By Ryanne Co
April 19, 2021
As sweet tooths ourselves, we take great pride in presenting you this list of top-tier Filipino desserts you absolutely must try (or continue enjoying) while in the Philippines
Our favourite meal of the day has always been dessert, and fortunately for us, our country has a rich treasure trove of delicious goodies that will make any sweet tooth jump for joy. A little caution, however: these are highly addicting. Eat responsibly!
Filipinos are known to enjoy the simple things in life, one of which is a delicious mais con yelo. It’s mainly made up of three ingredients, two of which you can already infer from its name. There’s corn, ice, and sweetened milk. Some variations include corn flakes (for that extra crunch), or even a slice of leche flan. Delicious!
Is there anything more refreshing than halo-halo in the summer? Quick answer: no. This popular Filipino dessert is known worldwide for its zany presentation and refreshing flavour. Much like mais con yelo, it’s made up of crushed ice, sweetened milk, and a whole bunch of other ingredients you can customise to your liking. Traditionally, there’s saba (banana), gulaman (jelly), sago (tapioca pearl), and nata de coco (coconut gel). Others like to add their own twist such as corn flakes, macapuno, ice cream, leche flan even bits of mangoes! It’s all up to you to halo-halo according to your own enjoyment.
The distinctive look of buko pandan has made it a popular dessert at traditional celebrations and Filipino family reunions. The bright green colour of buko pandan signifies the pandan (or screwpine) flavour, that mixes beautifully with gulaman (jelly cubes), young coconut (buko), and sweetened milk. It’s rich, creamy, and oh-so simple to make!
Do you remember last year when ube became the hottest thing around? Ube halaya has always been known to be a traditional Filipino flavour, but while people use it mostly to bake with, we’d like to remind everyone of how delicious ube halaya is (on its own). It’s simply made from mashed purple yam, added with condensed milk, coconut milk, and butter. Spread it on your morning toast, bake it into your pandesal, or just enjoy a spoonful of this goodness directly from the jar!
Is it Christmas yet? Because we just want a bite of some delicious bibingka. Known as a type of rice cake, bibingka is traditionally cooked on clay pots, lined with banana leaves. This gives it that cosy, smokey flavour that pairs so well with hot chocolate. Many people like to top it with cheese or salted egg, although if you’ve tried bibingka before, you know that the cake itself is enough to satisfy.
A personal favourite, sapin sapin is a delicious multi-coloured and multi-layered Filipino rice cake that’s often topped with latik (coconut milk residue) or niyog (dessicated coconut). While some sapin sapin variations have more layers, the traditional one often has just three: white (coconut flavoured), yellow (jackfruit flavoured), and purple (ube flavoured). They combine all the sweetness of these fruits into one bite for the perfect after-meal snack.
Another coconut-inspired Filipino dessert, maja blanca is sometimes known as coconut pudding. Oftentimes, bakers will add corn to the recipe, though it’s not necessarily a prerequisite. A delicious maja blanca must, however, be the perfect level of creamy to really bring out the best of all its flavours.
If you’re looking for something new yet simple to cool you down this summer, consider guinomis! Though its name may not be as familiar as others, this delicious dessert will leave you wanting more. It’s a sweet drink or dessert that’s made up of gulaman (jelly cubes), sago (tapioca pearl), sugar, and water. What differentiates this from sago’t gulaman are the additions of shaved ice, vanilla, pandan leaves, melon strips, and pinipig, all of which add to create interesting depths of texture that will leave you impressed at its complex flavour yet simple ingredients.
Another Christmas staple, puto bumbong is a one-of-a-kind Filipino dessert that’s often enjoyed with margarine and muscovado sugar. It’s made by steaming purple rice mixture wrapped in leaves inside a bamboo. Despite the modernity of our country, people can still be spotted enjoying this traditional snack all around the seven thousand islands come December (though we wish it wasn’t seasonal so we could have it all year long!).
Perhaps the most popular of all rice cakes in the Philippines, biko is made from malagkit (sticky) rice variety, coconut milk, and brown sugar. It’s often served on a round bilao (woven bamboo tray) and enjoyed as a communal snack, merienda, or dessert. While most other rice cakes—such as puto or sapin sapin—use glutinous rice or rice flour, biko uses whole rice grains, making it a unique dish that’s popular in our traditional carb-filled diet.
Forget pineapples on pizza, let me ask you this: hot or cold taho? As a dessert, cold taho seems best, especially during the sweltering summer months. However, street food enthusiasts will often speak fondly of a hot glass of taho. This silken tofu dessert has proven enjoyable for so many people, despite its bare-bones list of ingredients. Aside from tofu, there are only two other things necessary to create taho: arnibal (sweet sugar syrup similar to molasses) and sago (tapioca pearl). Vendors in Baguio like to incorporate strawberries as well as a nice local touch!
Another popular rice cake dessert, suman is as versatile as you would imagine Filipino cuisine to be! Though everyone can easily recognise suman in itself, there are many ways that people can make or present it. One of the varieties, which comes from Baler, is the black rice suman, while in Ilocos, people enjoy tupig, which is quite similar from the traditional suman but is grilled instead of steamed. Suman moron has chocolate in it, while the Cebuano binaki is suman made from corn!
Made from grated gabi or taro and condensed milk, binagol is a Visayan delicacy that’s cooked inside a coconut shell (which also gives it its distinct shape). Though it can be tedious to make (since one has to mash or grate the taro), it’s also extremely filling and relatively healthy compared to most other desserts made from artificial ingredients. To me, it is best enjoyed with a nice cup of tea.
No road trip to Tagaytay is complete without a slice of buko (coconut) pie. Made from tender coconut meat, buko pie is often served with a flaky crust and sometimes, custard. It’s a fairly simple treat, yet very much enjoyable as a tropical merienda this summer.