If you haven’t eaten Loco Moco for breakfast, you’re missing out. This comforting Hawaiian dish isn’t just a great hangover cure – it’s also an American classic.
Just thinking about Loco Moco sends our food loving brains into an extreme state of hunger.
Born in Hawaii, served in a couple other states and possibly influenced by a range of cuisines (Japanese? Portuguese?), Loco Moco is the epitome of comfort food. It may seem crazy (pun intended) but we never ate the decadent dish until our most recent trip to Las Vegas, a/k/a Hawaii’s ninth island.
We literally ate that Loco Moco dish on our last day at a downtown Las Vegas diner/deli and we were immediately hooked. In fact, when we saw the comforting burger served atop a pile of rice, smothered with beef gravy and topped with a fried egg, we practically had to tie our hands to our chairs to not devour the dish in mere minutes.
Once we returned home, we wondered if we could recreate Loco Moco in our kitchen. We can and we did and now you can too. Figuring out the process can be a little bit tricky. However, once you follow our Loco Moco recipe, you’ll be a Loco Moco pro before you know it.
What Is Loco Moco?
While Loco Moco is essentially a burger dish, it’s not like any other burger dish on the planet.
In this dish, a burger is served on a pile of white rice, bathed in gravy and topped with a fried egg. In Hawaii, where the dish originated, Loco Moco is often served at lunch with macaroni salad on the side. We like to think that this combo was originally designed as fuel for hard working people or for somebody planning to walk the circumference of Oahu. We’ll probably never know for sure though.
Our eyes nearly fell out of our head when that Loco Moco arrived at our table in Las Vegas. It seemed almost too good to be true, not to mention ideal for us. (While Mindi loves ground beef, Daryl loves both ground beef and rice.)
Loco Moco has now become a brunch favorite in our home that we sometimes eat for dinner. It’s a versatile dish that can be made with different types of rice. (Our favorite is Japanese rice). We can add fun ingredients to the gravy. We can also make burgers using different types of meat. The options are practically endless.
For this recipe, we decided to make traditional Loco Moco. However, there’s nothing wrong if you want to throw in your own twist. Doing otherwise would be loco.
Loco Moco Ingredients
This Loco Moco recipe is all about execution, especially as respects the gravy. The rule of quality in, quality out applies here in spades starting with the following Loco Moco ingredients:
You can make substitutions for any of these ingredients but be aware that your finished dish won’t taste or look the same.
For this recipe, we buy ground beef from our butcher and ask him to grind it fresh with a blend of 80/20 percent fat to lean meat. We then portion the freshly ground beef to make two 1/4 pound patties.
The Loco Moco we shared in Vegas was ridiculously large. Our version, while filling, feeds a single diner.
While most Loco Moco recipes call for long grain white or jasmine rice, you can get creative by using just about any type of cooked rice that pleases you. Basmati? Sure. Bomba rice? That would certainly work. Arborio rice? A little strange but why not. As for us, we like to use Japanese rice.
Our Asian market stocks high-quality Japanese short grain sushi rice called koshihikari. It’s an incredible rice with a firm bite and a distinctively nutty flavor. While it’s a little more expensive than short grain rice, this superior ingredient makes a more special brunch or dinner dish.
Although you could easily cook your rice over the stove, we recommend using a rice cooker instead. Doing so practically guarantees perfectly cooked rice and makes for easier cleaning. Other options are to cook rice in a pressure cooker or instant pot.
We use standard all-purpose flour to make a roux that thickens the beef gravy.
While some chefs prefer to create a corn starch slurry, we love the diner-esque quality that a flour based roux provides in this recipe.
We also use salted butter to make our roux.
Make sure you taste the gravy and correct for salt if you choose to use unsalted butter instead.
Beef stock is easy to make and provides the best flavor for Loco Moco gravy. We like prepare beef stock in advance, freeze it in cubes and reheat the a cube or two with a little water.
You can use your favorite beef stock recipe or this recipe if you don’t have a favorite. You can alternatively use a gelatin rich premade stock. However, we advise against using boxed stocks which provide no richness and minimal flavor.
