15 Most Popular Filipino Desserts
Being an archipelago with different regions, the Philippines offers a wide variety of specialty desserts made primarily of rice, coconut and fruits that are widespread in this tropical country.
With agriculture being their main source of livelihood, rice has been a staple food of the Philippines. Because of this, rice is not only eaten with dishes but is also an ingredient in a lot of Filipino desserts. Some types of dessert call for rice flour while others call for glutinous or sticky rice.
The Philippines’ ingenuity with its desserts roots back to its history with sugar, which was a key product in its colonial economy. Filipinos use sugar in everything, which is why it’s not surprising that they have a wide variety of sweet delicacies.
Desserts are usually served right after lunch or dinner, but Filipinos are known for not adhering to the standard mealtimes (breakfast, lunch, and dinner). Instead they have what they call “merienda” in the morning and in the mid-afternoon.
Merienda is a light-meal or snack that can either be savory or sweet. Filipinos are lenient when it comes to the time a particular food can be eaten, thus a merienda can be anything: noodles, rice porridge, banana fritters, camote fritters, pancakes, burgers, pastries, and most especially, desserts.
1. Halo Halo
Halo-halo which translates to “mix-mix” is the quintessential Philippine dessert and most popular merienda for Filipinos, particularly during the summer. The preparation of Halo-halo varies depending on personal preference, but the key ingredients are shaved ice, milk, and an assortment of toppings from sweetened beans to seasoned fruits.
Some of the commonly added ingredients are macapuno, red beans, jackfruit, and nata de coco. Halo-halo is served with a generous amount of Leche Flan on top. As its name suggests, you have to mix all of the ingredients together to enjoy this refreshing dessert.
2. Leche Flan
Leche Flan is one of the most beloved and popular desserts in the Philippines.
The word “leche” means milk in Spanish and leche flan is a local term derived from the original Spanish leche de flan, which means milk flan. Egg whites were used in the building of churches during the Spanish colonial era, and the egg yolks leftover did not to go to waste.
A dessert was made out of them, which is now known as leche flan, otherwise known as crème caramel. The Philippine leche flan is a much heavier version of the original recipe, using more egg yolks and condensed milk.
This special treat is served on all special occasions. It is a simple yet decadent dessert with a luscious caramel on top. It melts in your mouth and has a rich, silky, smooth and creamy custard texture.
3. Ube Halaya
Ube Halaya is derived from the Indian word ube (pronounced oo-be) meaning purple yam and halaya meaning jelly or mash. Ube Halaya refers to the sweet, smooth-textured pudding that can be eaten as a snack or with desserts or as a flavoring/ingredient in ice cream and cakes.
Ube Halaya, distinguished by its purple color, is a unique dessert mostly associated with Filipinos internationally, just like the Chinese red bean and the green matcha from Japan.
Although there are many ways of using ube for delicious recipes, the preparation and cooking of Ube Halaya is quite basic. The ube is peeled, boiled, grated and mashed, and then sweetened with condensed milk or sweetened coconut milk before putting in a saucepan with melted butter. The mixture is stirred vigorously until thickened, when it is left to cool. Ube Halaya is typically refrigerated and served cold.
4. Sapin Sapin
Made with galapong (glutinous rice dough), coconut milk, sugar, condensed milk, and an occasional ube or jackfruit flavoring, this festive and colorful dish has a dense, chewy pudding-like texture, and is often seen at social gatherings or festive occasions. This colorful delicacy is very time-consuming to make.
The process starts with making the sticky rice dough from scratch, then extracting the coconut milk and cooking ube halaya which is one of its many layers. It usually takes a whole day to finish this dessert. Sapin-Sapin is a festive looking dessert with vibrant colors and is usually served with latik or toasted coconut curd. It is visually appealing and typically has 3 layers; purple, yellow, and white.
Mais con Yelo (corn with ice) is a cold and refreshing dessert made with sweet corn, shaved ice, milk, and sugar. It is served plain or topped with toasted rice krispies, crushed corn flakes, or even with ice cream. Traditionally, both halo-halo and mais con yelo are made with crushed or shaved ice drizzled with a sweet, milky mixture.
Turon is a deep-fried banana roll or banana lumpia served as a snack or dessert. It is a popular Filipino snack consisting of banana wrapped in a deep-fried spring roll wrapper, usually coated with caramelized sugar. Turon’s popularity comes from its simplicity and availability. Since the ingredients are both cheap and plentiful, the snack is one of the most accessible treats in the Philippines.
It is also one of the most common street foods, sold by many street vendors in both urban and rural areas. Slices of jackfruit often accompany the banana as a filling. It is served warm with a drizzle of caramel.
