When we’re on the hunt for the perfect sweet treat in Oahu, malasadas often top our list. These delicious Portuguese doughnuts, introduced to the Hawaiian Islands by immigrants from Madeira and the Azores, have become a local staple. Soft, fluffy, and usually still warm from the fryer, they’re rolled in sugar and sometimes filled with flavored creams or jellies that make each bite so delicious!
Our search for the best malasadas in Hawaii usually leads us to Leonard’s Bakery. A place not just known for its mouthwatering pastries but also for its tradition and history, Leonard’s has been a landmark in Honolulu since 1952. There, malasadas are crafted with a sense of heritage that honors their Portuguese roots, combined with a local twist that captures the sweetness of island life.
Around Oahu, there are other bakeries and shops where we can buy the best malasadas, each with its unique take on the classic recipe.
Whether you prefer them plain, dusted with white sugar, cinnamon, li hing powder, or filled with tropical flavors, your search for the best malasada in Oahu will take you from family-owned bakeries to food trucks parked on the beach – all serving up a piece of these oh-so-good Portuguese-Hawaiian treats.
Where to Find the Best Malasadas in Honolulu
When we’re talking about Hawaii’s favorite Portuguese treat, here are the top places where you can score the best malasadas in Honolulu.
Overall Best Malasadas in Oahu: Leonard’s Bakery
Leonard’s Bakery is the heavyweight champ of malasadas in Honolulu. Since 1952, their malasadas have been a staple, making Leonard’s a must-visit for anyone looking for that authentic experience.
Located on Waialae Avenue, you’ll recognize it by the nostalgic sign and the aroma of sugar and dough that greets you even before you walk through the door. If you’re a traditionalist, their original sugar-coated malasadas will hit the spot.
Over the years, Leonard’s Bakery has also expanded to multiple locations with their malasada trucks – you’ll know them by their iconic striped red and white malasada truck.
Over in the Kalihi area, Kamehameha Bakery brings a unique take on the classic malasada with their famous poi glazed version. It’s slight purple hue and unique flavor profile make it both instagrammable and delicious.
Pipeline Bakeshop & Creamery
For the more adventurous palates, this spot has been making waves with its unique flavors. Located in the trendy neighborhood of Kaimuki, they offer a variety of malasada flavors that include monthly specials. It’s a perfect spot for those wanting to branch out from the traditional sugar-dusted varieties.
And don’t forget their malasada holes, called Malsadas, which are just as enjoyable and perfect for a grab-and-go snack.
With several locations across Honolulu, Liliha is an institution. They’ve made a name for themselves with a wide array of bakery goodies (especially cream puffs), but their malasadas are delicious too. Plump, golden, and coated in a granular sweetness that’s just right.
Here’s a video of how they make their coconut malasadas!
And let’s not forget about Zippy’s, a local favorite for just about everything. While they’re known for a full menu of local comfort food, their malasadas are a hidden gem worth checking out, especially when you need something sweet after one of their famous plate lunches.
The Best Malasada Flavors and Fillings
When it comes to malasadas, you’ll find an abundance of flavors and fillings to choose from in Oahu.
Let’s start with the classics. You can’t go wrong with the simple sugar-coated malasada. But even the traditional recipes get a bit of an update with options like cinnamon sugar that add a warm spice to the sweet treat. I personally like Leonard Bakery’s Li Hing Mui (sweet plum powder) coated malasada, an island favorite that adds a tangy and sweet flavor to the dough. So good!
Apart from these, chocolate and custard fillings remain perennial favorites for good reason – they perfectly complement the light, airy dough.
As for modern takes, we’ve seen an exciting mix, like malasadas with haupia (coconut) and passion fruit filling that give us a tropical flavor profile.
You might also find some filled with Nutella and matcha, which showcases European and Asian influences. Let’s also not forget malasadas filled with coffee-flavored cream that my husband LOVES!
Seasonal and Limited-time Offerings
When the calendar flips to the holidays or special seasons, all the best malasada shops on Oahu often bring out the limited-time flavors.
You can anticipate strawberry, pineapple, and guava filled malasadas when the local fruits are in peak season. These fresh, fruity fillings burst with local Hawaiian flavor and are a must-try when available.
Also, keep an eye out for macadamia nut fillings, because this local favorite nut adds a rich, buttery taste to the warm malasadas.
And don’t even get us started on the infamous malasada malamode – a glorious serving of malasada with ice cream, which really is as decadent as it sounds.
