Eating Aloha… A Cooks Journey Through the Radiant Island of Oahu

The first sound that escaped my lips once my teeth sank  through the buttery crisp shell into the warm moist interior of my first Malasada was Oooooh My Goodness… ‘OMG’ for short.

I was lounging on a park bench outside the celebrated Leonards bakery in Kapahulu Avenue Honolulu on a  trade wind warm Hawaiian summers day, rejoicing in what would be the first of many journeys to pastry heaven.

Sugar coated Malasadas from Leonards Bakery- photo by Bridget

Now for those of you who are yet to indulge in this wonderful sugary delight, a malasada is a doughnut like  pastry with its origins linked proudly to the Portuguese inhabited  island of  Sao Miguel.

In the late 1880’s, Portuguese laborers travelled the globe in search of work, with some  settling in the plantations of Hawaii,  bringing with them their wonderful recipes for rich decadent desserts and pastries that the Portuguese are renowned for.

Somewhere between 1880 and 1952, the traditionally spelt “Malassada”  became Malasada  and Leonard’s Bakery in Kapahulu became the first to produce them on a commercial scale.

Leonards Malasadas Hawaii Kapahulu

And what a scale it has become! Leonard’s is still tipped locally and internationally as the makers and holders of the best Malasadas in the United States.

Malasada is an egg and butter enriched sweet yeast raised dough that is taken into stratospheric heights by carefully deep frying until the shells are golden and crisp and then thoughtfully served warm and tender.

At Leonard’s, you can have your Malasadas served traditionally with a dusting of fine sugar or stuffed with delicious fillings of Haupia ( coconut), mango or vanilla custard.

My park bench dining companions took a particular liking to the Haupia variety, whilst my tendency towards the simple life saw me favouring the traditional.

After a couple dozen of these warm beauties I was ready to stop, breathe and consider the history that the humble malasada plays in Hawaiian and Portuguese history.

With the Portuguese, being mainly of Catholic faith, the Malasada was traditionally eaten  as a way of using up all the butter and sugar which is forbidden during lent. The day before Ash Wednesday- Mardi Gras or ‘Fat Tuesday’ as it is known  in the United States, Malasadas were raised  fried and eaten in preparation of lent and queues are still out the door at Leonard’s when Fat Tuesday rolls around.

As I lean back into my  leather swivel office chair, tapping this post into the keyboard, I close my eyes and remember a time not so long ago when the sight and smells of Leonard’s bakery was only a lick of the lips away, but sadly I now sit on the other side of the world, with only a few photos and some sweet lingering memories.

Never fear, after speaking with some locals and those in the know on Twitter like @chefmaxient x-pat Hawaii Islander now living in Oregon, @alohaarleen a windward living Islander and the loveliest ambassador of everything Aloha  and the wonderful @tracitoguchi living and laughing locally in Oahu, I have been pointed towards the same recipe for achieving Malasada success outside of Hawaii.

It comes by way of BYU and Punahou school in Oahu where their annual carnival is said to have in one year sold over 320,000 Malasadas in 2 days.

As much as I would love to give you the recipe quantities for 320,000 Malasadas, with the help of BYU and recipe author Nan Allen Ah You, here is a version that should be able to fit comfortably on your kitchen table.


     1         package yeast (1 T)
     1         teaspoon sugar
     1/4 cup   warm water

     6 cups    flour
     1/2 cup   sugar
     1/2       teaspoon salt
     1/4 cup   melted butter or margarine
     1 cup     water
     1 cup     evaporated milk
     6         eggs

     1 quart   vegetable oil (to cook)
     extra     sugar


Leonards Bakery Malasadas Hawaii Kapahulu

Dissolve yeast, sugar and water and set aside. Beat eggs. Measure flour into mixing bowl and add salt. Make a well in the flour, pour yeast mixture, eggs and other ingredients. Beat in circular motion until the dough is soft. Cover, let raise until double. Turn dough over but do not punch down. Cover and let raise again. Heat oil to 375 degrees and drop dough by teaspoon full into oil and cook until brown. Shake in brown bag with sugar. Best when hot.

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One Comment

  1. Horrible. Badly written. How do you dissolve sugar water and yeast? You should list ingredients in order used in a recipe, there is too much liquid here to make anything but a big sticky mess. Added more flour, but it didn’t help. If you’re going to post someone else’s recipe, you should test it first. What a waste of my time and ingredients. Yes, I measured everything correctly.

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