Hawaii is well renowned for its breathtaking landscapes, unparalleled beaches, and beautiful sunsets. However, Hawaii is also rich in cultural diversity. This diversity manifests itself in all aspects of Hawaiian life and nowhere is it more evident than in the culinary culture of Hawaii. I am particularly crazy about the dessert culture in the Aloha State. Visitors have the opportunity to try out a wide variety of tasty desserts and sweets in Hawaii.
As a matter of fact, the diversity of desserts in itself is enough to make one want to jet into Hawaii on a regular basis. I have visited Hawaii several times and sampled dozens of desserts; here are eleven of my favorite Hawaiian sweet treats and where to get them.
1. Coco Puffs (Liliha Bakery)
Do not let the modest appearance of this treat fool you. Hidden in the simplicity is a haven of sweetness. Inside this puffed pastry treat is a buttery and very creamy chocolate pudding topped with coconut and vanilla flavored Chantilly cream.
One bite of this delicious treat is bound to lead to addiction. You will need a box or two of these treats to get even half satisfied. It is no wonder Liliha bakery sells more than four thousand of these tasty puffs every single day.
2. Shave Ice
Now, anyone who has visited Hawaii knows it can get scorching; particularly in summer. When you need to cool down after some time at the beach or a day hiking, Hawaiian shave ice is the ideal treat. This frozen treat looks a lot like a snow cone except it is not. Instead, the ice is finely shaved and is often fluffy and soft.
Syrups in a wide range of flavors are then used as toppings for the shaved ice. One of my favorite flavors is a combination of passion fruit, coconut, vanilla, creamy honeydew capped with condensed milk. Shave ice is widely available in Hawaii but my favorite shave ice joints are;
- Matsumoto Shave Ice (one of the most iconic in Hawaii)
- Waiola Bakery and Shave Ice on Kapahulu Avenue
- Shimazu Store
- Uncle Clay’s House of Pure Aloha
- Island Snow Hawaii (where Obama frequents).
3. Malasadas (Leonard’s Bakery)
Portuguese immigrants are responsible for introducing this pastry into Hawaii. Malasadas are simply balls of dough deep fried and dusted with sugar and cinnamon.
Leonard’s Bakery has built a reputation for itself since it was opened in 1952. It serves a Hawaiian version of Malasadas that features tasty custard fillings available in a wide range of flavors such as chocolate or mango (two of my favorite).
If you plan on getting some Malasadas, get them while they are still hot or warm; they are best that way.
4. Desserts at Roy’s Restaurant
Chef Roy Yamaguchi’s eponymous restaurant, Roy’s Restaurant is one of the most popular restaurant chains to emerge from Hawaii, and it is also home to some of the most mouthwatering treats.
Try out the chocolate soufflé with homemade vanilla ice cream, the macadamia nut tart, eggless custard or the pineapple upside down cake; simply delicious.
5. Ono Pops
If you like popsicles, then you definitely ought to try these out. These popsicles owe their allegiance to a blend of two flavors; Mexican paleta and Hawaiian. They are mouthwatering, they are refreshing, they are fruity, and they are to die for.
The best thing about them is that they come in an array of unique flavors including; Guava Chiffon, Guava Tamarind, Pineapple Li Hing and even a blend of cheesecake and starfruit lemongrass. The farmers’ markets and shops all around Hawaii sell these amazing popsicles.
6. Mochi Ice Cream (Bubbie’s Homemade Ice Cream and Desserts)
Mochi is a Japanese rice cake, and mochi ice cream is a Japanese rice cake filled with cold and flavorful ice cream. You will find it in traditional flavors such as strawberry and vanilla, but you will also find it in more Hawaiian flavors such as guava and mango (yum yum). The tropical flavors were particularly delightful. While Bubbie’s is a family-friendly joint, some of its desserts have explicit names.
7. Lilikoi Crème Brulee (Side Street Inn)
Although Side Street looks more like a sleazy establishment than a hub of delightful treats, it is home to what I consider one of the best Crème Brulees in Hawaii. This is a French dessert featuring a custard base and toppings of caramel. At Side Street, they inject it with caramelized passion fruit tart resulting in a highly delectable taste.
8. Tropical Drinks (Duke’s Waikiki)
Although Hawaii has a huge array of sweet desserts, it is also home to some of the best decadent tropical drinks. Fruity enough to make you feel like summer and strong enough to make you feel lighter and happier; these drinks are a must have for anyone who doesn’t mind a taste of tropical kitsch every once in a while. Try out the mai tai or pina colada at Duke’s Waikiki right on Waikiki beach.
9. Hawaiian Inspired Pancakes
When you are in Hawaii, everything is done the Hawaiian way; including the pancakes. These are especially unusual after a night of sipping on some decadent drinks. Try out the pancakes at Bogart’s Café, Cinnamon’s Restaurant or even Boots and Kimo’s.
Here you will find all types of pancakes from those with banana and macadamia nut with a condiment of mac nut sauce to taro pancakes and even guava chiffon flavored pancakes. However, try to wake up early because the lines grow in length pretty quickly.
10. Pies and Pastries from Ted’s Bakery
Located close to Sunset Beach, Ted’s is famous all over Hawaii for its wide selection of uniquely flavored pies, cakes, pastries and even bread. It is the ultimate breakfast spot on the North Shore. Some of the signature items at Ted’s include the chocolate haupia cream pie, the chocolate macadamia nut cream pie, the pineapple macadamia cheesecake and the Lilikoi Cheese pie among others.
11. Madre Chocolate
If you want chocolate, then you ought to make Madre Chocolate a priority when you are on the island. They specialize in gastronome bean to bar chocolates that are made from locally grown beans that abide by fair trade regulations which mean they are produced from sustainable farming practices.
The last time I was there I visited their stand at Haleiwa Farmers’ Market and tried out bars of Pink Peppercorn and Smoked Salt chocolate, hibiscus and even the Triple Cacao chocolate all of which I extremely loved.
I plan on trying out a few more of their flavors the next time I am there more so the Coconut Ginger bar and the Hawaiian Passionfruit chocolate bar.