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Steam Your Thanksgiving Turkey In A Hawaiian Imu

First things first. What is a Thanksgiving Imu?


When it comes to a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, most people throw their turkeys into the oven. A few daredevils deep fry their birds. On Oahu, though, you can put a uniquely Hawaiian twist on your feast by having your turkey steamed underground in an imu.


So what needs to happen to get my turkey in an IMU?


To have your bird or beast cooked in an imu, it must be thawed, seasoned and wrapped in foil with your name on it before being dropped off the day before Thanksgiving. For reservations, specific restrictions and guidelines, check with each imu’s host.


Taste wise? It looks and tastes nothing like the bland stuff that the Pilgrims might or might not have eaten. The flavor could reminds you of a beachside luau: salty, smoky and dripping with juices. The meat is shredded like pulled barbecued pork or chicken. Yum! Sounds like an delicious experience!



Where should I go?


For over 30 years, KEY Project has offered the community a space to cook their Thanksgiving turkey in a traditional Native Hawaiian underground oven – the "ʻimu". They are proud to continue the traditional and cultural practices of this ʻāina and to perpetuate the practice of preparing the ʻimu, lighting the ʻimu, and working together to cook a meal that families have lovingly prepared for this moment. Lucky for us KEY Project is back this year and will be imu-ing hundreds of Thanksgiving turkeys!


What you need to know --


Due to COVID-19 restrictions they will not be allowing community members to place their own items in the imu. The Imu ticket this year includes the turkey! Be sure to select a foil pan in the options at check out or remember to bring your own pan the day of pick up. Pick up will take place on Thanksgiving day 11/25 from 8:30am-9:30am at KEY Project. All proceeds from the cost of the ʻimu ticket goes towards KEY Project’s Randy Kalahiki Scholarship Program and services.


How do I sign up?


Visit their WEBSITE:


How You Can Help KEY Project:

  • Wood Donations: Mango, Kiawe, Guava, Lychee

  • Volunteer: Contact our office at 239-5777 for volunteer dates and hours.

  • Sponsor: Match a portion of the proceeds to benefit KEY project or sponsor a dish for our volunteers.


Other places to consider in Kailua/Kaneohe:


Lanikai Canoe Club is also providing to cook your kalua turkey in an imu! You buy, wrap, and

label your turkey (or other dish) and they do the cooking!


What you need to know --


Drop Off:

Drop off and pick up is in Kāneʻohe, map and wrapping instructions provided. The night before Thanksgiving (Thanksgiving Eve) you drop off your turkey Thanksgiving Eve between 4:00pm and 6:00pm. You don’t even have to leave your car!


Pick Up:

They do all the work, and you come by between 11:00 am and 1:00 pm on Thanksgiving Day to pick up your cooked turkey!


How do I sign up?


Visit their WEBSITE:




Or maybe you're the adventurous DIY and you want to give it a go in your backyard? There's some Youtube tutorials out there ;-)


One last pointer, Kalua turkey is usually best served with short-grain rice to offset its saltiness. Hawaiians pair the main dish with a mild macaroni salad or coleslaw. As the island locals say, it’s “ono”.



Whatever option you choose please share your experince with us!


Gobble! Gobble!


Happy Thanksgiving 2021!





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