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Must Eat Desserts In Hawaii

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We love desserts in Hawaii! From mochi to malasadas and shave ice, these are all the best desserts to enjoy while in Hawaii. Make sure to try it all ^_^

Mochi from Nisshodo Mochiya.
Mochi from Nisshodo Candy Store / Mochiya (Oahu).

Mochi

Local mochi is a must eat item when you are in Hawaii! From old school mochi shops to the new and modern styles of mochi, we are crazy about mochi ^_^

Hawaii's style of local mochi is different from traditional Japanese mochi. Hawaii mochi is more casual, softer in texture, and very fun and delicious.

Make sure to check out Nisshodo Candy Store / Mochiya (Oahu) - this is one of my all time favorite mochi shops (get the chichi dango for sure). When you're on the Big Island, visit Two Ladies Kitchen (the fresh strawberry mochi there is wowowoow).

Because we can eat mochi every single day, make sure your mochi list includes Fujiya Hawaii (Oahu) and Happy Hearts Mochi (Oahu, must order in advance). From lychee mochi, to peanut butter-banana mochi to haupia mochi, the world of mochi in Hawaii is magical.

See our full mochi post, including the best spots for mochi in Hawaii.

Tray of Butter Mochi
Butter Mochi from Diamond Head Market & Grill (Oahu).

Butter Mochi

Butter mochi is called mochi, but it doesn't fall under the above mochi category because more like a cross between cake and mochi.

It is it's own thing and it is ONOLICIOUS.

Butter mochi is usually baked in a large pan, cooled and then cut into squares. Some people make it more chewy and mochi-esque. Others make it more cake-y style. Both styles are great.

Butter mochi started getting popular on the mainland a few years ago. But it's from Hawaii and we've been eating this since we were little kids! It's popular at birthday parties, soccer games, potlucks, etc. Everyone loves butter mochi. Most people make it at home, and you can find butter mochi for sale all over Hawaii.

The classic butter mochi flavor is vanilla/coconut, but now we have all sorts of flavors like lilikoi butter mochi and chocolate butter mochi.

See our full butter mochi post, including the best spots for butter mochi in Hawaii.

Three Malasadas from Leonard's Bakery.
Malasadas from Leonard's Bakery.

Malasadas

Malasadas were introduced to Hawaii by the Portuguese over a century ago. We love sweets in Hawaii. We embraced, adopted and made malasadas our own.

They're like doughnuts but even better. They're yeasty and eggy, deep fried and then rolled in sugar and served hot, hot hot. Unlike a doughnut, there is a never a hole in the middle (only exception is the version served at the annual Punahou Carnival).

The most famous malasada shop in Hawaii is Leonard's Bakery (Oahu), but there are many gems that only locals know about.

See our full malasada post, including the best spots for malasadas in Hawaii.

Shave Ice in Hawaii
Shave ice (with mochi, azuki beans, and condensed milk) from Waiola Shave Ice (Oahu).

Shave Ice

Shave Ice is high on every visitor's list to Hawai, and for good reason! It's the ultimate refreshing dessert on sunny days. Shave ice is especially satisfying after a good hike or day at the beach (or day at the computer haha). It always hits the spot.

There are so many different shave ice spots across the islands, how will you know which to visit? First decide if you want one of the "old school" or "modern" shave ice spots. And then look at our guide to narrow down your pick. We suggest visiting both old school" and "modern" to see how shave ice has evolved in Hawaii. A shave ice a day? Yes, please.

See our full shave ice post here, including the best spots for shave ice in Hawaii.

P.S. It's called "shave ice" not "shaved ice" in Hawaii. Only exception is if you're on the Big Island (Hawaii Island), where it is called "ice shave."

Pumpkin Crunch from Pipeline Bakeshop & Creamery (Oahu).

Pumpkin Crunch and Lemon Crunch

Pumpkin Crunch! Lemon Crunch! Mention this dessert to any local and their eyes will light up.

Ok first, pumpkin crunch! Three layers to this dessert. First, a "crunch" base that's like a buttery shortbread with crushed up nuts. Second, the pumpkin filling (like pumpkin pie but tastier). Third, a mountain of whipped cream. Grab a fork and dig in.

We usually get pumpkin crunch from Diamond Head Market & Grill (Oahu) and Pipeline Bakeshop & Creamery (Oahu).

Lemon Crunch is multi-layered cake featuring lemon cake and bright, tangy lemon curd. The whole thing is topped with whipped cream and crushed toffee candy (that's the "crunch" element). It is a wonderful cake.

See our full "crunch cakes" post, including the best spots for pumpkin crunch and lemon crunch in Hawaii.

Sweet Bread

Hooray for sweet bread! Soft, eggy, fluffy. Local sweet bread originated from Portuguese sweet bread.

King's Hawaiian Bakery is the most popular sweet bread brand on the mainland (Sweet bread on the mainland is often marketed as "Hawaiian sweet bread" even though it's definitely not Hawaiian food.) On the mainland, people seem to use it mainly for sandwich bread which is why it's commonly sold as buns or loaves.

But in Hawaii we mostly enjoy sweet bread as snack, breakfast, or dessert. We buy it as a circular loaf (baked in a pie tin) that are cut so that you can pull out individual rounds of sweet bread.

The best part of sweet bread is that soft "skin layer" top...oh man, super ono. As kids we used to peel off the top and eat that first. Eat the sweet bread fresh the first days, and then lightly toast it for the days after.

Our favorite sweet bread is from Ani's Bake Shop (Oahu). You can also find Ani's sweet bread at Costco Hawaii and Longs Drugs.

A plate of original (and green tea) Coco Puff from Liliha Bakery.
Original (and Green Tea) Coco Puffs from Liliha Bakery (Oahu).

