Are you looking for the best desserts in Hawaii? This guide from a Hawaii local has all of the best tasty treats that the islands have to offer.
Hawaii is filled with delicious desserts from shave ice to haupia to malasadas. And they’re all fantastic! You’ll likely notice that these treats are not solely Hawaiian. Rather, they have a range of culinary influences, including Japan, China, and the Philippines. That said, all of these desserts have become staples of a sort in Hawaii, making them part of the island chain’s food culture.
18 Best Desserts in Hawaii That You Need to Try
Shave ice is one of those things you have to try in Hawaii. As a matter of fact, it’s made it onto our Hawaii food bucket list.
The first tip for getting the best shave ice is to make sure the place says “shave ice” and not “shaved ice.” If it’s called “shaved ice,” it’s likely not authentic and it won’t taste right.
Now you might be asking, what makes one shave ice better than another? Two things: the flavors and the ice texture. Many shave ice places use super sugary artificial flavors, and those aren’t the greatest. Instead, look for ones that use flavors made from real fruits! And as for the ice texture, you don’t want the ice to be rough and sharp. Instead, you want it to be nice and smooth.
Instead of going out and trying to find the best shave ice place in Hawaii, I’ll make your search a little easier. Ululani’s Hawaiian Shave Ice is my favorite shave ice place in the islands by far. With locations on both Maui and the Big Island, be sure to stop by a time or two if you get the chance.
Originally from Japan, mochi is a sticky, lightly sweetened dessert made of rice flour. Traditionally, you pound the rice flour mixture to get mochi to the ideal chewy consistency. There’s nothing quite like this dessert.
There are quite a few variations of mochi, but that can get complicated. So instead we’ll keep it simple.
If you’re looking for mochi with a Hawaiian-style twist, Two Ladies Kitchen in Hilo is definitely the place to go. It’s arguably the best place to get mochi in the Hawaiian Islands. If you’re looking for a more traditional version of mochi, check out the Nisshodo Candy Store on Oahu.
Many families in Hawaii like to make their own mochi at home! But rather than fruity flavors, homemade mochi is usually flavored with peanut powder.
Mochi Ice Cream
As the name implies, mochi ice cream is mochi with ice cream in the middle. Basically, you get two desserts in one.
For as long as I can remember, Bubbies was the place to get mochi ice cream in Hawaii. We would stop by the brick and mortar storefront in Hawaii Kai (or before that, in Aiea) and select all of our favorite flavors.
Today, Bubbies has expanded its business big time. You can now find these delicious treats in grocery stores all across the country. While you can easily find a three-flavor pack at Costco now, you don’t get to select your flavors. To do that, head to any Whole Foods in Hawaii. They’ll have a section where you can select your favorite Bubbies flavors for your own personalized container of treats.
Unlike mochi and mochi ice cream, butter mochi tastes very different. Rather than a very sticky, lightly sweet dessert, butter mochi is more like a slightly sticky, almost cake-like treat.
The best butter mochi is always homemade. The ones that you find in stores and at bakeries just aren’t the same and may even scare you off from trying the good butter mochi. But if you don’t know someone with a solid butter mochi recipe, that makes finding this Hawaii dessert quite a bit harder.
So far, the only place I’ve found that sells great butter mochi is Kahuku Farms – and they sell lilikoi (passion fruit) butter mochi, so that’s a fun added twist. Do know that they only sell the lilikoi butter mochi on certain days, and they often sell out, so you really have like a 50/50 chance of being able to buy the butter mochi during your visit.
Malasadas are definitely one of my favorite desserts in Hawaii. I actually spent one summer in search of the best malasada on Oahu and narrowed it down to two places: Leonard’s Bakery and Pipeline Bakeshop and Creamery.
Now, there are going to be some Hawaii locals reading this thinking, “What? Leonard’s has always been the best place to get malasadas on Oahu.” And, yes, historically Leonard’s has been the best. But Pipeline Bakeshop and Creamery is a relative newcomer that doesn’t get the attention that it deserves. Don’t get me wrong, they’re both delicious, but you might just have to try both to decide which is the best place to get malasadas on Oahu.
Haupia is one of the few desserts on this list that actually has Hawaiian roots. This creamy coconut dessert has actually been enjoyed by Native Hawaiians for centuries.
It’s actually quite difficult to find good haupia. But one of the most popular places to get a variation of haupia is at Ted’s Bakery on the North Shore of Oahu. This little bakery’s most popular dish is chocolate haupia pie!
Kulolo is another one of the traditional Hawaiian desserts. Made from taro root, kulolo is definitely an interesting dessert. It’s quite sticky and just a little sweet. There are a few variations of kulolo, but I recommend trying the original version before branching out.
One of the best places to get kulolo is from the Waiahole Poi Factory on Oahu.
Poi Mochi Donuts from Liliha Bakery
Now, at this point you might be thinking, there are four variations of mochi on this list of the best desserts in Hawaii? Yes, yes, there are. And they are all worth a try.
And this dessert doesn’t just have mochi in it. It also has poi. Poi is a thick, liquid purple substance made from pounded taro root. In liquid form, it’s a pretty acquired taste. But there are variations of poi, including poi bread rolls (which basically taste like regular bread rolls, but they have a beautiful purple color) and these poi mochi donuts from Liliha Bakery.
