The Philippines are well-known for their savoury foods, but their sweet dishes are underrated. Heavier than most desserts, the majority of them involve a lot of milk, cornstarch, rice, and sugar.
But that’s what makes them taste so good. Surprisingly, Filipino desserts share a lot of similarities with Spanish desserts.
This is because in the 1500s Spain conquered the Philippines, and ruled for about 300 years. In that time the two cultures merged, from language, to cooking. That’s why you might find a lot of desserts that are similar to Spanish ones, as you go through our recommendations.
So we’ve put together a list of 23 of the best and most scrumptious Filipino desserts. Why not have a look through and see what tickles your taste buds?
First up is Halo-Halo – probably the most popular and famous Filipino dessert. In fact, it’s considered the national dessert of the Philippines, unofficially of course. So it goes without saying that it has to top our run-through of the best Filipino desserts.
Halo-Halo is a variation of the Japanese dessert Kakigori, which is made from shaved ice and sweet beans.
But this particular dessert, Halo-Halo, is actually thanks to the Americans. In the 1800’s America introduced ice to the Philippines and actually went on to build the first Insular Ice Plant in 1902. Without ice, there would be no Halo Halo.
Interestingly, Halo-Halo translated means ‘mixed’, and refers to the combination of ingredients in the bowl.
This delicacy consists of evaporated milk, crushed ice, pinipig rice and ube (a prized purple yam), loved in Filipino cookery). Then there are various fruits and other ingredients depending on who makes it. It’s usually topped off with a scoop of ice cream. Halo-Halo is a great dessert for hot weather.
Want to make Traditional Japanese Desserts? See here.
Total time: 4 hours
Ube Halaya is another Filipino speciality. It’s a combination of purple yams, butter, coconut milk, and other ingredients which give it a creamy thick taste.
When combined and prepared correctly, Ube Halaya comes out as a purple jam that’s sweet tasting and smooth. This jam is a great topping for other desserts, such as in Halo-Halo, and also makes a refreshing breakfast treat.
Ube Halaye also makes an excellent main dish topped with crushed pistachio. One of the common uses of Ube Halaya is as an addition to other desserts. It makes an interesting layer in a cake as well.
Also the mashed purple yams give Ube Halaya a very distinctive purple colour that makes it look interestingly appetising.
Do you love Filipino food in all its forms? See our guide to Blacktown Food for some dining ideas.
Total time: 70 minutes
Flan is a very popular dessert in Spain, Portugal and other parts of Europe. Leche Flan is the Filipino twist on that dessert. Leche Flan shares lots of similarities with Creme Caramel, but one of the key differences is that Leche Flan does not use cream.
Despite the lack of cream, you’d be surprised to know that Leche Flan is actually a lot heavier than Creme Caramel. Leche Flan is a popular dessert for celebrations. Most town fiestas wouldn’t be complete without Leche Flan on the feasting table.
Leche Flan is one of the desserts believed to be brought to the Philippines when it was colonized by Spain. That’s why this favourite Filipino dessert and Creme Caramel have so many similarities.
It’s also why there are so many variations of Flan in different cultures, like in Mexico. Flan was brought to all these countries during Spain’s attempt at world domination.
Love Mexican food but rather someone else cooked it? See our guide to the Best Mexican Restaurants in Brisbane.
Total time: 55 minutes
If you’ve ever heard of Sans Rival cake, then you’ll be familiar with Silvanas which are basically like a smaller version of those. If you’re not familiar with Sans Rival cake then that’s okay too.
Silavanas and Sans Rival are similar in that they both have meringue wafers, filled with buttercream, and are coated in ground nuts and crackers. One of the major differences though is the size.
Silvanas are smaller and more cookie-like. Because of the buttercream, and the hot climate in the Philippines, this dessert is usually served cold. Totally, divine, we think it’s one of the best Filipino desserts.
Total time: 1hr 40 mins
Biko, also known as Filipino Sticky Rice Cake, is exactly what it sounds like. The texture of the rice is what makes it taste so chewy.
Consisting of sticky rice, dark sugar, and coconut milk, this cake also has a sticky, sweet caramel glaze finish that makes it melt in your mouth. Unlike other cakes, Biko is incredibly moist.
The most interesting thing about Biko, is that it’s served at family gatherings because of the Filipino belief that eating sticky rice will bond (i.e. stick) a family together. I wonder what eating Spotted Dick together would mean?!
Rice is such a versatile ingredient. Here are some of our top Easy Rice Recipes.
Total time: 2hrs 35 minutes
Sans Rival literally translates to without rival. That’s how good this cake is and why is deserves a place amongst the best Filipino desserts.
It’s a much bigger version of Silvanas cookies. Because of the increased surface area the crushed pistachios and crackers are sprinkled around the sides instead of all over like with Silvanas.
Sans Rival cake was actually adapted from French Dacquoise, which has a similar recipe but uses almonds.