Coco Puffs

Coco Puffs are a magical. Imagine a cream puff, but stuffed with a lush chocolate pudding. On top of the cream puff is chantilly. But not just regular chantilly.

Everywhere else in the world, chantilly = whipped cream.
In Hawaii, chantilly = whipped mixture of sugar, butter, and egg yolks.

Hawaii chantilly is golden in color and has the texture of a light frosting. It is amazing and is the crowing touch of the coco puff.

Liliha Bakery invented the coco puff and it's the only place you can buy it. Liliha Bakery has multiple locations across Oahu (including one at Ala Moana Center), but it's most fun to go to their original location in Liliha.

P.S. They also make green tea coco puffs, but the original is the best.

Chiffon Cakes

Chiffon cakes are a thing in Hawaii. Light, fluffy, and just sweet enough. Maybe because we have a big Asian population or maybe because Hawaii's climate favors less heavy and rich desserts, but whatever the reason, we are grateful for it! Because there's no frosting or cream involved with chiffon cakes, we eat it like a snack.

Chiffon cakes appear as standalone cakes that are baked in angel food cake pans. No frosting, no layers, just plain and delicious chiffon! But they can also appear as layers in other cakes (eg. Dobash Cake, Rainbow Cake, Dream Cake). You can find chiffon cakes at many local bakeries. Two reliable/popular spots are Liliha Bakery and Zippy's.

Chiffon cakes come in many flavors including orange, chocolate, coconut, guava, mango, and lilikoi (passion fruit). For some reason, orange seems to be the "main" flavor.

Two cups of Coffee Jelly from La Palme D'or.
Coffee Jelly from La Palme D'or (Oahu).

Coffee Jelly

Yeah coffee jelly! This is a drink and dessert, rolled into one. The coffee jelly occupies the bottom half of the cup. It's topped by a ring of whipped cream. When you place your order, they add ice and milk (you can usually pick the type of milk).

Then stick in your straw and use the straw to "break up" the jelly. The jelly gets mixed into the drink and it is SO delicious. Especially on an extra hot day.

You can find this at different sweet shops and even farmers markets in Hawaii. Our favorite place for coffee jelly is at La Palme D'or located in Ala Moana Center. It's a cake shop that does a bunch of neat drinks. We also enjoy the coffee jelly from Malu.

A whole Coconut Cake from Royal Hawaiian Hotel.
Coconut Cake from Royal Hawaiian Hotel (Oahu).

Haupia and Haupia/Coconut Cakes

Haupia is a Hawaiian dessert. Many people also refer to this as "coconut pudding."

That's sort of correct, but haupia is more like a combination of pudding and jello. It's often firm enough so that you can pick up a piece with your fingers and eat it. Haupia is refreshing and light. You'll find this on the menu at all the great Hawaiian food spots (like Helena's Hawaiian Food and Yama's Fish Market).

Sometimes people make thinner versions (a haupia sauce) that's means to be drizzled over anything from ice cream to grilled banana bread.

Also popular is Haupia Cake or Coconut Cake. You'll find these cakes at bakeries and restaurants throughout Hawaii. We have a post devoted to Haupia Cakes ^_^

See our full haupia post, including the best spots for haupia in Hawaii.

Chocolate Haupia Pie

The chocolate and haupia combination is very popular in Hawaii and this is one of the best ways to experience it.

This pie starts with a classic pie crust. It's filled with a layer of chocolate pudding and then a layer of haupia. Whipped cream all over the top!

The most famous place for Chocolate Haupia Pie is at Ted's Bakery on the North Shore. Ted's makes many different flavors - it's fun to try them all, but definitely make sure to get the chocolate haupia flavor first.

Tip: Ted's pies are so popular that you can also purchase their pies (whole and by the slice) at supermarkets across Hawaii.

Kulolo from Pono Market (they carry kulolo from Kapaa Poi Factory)
Kulolo from Pono Market on Kauai (they carry kulolo from Kapaa Poi Factory).

Kulolo

With the exception of Haupia, all the other desserts mentioned in this post are considered local desserts. Kulolo is a unique and onolicious Hawaiian dessert. Learn about the difference between local food and Hawaiian food in this post.

Kulolo is made from fresh taro, coconut milk , and sugar. The mixture is poured into a pan and steamed until fully cooked.

The texture of the finished dessert is like a blend between mochi and fudge. It is rich and wonderful. Simple and good ingredients resulting in complex flavors.

See our full kulolo post, including the best spots for kulolo in Hawaii (plus a spot for kulolo ice cream!)

A plate of prepared Sardine Pupu, ready to eat!
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Mahalo for Reading!

Brent

Tuesday 13th of April 2021

A couple of other things that I personally have only had in Hawaii - Chinese "pretzels" and sesame peanut candy (the chewy kind). At least the peanut candy and probably also the pretzels, got them at the old Shirokiya as a kid.

Kathy

Wednesday 14th of April 2021

Hi Brent! Ahh those are two good ones! Haven't had those pretzels in ages ^_^ - Kathy

Alan

Saturday 10th of April 2021

Yup, Hawaii desserts are the best!! My late wife loved butter mochi and all the cakes and Hawaiian style pies. My current wife loves shaved ice and mochi ice cream. She also loves chantilly cake and just learned to make it!! Last week she made a big freaking pan and we had to eat cake for a week every night for dessert. Both of them love Leonard's malasadas. Me, I am not generally a dessert person but I like it all, especially guava or lilikoi chiffon cakes and pies!

Kathy

Sunday 11th of April 2021

Hi Alan! Super impressive your wife can make chantilly cake! I just eat a lot of it hahah. That should definitely be added to the list, thanks for mentioning it :) All the desserts in Hawaii are just super ono! - Kathy