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  • Writer's pictureCulinary Cam

We Dream of Malasadas

Earlier this week I brought dinner to some friends and offered to cook with their daughter another evening. "Just let me know if you come up with any ideas," I said. She ran to the front door before I made it there. "Oh, you already have a suggestion?" Doughnuts! "Well, I don't really know how to make doughnuts, but I can make malasadas - Hawaiian doughnuts." Done!

So I dug into my notes and am dreaming of malasadas. I thought they were Hawaiian doughnuts. It turns out, like most things on the islands, they were brought there by immigrants. Malasadas are Portuguese doughnuts that were brought to Hawaii by people who arrived to the islands to work on plantations during the late nineteenth century.

Years ago the boys went to Oahu with my parents and were introduced to the malasadas magic that is Leonard's!

When we went back to Oahu for the boys' graduation trips (R's belated and D's timely) in 2022, we picked up Leonard's at their truck parked on the Kalanianaʻole Highway anytime we drove by.

But they were especially amazing after we climbed Koko Head Crater. We arrived at the trailhead just as the sun was rising and climbed those 1,048 steps to the top. Jake and the boys ran up "McGarrett-style" while I took my time and tried not to kill myself on the uneven railroad ties that lay across the trail as makeshift stairs. I got to the top about thirty minutes later; but they waited patiently so we could take a family photo at the summit. Then we hiked down and went straight to the truck for malasadas.

D and I also drove to the original storefront in Honolulu in the dark to make sure we got there before they sold out. Talk about dedicated malasadas fans. And we also had to try the version that Liliha makes.

But, when we aren't on the islands - with the convenience of Leonard's or Liliha - we make our own. And I am looking forward to making some with my friend's daughter. Soon! Here's how we'll do it. These are my Haupia-Filled Malasadas.


makes approximately fifteen 3" malasadas


  • 1 Tablespoon active dry yeast

  • 1 1⁄2 cups organic granulated sugar + more for rolling

  • 3 eggs

  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

  • 1 cup half & half

  • 1⁄4 teaspoon salt (I used a vanilla salt)

  • 18 ounces flour

  • Also needed: round cutter; canola oil, for frying; pastry bag, for easy filling

Haupia (Coconut Pudding)

  • 2 cups coconut cream

  • 1 cup half & half

  • 1⁄2 cup organic granulated sugar

  • 3 Tablespoons rice flour

  • 2 Tablespoons coconut strands in syrup, optional



Combine yeast, 1 teaspoon sugar, and 2 Tablespoons warm water in a large mixing bowl. Let that sit until foamy, approximately 15 minutes.

Beat in eggs, one at a time. Add in yeast mixture, 1⁄2 cup sugar, butter, half & half, and salt. Beat until the dough begins to come together. Then, knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic.

Transfer to a lightly greased bowl and cover loosely with a kitchen towel. Set in a warm place until doubled in size, approximately 1 1⁄2 hours.

Once the dough has risen, flatten or roll it until it's about 1⁄2″ thick.

Using a round cutter (we used the top of a cocktail shaker!), cut dough into 2" rounds. Reroll scraps until all the dough is used. Place on greased parchment paper-lined baking sheets, at least 2″ apart. Set aside in a warm place until doubled in size, approximately 1 hour.

Place remaining sugar in a large bowl and set aside. Heat 2″ canola oil in a pot until a deep-fry thermometer reads 350°F. Working in batches, place donuts in hot oil. Cook, flipping once until puffed and golden, approximately 2 to 3 minutes total.

Transfer to a baking sheet with a wire rack. Let cool for 1 to 2 minutes, then toss with sugar. Let cool completely.

Haupia (Coconut Pudding)

Combine coconut cream, 1/2 cup of half & half, and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a light boil. Whisk the rice flour and remaining 1/2 cup of half & half together in a bowl to make a slurry and add to the pan. Whisk until the mixture returns to a light boil and thickens. Stir in the coconut strands, if using. Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature. Then transfer to the refrigerator and let chill for at least 2 hours before using.


Donuts will already be coated sugar, so handle carefully. Using the tip of a paring knife, slice a 1⁄2" slit on the end of a malasada. Slide a chopstick into the hole and carefully move side to side to create a pocket for the filling.

Fill a pastry bag with the haupia. Carefully insert the tip into the slit and gently squeeze pastry bag until doughnut feels just full. Repeat with remaining donuts.

Serve and enjoy immediately as these donuts are best the day they are made.

Do you like malasadas? What's your favorite filling?

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