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Poi: A Traditional Hawaiian Recipe for Fermented Taro Root

Poi: A Variation of a Traditional Hawaiian Food

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When I started researching traditional first baby foods, I came across poi. This is a traditional food in Hawaii, which is fermented taro root.

Poi as a First Food

Poi is an easily digestible first baby food, due to fermentation. However, the poi recipe I am sharing is not just for babies; it is for everyone to enjoy. I have been eating it on my homemade crackers and it is delicious. Don’t neglect to add plenty of healthy fat to this recipe. It is very satiating this way.

Traditionally, poi is made by baking the taro root underground. It is peeled and the taro is pounded on a wooden board, which makes it stretchy. Pounding it also helps to sour it, aiding in fermentation.

My baby loves this recipe and kicks her feet together in excitement whenever I serve it to her! She especially loves it mixed with meat puree. It is so fun to see how much she enjoys eating new food.

First Foods for Baby

What are some other great first foods? According to the Weston A. Price Foundation, giving your baby a soft boiled pasture raised egg yolk with a pinch of sea salt is a wonderful first food. It is also good to grate some frozen raw grass fed beef liver (frozen for at least 14 days) on top of the soft boiled egg yolk. I tried giving my baby egg yolk and she loved it, but I think she had a slight negative reaction. Therefore, I am waiting a little longer to introduce egg yolks to her.

Other Fermented Foods

The recipe for poi I am sharing is a great one to get started making ferments in your kitchen. However, if you want to keep exploring, try making sauerkraut, raw yogurt, milk kefir, water kefir, and kombucha. I have included video tutorials for most of these ferments and they are all relatively easy to make. When you get in the habit of making them, they are wonderful healthy additions to your diet.

Poi: A Variation of a Traditional Hawaiian Food

Poi: A Traditional Hawaiian Recipe for Fermented Taro Root


  • Approximately 3.85 pounds of taro root or sweet potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 2 tablespoons pasture raised lard - you may also substitute butter or ghee for the fat in this recipe
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sea salt
  • 6 tablespoons of sauerkraut juice or juice from another fermented vegetable or whey
  • Filtered water, breast milk or broth to thin out (obviously use water or broth if you are using it for a family dish!)


  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
  2. Wash taro root or sweet potatoes and poke holes all over them with a fork or knife.
  3. Bake for approximately 2 hours or until soft inside.
  4. Open the taro root and scoop out taro into a large bowl. Discard the skin.
  5. Sprinkle sea salt and sauerkraut juice or whey all over.
  6. Mix well with a spoon.
  7. Cover with a towel and secure with a rubber band.
  8. Leave on the counter to ferment for at least 24 hours.
  9. After 24 hours, melt fat in a saucepan.
  10. Uncover the taro root and scoop into a food processor.
  11. Add melted fat and additional water, broth or breast milk if needed to thin out consistency.
  12. Serve to your baby and or family and enjoy!



Below is a video of how poi is traditionally made. Let me know in the comments what you think!

Poi: A Variation of a Traditional Hawaiian Recipe



  1. Aileen says:

    Hello, I read this and wanted to flag for readers that this is not a recipe for traditional poi, nor is it an “improvement” by adding more ingredients. This is an example of taking a cultural recipe out of its context and is not only inaccurate, but disrespectful. It is cultural appropriation. Poi does not contain breast milk, broth, the addition of “healthy fats,” lard (which wouldve been introduced by European colonizers), butter, ghee (which is South Asian), sauerkraut juice (This should be obvious), etc. It is alreasy a complete food and serves a purpose developed over generations, and it does not need to be mixed with imaginings of a Eurocentric Weston A Price diet. I grew up in Hawai’i and witnessed the deep meaning of kalo and poi among the Native community, for food sovereignty, health and reconnection to land. Do go to Hawai’i and share this recipe with the actual community there – see if they think it’s an accurate representation of “traditional poi.” And as a Filipino and Asian American chef and nutritionist I’ve worked to recover and lift up my own healing cultural food practices. I see many of foods and crops and medicines turned into “wellness trends” and stripped of their meaning. Please rename your recipe something more accurate – the only thing in common with actual poi is taro, and there are hundreds of taro varieties, some of which are not even used for poi. Call this Sauerkraut Butter & Breast Milk Taro Mash. But this is not poi.

