If you’ve discovered the pakalolo, chances are you might have the munchies! Hawaiian desserts have some of the richest and most eclectic flavors your palate can experience. When you’re visiting the island, there are several types of treats that you can sample and recreate in your kitchen. Many of them are easy to make Hawaiian desserts, but some do need a lot of time and attention. Most of these are dishes that you can attempt on the mainland, but some require local ingredients that you can only find on the islands.
So, whether you choose to make ‘em at home or grab them from a truck at the beach, these delicious Hawaiian desserts are so good, you might just miss your flight home.
Haupia is a super ono classic Hawaiian dessert that is versatile and you’re likely to find it in the majority of treats you jam in your mouth. The traditional dessert is often found at luaus and has the consistency of gelatin (although it’s usually referred to as a pudding).
The recipe is simple and it’s a very easy Hawaiian dessert to make at home. Additionally, it is used for everything from filling cream puffs to icing cakes. Traditionally cut into small blocks and served on a Ti leaf, you can’t leave Hawaii without sampling Haupia in some form.
Malasadas are the type of donut that would make Homer Simpson jump for joy. That’s because they have no holes—just sheer sugary goodness all around. Much like the fried dough, you would inhale at a carnival, Malasadas are fried and crispy balls of bread liberally sprinkled with sugar.
Wildly popular in Hawaii, these Portuguese donuts were first brought to the islands in 1878 when Portuguese laborers came from Madeira to work on the plantations. Malasadas can come with many different fillings and there are a ton of shops on the beaches that specialize in the treatment. If you’re feeling lazy, the little balls of bliss are fairly easy to make in your own space.
This is going to be one of those Hawaiian dishes that are particularly hard to reproduce without having access to ingredients on the islands. Kulolo is made with grated Taro root corms and coconut. Even though it is considered a pudding, the Hawaiian dessert has the consistency of fudge and is usually cut into squares the same way.
Kulolo is not as easy as other common Hawaiian desserts to make. The traditional method calls for cooking the Kulolo in an imu (underground oven) for 6 to 8 hours, but you can use your normal oven and a regular mainlander pan (shame on you).
This creamy Hawaiian concoction originates from one family-owned shop in Kahului, Maui (Tasaka Guri-Guri) which has refused to share the recipe for decades. Thanks to the internet, however—and curious recipe crafters—there are many ways to recreate this treat at home.
Fittingly pronounced “goodie-goodie,” Guri-Guri is made with fruit juice, condensed milk, and lime soda. Many people describe the taste as a cross between sherbet and ice cream. Most people, though, simply describe the Hawaiian dessert as YUM!
Another type of delicious Hawaiian dessert is the Japanese rice cake known as Mochi. Although glutinous rice may sound like a nasty addition to your dessert, trust the Hawaiians on this one—it’s absolutely the bomb!
Mochi comes in an endless variety of flavors, like green tea, mango, chocolate, passion fruit, peanut butter, any berry you can think of and any wild flavor people are willing to try. Basically, it’s an adventurous treat that you can usually have any way you want.
Mochi ice cream is another means by which the Hawaiian dessert is served. The Mochi ball is hollowed out and filled with a cool scoop. If you want to make this in your kitchen, try the classic Hawaiian dessert Butter Mochi, easily made with buttercream and coconut.
Do you like lima beans in your dessert? Before you make that face, you have to try Hawaiian Manju. The ono buttery cousin to Mochi is also made with a rice paste, but the texture greatly varies from traditional Mochi. Manju can be made at home, but sometimes they taste better on the beach!
There are two types of Manju in Hawaii: that with the consistency of a sticky bun and the alternative which comes with a flaky pastry crust. The best part of this god-like, heavenly food is the creamy fillings that come in some of the weirdest flavors you have ever heard of (don’t be shy and try the lima bean). If that doesn’t suit your fancy, other flavors include sweet potato, pizza, black bean paste, and of course the staple flavor of coconut.
No this isn’t your typical breakfast cereal—this is so much more, my Hoaloha. Yet another Hawaiian dessert developed in a tiny local kitchen, Oahu’s Liliha Bakery sells up to 7,000 cocoa puffs every day from their one shop. It’s practically sacrilegious to visit the islands and leave without trying one.
Cocoa puffs are a delectable buttery and creamy chocolate-filled pastry. They’re one of the easy-to-make Hawaiian desserts at home—but are always best to sample on the beach. Make the frosting and filling first and refrigerate before baking the pastry. Although it may not taste as good as the Liliha’s (who are in their 67th year), you can still remind yourself of your amazing Hawaiian vacation from the comforts of your kitchen.
Authentic Hawaiian desserts are always best sampled at the beach, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t recreate these tasty treats in your own crib! If you are hesitant to take on a big food project, start off small with a dessert like Haupia—which only has three ingredients. Making these types of Hawaiian plates in your own space will bring you that much closer to the islands and your tasty tropical memories.