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If you’ve ever wondered what exactly toast Hawaii is and want to learn more about this sweet and savory open-faced sandwich, you’ve come to the right place. Toast Hawaii is a popular snack or light meal that originated in Germany but has spread in popularity across Europe and beyond.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Toast Hawaii is an open-faced sandwich made of toast, ham, pineapple, and cheese that is broiled or baked until the cheese melts.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about toast Hawaii including its history, ingredients, different varieties, how to make it, and some serving suggestions so you can enjoy this tasty treat yourself.

The History and Origins of Toast Hawaii

Creation in Germany in 1955

Toast Hawaii was first created in Germany in 1955 by a Swiss chef named Clemens Wilmenrod. As the story goes, Wilmenrod was inspired to put a slice of ham and a pineapple ring on toast after returning from a trip to Hawaii.

Pineapples would have seemed quite exotic at the time in Germany, so combining them with a local favorite food – bread and ham – was an innovative way to capture a taste of the tropics.

Introduction to the United States

Word of Toast Hawaii spread beyond Germany over the next decade, and by the mid-1960s it had been introduced to the United States. Its sweet and savory flavors appealed to American tastes, and it gained popularity as a quick and easy meal or snack.

As Hawaiian culture became more mainstream in the US in the 1970s and 80s, Toast Hawaii’s beachy, tropical vibe likely contributed to its growing fanbase as well.

Rising Popularity in Europe and Asia

While Toast Hawaii originated in Germany, it truly became an international sensation across Europe and Asia. Today it is a menu staple at cafes and homes in places like Austria, Sweden, Japan and Australia.

The toast’s versatility enables creative riffs tailored to local cuisines – for example Toast Hawaii with carrot and raisin chutney in India, or with kimchi in Korea. According to Google Trends data, searches for Toast Hawaii have increased over 250% globally in the last 15 years, signaling its growing multi-cultural appeal.

It seems this humble 1950s German toast has found its way into hearts and stomachs all around the world!

Ingredients and Preparation

The Classic Ingredients

The key ingredients that go into an authentic Toast Hawaii are slices of bread, ham, pineapple, and cheese. Here’s a breakdown of the classic ingredients:

  • Bread – Sliced white bread or toast is traditionally used as the base. Hearty slices work well to support the toppings.
  • Ham – Thin slices of cooked ham, preferably a little sweet, provide a savory and salty contrast to the fruit and cheese.
  • Pineapple – Pineapple rings or chunks bring a sweet, fruity tropical flair. Canned pineapple tidbits drained well work perfectly.
  • Cheese – Melty slices of mild yellow cheese act as the glue that brings everything together when melted. Gouda and Emmentaler cheese are classic choices.

Equipment Needed

Putting together a Toast Hawaii is actually very straightforward and requires minimal kitchen tools. Here is the shortlist of what you need:

  • Cutting board and knife – For slicing the bread, cheese, ham if needed, and pineapple into rounds or chunks.
  • Skillet or grill pan – For quick cooking and getting that nice char on the bread slices.
  • Spatula – To gently flip the toasts midway through cooking.
  • Oven mitts or gloves – To keep hands safe when handling the hot pan.

And that’s it! A bonus item that makes the toasts even better is a sandwich press or countertop grill, which presses and sears both sides at once for convenient cooking.

Step-By-Step Cooking Instructions

Cooking up Toast Hawaii is simple with just a few steps for easy assembly. Here is a basic walkthrough:

  1. Preheat a skillet or sandwich grill over medium.
  2. Lay out all prepared ingredients within easy reach – sliced bread, ham, pineapple rings, and sliced cheese.
  3. Lightly toast the bread slices in the hot skillet for 1-2 minutes per side, just until lightly browned.
  4. Assemble by layering the cheese on one piece of toast, topping with some pineapple rings and ham slices, and placing the second toast on top as the cover.
  5. Return the sandwich to the hot pan and lightly press down with a spatula to melt the cheese thoroughly, 1-2 minutes more.
  6. Slice on the diagonal and serve immediately while hot and melty.

The sweet and savory toasted sandwich is quick cooking and simple to make. Part of the appeal is the flexibility – feel free to play around with ingredients like swiss cheese, crispy bacon, or other fruits like mango. Use a panini press to make it even easier.

However you toast it up, Toast Hawaii never fails to satisfy!

Variations and Substitutions

Using Different Breads

The traditional base for Toast Hawaii is white bread, but there are many tasty options for substitutions. Sourdough, brioche, or wheat bread can provide an interesting twist with their richer flavors. Bagels, English muffins, or even waffles make fun foundations for riffing on the classic recipe.

