How to Make Poi

Often eaten with just your fingers, poi is described as one- two- or three-finger, depending on its thickness. Below you’ll find an easy-to-follow recipe for “two finger poi.”

Traditionally, Hawaiians cooked the starchy, potato-like taro root for several hours in an imu. It was then pounded on large flat boards called papa ku`i`ai, using heavy stones called pohaku ku`i`ai. The taro was pounded into a smooth, sticky paste known as pa`i`ai (basically poi without added water) and stored in air tight ti leaf bundles. Poi was created by slowly adding water to the pa`i`ai, then mixed and kneaded to the perfect consistency. It is sometimes left to ferment, giving it a unique and slightly sour taste.

Here is a simple recipe for one of my favorite Hawaiian dishes – poi.

Materials & Equipment:

  • vegetable brush
  • 2-quart pot
  • food processor
  • medium-sized silicone or stainless steel mixing bowl

Ingredients:

  • 1 or 2 taro roots
  • water

Directions:

  1. Use a vegetable brush to scrub the taro root under cold, running water. Do not peel.
  2. In a large pot, cover taro with cold water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook until taro can be pierced easily with a fork. Drain and rinse with cold water.
  3. Peel the cooked taro and cut into small pieces. Using 2 cups at a time, put the cooked taro into a food processor bowl.
  4. Add a tablespoon of water and process until smooth. The consistency should be sticky and thick enough to stick to one finger. (Adding more water will produce “three finger poi”.)
  5. Rinse a non-reactive bowl (typically made of silicone or stainless steel) with cold water and transfer the mixture to the bowl. Slowly pour a thin layer of cool water on top of the poi and cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel.
  6. Allow the mixture to sit at a cool room temperature for 2-4 days. (optional, thus allows the poi to ferment and become sour)

4 comments on “How to Make Poi”

  1. Dana says:

    Am I correct to understand that I need to leave poi to sit for several days before eating?

    1. heather says:

      Hi Dana – thanks for your question! While it does help to make the poi “sour”, that step in the process is not necessary. I will revise the recipe to reflect this note.

  2. Dean says:

    Tried making poi.turned out terrible. I left it to ferment for 3 days. Tasted alcoholic had the strong smell of sourdough. Should i leave to ferment for longer for the bacteria to brwak down the alcohol similar to how they make vinegar?

    1. heather says:

      Hi Dean – there could be other factors that lead to your result (temperature, humidity, etc.) It is not necessary to let it ferment so you might try eating the poi fresh rather than allowing it to sour. Fresh poi is absolutely delicious, especially with salty proteins! Please let me know how it turns out!

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