You’ll want to use room temperature or even cold stock to prevent lumps in your gravy.
A tablespoon of soy sauce provides vegetal umami undertones. And who doesn’t like umami undertones? This is obviously a rhetorical question.
A teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce gives the gravy a touch of anchovy-based umami.
You can substitute the Worcestershire sauce with a half teaspoon of fish sauce if you don’t have a bottle of Worcestershire in your home pantry.
Salt and Pepper
We season our burgers generously with salt and pepper and you should do the same.
After you remove the burgers, you should have enough salt from the fond in the pan to season your gravy. Of course, once your gravy is finished, you’ll still want to taste it and correct for salt as necessary.
This Loco Moco recipe calls for two large fresh eggs – one per plate. It’s that simple.
We like to garnish our Loco Moco dishes with chopped scallion greens. This optional ingredient provides a vegetal crunch that completes the dish.
How to Make Loco Moco at Home
Making Loco Moco at home seems crazy (pun intended again) but it can be done. Our Loco Moco recipe is all about execution. The fun part? You’re get to exercise your cooking skills. If you haven’t done this kind of cooking before, you’ll learn to mold, sear and cook burgers. You’ll make a basic roux and, finally, you’ll make gravy.
While you could cook your burgers in a cast iron pan, we recommend using a stainless steel pan. When you use a stainless steel pan, a generous amount of brown bits or fond will form on the bottom of the pan as your burgers cook. This fond helps to flavor, season and supercharge the gravy’s flavor.
If you use a clad aluminum pan, such as All-Clad or Made In, it’s important to not overheat the pan. Since aluminum is an efficient conductor, a medium stove setting will give you enough heat to develop a beautiful crust on the burgers. That’s why we call for medium heat in this recipe. If you use cast iron, you may need to use high heat instead.
It’s important to have all your ingredients ready to cook. That won’t be difficult to do since the recipe’s mise-en-place is simple. Once you get organized, you’ll be ready to start cooking. Let’s go!
Begin by preheating your oven to the warm setting (around 180°f/80°c). Weigh and divide the burger meat into two 4-oz. portions. Mold the separated meat into two loose balls. Since you’re making burgers and not meatloaf, you don’t want to overwork the meat.
Place the molded meat on a baking sheet topped with parchment paper.
Use the palm of your hand to smash the balls down from the center to make patties. Gently round out the edges of each patty to create a uniform round shape.
Using your thumb, make a small impression in the middle of the patty. (This will help keep the burger flat while you cook it.) Once again, you don’t want to overwork the meat.
Season the tops of the patties liberally with salt and pepper and set them aside.
Add the soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce to the beef broth. Whisk in a metal bowl until the mixture is incorporated.
Preheat your pan on a stove on medium heat. Once the pan is hot, add 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil.
After the oil starts smoking, gently place the burger patties on the pan, seasoned sides down. Season the other sides of the burgers liberally with salt and pepper.
Cook the burgers for about 3 to 4 minutes on both sides until the internal temperature of the burgers measure 130°F/54°C. You can alternatively cook your burgers to be well done or rare. It’s your kitchen and you make your own rules.
Remove your cooked burgers from the heat and place them on a plate. Cover them with foil and place them in the warm oven and turn the oven off.
Pour out all of the fat and oil that’s in the pan. There should be a noticeable layer of brown fond in the pan.
Place the pan back on the fire at medium heat. Add the butter and slowly sprinkle in the flour.
Using a whisk, keep stirring the flour and butter to form a roux. Once the butter and flour are incorporated, keep whisking until the mixture turns tan and smells slightly nutty.
Turn the heat down to medium low and slowly add the beef broth mixture.
The mixture will initially be lumpy. Don’t panic. Keep adding the broth slowly and continue stirring until the mixture forms a smooth gravy. (The broth will release the fond from the bottom of the pan.)
Once the gravy is done, turn off the fire and cover the pan to keep the gravy warm.
Place a nonstick pan or well seasoned cast iron skillet over high heat. Pour 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil into the heated pan.