There’s really no other dessert quite like the poi mochi donuts from Liliha Bakery, thanks to the treat’s fusion of so many different cultures. You should definitely give it a try.
*Bonus: Liliha Bakery is also known for its coco puffs, so you can get a few of those while you’re there too.
There’s kind of an obsession with pumpkin crunch in Hawaii. There are three layers to this delectable dessert. First, there’s the crunchy crust. Then, there’s the fluffy pumpkin filling. And lastly, there’s a huge layer of whipped cream with a bit of extra crunchy on top.
If you think it sounds like a pumpkin pie, you’re not far off. There are a few differences though. The filling is fluffier and the topping is crunchier. Simply put, if you like pumpkin pie, this dessert from Hawaii is definitely worth a try.
As for where to get it, Pipeline Bakeshop & Creamery won’t disappoint.
Sherbet from Asato Family Shop
The sherbet from Asato Family Shop has been all the rage lately. Their products always sell out within a matter of minutes, so if you actually get your hands on this tasty treat, it’s quite a feat.
The most effective way to get this in-demand sherbet is by preordering it on the Asato Family Shop website. While there, you can get a pack of six pre-determined sherbet flavors – and there’s a good chance that you’ll get their three most popular flavors: pineapple, strawberry, and green river.
If you don’t preorder, you’ll have to go to the shop. And you might be thinking, why do I have to preorder then? Because people literally sit outside with beach chairs and umbrellas waiting for the Asato Family Shop to open on Sundays at 10 a.m. That’s how in demand this sherbet is.
And if you really want to get involved with the Asato Family Shop, you can even submit your own fun sherbet flavor! If your flavor is chosen, you’ll get ten free pints of your flavor!
I was hesitant to put sweet bread on this list, because it’s not really a dessert. I eat Hawaiian sweet bread for breakfast or as a snack. That said, it’s sweet enough that it could be considered a dessert if you don’t have a huge sweet tooth.
On the mainland (a.k.a. the continental U.S.), King’s Hawaiian sweet bread is the one that most commonly makes an appearance. But my favorite sweet bread, by far, is the one from Punaluu Bake Shop on the Big Island. As a matter of fact, it’s so good that I listed a visit to Punaluu Bake Shop as one of the best things to do in Hilo.
Lilikoi Chiffon Pie from Hamura Saimin
Hamura Saimin on Kauai is known for two things: saimin and lilikoi chiffon pie. Since this list is all about the best desserts in Hawaii, we’ll be writing about the lilikoi chiffon pie, but the saimin is nothing to scoff at.
Within a thin pie crust, there is a light, airy lilikoi chiffon filling. And this bright orange filling is topped with fluffy whipped cream. It’s one of the lightest, tastiest desserts out there.
Dole Whip from the Dole Plantation
There are quite a few places – both in Hawaii and around the world – where you can get a Dole whip. But the best tasting Dole whip by far is found at the Dole Plantation.
The Dole Plantation serves up several varieties of the Dole whip, but my favorite is the Dole whip with chunks of pineapple around the edges. Sometimes I even add the sweet, spicy, and sour li hing mui powder as a topping too!
As an added bonus, Dole whips also happen to be a vegan-friendly treat!
Cascaron is a Filipino dessert. Made with mochiko flour and coconut milk, it’s sort of like coconut-flavored fried mochi balls. And as with most fried desserts, the best cascaron is always fresh.
Like cascaron, gau is almost like a play on mochi. (I guess there are really six mochi-like desserts on this list). But rather than being of Japanese origin, gau is from China. As a matter of fact, it’s a very popular treat to eat on Chinese New Year! And with just a handul of ingredients, gau is one of the easiest desserts in Hawaii to make!
Taro Donuts from Holey Grail Donuts
As you can likely tell from the two other, taro-based desserts on this list, taro is quite an important part of Hawaiian culture. Holey Grail Donuts on Kauai has transformed the taro into trendy, tasty donuts. As a matter a fact, that makes it one of the best restaurants on Kauai.
Banana lumpia is one of those desserts that’s definitely not exclusive to Hawaii. Rather, lumpia – and all of its forms of filling, both savory and sweet – originated in the Philippines.
Essentially, banana lumpia is a banana with brown sugar wrapped in a lumpia wrapper (think of something sort of like phyllo dough) and fried. While it sounds simple, it’s so flavorful!
Many of the tropical fruits in Hawaii have been transformed into a dessert. On this list alone, there are treats with pineapple, coconut, and lilikoi – so why not add guava to this list? And a guava cake transforms the sweet flavor of fresh guava into a tasty treat!
What If I’m Not Visiting the Islands, So I Can’t Eat These Dessert in Hawaii? How Can I Try Them?
If you don’t plan on making a trip to Hawaii any time soon, there’s another way you can try many of these desserts – by making them at home! I recommend the cookbook Aloha Kitchen by Alana Kysar. This cookbook has many of the desserts on this list, along with recipes to make them!
What other desserts in Hawaii do you think should have made it onto this list? Let me know in the comments below!
Hoping to try some of these delicious desserts on your next trip to Hawaii? Pin this post for later!