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Pani Popo (Sweet Coconut Milk Buns) Recipe #Vegan - Outside The Box

Pani Popo (Sweet Coconut Milk Buns) Recipe #Vegan

Pani Popo (Sweet Coconut Milk Buns) Recipe #Vegan

My family has been lucky enough to be able to do some travelling and one of our favorite places so far to visit is Hawaii. We have been to Waikiki twice now (and will be back soon) and when we go one stop we must make is to a little bakery called Leonard’s. It’s a bit of a hole in the wall place with almost no parking but it is a place where both locals and tourists flock to for it’s out of this world baking. It’s most famous treat is a Portuguese treat called Malasada. A Malasada is basically a fried donut without the whole, traditionally covered in sugar. The Portuguese brought this decedent treat to Hawaii in the 1880s and they quickly became a favorite. In Hawaii you can find them made in the traditional way but often you will find them filled with custard, chocolate or a creamy coconut filling.

Pani Popo is a Samoan dish that literally means coconut (popo) buns (pani). They really have very little to do with our favorite Hawaiian bakery but as soon as my husband tasted them he was transported back there. Many people do refer to Pani Popo as Hawaiian Coconut Buns which is not entirely accurate but not that big of a stretch. In the end it doesn’t matter which culture you tie them to – these sweet buns, baked in coconut milk are absolutely irresistible even to a low carb, sugar free eater like me. They are the perfect treat to serve at a tea party or make an amazing addition to a family brunch. And as an added bonus these sweet buns are also vegan.

coconut milk buns

Pani Popo (Sweet Coconut Milk Buns)

Makes 10 buns


  • 2 1/2 to 3 cups of flour
  • 1 can of Blue Dragon Coconut Milk
  • 1/2 cup of sugar
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 1 pk (2 1/4 tsp) of yeast
  • 1/4 cup of canola oil (or other vegetable oil)
  • 2 tablespoons of sesame seeds (optional)


Put 1 1/2 cups of flour in the bowl of the stand mixer (or regular bowl if you aren’t using a mixer) making a small well (you will be pouring your wet ingredients into it).

Put 3/4 cup of coconut milk,  1/4 cup of the  sugar and the water in a medium sized pot.  Turn the stove to medium heat and heat this mixture, while stirring, until it is warm but not hot.  Remove the milk mixture from heat and stir in the yeast.

Pour the milk/yeast mixture into the flour well.  Put a tea towel over the bowl and let it sit for 20 minutes.

Add the oil.  Turn on the mixer to medium speed (with a dough hook) and begin to mix.  Or if doing this by hand begin to lightly knead.  Once the ingredients are well incorporated slowly start to work in the remaining flour.  Continue to knead, adding flour until the dough is no longer sticky.

Cover again with the tea towel and let rise for  30 minutes (your dough will double in size).

Form the dough into buns, place in a well greased cast iron pan or baking dish, cover and let rise once more for 30 minutes.

pani popo

Mix the remaining coconut milk with 1/4 cup of sugar and pour over the buns.

coconut milk buns

If desired sprinkle the sesame seeds over the buns.

coconut milk buns

Place the pan in a 375 degree oven and bake for 20-30 minutes until the buns are golden brown and most of the coconut milk is absorbed.

These are absolutely heavenly served warm but still pretty darn good at room temperature.

coconut milk buns


Coconut Milk (and light Coconut Milk) is just one Blue Dragon ingredient that is perfect for vegetarian and vegan diets. Wether you are looking to make a sweet baked treat like these coconut buns or something more savoury you are sure to find just the right ingredient to make your vegetarian/vegan dish perfect. Just look at the options Blue Dragon has to offer:

For more recipe inspiration be sure to visit the Bamboo Room and visit Blue Dragon on Facebook.


I am part of the Blue Dragon Canada ambassador program and I receive special perks as part of my affiliation with this group. The opinions on this blog are my own.



This article has 12 comments

  1. Love that the buns will be infused with the coconut taste and not just plain and boring. I'll have to try these out.

    Besos Sarah. 
    My recent post Have You Ever Forgotten Your Child?

  2. Those look AMAZING. My daughter and I would love to try these buns. 
    My recent post Dealing with Bullying in School Sports

  3. Those are beautiful!

  4. I love all things coconut, so I'll have to try these buns soon!! They look delicious 🙂 

  5. going to make these sweet coconut milk buns nice to be able to get vegan reciepes well done for sharing this

  6. I'm making these right now and am so excited! My parents lived in Pearl City and I stayed for months there, working on Waikiki Beach and Leonard's malasadas are one of the things I miss most!!

  7. This are spot on! Our 3 year old became obsessed with “coconut buns” on our recent trip to Hawaii- he’s going to be SO happy tomorrow morning to wake up to this delicious breakfast treat! Thanks for the recipe 🙂 

  8. You may be calling it the wrong name, I might be wrong too. If the recipe originates from the Philippines, it’s called Pan de Coco, which literally translates to coconut bread.

    • Hi Frankie, this Pani Popo is a Samoan dish and a little different than Pan de Coco. The Samoan buns are cooked in coconut milk and Pan de Coco is stuffed with coconut. Both delicious!

  9. I made this recipe as explained and it would be perfect for making 20 rolls in two 9” cake pans. It made 10 giant rolls in a 9” cake pan and the coconut milk boiled out making a smoky mess of my oven and house. The flavor was good and I will Make again, but split into 20 rolls in 2 pans.

  10. Hi. I’m preparing to make these rolls. (And am converting them to gluten free.) The ingredient list says 2.5 cup flour, but the body says 1.5 cup flour. Please advise. Can’t wait to try them! Thanks for posting.

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