It is believed that Sans Rival cake was brought back to the Philippines by Filipinos that had travelled abroad to Europe. They brought back many recipes and set about changing them to suit local tastes and ingredients.
Looking for an indulgent treat? These are the Best Dessert Stores in Melbourne.
Sans Rival Cake would make an excellent birthday cake.
Total time: 1hr 5 minutes
With only 6 simple ingredients, Lengua de Gato is by far one of the easiest cookie recipes. Interestingly, Lengua de Gato translates to cat’s tongue. This is because of the close resemblance that Lengua de Gato has to its namesake.
Combine flour, salt, sugar, eggs, and vanilla extract, to make these tasty tea time treats.
Total time: 35 minutes
Carioca balls are made with sticky rice and have a delicious caramel drizzle on top. They make the perfect finger food, and as a bonus, you get to lick your fingers clean of the sweet sweet caramel after. Even better, these sweet treats are gluten free!
Do you love Vegetarian Food? Here are our top places to find it in Sydney.
Total time: 30 minutes
Halo-Halo, which you may recognise from our first entry, means ‘mixed together’. And Ginataang means ‘done with coconut milk’. So essentially this dish is mixed together with coconut milk.
Ginataang Halo-Halo is basically sticky rice balls stewed in coconut milk. It’s a great breakfast dish. And during lent, it’s a staple in many Catholic households in the Philippines.
We think it should definitely have a place as one of the best Filipino desserts.
If you want to cook more with Coconut Milk, see our Recipe Guide.
Total time: 50 minutes
Turon is essentially fried banana rolls. Slices of ripe banana are coated in brown sugar and fried to make a delicious, gooey treat. Turon is often sold by vendors on the street as a snack, in the Philippines. To leave it off of a list of the best Filipino desserts would be a crime!
It’s so simple and delicious to make, and can be served or drizzled with a caramel dipping sauce. Turon is the dessert equivalent of Lumpia, another Filipino dish.
Go bananas for our Easy Banana Dessert Recipes.
Total time: 35 minutes
Sapin just translates to layers, and refers to the layers in this cake. Made with rice flour, condensed milk, coconut milk, sugar, and coloring combined together to make an incredibly colorful sweet cake.
The trickiest part of this recipe is probably making the Latik (golden coconut curd) for the decoration on top. And even then, it is not so tricky with this recipe.
Total time: 1hr
Buko salad is very quick and easy to make as a dessert dish. It’s key ingredient is shredded coconut. It’s western counterpart would be a fruit salad, but Buko Salad has a more liquid base.
The best part is that you can adapt this recipe based on your own taste buds. If you think a certain fruit would taste better, or you don’t like something in the recipe, then feel free to add and substitute till your heart’s content.
Mango would be a great addition to this dish. And if you’d like more Mango Dessert Recipes, see here.
Total time: 30 minutes
Every culture has its own version of a sponge cake. In the Philippines it’s called Mamon. Sometimes it’s even just referred to as Filipino Yellow Sponge Cake. It’s one of the top 10 most popular dishes in the Philippines, and to be honest, of course it is. Who doesn’t love a good sponge cake?
Total time: 28 minutes
This is one of the dishes that was brought by the Spanish when they invaded the Philippines. It is an adaption from the Spanish dish Mais con Hielo, so you can see there’s not too much of a difference.
What’s interesting about this dish is that it takes sweetcorn, which you’d usually see in a savoury dish, and turns it into a sweet dessert. It’s also by far the quickest of our best Filipino desserts to make.
Like the Filipinos, the Chinese often use savoury ingredients in their desserts. See here for some examples.
Total time: 10 minutes
Maja Blanca is most often referred to as coconut pudding in the west. Because the dish is set in a tray and served in individual slices, it would make an excellent dessert for a potluck.
The best advice for this recipe is to keep an eye on the coconut milk when boiling. Coconut milk tends to splatter quite a bit when hot, to overcome this make sure to keep stirring.
Total time: 35 minutes
Cassava is a woody shrub that is abundant in the Philippines. Don’t worry, it’s edible, and incredibly delicious when prepared correctly. Delicious, nutritious, and easy to make, Cassava cake is a popular dessert dish for fiestas and birthday parties.
It’s also one of the dishes that was introduced by the Spanish. And though the recipe calls for cheese, don’t question it. The result will be one of the most delicious tasting cakes that you’ve had in a while.
Do you like cooking with more unusual ingredients? Take a look at our Persimmon Recipes.
Total time: 1hr 15 minutes
Did you know that Christmas is actually a really big holiday in the Philippines. It’s one of the holidays that’s centred around desserts. And no dessert is better to make and prepare for Christmas than Bibingka. Typically Binbingka is enjoyed after Simbang Gabi – which is Midnight Mass to you and I.
