A somewhat underrated cuisine on the global scale, Hawaiian food has some of the tastiest flavor combinations and freshest ingredients on the planet.
Placing wholesome ingredients, and an inviting atmosphere above all else, the quality of Hawaiian cuisine really shines through, representing the kindness and hospitality of the culture.
Some of the best dishes within Hawaiian cuisine are their desserts, and in this list we will be breaking down 18 of the best traditional Hawaiian desserts on the market.
So, without further ado, let’s get started!
It is certainly true that pineapples are the most famous fruit associated with Hawaii, thanks in part to the natural abundance of the fruit on the Hawaiian islands.
These pineapple squares are a nod to that rich heritage, and they couldn’t be simpler to make.
Incorporating fresh pineapple (drained), coconut extract, sour cream, milk, and sugar, these seemingly simple ingredients come together in the best way to make a sweet treat that will leave you wanting more.
Another fruit found abundantly on the Hawaiian islands is the guava, and this Hawaiian guava cake is the perfect tribute to one of the fruits that has given them so much.
Incorporating guava concentrate, guava juice, or if possible, fresh guavas, this cake is bursting with cultural pride, culinary heritage, and a fruity flavor that is synonymous with the Pacific islands.
Of course, with the Hawaiian islands being in such proximity to eastern Asia (particularly Japan) there was bound to be some cultural crossover.
This butter mochi is the perfect example, taking a wholesome, comforting Hawaiian feel, and applying it to a traditionally Japanese sweet treat to create something entirely original and unique to the islands.
A traditional Hawaiian dessert, haupia is a classic coconut milk-based dish featuring corn starch, sugar, and water.
Once chilled, they form a delightful, delicious, fudge-like concoction, which can be enjoyed as part of a potluck, get-together, or as a sweet treat at home.
Like most Hawaiian dishes, it is 100% natural, and the process for making this treat has a long history in Hawaiian culture.
This fruit and marshmallow salad is the perfect dessert for any get-together of BBQ, and is very similar in texture to a fruit salad or the British trifle (see also ‘27 Of The Tastiest BBQ Desserts (Plus Easy Recipes)‘).
Fruity, gooey, and indulgent, this is a much loved dish enjoyed by many people across the islands, and features fruit cocktail, pineapple, mandarin oranges, marshmallows, and sour cream, bringing it all together into a refreshing, satisfying mixture that is the perfect sweet treat.
Of course, in hot, tropical climates like Hawaii, it is important to stay cool – even when having dessert.
This is where the frozen Hawaiian pie comes in, and this tasty, indulgent dish is the perfect way to beat the heat and fill your belly in the process.
Featuring fresh mint, maraschino cherries, walnuts, lemon juice, pineapple and condensed milk, this dish is topped off with whipped cream, which has been chilled to the point of being nearly frozen.
This apple and pineapple crumble is a unique take on the classic apple pie or the British apple crumble, using ground cookies or biscuits to create a crumb topping for the fruit.
This is especially popular during the festive season, and is best served warm, with either chilled vanilla ice cream, or a hot custard topping.
8. Pani Popo
Papi popo is a traditional Hawaiian coconut bread, served as a round roll which can be consumed with butter, eaten on its own, or served as part of a wider meal.
With simple ingredients, and a short cooking time, these are a popular sweet treat for all ages.
Sticky, simplistic yet incredibly moreish, these rolls are perfect for snacking on when the sweet tooth hits.
The yam, or sweet potato, is an incredibly important part of Hawaiian cuisine, and as with much of South America, the Caribbean, and the rest of the Pacific Islands, has a long history within the cultures of this region.
This recipe builds on Asian mochi – a marzipan type dessert – and incorporates purple yams, and cake mix to create a gooey, chewy, sweet cake that can be shared with family and friends.
Similar to banana bread, this pineapple coconut bread is a tin based dessert, baked with fresh ingredients and served as part of a larger meal – usually as a dessert or accompaniment to another dish.
Simplistic and delicious, this dish is the perfect comfort food, especially when served warm, or with a fruit/chocolate spread.
11. Banana Nut Bread
This take on the classic Caribbean banana bread perfectly highlights how cultures and traditions can be shared successfully amongst like minded individuals.
A sticky, moreish treat, this banana nut bread incorporates fresh bananas (mashed and left to form sugar), walnuts, and fresh cinnamon, to create a tangy, comforting loaf of sweet bread that can be eaten on its own, with lashings of butter, or as an accompaniment to another dish.
Grilled pineapple has long been associated with Hawaiian cuisine, both as a means of combining savory or spice with sweetness, or to make a hot sweet dessert.
This chooses the latter, taking fresh pineapple, glazing it with rich, delicious brown sugar, and grilling it until golden brown (or until the sugar melts).
This is the perfect side to ice cream and similar desserts, and can be a delicious yet unconventional way to consume fresh pineapple.
These coconut and macadamia nut bars are intrinsically Polynesian, taking natural ingredients and creating a gooey, sweet, and comforting sweet treat.
Featuring butter, fresh coconut, fresh macadamia nuts, sweetened condensed milk, and crushed Graham crackers for texture, this is a moreish dessert – similar to a cereal bar – which can be taken in pack lunches, eaten as a dessert after meals, or as the perfect midnight snack when the sweet tooth strikes.
This traditional Hawaiian ice cream is made with a simple combination of strawberry syrup, condensed milk, heavy whipping cream, and water.
Often served in a mug or sundae dish, this is a popular sweet treat to beat the heat, and can be found everywhere on the islands, where it remains incredibly popular and sought after by locals and tourists alike.
Why not try some yourself?
This intrinsically Hawaiian cake perfectly incorporates the national fruits of the country into one delightful, sticky dish that can be enjoyed in any number of ways.
Topped with fresh pineapple and maraschino cherries, this dessert is the perfect accompaniment to any get-together or celebration, and is a great dessert to serve with family and friends.
This indulgent dessert is essentially the Hawaiian equivalent of fudge, and is a simple, pot baked treat made from taro, raw sugar, and coconut milk.
A root vegetable popular in Hawaiian cuisine, taro roots and leaves can be eaten when cooked properly, but need to be broken down into a pulp during the cooking process.
Once cooked and chilled, the result is a sticky, indulgent snack, which can be paired with almost anything, and which can be refrigerated for 3-4 days if necessary.
This dish is essentially a vanilla cake base, topped with fresh pineapple, coconut cream filling, frozen whipped cream, and macadamia nuts, to create a trifle-like dessert that is popular on all of the islands.
The perfect addition to any family get-together or celebration, this takes everything good about traditional Hawaiian dessert cooking, and combines it into an unforgettably indulgent experience.
18. Liliko’i Bars
Liliko’i (passionfruit) is another naturally occurring fruit on the Hawaiian islands, and one that holds a warm place in the hearts of the locals.
Used to make liliko’i cake or bars, these resemble the classic lemon drizzle cake found in the west, taking the refreshing, subtle flavor of the passionfruit, and combining it with butter, sugar, and vanilla extract to create something as heavenly as the islands themselves.
And there we have it, everything you need to know about some of the best traditional Hawaiian desserts out there.
If there is one thing that really stands out about Hawaiian desserts, it is the abundance of fresh fruit, which has been delicately incorporated into some of the finest dishes around.
And while pineapple might be what Hawaii is famous for (fruit-wise), that is really just the tip of the iceberg.
Why not try some of these for yourself? Something tells me you won’t be disappointed!