Pani Popo (Samoan Coconut Rolls)

4.69 from 29 votes

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Pani Popo is a Samoan sweet roll baked in a delicious coconut sauce. One of my favorite Pacific-Island dishes from my bakery days in Hawaii.

Plate with Pani Popo in front of baking dish of Pani Popo.
Featured with this recipe
  1. What is Pani Popo?
  2. Ingredients Needed for Pani Popo
  3. The Sweet Coconut Sauce
  4. More Hawaiian-Inspired Recipes
  5. How to Make Pani Popo
  6. Pani Popo (Samoan Coconut Rolls) Recipe

Oh, how I love Pani Popo. Even though it is a Samoan dish, I was first introduced to it when I lived in Hawaii. As I mentioned before, I worked at a bakery when I lived in Hawaii and was introduced to SO MANY amazing treats and recipes, this being one of my-all time favorites. I loved waking up early in the morning and making these delicious Samoan coconut buns. The smell is intoxicating!

What is Pani Popo?

This Samoan classic dish is so easy to make and absolutely delicious. Translated, pani popo quite literally means coconut buns. And that’s what they are! Light, fluffy yeast rolls soaked in a sweet coconut syrup mixture and baked until the top of the buns are golden brown. They are soft and fluffy on the inside, and the bottom is nice and gooey, like a sweet roll should be (but gooier). I love that I am able to make these at home for my family and that they LOVE them as much as I do. Seriously, my kids go nuts over these.

Spatula with Pani Popo held over pan of Pani Popo.

Ingredients Needed for Pani Popo

Only three simple ingredients in this Pani Popo recipe. It doesn’t get any easier than this!

  • Frozen Rolls: You can also make your own yeast rolls with our delicious Homemade Dinner Rolls recipe. It’s an easy recipe using ingredients like all-purpose flour, active dry yeast, butter, and salt mixed into a soft dough and baked into rolls. Or, you can use frozen rolls to cut your prep time way down. 
  • Coconut Milk
  • Sugar
Ingredients to make Pani Popo including frozen dinner rolls, coconut milk and sugar.

The Sweet Coconut Sauce

The sweet coconut milk sauce is what makes these rolls so incredibly good! The mixture comes together quickly using coconut milk and one cup sugar in a small saucepan. It’s cooked over medium-high heat until it’s nice and thick. Pour the delicious sauce over the raised rolls and bake. 

Baking dish of golden Pani Popo covered in coconut sauce.

More Hawaiian-Inspired Recipes

Many of our favorite family recipes are recipes I brought home after living in Hawaii. I love Hawaiian food! Here are a few more sweet Hawaiian foods I make regularly:

How to Make Pani Popo

Pani Popo on a serving plate.

Pani Popo (Samoan Coconut Rolls)

4.69 from 29 votes
Pani Popo is a Samoan sweet roll baked in a delicious coconut sauce. One of my favorite Pacific-Island dishes from my bakery days in Hawaii.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Course Side Dish
Cuisine Hawaiian
Servings 20 rolls



  • 20 frozen dinner rolls depending on size (see note above for homemade rolls)
  • 10 ounces coconut milk
  • 1 cup sugar


  • Coat a 9×13 glass baking dish with cooking spray and arrange rolls evenly to thaw (if doing homemade rolls, roll dough into golf-ball size balls and arrange the same way).
    Baking dish of twenty frozen dinner rolls for Pani Popo.
  • Cover with plastic wrap sprayed with cooking spray (to keep dough from sticking to the plastic wrap). Allow to rise until doubled in size. This can take 4-5 hours.  If you need the rolls to thaw quicker, follow the quick-rise instructions on the frozen roll packaging.
    Rolls rising in greased baking dish covered with plastic wrap for Pani Popo.
  • Pre-heat oven to 350-degrees. In a small saucepan, combine coconut milk and sugar over medium heat and whisk until sugar is dissolved and sauce has thickened (about 5 minutes). If you want a thinner sauce, you can just whisk the sugar and coconut milk together in a bowl without heating.
    Pani Popo sauce in a sauce pan.
  • Pour about 2/3 of the coconut mixture over the rolls and bake for 20-30 minutes (or according to package/dough recipe instructions) or until golden brown and dough is baked through.
    Pouring Pani Popo sauce over unbaked risen dinner rolls.
  • Remove from oven and pour remaining coconut mixture evenly over the top of the rolls.
    Pouring coconut sauce over baked Pani Popo rolls.
  • The rolls should be sticky and gooey on the bottom (read notes above). Can be served upside down or right-side up.
    Spatula with Pani Popo held over pan of Pani Popo.


