Video recipe for Pani Popo

Click on image to view Eat Polynesia!’s video recipe for Pani Popo.

Introducing Pani Popo – a Samoan favorite!

Pani Popo, or coconut buns, comes from Samoa and is made from yeast bread and sweetened coconut milk. Many people find it tastes more like glazed donuts, and with basic adjustments, such as substituting grapeseed or coconut oil for the butter, you can make a delicious treat that is dairy-free, while using coconut flour will make it gluten free. This is a very easy-to-modify dish, no matter what the dietary restrictions.

There are many recipes out there, but we wanted to present you with an authentic Samoan version where you pour the milk on top just before placing it in the oven, though other versions have you place the rolls in the sauce. It all depends on your preference. In fact, many versions now go the easy route and simply use frozen bread rolls rather than making the dough from scratch. This is your call – but we wanted to give you a recipe that mom would be proud of!


Pouring the thickened coconut milk sauce over the raised rolls

Photo courtesy of King Arthurs Flour                         

We found this lovely recipe in a cute recipe blog titled A Beautiful Mess. You can find a catalog of wonderful recipes posted within the blog at

Pani Popo  adapted slightly from King Arthur Flour

For the Sweet Yeast Dough:

3 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup dry milk powder
2 1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
3/4 cup lukewarm water
2 large eggs
4 tablespoons butter, softened
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Coconut Sauce:

NOTE:  We have doubled the recipe for this sauce to provide plenty of yummy glaze for the rolls

2 1/2 cups coconut milk, well shaken/stirred
1 cup granulated sugar
3 teaspoons cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt

Pani Popo Directions:

Prepare the Dough

Mix and knead the dough ingredients together by hand or in a stand mixer. If you’re kneading in a stand mixer, it should take 5-7 minutes at second speed, and the dough should barely clean the sides of the bowl, perhaps sticking a bit at the bottom.

Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl. Cover the bowl, and allow the dough to rise, at room temperature, until it’s nearly doubled in bulk, about 1 hour. Rising may take longer, especially if you’ve kneaded by hand. Give it enough time to become quite puffy.

While the dough is rising, grease a 9″ x 13″ pan.

Once the dough has completely risen, gently deflate the dough, and transfer it to a lightly greased work surface. Divide it into 12 pieces.  Shape each piece into a rough ball by pulling the dough into a very small knot at the bottom, then rolling it under the palm of your hand into a smooth ball.  Place the rolls in the pan, spacing them evenly; they won’t touch one another. Cover lightly with plastic wrap and set aside to rise, about 45-60 minutes. About halfway though the rise, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Prepare the Sauce

During the last 20 minutes of rising, prepare the coconut sauce. Combine all of the sauce ingredients in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until thickened slightly, about 5-7 minutes. Pour 3/4th of the warm, thick sauce over the risen buns and bake in the preheated oven for 18-25 minutes, until the buns are golden brown on top and the internal temperature registers 190 degrees on an instant-read thermometer.

While still warm, pour remaining sauce over the steamy rolls, spreading it over the top of each individual bun. You’re going to want to eat it hot! But when its’ cool you can store it, wrapped airtight, in the refrigerator and gently reheat individual buns in the microwave for 30 seconds on 50% power before serving. So delicious.

Panio popo baked and ready to eat

Pani popo baked and ready to eat!




Abaca serving plates from Shop Polynesia

Want the perfect accent to your Pani Popo? Plate them on our authentic abaca wood plates. Click here to view our amazing supply of abaca and monkey wood serving and dinner plates along with other wood pieces through our official on-line store The Hawaii Store



Brought to you by Food Blogger, Susan Cravens Kunz

me2 Susan Kunz is a long time resident of Laie. Originally from Samoa, she has had a long love affair with Hawaiian food with Lomi Lomi Salmon being one of her favorites.At the time of this post, she worked at the Polynesian Cultural Center in their Marketing and E-Commerce Dept. She enjoys spending time with her husband, children and beloved grandchildren.