    • Sarah says:

      Hi Aileen – thank you for visiting my page. I am not trying to disrespectful at all, so I am surprised to hear you say that along with the other things you have said. While my recipe creation may not be the original poi, it is my own personal spin on it. How many times have you seen chefs or individuals put their own spin on recipes? Are you saying that others do not have the right to put their own spin on recipes unless they are of that cultural descent? If that were the case, we wouldn’t have so many other cuisines and we would not have innovation in the kitchen. I am a mixture of different backgrounds, one of them being Italian. Many people have “culturally appropriated” Italian cuisine, but I am okay with that. We all know in the USA that many of the cuisines we try here are not authentic because restaurant owners don’t believe Americans are interested in the true cuisine. My husband and my in-laws are of Hispanic descent and they never shame me for trying new foods or putting my own spin on recipes – they encourage it. When you point out the different options I offer and their origins, are you trying to make the point that only people of those cultures have the right to use those ingredients? That is really too bad if you think that. I have loved experimenting and trying many different cuisines of the world. Without cultural cuisines coming together, we wouldn’t have chaufa (Chinese & Peruvian), Tex-Mex, Indo-Chinese, Korean-Mexican fusion (one of my favorites!) or so many others. Some of my greatest food memories are when I spent 4 months in China tasting the different regional cuisines. They had a huge variety of dishes everywhere I went and I’m certain that over time that cuisines have come together there from different minorities (China has 55 ethnic minorities). What I am trying to say is a lot of people wouldn’t get to experience the world without cross-cultural cuisines as many of us can’t afford to travel all over.

    • Tussock says:

      Heaven help us… what absolute nonsense – cultural appropriation?? What next… I’ll leave it at that as Sarah has said it all.

    • Dawn Vega says:

      I wish to make heirloom foods and cookies for our Polynesia n group. Seems so many have lost recipes for any number of reasons. I would like any really heirloom recipes. A cookie recipe or two would be amazing. Please. I am in earnest to get truly heirloom recipies.


      Dawn Vegs

  2. Penne says:

    Thanks so much for the recipe, can’t wait to try it, especially with the added fat and/ meat.
    I think what Aileen means is that you have called it “A traditional Hawaiian recipe for fermented taro root” when, as you say the traditional recipe would not use sauerkraut etc. “A twist”/”A sauerkraut-fermented version” would be more accurate, but props for the explanation of point and the infant nutrition info!!!

    • Guy Kelekolio says:

      I’m Hawaiian and if your baby likes its very cool most kids in Hawaii with Hawaiian blood love it why not try something different with a little twist on it it’s food people just eat 😂

      • Sarah says:

        Aww thanks! I would like to try it the way Hawaiians make it someday :). It’s so expensive to travel there, but maybe I’ll get to go in the future.

  3. Kristine says:

    Where do you find taro root? I went to Wholefoods and they didn’t have it. Maybe Asian or Latin Market? Thanks

    • Sarah says:

      I have found it at Asian markets and also at my local Harris Teeter. If you can’t find it anywhere, you can request your local grocery store to carry it.

  4. ‘Apelila says:

    Change your headline! It’s inappropriate to use “Poi or A TRADITIONAL HAWAIIAN FOOD” due to the FACT there is nothing “traditional” about this recipe. DO YOUR HOMEWORK! This is offensive to our culture! Add all you want to this root, but PLEASE do not call it something it’s NOT, TRADITIONAL!?!?!

    I’ll be sharing this “recipe” to other Hawaiian’s IN Hawai’i if it helps the uneducated people get educated who continue to bend our culture. Also, when did the fermenting process take place??? SMH!!!

    1 Star for the amazing kalo root!

    (Mahalo Aileen for your mana’o)

    • Sarah says:

      Hi ‘Apelila – I can understand your point and Aileen’s now. I didn’t realize my title would cause such a problem. If you follow me on social media or read a number of my other posts, you would know that I talk about traditional foods all the time when it relates to eating animal fats, organ meats, eating the entire animal, etc. That was my intention when writing this post and coming up with the title. I realize that my recipe is not the original Hawaiian recipe, but it is traditional in cultures around the world to not waste anything and eat the entire animal, eat the foods around them and ferment their foods and drinks. Nevertheless, I changed the title to Poi: A Variation of a Traditional Hawaiian Food. I first learned of poi from Nourishing Traditions where there is salt and whey used to ferment the taro root. I would love to understand how the poi doesn’t spoil without the use of salt. My understanding of how to make poi in Hawaii is to cook the taro root, then pound or mash it up and maybe use water if needed? As I said, I would love to know how a cooked food will not spoil (at least quickly) without the use of salt? Is there something in the taro root itself that preserves it?

      • Audrey says:

        Thank you so much for your response! I thought of another question: do you think it would be fine to freeze this baby food in cubes like I do my other purées? TIA!

          • Audrey says:

            Thank you so much, you’ve been so helpful. He absolutely loved the fermented purée!
            I keep thinking of more questions… Do you by chance know how long it will keep in the fridge? I’m wondering if it will keep longer than regular purée (about 3 days) since it’s fermented. I’m going to freeze some too but I read somewhere that freezing could potentially kill off some of the good bacteria (not sure if that’s true or not, do you know?) If it is true, then I’d prefer leaving it in the fridge as long as I can and then freezing what’s left, if any! Thank you again for all your help.

          • Sarah says:

            That’s great he loved it! I would only be guessing, but maybe a week? With fermentation, I assume it would last longer? Yes, I think it does kill off at least some of the good bacteria. If you want to be extra cautious, then I would recommend making smaller batches and just refrigerating that.

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