On The Menu In McDonald’s Japan‘).
So, let’s dive right in!
The History of McDonald’s Special Menus
McDonald’s is now one of the largest fast-food chains in the entire world and has restaurants in dozens of countries, but it first started out in 1948 as a single drive-thru hamburger and milkshake bar in California.
Twenty years later, McDonald’s would open its first restaurant in Hawaii – one year after McDonald’s opened its first international branch in Canada.
However, McDonald’s needed to adapt if it wanted to survive in the international market.
Their restaurants served mostly American food in the form of hamburgers, French fries, apple pies and milkshakes.
Other countries had their own favorite dishes that appealed specifically to their culture and the over reliance on American food made it difficult for McDonald’s to catch and maintain as many patrons as it did in the US.
Even places like Hawaii and Puerto Rico, which are considered US territory, have their own unique culture that extends into their food.
This meant that a McDonald’s meal in these places were seen more like a novelty meal rather than the frequent place to stop in for a fast and convenient meal, which is what McDonald’s wanted.
So, McDonald’s had to adapt to each culture and country one of their restaurants landed into.
To help achieve this, they started making specialized menus and created McDonald’s versions of popular foods found in specific countries.
These menu items would only be served in those specific locations and wouldn’t stretch to other branches unless they were in such high demand.
So, while McDonald’s in such deeply cultured places would open up with menus that contained the ever-so-iconic Big Mac and strawberry milkshake, there would also be specific items to each culture and country.
And it worked!
In the 1990s, a new McDonald’s opened every five hours as the franchise began to expand internationally at an amazing pace.
By selling branded, American favorites like the Filet-o-Fish and Happy Meals alongside these specialized menu items, McDonald’s was able to appeal to all tastes.
This strategy of localization goes beyond the menu too as McDonald’s will even adapt its restaurant decor and marketing strategies to appeal to the needs of each international location.
Overall, McDonald’s has managed to survive international expansion by adapting its policies, strategies, and even menus to each new culture and country they ventured into.
Today, McDonald’s specialized menus are now considered an interesting topic to learn about.
Thanks to the aid of the internet, it’s now a lot easier for people in other countries to see the McDonald’s menus in different locations.
This means that more and more people are becoming aware of these specialized McDonald’s menu items that they have never even heard about before – but are huge favorites in another country!
Some people have even traveled abroad with the specific goal of trying out specialized international McDonald’s menus, but there’s one place a lot of people tend to forget even has a specialized menu – Hawaii.
Hawaii may be a US territory but it has a culture and identity all on its own.
This means that just like with other countries like Japan or Australia, McDonald’s had to adapt its menu in Hawaii in order to appeal to the people who lived there.
This has led to the Hawaiian McDonald’s menu to feature multiple items that you cannot find anywhere else, but a lot of people assume that Hawaii must have the same menu as the mainland because it’s still legally a part of the US.
But, if you were to visit a McDonald’s in Hawaii, you would find at least six items on the menu that you wouldn’t be able to find at home – so what are they?
Let’s find out!
McDonald’s Specialized Hawaiian Menu Items
Here are the specialized menu items you can only find in Hawaiian McDonald’s.
Check them out below to see what is on offer in the Aloha State!
Honorable Mention: The Fried Apple Pie
I bet you’re thinking – hey, wait, McDonald’s already sells apple pie in most of its stores?
Doesn’t that mean it’s not a specialized menu item in Hawaii?
The famous apple pie actually has a turbulent history with McDonald’s.
Up until 1992, it was deep fried and served to customers all across the US and in certain countries abroad but they were removed from all menus due to health concerns.
People weren’t happy with McDonald’s method of deep frying apple pie desserts due to the amount of oils and fats involved.
And so, in late 1992, McDonald’s Fried Apple Pie was permanently removed from the menu.
It was later replaced by the McDonald’s Baked Apple Pie, which was baked instead of fried in order to make it a lot healthier and appealing to customers.
