Li hing mui powder is a unique and versatile Hawaiian seasoning made from dried plums. Its sweet, sour and salty flavor profile makes it a popular addition to fruits, drinks, candies and more.
This tart plum powder originally came from China but has become an integral part of Hawaiian cuisine and culture over the past century. Locals sprinkle li hing mui powder on everything from fresh pineapple to shave ice. Tourists take bags of li hing gummies back home as edible Hawaiian souvenirs.
What Is Li Hing Mui Powder?
Li hing mui starts as Chinese pickled plums, which are dried until they resemble raisins. The dried plums are then ground into a fine, red-pink powder.
Hawaiians mix this powdered plum with ingredients like licorice, salt, sugar and food coloring to make the seasoning we know as li hing mui. Li hing translates to “traveling” while mui means “plum” in Cantonese. Together, they refer to the plum’s journey from China to Hawaii.
The powder’s flavor is salty, sweet and sour all at once. The salty taste comes from salt as an ingredient. Sweetness is added via sugar or sweeteners. Sourness comes from the tangy dried plums.
Key Takeaway: Li hing mui powder gets its signature sweet, sour and salty flavor from a blend of pickled plum powder, salt, sugar and other seasonings.
Where to Buy Li Hing Mui Powder
Wondering where to find this addictive Hawaiian plum seasoning? Your options include:
- Hawaiian Markets: In Hawaii, li hing mui powder is sold at local grocery stores, crack seed shops and even ABC stores. Look for popular brands like Enjoy or Yick Lung.
- Asian Markets: Specialty Asian food stores, especially those catering to Filipino or Chinese customers, may carry li hing mui powder.
- Online: Websites like Amazon and snack retailers like Snack Hawaii ship li hing mui powder to the continental US.
- Bring it Back from Hawaii: When visiting the Hawaiian islands, pick up a few bags of li hing mui powder to take home. Try to find resealable bags that are airtight.
If you buy whole li hing mui dried plums instead of the powder, you can easily make your own by pulsing them in a food processor or spice grinder.
How to Use Li Hing Mui Powder
Now that you have this sweet-sour Hawaiian plum seasoning, what do you do with it? Locals sprinkle li hing mui powder on everything from fresh fruit to popcorn.
The powder is boldly flavored, so a light sprinkling goes a long way. Start with just a pinch and add more to taste. Here are some of the most popular ways to use li hing mui powder:
Li hing mui powder is commonly dusted over fresh, moist fruits like:
The sweet-sour powder complements the natural sweetness of ripe fruit. It gives a salty contrast that makes the fresh fruit taste even juicier.
On Shave Ice & Frozen Treats
Locals love to sprinkle li hing powder over shave ice. The icy dessert soaks up the sour plum flavor. Some shops even drizzle li hing mui syrup over shave ice.
You can also use the powder on:
- Snow cones
- Ice cream
- Frozen yogurt
On Candy & Other Sweets
Sweet and tangy li hing mui powder makes candy even more craveable. Popular ways to enjoy li hing candy include:
- Li hing gummies: Toss store-bought gummy bears or other gummies in li hing powder. The sour coating sticks nicely to the soft, sticky candy.
- Li hing sugared snacks: Roll malasadas (Portuguese donuts), beignets or croissant dough in a mix of li hing powder and sugar before frying.
- Li hing crackers/cookies: Lightly brush Chinese almond cookies, graham crackers or shortbread with milk or egg wash. Sprinkle on li hing powder and bake.
- DIY li hing rock candy: Make your own li hing-flavored rock candy by simmering sugar into a syrup with added plum powder. Pour into a pan with candy sticks to harden.
On Popcorn & Snacks
Sweet and salty li hing mui powder makes an addictive popcorn topping. Other creative ways to li hing snacks include:
- Kettle corn or caramel corn
- Tortilla chips
- Rice crackers
Locals mix li hing powder into lemonade, iced tea, margaritas and other beverages. The sour powder cuts through sweetness while adding a pleasant salty edge.
Some drink ideas include:
- Li hing lemonade or limeade
- Li hing mango iced tea
- Li hing margaritas & cocktails
- Bloody Mary rimmed with li hing powder
Because li hing mui powder is so bold, start with just a small amount sprinkled into drinks. You can always add more if needed.
In Cooking & Baking
While less common, some Hawaiian cooks add a pinch of li hing mui powder to recipes like:
- Dips and dressings
- Roasted nuts
When cooking with the strongly flavored powder, use a light hand at first. Overdoing li hing can make food unpleasantly salty.
Popular Brands of Li Hing Powder
If you’re lucky enough to shop for li hing mui powder in Hawaiian grocery stores, you’ll see certain brand names over and over. Popular Hawaiian li hing powder brands include:
- Enjoy - Owned by Asia Trans Company, Enjoy li hing mui powder comes in a bright pink bag with a smiling li hing mui plum character. This bestselling brand uses red food coloring.
- Yick Lung – Founded in 1900, Yick Lung sells classic li hing mui seasoning along with other crack seed and dried fruits. Their powder has a natural tan color without added food dye.
- Jade – Jade is another longstanding Hawaiian crack seed company, known for whole salted plums and li hing powder. Their powder uses beet powder for a reddish hue.
- Shi Li Hing – Shi Li Hing powder has a milder flavor thanks to lower salt content. It's a good choice for newcomers to li hing mui.
- Tutu’s Pantry – This small batch li hing powder contains no aspartame or food dyes. But the flavor still packs a pleasurably sour punch.
No matter which brand you buy, look for a fine, smooth powder without large pieces. Finely ground li hing dissolves beautifully over fruits and drinks.
How Long Does Li Hing Powder Last?
When stored properly, li hing mui powder keeps its flavor for about a year. To maximize freshness:
- Keep unused powder in an airtight container away from light, heat and humidity. A resealable bag works well.
- Check expiry dates and buy the freshest powder possible.
- If the powder remains clumped after stirring, it may be past its prime.
If you notice the color fading or the taste becomes unpleasantly salty, it’s time to replace your li hing mui powder.
What is li hing mui powder?
Li hing mui powder is a sweet, sour, and salty seasoning made from dried salted plums originally from China. In Hawaii, it's incredibly popular to sprinkle on fruits, shave ice, candy, popcorn, and more.
Where does the name come from?
"Li hing" means "traveling plum" while "mui" translates to "plum" in Cantonese. Together they refer to how the pickled plums traveled from China to Hawaii.
What's li hing mui taste like?
The flavor is sweet, tangy, and salty all at once. Some compare it to Tajín or lemon pepper but with more sweetness. The taste comes from the dried plums along with added sugar, salt, licorice, and food coloring.
Where can I buy li hing mui powder?
In Hawaii, local grocery stores sell it. On the mainland, check Asian specialty markets or order online. When visiting Hawaii, bring some home!
What are the most popular brands?
Longtime Hawaiian companies like Enjoy, Yick Lung, Jade, and Shi Li Hing make classic li hing mui powder. Enjoy's bright pink pouches are especially recognizable.
How long does li hing mui last?
Around a year if stored properly in an airtight container away from light, heat and humidity. Check the expiration date on bags to get the freshest powder possible.
With its uniquely sweet, salty and tangy bite, li hing mui powder has earned a following in Hawaii and beyond.
The versatile plum seasoning enhances fresh fruit, icy desserts, spicy snacks and more with its addictive flavor.