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Malasadas in Hawaii

Malasadas are an iconic Hawaii dessert/snack. It's a plush, eggy, yeast doughnut (usually without a hole in the middle), rolled in lots of sugar and served hot. 

What are Malasadas?

Short answer: Hawaii's doughnuts of choice.

Long answer: Malasadas are yeast doughnuts that came to Hawaii via Portugal. Like all foods/recipes that arrive to Hawaii from another country, the food gets "Hawaii-ized." We adapted malasadas into our local culture, and today you can find malasadas everywhere from local bakeries, to restaurants/hotels, and school carnivals...

What are Malasadas made of?

Malasadas are made from yeast, sugar, flour, butter, evaporated milk/milk/half and half, and eggs. Those are the main ingredients but every malasada maker has their own special recipe (which are often kept secret). The malasadas are deep fried and rolled in granulated sugar. The best malasadas are served hot, hot hot from the fryer ^_^

If you haven't had a malasada yet, put that at the top of your Hawaii to-eat list. 

How do Malasadas taste different from regular doughnuts?

Malasada dough calls for lots of eggs. It's like a rich brioche dough. 

How to pronounce "Malasada"

It's "mah-lah-sah-dah."

Where to get Malasadas?

This is my favorite part. People don't really make malasadas at home (it's big commitment to make the dough and break out the deep fryer!) But we love to buy malasadas. Here's where I go:

Leonard's Bakery (Oahu)

Leonard's is the most famous place for malasadas in Hawaii. If you're only going to eat malasadas from one place, visit Leonard's. Their malasadas are fried to order, so you're guaranteed a hot one.

I like the classic/plain malasada the best, but they have multiple sugar options (like cinnamon-sugar and li hing mui-sugar).

You can also get the malasadas STUFFED. They pipe the pudding-like fillings into the malasadas, all big and fat and good. Stuffed flavors include: custard, dobash/chocolate haupia/coconut, macadamia nut, and guava.

Leonard's also does a monthly stuffed flavor (like watermelon!) The stuffed ones are super fun, but get the classic/plain for your first visit. Or order one of everything single one (that's what I do when friends visit). There are a few benches outside so you can devour them on the spot. It's important that you eat it hot.

P.S. Full post on Leonard's Bakery HERE.

Pipeline Bakeshop and Creamery (Oahu)

Pipeline Bakeshop is a newer arrival, just a few years old. Their malasadas are fluffy and...

...more bread-like than Leonard's (which I consider a classic example of a malasada).

You can have these malasadas rolled in plain sugar, cinnamon-sugar, coffee-sugar, or li hing mui-sugar. These are made to order (as all malasadas should be).

P.S. Pipeline also makes malasada bread pudding (pictured) and malasada ice cream!

Punahou Carnival (Oahu)

You can only get these malasadas the first February weekend at the annual Punahou School Carnival. If I had to pick one favorite malasada in Hawaii, Punahou Carnival malasadas would be it. It's the most eggy malasada in Hawaii. Pictured above are volunteers working the malasada booth at carnival. It's a real production!

FYI - Punahou spells malasadas with two "s," so it's malassadas.

They poke a small hole in the middle of the malasada to make the deep frying more even. It's fried dark, so you get a real nice contrast between the crisp, sugared shell and the soft, plush inside. There's also a bit of nutmeg added into the sugar mix...I think the nutmeg supposed to be a "secret," but if you know, you know ^_^

P.S. Complete Punahou Carnival post HERE.

Iolani Fair (Oahu)

Like Punahou Carnival, Iolani School's Fair only takes place one weekend a year, plan visits accordingly.

Kamehameha Bakery (Oahu)

People come here for the poi malasadas! Kamehameha also makes other malasada flavors (like strawberry and orange), but poi is the one you want.

Tex Drive-In (Big Island)

These malasadas are square shape! They are giant, plush pillows.

Tex's fries them light golden. They have a ton of filling options, but I like plain the best. 

Malasadas at Hotels and Restaurants

Malasadas are a very casual food item, but you can also find them fancied up at hotels and restaurants around the islands. Look out for them at The Kahala Hotel & Resort (where they are called "Kahalasadas"). Pictured above are the li hing mui Kahalasadas. 

The Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa, also makes malasadas.

The Pig & the Lady has malasadas on the dessert menu (flavors change, and they're always delicious).

What if I want to make Malasadas at home?

So, funny thing. When you move from Hawaii to any big city like NYC, SF, LA, etc. there is always a "Hawaii Club." Sometimes it's an official club (our high school has Punahou Alumni Associations in different cities), other times it's an informal group of Hawaii people who just want to meet other people from Hawaii. These clubs/associations often host gatherings which center around making and eating local food. It's only at these events where I see people attempt to make malasadas at home/on a small scale. 

If you want to give it a try, check out these malasada recipes:

Go enjoy! Eat them hot! Malasadas hot or bust ^_^

Mahalo for Reading!


Thursday 4th of February 2021

Aww, I was so excited that I was here at the right time for Punahou Carnival, but I didn't learn about it soon enough, their sales window is over now. Is Leonard's bakery considered the best malasada in Oahu? We had all 9 flavors of them, that's how much we like it, although I have to say day old malasada is meh

Kathy Chan

Saturday 8th of June 2019

Hi Kat! Ooo I love the snow puffies but haven't tried their malasadas yet!! Thanks for the tip, will go check it out ^_^


Wednesday 5th of June 2019

love the malasadas at paalaakai bakery in haleiwa...they make good snow puffies too.