While some approved of McDonald’s trying to adapt its recipes to make its menu healthier in light of climbing obesity rates, some other people were less than impressed.
They found the Baked Apple Pie to be a less satisfying version of the original Fried Apple Pie and called for its return.
One place that shouted a bit louder than the others was the state of Hawaii.
While the mainland replaced fried apple pies with baked ones, Hawaii stuck with the original and today, you can still find the McDonald’s Fried Apple Pie on all of their menus.
The reason why we count the fried apple pie as an honorable mention is because there is one other location outside of Hawaii that also serves the original fried apple pie recipe.
This is the McDonald’s restaurant found in Downey, California, at 10207 Lakewood Boulevard, Florence Avenue.
This particular McDonald’s restaurant is older than a lot of the others and has a lot of leeway when it comes to its menu.
This means that they have decided to keep selling the original fried apple pie recipe while the rest of mainland US does not!
Pineapple is a popular ingredient used in a lot of Hawaiian dishes, plus it’s enjoyed as a light snack or breakfast treat.
This means that from very early on, McDonald’s in Hawaii opted to sell freshly-cut pieces of pineapple (just plain, no special additives) in order to appeal to the locals.
This is why McDonald’s localization strategy was such a success.
Locals weren’t willing to pop into a McDonald’s everyday for lunch, but they might just to get a juicy bit of pineapple as a treat!
The McDonald’s Fried Apple Pie is not the only specialized pie sold in Hawaii.
The other specialized pie on the dessert menu is the McDonald’s Haupia Pie – which is a type of coconut pie with smooth, pudding-like jelly filling.
On the outside, it looks like a typical McDonald’s Fried Apple Pie but once you bite into it, you will be surprised with a smooth white filling that tastes like sweet coconut.
Coconut, again, is a favorite in Hawaii and used in a lot of the culture’s dishes. So, it just makes sense for McDonald’s to make their own version of the state’s favorite pie in order to appeal to the palettes of the locals.
Spam Breakfast Platters
If you weren’t already aware, Hawaii has this strange fascination with Spam.
This is because access to sources of meat on the islands can be unpredictable due to poor weather and the heavy reliance on imports.
So, the people of Hawaii love Spam as it’s basically canned meat that can last for ages and allows them to have access to meat even when there’s a shortage of the fresh stuff.
As a result, Spam also has a solid place on the Hawaiian McDonald’s menu.
This is in the form of breakfast platters which serve Spam fritters alongside eggs and rice to help serve a filling and energizing breakfast first thing in the morning.
Although there are other meat ingredients available for other breakfast platters, such as sausage, the Spam Breakfast Platter remains a faithful constant that is beloved by the locals.
Teriyaki is a type of sauce that originates from Japan, and is beloved around the world for its sweet yet tangy flavor.
As a result, McDonald’s used it as a sauce for their hamburgers in the McTeri Deluxe and the item became a rare special item that would come and go on mainland US McDonald’s menus.
On the Hawaiian McDonald’s menu, however, the McTeri Deluxe has found a permanent home.
While mainland Americans must scramble to get their hands on the McTeri Deluxe whenever it does appear on the menus there, Hawaiians can order this hamburger at any time!
The reason why the McTeri Deluxe remained on Hawaiian menus is probably due to its popularity as teriyaki sauce does not originate from Hawaii – but then it’s also super popular on the mainland too.
The final specialized menu item you can find in Hawaiian McDonald’s is saimin, which is a type of noodle soup.
It shares a lot of similarities to ramen but it’s heavier and comes with pieces of pork, seaweed, egg, and a type of fishcake known as kamaboko.
Although saimin may not be to everyone’s tastes, it’s definitely a unique menu item to try out if you ever visit Hawaii.
So, as you can see, McDonald’s offers a range of different menu items exclusively in Hawaii and these foods are generally ones that are either super popular with the locals there or are somehow linked to the overall culture.
This localization strategy has allowed McDonald’s to find a home in Hawaii – so keep your eyes peeled for any new additions!