Prep time listed on this recipe is listed as 10 minutes. This DOES NOT include the time it takes for the rolls to rise before baking.

Nutrition Information

Calories: 168kcalCarbohydrates: 30gProtein: 4gFat: 4gSaturated Fat: 2gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.5gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gSodium: 237mgPotassium: 50mgFiber: 2gSugar: 11gCalcium: 76mgIron: 2mg

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About the author

Erica Walker

Erica lives in Boise, Idaho with her husband, Jared, an attorney, and her three beautiful girls. Beyond the world of recipes, she loves adventuring with everything from kayaking, to cruising, to snowboarding and taking the family along for the thrill ride.

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  1. How you get 12 rolls after starting with 20 rolls in the photos? How did the 20 rolls turn out in a 9×13 pan? It seems too crowded.. rolls are supposed to double in size so the pan size is probably too small and all the rolls won’t bake evenly..especially when adding the sauce.. suggest starting with 12 rolls instead of 20.

    1. The pan we used for the pictures wasn’t a 9×13, it was smaller. You can fit 20 rolls in a 9×13 pan, but this one was more like 11×7.

  2. 2 stars
    Followed the recipe exactly. Tops of rolls were turning brown so took them out. Bottom of rolls still dough. Baked regular rolls (same exact rolls but without the coconut syrup sauce). immediately afterwards in same oven, same temp, same time length and they turned out perfect. So something about adding the sauce made the bottom doughy, I’m assuming because it was sitting in liquid during baking. I’m sure these are delicious if done right, but this recipe wasn’t the right method for me

    1. I am sorry this recipe didn’t work for you. In the future, if the tops are browning before the bottoms are done, you can cover the pan with tin foil. This allows the bottom to continue baking, but slows down the cooking at the top.

  3. The recipe calls for 20 frozen rolls. In some of the photos it shows 20 rolls but in the finished product photos there are only 12 rolls in the pan. Where did the other 8 rolls go to?

    1. Oops you caught us haha. The cute pan we used for pictures was too small for all 20 rolls, but a regular 9×13 should fit all the rolls. Hope this helps!

  4. This seems like an easy winner ! Any suggestions for a chicken dish to serve this with ? What about a vegetable choice ? I’m planning on making a double batch of them for dinner next week ( I already know they will be a hit for my family so I’m going to be smart and double up from the start ) 😊😊
    Thanks for sharing this gem ! 🥰🥰🥰🥰

    1. Any of our Hawaiian recipes will go great with this… Teriyaki chicken, huli huli chicken, grilled coconut curry chicken… etc… as far as vegetables go, lightly seasoned grilled or steamed vegetables always go well with Hawaiian food. Grilled potatoes or sweet potatoes will also go well. Hope this helps!

  5. I’m a bit confused. The article above explaining what pani popo is says “The sweet coconut milk mixture comes together quickly using coconut milk and one cup sugar in a small saucepan cooked over medium-high heat until it’s nice and thick.” But the recipe instructions just say to whisk the sugar and the coconut milk in a bowl until the sugar dissolves. Which way is correct? I haven’t tried it yet, but think I would prefer cooking the coconut milk and sugar first as that would probably create a more gooey sauce. Also seems that pouring part of the whisked mixture over the rolls after they bake would make the rolls pretty soggy, vs pouring a cooked mixture.

    1. It is correct to heat the sauce in the saucepan. However, you can whisk it in a bowl until the sugar dissolves also. I have made it both ways. When you heat it, you will get a thicker sauce (that I think tastes better) I will fix it on the recipe so they are consistent. Sorry about that!

    1. Pani Popo is probably my favorite dish I brought home with me after 3 years at BYU-Hawaii. Super simple to make but tastes like a much more complicated dish. I sometimes toast some coconut to sprinkle on top and if I’m wanting the Coconut milk to be a bit thicker like a pudding I just add a little bit of cornstarch to some of the Coconut milk to thicken it. I also sometimes use 2 cans of Coconut milk for more topping! I have yet to meet anyone who tries this and doesn’t love it! Enjoy!


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