According to a 2022 report, there are over 3,000 varieties of bread available globally. With so many choices, the possibilities are endless for creating unique interpretations of Toast Hawaii!

Trying Different Toppings

The traditional Toast Hawaii features ham, pineapple, tomato and cheese, but the toppings can easily be adjusted based on preference or dietary restrictions. Some tasty substitutions include prosciutto, bacon or smoked salmon for the meat layer.

Grilled peaches, mango, pear or apple work nicely instead of pineapple. Vegetables like roasted red peppers or caramelized onions also pair excellently with the cheese.

There are no rules – get creative with combinations of sweet and savory ingredients! Spices like paprika, Italian seasoning or cumin can also livening up the flavor profile.

Making Vegetarian Toast Hawaii

For vegetarians, the ham can easily be omitted from Toast Hawaii or replaced with plant-based proteins. Grilled eggplant, portobello mushrooms or tempeh make flavorful substitutions. Up the umami factor by brushing vegetables with soy sauce or tamari before grilling.

Cheeses like aged cheddar, fontina or gouda have bold flavors for balancing the sweetness of pineapple and fruit alternatives. Some tasty combo ideas include:

  • Grilled eggplant + pineapple + tomato + mozzarella
  • Tempeh “bacon” + peach + baby spinach + fontina
  • Portobello + mango + red onion + smoked gouda

The vegetarian Toast Hawaii options are limited only by the imagination – feel free to try novel ingredients like beet hummus or avocado!

Serving and Presentation Tips

Garnishes and Accompaniments

Toast Hawaii can be served as an appetizer, side dish, or even a light meal. Garnish with pineapple slices, maraschino cherries, toasted coconut flakes, or colorful fruit like strawberries or kiwi to make the dish more appealing.

Consider serving toast Hawaii with a green salad or tropical fruit salad on the side for a refreshing contrast of flavors and textures.

Some classic accompaniments that pair nicely include:

  • Tropical fruit salsa
  • Coconut rice
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Mango chutney

Dips and Sauces

Dips and sauces can add an extra dimension of flavor. Drizzle the toast slices with sweet and tangy options like:

  • Honey mustard
  • Peanut sauce
  • Sweet chili sauce
  • Guava sauce

For a savory twist, provide a small bowl of warm cheese sauce for dipping. Spicy marinara sauce can also contrast nicely with the sweetness of the Hawaiian toast.

Making Ahead or Freezing

Preparing toast Hawaii ingredients ahead of time streamlines the last-minute assembly. You can prep the ham, pineapple, and cheese components 1-2 days in advance and store them separately in the fridge.

Toast Hawaii also freezes remarkably well. Simply assemble the slices, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in the fridge overnight and then bake directly from frozen at 375°F for 15-20 minutes until hot and bubbly.

For special gatherings, consider making bite-sized toast Hawaii squares ahead of time for easy finger food. Cut the bread, ham, cheese, and pineapple into small squares before assembling and freezing. These petite servings can then be quickly reheated and served hot right from the oven.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is toast Hawaii the same as Swiss cheese on toast?

No, toast Hawaii is different from just having Swiss cheese on toast. Toast Hawaii specifically refers to a dish that contains a slice of toast or bread topped with ham, pineapple, cherry tomatoes, cheese (typically Emmentaler Swiss), and sprinkled with paprika or herbs.

Where does the name come from?

The name “toast Hawaii” comes from the inclusion of pineapple, which is associated with Hawaii. The combination of ham, pineapple, and cheese on toast resembles a Hawaiian pizza without the pizza crust. So the name refers to the Hawaiian-inspired flavors rather than indicating it originated there.

What drink goes well with toast Hawaii?

Some popular drink choices that pair well with toast Hawaii include:

  • Fruit juices like pineapple, orange, or cranberry juice – These complement the sweet and tangy flavors.
  • Herbal teas like chamomile or hibiscus – These cut through the richness.
  • Sparkling wines like Prosecco or Cava – These bubbly options contrast nicely with the cheese and meat.
  • Light beers like pilsners or wheat beers – These let the toast flavors shine through.

In the end, part of the fun is experimenting with different beverage choices to find your perfect match with toast Hawaii!


Toast Hawaii brings together sweet and savory flavors for an open-faced sandwich that is crunchy, gooey, juicy and satisfying. Now that you know all about the history, ingredients, and best cooking practices for toast Hawaii, you can confidently make this snack at home and customize it to your tastes.

With the classic toast, ham, cheese, and pineapple combination or fun new variations, toast Hawaii makes for a quick breakfast, bruschetta-like appetizer, or late night snack. No matter how you top or serve it, this Hawaiian toast is a comforting, craveable treat that you’ll want to make again and again.

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