Growing up Filipino in the Philippines exposed me to the whole spectrum of food the country has to offer. Most notably, that means their intense and delicious desserts. Sunday lunches with my family always ended with Razon’s Halo-Halo or cassava cake. After school, my “merienda” (mid-day snack) was usually puto bumbong or bibingka. Roadtrips to Tagaytay usually involved me buying a buko pie from Collette’s.
However, despite the cuisine’s collection of delectable desserts, Filipino sweet treats are still foreign to many. So here’s a list of the top five Filipino desserts to try if you’re a Filipino food newbie.
This dessert will satisfy all your sugar cravings. It’s traditionally a cup filled with ice, ube ice cream, sweetened jackfruit and banana, macapuno, mung beans, corn, and crisped rice (pinipig). It’s truly a symphony of textures, temperatures, and flavors that somehow all work well together.
With the right ingredients, Halo-Halo can easily be made in your house.
2. Cassava Cake
You’ve heard of Funfetti cake. Cheesecake. Carrot cake. But Cassava Cake is unlike any other. It’s sweet and slightly sticky, but also holds a strong form that your fork just slices through. It’s bright, dense, and exciting. It also tastes absolutely amazing with cheese, which is not a characteristic shared by many other types of cakes.
If you can’t find a place to buy this dessert, make it yourself.
3. Cheese Ensaymada
This is a quintessential Filipino house hold staple. It can be eaten for breakfast (ensaymadas and coffee tastes much better than donuts and coffee), for a snack, or for dessert (ensaymada and hot chocolate is unlike anything else in this world).
I really hope that there’s a local bakery near you that sells ensaymadas, but if not here’s a recipe.
This is basically a spring roll, but with bananas inside. And this new filling is a game changer. It has a crispy, light crust and a dense, sweet inside. It’s usually drizzled with a caramel sauce, adding more sweetness to the dish (because you can never have too much sugar).
This dish is super easy to make, so try it out.
5. Dried Mangoes
This is the most basic, gateway Filipino dessert anyone could have. They’re relatively easier to find (ever see those 7D packs of Dried Mangoes?) than the other desserts listed. But their accessibility doesn’t detract from their deliciousness: the sweetness of the mango is concentrated and preserved, and the chewy texture really gives this treat a fun bite.
Try making your own dried mangoes if you can’t find any nearby.