7. Maja Blanca
Literally translated as “white delicacy”, Maja Blanca is a dish of Spanish origin that has become a very popular Filipino dessert which can be found at almost any festivity. It is basically a coconut milk pudding thickened with cornstarch slurry. Maja has the consistency of thick gelatin and has a delicate flavor, is creamy white in color, and has a soft, smooth, and creamy texture.
The preparation of maja blanca is easy because the ingredients are available everywhere. The only thing you need to remember is to ensure that the coconut milk has enough time to cook. The other ingredients must also be mixed until the texture becomes smooth, and the sweet corn is cooked a bit longer than usual so that its flavor will diffuse with the coconut milk.
Ginataang bilo-bilo means “rice balls cooked in sweetened coconut milk.” It is derived from the word gata (coconut milk). Bilo-bilo comes from the sound the sticky rice balls make as they boil away on a stove. The Chinese introduced the idea that round and starchy desserts symbolize wealth sticking to anyone who consumes them.
Ginataang bilo-bilo is simply a mixture of diced root vegetables (such as sweet potato or ube), bananas, and chewy rice balls. They’re all then cooked together in a soupy gruel thickened with coconut milk. Sliced langka or jackfruit is sometimes added to give the dish a tart kick.
Philippines is one of the leading global exporters of bananas. Because of their widespread availability, Filipinos get to enjoy a variety of this fruit. Each one has its own unique characteristic, but only Saba is used to make sweetened bananas or Minatamis na Saging. It is more of a beloved homemade dish than a restaurant special as Filipinos regularly make this dish at home as it’s one of the simplest desserts you can make.
Minatamis na Saging is cooked by boiling three ingredients: bananas, brown sugar, and water. Vanilla extract is sometimes added to enhance the flavor. After the bananas have absorbed the sugar and water, this dessert is served as it is or with shaved ice and tapioca pearls.
Silvanas are crunchy and creamy frozen cookies. They have a layer of silky butter-cream sandwiched between two cashew-meringue wafers, coated with cookie crumbs. It is best described as the cookie version of a Sans Rival, another popular classic Filipino dessert.
They look like French Macaroons, but they should not be mistaken for them as the flavor and texture is completely different. Silvanas can are imported from the southern part of the country and are not usually made at home because of the intricate process involved.
11. Buko Pie
Buko Pie is one of the most well-known delicacies in the Philippines. This dessert originated from the province of Laguna, which is known as the home of the finest “Buko” (coconut) pies in the Philippines.
Buko Pie is a pastry filled with soft young coconuts and is usually seen in stores along the highways, on street side stalls and even being sold by walking vendors. Buko pie is what Filipinos call a type of pasalubong — a Tagalog phrase meaning “bring something home for me,” which refers to the tradition of bringing souvenirs, often food, back home after a trip.
Biko is a type of rice cake often served at fiestas, weddings, and funerals. It is made with glutinous rice and coconut milk, with a bittersweet coconut curd topping. Biko is gooey, sticky, and has a distinct, nutty sweetness.
Compared to other rice cake recipes, Biko needs a bit of patience because the recipe includes constantly stirring the rice for around 20 minutes to prevent it from sticking to the pot, then baking it. While waiting for it to bake, you have to create the top layer by doing the process until it thickens then pouring on top and finishing it off by baking it again.
Carioca is a delicious fried sticky rice ball with a coconut caramel sauce. They’re similar to beignets, the fried dough goodies from Louisiana. This local delicacy made of sweet rice flour (glutinous rice flour can also be used) and sweetened shredded coconut can be enjoyed as a dessert or snack. These can be considered a street food since Carioca vendors are a common sight on the streets of Manila. They are usually served on bamboo skewers.
14. Filipino Fruit Salad
Filipino Fruit Salad is a traditional and staple dessert at most Filipino parties, especially during the holidays. Fruit Salad is a dessert consisting of various kinds of fruit mixed with table cream and condensed milk. This Filipino Fruit Salad recipe is an easy-to-make dessert that doesn’t require any cooking.
The ingredients for this fruit salad are all sweet and all store-bought, making it very accessible. It is traditionally made with fruit cocktail, All Purpose Cream,which is a heavy cream used to give the fruit salad its texture and to hold the ingredients together, and canned condensed milk. Some people mix in diced cheeseand applesbefore serving.
15. Buko Pandan
Buko Pandan is a crowd pleaser at any Filipino gathering. Buko pandan is a sweet and refreshing Filipino dessert made of coconut, pandan-infused gelatine/jelly and sweetened cream. Preparing it basically requires mixing all the ingredients together and chilling it. Pandan is flowery, fragrant, coconut-y, and banana-y all at once. This dessert is truly tropical and certainly uniquely delicious