Maui Flying Saucers Recipe

Flying saucers can best be described as the glorious love child of a sloppy Joe and a grilled cheese: tomatoey beef goulash and Kraft Singles squished between two slices of white bread, then grill-pressed over an open fire until melty and toasty.
Cook Real Hawaii_Maui Flying Saucers
Photo by Kevin J. Miyazaki

You can find Toas-Tite sandwich grills, which were invented in the 1940’s, for sale online, but at $30 they’re not exactly cheap. Instead, trim the bread crust into a round and pan-fry the sandwich to achieve roughly the same effect.


Serves: 8
Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 45 minutes


2 tablespoons neutral oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
½ teaspoon kochugaru (Korean Chili Flakes)
1 pound|450 grams ground beef (80/20)
1 cup|120 grams diced yellow onion
1 cup|130 grams diced celery
½ cup|70 grams diced carrots
2 tablespoons tomato paste
half a (10.5-ounce) can condensed cream of mushroom soup
1 tablespoon Lawry’s chili seasoning mix
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
salted butter, at room temperature
16 slices white bread, crusts removed and trimmed into rounds
16 slices American cheese


  1. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and kochugaru and cook until the garlic starts to brown, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add the beef and cook until browned, then stir in the onion, celery, and carrots. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion and carrots soften and smell sweet, 12 to 15 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste. Stir in the mushroom soup and seasoning mix. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for a few minutes until fully incorporated. Season to taste with salt and black pepper. Transfer the meat mixture to a bowl and rinse and dry the skillet.
  2. Preheat the oven to warm, or 200°F.
  3. Heat the skillet over medium heat. Butter one side of each slice of bread. Place 2 slices of bread, butter-side down, in the skillet and top each with 1 slice of cheese. Spoon ¼ cup of the meat mixture onto one piece of bread and top it with the other. Cook, squishing the sandwich down gently but firmly with a spatula, until the bread is well browned on both sides and the cheese is gooey, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Repeat with the remaining sandwiches, keeping the finished ones warm in the oven until ready to serve.

Reprinted with permission from Cook Real Hawai’i by Sheldon Simeon and Garrett Snyder, copyright © 2021. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House.

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