FILIPINO DESSERT GUIDE
With a breakfast staple of chocolatey rice pudding and a teatime snack of sugary pastries topped with grated cheese, we'll be honest and say that it's not exactly clear as to where ordinary Filipino food ends and where sweet Filipino dessert begins. Newsflash: there’s no clear line and Filipinos will happily eat these all day every day!
We thoroughly enjoyed the abundance of The Philippines’ sweet tropical fruits and the interesting variety of other Filipino desserts. Many Filipino desserts use rice flour along with tropical fruit like bananas (typically the saba variety for cooking), coconut, and ube (purple yam). There are, of course, many different traditional methods and variations of each of these Filipino desserts, so you best get started tasting!
Baked (malauhog) custard pie resembling a coconut cream pie, except that it is made with young coconuts and has neither cream in the coconut custard filling or meringue swirls on top of the baked coconut custard. Instead, the pie uses sweetened condensed milk, making it denser and more delicious.
A sticky dessert with a flavour similar to that of a coconut rice pudding. The texture is chewy and dense rather than creamy and soft and it always contains coconut milk, sugar, and ground rice as its base, but the flavour can vary throughout different regions.
In a way, it is similar to hot chocolate but made with sticky rice! It was initially introduced by the Mexicans but over the years the recipe has changed by adding rice, sweet chocolate rice porridge. Traditionally, it is made from sticky rice boiled with cocoa powder and then adding sugar and milk to make it taste even sweeter.
Popular street food made of saba (plantain) bananas fried in very hot oil with a caramelised sugar coating. We loved this warm, sticky and sweet fruity snack on a stick!
These soft, light and fluffy pastries with a margarine coating, sprinkled with white sugar and often finely grated cheese too. They are usually twisted and round and have a slight resemblance to a modern-day Cinnabon without the overt sweetness. These days you can find many different varieties of ensaymada and they are almost always sold in bigger commercial bakeshops as well as streetside bakeries.
One of many legacies of Spanish colonisation it is inspired by and very similar to the European crème caramel, but the Filipino version often uses sweetened condensed milk in place of regular milk. This creamy egg custard is often served with light caramel syrup on top and prepared for special occasions.
Perhaps the most well-known of Filipino desserts, halo-halo translates to “mix-mix” and is just that: a jumble of toppings that you literally mix up to eat. Its origins can be traced back to various Japanese shaved ice desserts, but now halo-halo is a menu staple at most Filipino restaurants It's a refreshing dessert which can have a mix of sweetened beans and fruits, sago, crushed ice and milk, topped off with Leche flan and ube jam or ice cream.
A fairly simple concoction of Tamarind and Sugar rolled into balls is the perfect harmony of sweet, sour and salty!
Also spelt biskotso, refers to various types of Filipino twice-baked bread, usually coated with butter and sugar. Perfect to take home as a souvenir and part of the country’s pasalubong culture. Various regions of the Philippines have different types of Biscocho. Although all of them are usually referred to as "Biscocho", the only common characteristic is that they are made from stale bread which is baked for a second time.
Turon / Lumpiyang Saging
Saba (plantain) bananas, dusted with brown sugar, rolled in a spring roll wrapper and fried. Sometimes they will also be topped with condensed milk or sugar. These became our staple dessert as soon as we arrived in the Philippines!
This sweet and warm snack is a staple comfort food of the Philippines and taho peddlers can be found all over the country. We had the best Taho from a street vendor when we took shelter from the rain one day and he just happened to be right there! The warm, sweet snack is made from a combination of soft tofu, sago pearls and caramelised syrup.
Kakanin means Rice Cakes. Amongst others, you will find the following varieties:
Bibingka - rice cake with cheese and salted egg.
Puto - soft white rice muffins.
Biko - a sweet rice cake made of coconut milk, brown sugar, and glutinous rice. It is often also topped with either a coconut curd or caramel-like syrupy latik, or sometimes even both.
Putu Cuchinta - this variant of puto is usually steamed in small ramekins and is also known as Kutsinta. The rice cakes are made from a mixture of tapioca or rice flour, lye and brown sugar and either annatto extract or yellow food colouring.
Pichi-Pichi - a Filipino delicacy made of grated cassava and coconut juice. Soft, chewy and coated with grated coconut, this steamed cake is delicious as a snack or dessert.
Sapin-Sapin - layered glutinous rice and coconut dessert made from rice flour, coconut milk, sugar, water, flavouring and colouring. It is then sprinkled with toasted desiccated coconut flakes or latik.
Palitaw - small, flat, sweet rice cake made from washed, soaked and ground malagkit.