Once the oil is lightly smoking, add the eggs and cook them sunny side up until the edges are slightly brown.
Carefully remove the cooked eggs so you don’t break the yolks and place them on a plate.
You’re now ready to plate the Loco Moco.
Start by by placing one cup of cooked rice on a dinner plate. Remove the cooked burgers from the oven and place one on top of the rice.
Repeat with a second plate for the second burger.
Ladle a generous amount of gravy on top of each burger.
Last, gently place a sunny side egg, without breaking it, on top of each burger. Optionally top the dish with chopped scallion greens and serve.
Loco Moco FAQs
Loco Moco is Hawaiian comfort food. The dish is essentially a hamburger that’s placed on top of rice, smothered with brown gravy and topped with a fried egg.
Although ‘Loco Moco’ literally translates to ‘Crazy Mucus’ from Spanish, it’s probably just a silly name that was designed to be both memorable and fun.
Legend has it that the Loco Moco was invented at a diner in Hilo, Hawaii.
Yes. You can replace the Loco Moco’s hamburger patty with other ground proteins including pork, seafood, turkey or even Spam. However, be aware that the dish will look and taste different from the classic beef version.
You can prepare components like the rice, burgers and gravy in advance. However, you’ll want to fry the eggs right before you plate the Loco Moco.
Loco Moco Recipe
The Loco Moco may be the ultimate breakfast comfort food. This dish, which involves placing a hamburger topped with gravy and a fried egg over rice, provides enough energy to take on the day. It's also super tasty.
- 1/2 pound 80/20 ground beef split into 4 ounce portions
- 2 cups cooked rice
- 1/4 cup all purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 cup beef stock (room temperature or cold)
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 5 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 large eggs
- Salt to taste
- Black pepper to taste
- 1 scallion, green parts only, chopped (optional garnish)
- Preheat your oven to 180°f/80°c.
- Form the ground beef into two loose balls and place them on a sheet tray lined with parchment paper.
- Flatten out the balls with your palm to form hamburger patties. Gently shape the edges to prevent any loose bits.
- Season one side of the patties liberally with salt and black pepper.
- Add the soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce to the beef stock and whisk to combine.
- Heat a frying pan over medium heat. Add 3 tablespoons of the heated oil.
- Once the oil is smoking, gently add the burger patties, seasoned side down, to the pan. Season the top of the patties liberally with salt and black pepper.
- Cook the patties for 3 to 4 minutes on each side until both sides are well browned and the internal temperature of the burgers reaches 130°f/54°c.
- Remove the finished burgers from the pan and place them on a plate. Cover the plate with aluminum foil and place in the oven. Turn the oven off.
- Pour off the oil from the frying pan and place the pan over medium heat. Add the butter and slowly whisk in the flour to create a roux. Keep whisking until the roux turns tan and has a nutty fragrance.
- Turn the heat to low and slowly add the beef stock mixture and keep whisking until the gravy turns smooth with no lumps. When finished, turn off the fire and cover.
- Heat a non-stick or cast iron frying pan over high heat. Once heated, add oil.
- Once oil is lightly smoking, add the two eggs and cook sunny side up until the whites are slightly brown on the edges.
- Plate the Loco Moco by laying down a cup of rice on each plate. Place the burgers on top of the rice and then generously ladle the gravy over the burgers.
- Gently place a fried egg over the top of each burger,. Optionally garnish with chopped scallion greens.
- Most Loco Moco recipes use long grain white rice but you can use any white rice like basmati or short grain Japanese.
- You can cook the rice on the stove or in a rice cooker.
- It's best to use a stainless steel pan to make the burgers and gravy.
- Add cold stock (or room temperature) to the roux to prevent lumps.
- You can substitute 1/2 teaspoon of fish sauce for the Worcestershire sauce or to taste.
- Keep the flour, butter and beef stock quantities the same If you double the recipe. There should be enough gravy for all four plates.
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About the Authors
Daryl & Mindi Hirsch
Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on the 2foodtrippers website and YouTube. The married Food and Travel content creators live in Lisbon, Portugal.
Original Publication Date: May 3, 2023