Pinoy Kitchen shines a spotlight on Joe Labrador’s favorite Filipino foods.

Growing up, one of my favorite parts of Filipino house parties — besides the high energy, loud titas and titos, and the plethora of homemade Filipino food — was the occasional halo halo bar! The sound of an ice shaver running in the backyard would fill the air, and people with Solo cups filled with shaved ice would gather around a table crowded with bowls and open jars of beans, jellies, fruit, and other ingredients to mix into their cups.

In English, the name of this dessert translates to “mix mix” and it perfectly captures what this dessert is all about. Halo halo consists of lots of different ingredients piled between layers of fresh shaved ice. You “mix mix” it all together and are left with a fun, sweet, refreshing dessert that’s perfect for beating the summer heat.

Joseph Labrador

Halo halo is a choose-your-own-adventure type of dessert (comparable to an American ice cream sundae) so the ingredients that go into it vary from person to person. That said, there are some common ingredients that make their way into most variations of the dessert.

For starters, all halo halo begins with shaved ice. On any given hot, summer day, if my mom pulled out the ice shaver I knew exactly what was up because 1) I’m pretty sure halo halo is the only reason we own an ice shaver and 2) shaved ice is the base of this dessert — it keeps everything cold and serves as a body for the rest of the ingredients to get lost in. You can go with plain shaved ice, or freeze up some coconut water instead and have some shaved ice with flavor (would highly recommend).

Common add-ins include corn, jelly cubes, sago pearls or tapioca pearls, sweetened red and/or white beans, pinipig (rice flakes) for some crunch, nata de coco (coconut gel) and macapuno (shredded coconut meat preserved in a simple syrup) for more coconut moments, and ube halaya (a jam made from this beautiful purple yam grown in the Philippines). Some of my personal favorites are shredded cantaloupe which brings a super refreshing sweetness to the mix, overripe plantains that my mom cooks and softens in a brown sugar syrup, and leche flan — yes we are throwing in whole pieces of that custard-y, caramel-y goodness! 

Over all this, you drizzle some evaporated milk or condensed milk for more sweetness, and a thicker consistency. I’d like to note that upon watching Harold Villarosa and Tiana Gee make halo halo on Bon Appétit, I’ve learned that pandan-flavored condensed milk is a thing, and upon further research I have learned that mango and ube condensed milk also exist! These are some iconic Filipino flavors, so if you’re feeling adventurous I’d definitely recommend subbing regular condensed milk with one of these flavored options

Now if you thought we were done, there’s more. The cherry on top of this dessert takes the form of a generous scoop of ice cream — typically ube flavored — and as you eat your halo halo, the ice cream will melt into the ice and create a yummy, slushy, milkshake-y party in your cup!

So yeah, there’s a lot happening with this dessert but with so much going on, you get a surprise with every scoop and every bite is a new combination of textures and flavors.

In case you were wondering, most of the ingredients for halo halo can be found in your local Asian grocery store stored in cans or jars, and stocked all in one spot so they’re easy to find!

Joseph Labrador

Halo halo is perfect for groups, so grab your family, a few friends, your coworkers — whoever you want — and ditch the basic ice cream bar this summer, replace it with a halo halo bar, and get mixing! 

Halo Halo

  • Prep Time:2 hrs
  • Cook Time:5 mins
  • Total Time:2 hrs 5 mins
  • Servings:4
  • Easy


  • 4 cups coconut water
  • 2 ripe plantains
  • 4 cups water divided
  • 4 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup uncooked small taro pearls
  • 1 jar macapuno string
  • 1 jar nata de coco
  • 1 can corn
  • 1 cup pinipig or Rice Krispies cereal
  • 1 jar ube halaya
  • 1 jar red beans in syrup
  • 1 jar white beans in syrup
  • 1-2 slices leche flan
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 can evaporated milk
  • 2 pints ube ice cream
Joseph Labrador
  • Step 1

    Fill an ice tray with coconut water and place it into the freezer until the coconut water is completely frozen (1-2 hours). If you don’t have an ice tray, you can also use a small tupperware as a mold for the ice instead.

  • Step 2

    Prep the sweetened plantains. Cut 2 plantains into 1/2 inch cubes, and set them aside. Fill a small pot with 2 cups of water and bring the water to a boil over high heat. Add in the plantains and cook until they are softened (about 10 minutes). Once the plantains are softened, add in 4 tablespoons brown sugar and continue to cook the mixture, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has slightly thickened. Remove from heat and set aside.

    Joseph Labrador
  • Step 3

    Prep the taro pearls. Fill a small pot with 2 cups of water and bring the water to a boil over high heat. Once the water is boiling, add in 1/4 cup of taro pearls. Allow the mixture to boil until the taro pearls become squishy and translucent (about 10 minutes). Remove from heat and set aside.

    Joseph Labrador
  • Step 4

    Gather your toppings: sweetened plantains, cooked taro pearls, macapuno, nata de coco, corn, pinipig or Rice Krispies cereal, ube halaya, red beans, white beans, and leche flan.

    Joseph Labrador
  • Step 5

    Take out the frozen coconut water from the freezer, and use an ice shaver to make the shaved ice.

  • Step 6

    Assemble the halo halo. In a large cup, add in the toppings of your choice. On top of this, add a layer of shaved ice and continue alternating layers of toppings and shaved ice until the cup is full.

    Joseph Labrador
  • Step 7

    Top the mix off with a drizzle of evaporated and/or sweetened condensed milk, and a generous scoop of ube ice cream.

  • Step 8

    Grab a spoon, mix it up, and enjoy!

    Joseph Labrador