Hawaii’s unique cuisine is inspired by its multi-ethnic residents, and carries into the realm of desserts.
Whether from a well-established restaurant, a hole-in-the-wall bakery, or a food truck, there are many remarkable sweets you can only find on the Hawaiian islands. Here are just a few desserts to try in Hawaii, all of which will definitely make you want to return to the islands for more.
Haupia is a pudding-like traditional Hawaiian dessert made from coconut milk and sugar. Today, it’s used as a filling or topping on all sorts of desserts. Chocolate haupia pie is a classic with layers of each flavor topped with whipped cream—it’s hard to resist any dessert with chocolate and coconut. Locals will always recommend the famous pies from Ted’s Bakery, but you can also find them at other bakeries throughout the islands.
Bring a box of chocolate, haupia, or custard-filled malasadas from Leonard’s Bakery to a get-together and you will be the star. Malasadas, similar to large donut holes, were introduced to Hawaii by Portuguese migrant workers and are typically eaten at Christmas on the island of Madeira. Luckily it’s a year-round treat in Hawaii.
People in Hawaii love mochi, but hardly any variety can beat this fried dish. It comes from the fusion of Hawaiian poi and Japanese mochi that’s then fried, because why not? The crispy outside is balanced out by the sticky interior. At Uncle Lani’s you can choose to drizzle the little purple balls with pineapple, coconut, guava, lilikoʻi, or poi sauce for an extra-delicious snack.
Lilikoʻi bars, Hawaii’s version of lemon bars, lets the fresh local fruit shine. The buttery crust is layered with a sweet and tart lilikoʻi (passion fruit) filling. Try this dessert with a cup of Kona coffee at most local coffeeshops or bakeries, like the award winning Pipeline Bakeshop & Creamery in Kaimuki.
Napoleon’s Bakery in Hawaii’s favorite Zippy’s Diner has some of the best and most affordable guava chiffon cakes around. A full cake goes for less than $20 and is light, fluffy and full of tangy guava flavor.
Everywhere else, chantilly means whipped cream, but not in the Aloha State. Chantilly is actually a decadent creamy topping made with butter, milk, sugar, and eggs, and is used to frost cakes and top Hawaii’s famous coco puffs. Liliha Bakery is still the hotspot for coco puffs and other local desserts, so expect to wait in line to try one. The original version is a delicate pastry filled with chocolate and topped with chantilly, but the other varieties—green tea, chocolate, or cream—are just as ʻono (delicious).