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Manju, Hawaii-Style!

Manju is a Japanese pastry traditionally filled with sweet azuki beans. Hawaii has a specific style of manju, baked and flaky, with fillings like sweet potato, coconut, and even apples.

Sweet potato manju from Home Maid Bakery (Maui)

Meet Hawaii-style manju!

Sweet potato manju from Home Maid Bakery (Maui)

What Is Manju?

There are two commonly accepted origin stories for manju:

  1. Manju came to Japan via China's mantou / steamed buns. This makes sense because the Japanese translation of the word "mantou" is "manju."
  2. Manju is a Japanese pastry that was derived from mochi. Also makes sense because manju is very similar to mochi (which we do very well in Hawaii). The main difference is that mochi is made with rice flour and manju is made with wheat flour. Instead of being chewy and mochi-esque, manju is more cake-like.

Manju are small, three-bite size pastries. The filling (which ranges from mashed, sweet azuki/red or lima/white beans to sweet potato*, apples, and even peanut butter) is wrapped with a wheat pastry dough. It's then baked or steamed.

In Hawaii, some places sell them by the individual piece, while others sell them as small box sets of 3-5 pieces.

*Sweet potato filled manju are also called Imo Manju or Okinawan Manju.

Sweet potato manju from Pipeline Bakeshop & Creamery (Oahu)

Manju: Hawaii-Style versus Japanese 

Manju came to Hawaii via Japan, and like everything that comes to Hawaii, it eventually got "Hawaii-ized." We adapted manju to fit the local tastebuds in Hawaii...and so Hawaii-style manju was born!

Japanese mostly steam the manju. Hawaii mostly bakes the manju (though Nisshodo on Oahu is the one place that makes a steamed version). 

Very simplified comparison: Japanese manju is steamed and tender. Hawaii manju is baked and flaky.

Types of Manju

Azuki bean manju from Sam Sato's (Maui)

General Hawaii-Style Manju

So now you know Hawaii-style manju = baked and flaky. But did you know within that category, there is a smaller category called Maui-style manju?

Sweet potato manju from Home Maid Bakery (Maui)

Maui-Style Manju / Crispy Manju

Yes, this is island specific! Maui is the most famous island for manju. They are wonderful! Flakier, golden, and richer than the rest. People call it "Crispy Manju" because it tastes like it was fried (even though it's baked) or made from a super buttery pie crust dough.

The best place to try Maui-Style / Crispy Manju is at Home Maid Bakery. More below on where to find these gems...

Where To Get Manju In Hawaii

You can find manju on all the Hawaiian islands. Here are a few spots I love:

Sweet potato manju from Home Maid Bakery (Maui)

Home Maid Bakery (Maui)

Home Maid Bakery (aka home of the "crispy manju") is the single most famous place in Hawaii for manju. People will not argue if you declare them the best. The make the lightest, flakiest manju around! They come in many different flavors:

  • Imo / Sweet Potato Manju (the most popular and my personal favorite)
  • Sweet azuki beans (traditional filling)
  • Apple (this one is also very good!)
  • Coconut Manju
  • Peach Manju
  • Pineapple Manju
  • Peanut Butter Manju
  • Chocolate Manju

If you can't get to Maui, you can find Home Maid Bakery's manju at two (that I know of) stores on Oahu. They ship weekly to:

  • Don Quijote
  • Manoa location of Longs Drugs

FYI, I like to warm the manju in the toaster oven for a few minutes. A hot manju is heavenly!

Lima bean manju from Sam Sato's (Maui)

Sam Sato's (Maui)

Sam Sato's is famous for two things: dry mein and manju! They make two kind of manju:

  • White Manju (filled with lima beans)
  • Black Manju (filled with azuki beans)

White Manju is more popular but it's fun to try both to compare. Details in this post

Sweet potato manju from Pipeline Bakeshop & Creamery (Oahu)

Pipeline Bakeshop & Creamery (Oahu)

The sweet potato manju here is very good but I've only spotted them twice on random occasions. Be sure to call ahead if you're going to Pipeline specifically for this. Also, make sure to get malasadas and pumpkin crunch when you're there!

Kuri Manju from Nisshodo Candy Store / Mochiya (Oahu)

Nisshodo Candy Store / Mochiya (Oahu)

Nisshodo makes baked and steamed manju.

The steamed one is called:

  • Yabure Manju (round shape, filled with coarse azuki bean paste called tsubu-an).

The baked ones (three different types) are:

  • Kuri Manju (oblong shape, filled with white lima bean paste called shiro-an) - pictured above.
  • Yaki Manju (round shape, filled with smooth azuki bean paste called koshi-an) - the baked dough on this type of manju has a texture similar to castella cake.
  • Nashi Manju (round shape, filled with white lima bean paste called shiro-an).

More details about what to get at Nisshodo in this post. Enjoy ^_^

Mahalo for Reading!

Lynn Rarick

Wednesday 19th of October 2022

Larry’s Bakery in Aiea made Okinawan Sweet Potato Manju in the 1980’s that I fell in love with. Tried to get them to ship it in the 1990’s but no go. I finally found a recipe my family loves. I guess it’s an IMO Hawaiian Manju. Flakey crust with sweetened Purple Sweet potatoes inside. Loving my Hawaii here in Michigan (where my Pluneria tree blooms in my house)!


Tuesday 29th of October 2019

Omg I looove manju. I heard they are a bit labor intensive to make because you have to cook the azuki beans til they're dry. My Japanese assistant used to bake them for me. That was decades ago and they're really hard to find here.

PS: You're blog keeps getting better and better. The Hawaiian Chamber of Commerce or Tourist Board should sponsor you.

Kathy Chan

Tuesday 29th of October 2019

Hi Jeanne,

Wow that is ambitious (and you are lucky!). I've never tried making manju before...what a treat.

Thank you SO MUCH for the kind words, it means so much to me. It would be a dream to work with Hawaii commerce or tourism. You made my week ^_^

- Kathy