Bibingka is a traditional type of sticky rice cake. Interestingly, the precise recipe varies all over the country. For example, in the Ilocos region there’s a variation called Royal Bibingka, which is more of a mix between Cassava Cake and Bibingka.
And if you want to minimize Bibingka but keep the big taste, then you can always make Bibingka Muffins.
See our Best Christmas Dessert Recipes for some more festive food ideas.
Total time: 45 Minutes
Bananas are a staple in most quick desserts in the Philippines. This is because they are abundant in the country and one of the most affordable fruits. Moreover bananas are naturally sweet so you never really need to add much sugar any recipe.
Minatamis na Saging is translated directly to sweetened bananas. The bananas are sweetened by a gooey caramel sauce made from dark sugar and drizzled all over. This sweet snack is often sold by vendors on the streets, or made as a quick after meal dessert.
Total time: 20 Minutes
For those of you savvy enough to remember, Ginataang basically means ‘done with coconut milk’. So as you can imagine, this recipe is very heavy on the coconut milk. Bilo Bilo refers to sticky rice balls soaked in Ginataang Bilo Bilo’s coconut milk stew.
Ginataang Bilo Bilo combines sticky rice balls with tapioca and a variety of different tubers and fruits. Ginataang Bilo Bilo would make for a very tasty breakfast bowl.
In the Philippine,s Ginataang Bilo Bilo is actually seen as more of a Merienda. What’s a Merienda? Glad you asked. Merienda is Tagalog for a snack eaten between meals, instead of a whole meal. Merienda usually takes place between breakfast and lunch, effectively in the middle of the morning, or in the middle of the afternoon, between lunch and dinner.
Total Time: 40 minutes
Don’t be confused by the name. Though it may sound like a savory dish, very close to a quiche, Egg Pie is actually a sweet dessert pastry and very common in Filipino bakeries. It’s often confused with a giant egg custard, but there’s a few more steps to this dessert.
For one thing, Egg Pie is distinguishable by its dark top, which is made from sweet caramelized sugar. Egg Pie custard is actually very similar to the custard made for a Leche Flan – another of our best Filipino desserts.
This recipe is one that’s simple and easy to make, and will create a professional looking pie that’ll melt mouths and fill stomachs.
Do you sometimes find yourself stuck with extra egg yolks? See our ideas for Leftover Egg Yolk Recipes.
Total Time: 50 minutes
The closest thing we have to Taho is probably a caramel trifle, and even then that’s a poor man’s substitute. Taho is made up of tofu, arnibal (simple sweet syrup) and sago (tapioca balls).
Traditionally Taho is sold by street vendors. In the Philippines it’s not uncommon to hear them calling out ‘Taho!’ as they wander around in the mornings and afternoons. It’s a rite of passage for the kids to grab their money and wait outside their doors for the Taho vendor.
Taho is usually served warm-ish but because it can get really hot in the Philippines, it’s not uncommon to chill the dessert before eating. Taho is so popular and delicious that other Asian countries, such as Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand, have adapted this tofu snack to make their own versions.
Total time: 1 hour 15 minutes
At almost 4 hours total cooking and preparing time, Suman is one of the more complex desserts to make. But it’s worth it.
Most Filipino households will have a Suman recipe passed down from generation to generation, with its own variations and handy tips to make an excellent dessert. The key to making a good Suman is using fresh ingredients, especially the rice.
Suman is made from glutinous rice that is cooked with coconut milk to infuse the flavors together, and then wrapped in banana leaves for steaming. To add to the sweet flavor it’s typically sprinkled with sugar.
There are also variations of this recipe that are drizzled in caramel. So adapt it depending on your preferences. Just remember to include it as its one of the most-loved and best Filipino desserts.
Love Asian cuisines? See our guide to the Best Asian Restaurants in Brisbane.
Total Time: 3 hours 45 minutes
Last, but definitely not least, we have Palitaw. Palitaw is a type of sweet, flat, rice cake. It’s typically eaten as a snack between meals or as a dessert. To make Palitaw, kakanin is used.
Kakanin is just ground sticky rice. Because of kakanin, Palitaw has a very smooth texture. Interestingly the name Palitaw is actually drawn from the word ‘litaw’ in Filipino, which literally translates to ‘float on water’.
This is because in the cooking process you have to cook the flattened rice dough that you make, in boiling water. When it’s ready the flattened dough will then float up to the surface, hence the name. The best part is that this recipe is relatively simple and quick to make
Total time: 25 minutes
The Philippines are known for having amazing tasting food, and it’s a travesty that their desserts are not more known. Centering around coconut milk, bananas, rice, dark sugar, and starch, it’s surprising how many desserts can be conjured up from just a few ingredients.
The best part is that, compared to some desserts in the USA, these are a lot less heart attack inducing. But as with any sweet things, make sure not to overindulge.
We hope you enjoy trying out some of our best Filipino desserts!