History and Origin of Malasadas in Hawaii
Before we jump into where you can get the best malasadas in Oahu, let’s take a moment to appreciate how these Portuguese pastries became a staple in Hawaiian cuisine.
Portuguese Influence on Hawaiian Cuisine
Malasadas are a type of Portuguese pastry that made their way to the Hawaiian Islands through the influence of Portuguese immigrants who came to work on Hawaii’s sugar plantations in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The story of malasadas in Hawaii is intertwined with the history of immigration and plantation labor.
As we look back, we can see that their roots in Portugal go even further. Malasadas are traditional Portuguese fried dough, similar to doughnuts, but without a hole. They are fluffy, slightly crispy on the outside, and covered in sugar.
Originally, these treats were made during Carnival, a pre-Lent season of feasting and celebration. Over time, however, they became a favorite treat for the people of Hawaii, evolving to include local flavor combinations and ingredients.
Unlike the traditional Portuguese recipe, Hawaiian malasadas are often larger and coated in sugar, sometimes filled with flavors like vanilla, chocolate, or coconut.
Malasada Day and Cultural Significance
In Portugal, Malasada Day corresponds with Shrove Tuesday, known to many as Fat Tuesday or the day before Lent begins. It’s a day for indulgence, and malasadas definitely fit the bill for an indulegnt treat.
In Hawaii, this tradition morphed into an annual event known as Malasada Day, which has become integral to local culture and gatherings. This day is marked by long lines at popular bakeries across the islands, with residents and visitors alike eager to partake in this sweet piece of Hawaii’s Portuguese heritage.
Best Times to Visit Malasada Shops
Visiting Malasada Shops early in the morning can be magical; the malasadas are typically at their freshest and it’s a perfect start to the day. Think warm, pillowy treats at sunrise — it sets up the day just right.
On Oahu, we love hitting food trucks and local bakeries from Waikele to Kaneohe on Saturday or Sunday. But let’s keep it real, these spots can get busy, especially on the North Shore. We find that mid-morning on weekdays is a sweet spot to avoid the rush while still snagging those freshly baked goodies.
How to Keep Malasadas Fresh
Now, let’s say you’ve managed to resist gobbling them up immediately — storing malasadas properly is key. Here’s a quick rundown:
- Save for later? Keep them in airtight containers at room temperature; they’ll stay soft for our afternoon treat.
- Got leftovers? Malasadas make a cozy breakfast when warmed up in an oven or microwave; they come back to life. Just a few seconds until warm (not hot) and they’re almost like new.
But remember, malasadas are best enjoyed when they’re fresh. It’s sometimes worth the early alarm or the wait in line to get them straight from the source. And let’s be real, if we end up at Koko Marina or Pearlridge, there’s no way those malasadas are surviving the drive home without us digging in.
Frequently Asked Questions
In this section, we’ll answer some of the most common questions about where to find the best malasadas in Oahu.
What are the top spots for malasadas in Waikiki?
If you’re strolling through Waikiki and you’ve got an appetite for a malasada, we recommend visiting Leonard’s Bakery. It’s a go-to spot for those who crave the best malasadas in Oahu – and it’s affordable too!
Which bakery near the Honolulu airport offers the best malasadas?
If you’ve just landed at the Honolulu airport and you’ve got a hankering for a malasada, your best bet is to drive slightly north to Leonard’s Bakery mobile truck or south to Kamehameha bakery. Both are just a short drive, and their malasadas are worth every minute of the detour.
Can you find great malasadas on the North Shore of Oahu?
Absolutely! The North Shore might be famous for its surfing, but it also dishes up some delicious malasadas. Local farmers’ markets are often where we snag the best malasadas in North Shore.
Why are malasadas a must-try in Hawaii?
Malasadas are a must-try because: 1) they’re delicious and 2) they have a unique flavor that blends Hawaiian and Portuguese heritage.
What sets malasadas apart from traditional donuts?
What really sets malasadas apart is their texture – they’re lighter, less dense, and typically, we find them to be extra fluffy compared to traditional donuts. And there are no holes in malasadas!
What is Leonard’s Bakery famous for in Honolulu?
In Honolulu, Leonard’s Bakery is practically synonymous with malasadas. They’ve been serving these heavenly pastries since 1952, and we’re all for it.
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Are there any other malasada spot in Oahu I need to include in this guide? Feel free to leave a comment below!