Malasadas (Hawaiian Donuts)

These babies are malasadas, also known as Hawaiian donuts, and they are divine. Balls of dough that are deep-fried in oil and rolled in granulated sugar, much like a donut, but minus the hole. Malasadas, best served warm, can be found at many roadside stands and local bakeries as well as on fine dining menus all over the Hawaiian islands. If you are a donut lover already, it won’t take much convincing, trust me, these are hands-down worthy of your weekend time.

Although malasadas are a fried dessert pastry most commonly associated with Hawaii, what most don’t know is they actually originated in Portugal. Later, in the early 1800s, Portuguese immigrants brought this sweet treat to the Hawaiian islands. Since that time, malasadas have become recognized both as an essential Portuguese confection as well as a traditional dish in Hawaiian cuisine.


Made from a high yeast content dough, malasadas fall within the sweet pastry category. The outside of these tasty treats are crisp, and the interior is buttery, light and fluffy. Like an American sugar donuts, malasadas are traditionally covered in a think white sugar coating (swoon). I have seen malasadas offered for breakfast and dessert, and although they are most often served straight up, it is not uncommon to see them served with jam, caramel sauce, chocolate sauce or vanilla ice cream, so seriously, anything goes.


Malasada Day (which is the day before Ash Wednesday), also coined “Fat Tuesday“, became popular in the 19th century because of the high number of Catholics to immigrated to Hawaii from Portugal. In preparation of  Lent, it was common to make large batches of malasadas to share with neighbors and friends. In doing so, Catholics were able to use up their butter and sugar supplies in preparation for the the 40-day fasting period before Easter. Some believe, the practice of making this dessert before Lent is what let to malasadas increased popularity.


Since their first introduction all those many years ago, malasadas have become a Hawaiian island standard and a must-have  when my family and I are visiting there. Although more readily available on the islands, these little sweet treats are gaining in popularity elsewhere such as in local specialty bakeries, so keep an eye out. But seriously, don’t leave it up to chance, these treats are not that difficult to make and I guarentee they will please just about anyone on a Saturday morning.


About the Author

Andrea Potischman

I am a professionally trained NYC chef turned CA mom and food blogger. I post about real food, with doable ingredient lists that are family friendly.

2 thoughts on "Malasadas (Hawaiian Donuts)"

  1. Avatar photo Britt says:

    Your story is fascinating,

    1. You are so kind, thank you!

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