Pani Popo (Samoan Coconut Rolls)

4.73 from 22 votes
53 Comments

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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.

Pani Popo with spatula

Pani Popo (Samoan Coconut Rolls)

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!

Baked Pani Popo

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 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.

Ingredients Needed for this Recipe

You can 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. 

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. Pour the delicious sauce over the raised rolls and bake. You can serve these rolls with pretty much any dish. They’re delicious as a breakfast item, side dish or even dessert. 

Ingredients for pani popo

More Tropical Treats

  • Hawaiian Wedding Cake: Hawaiian Wedding Cake starts with a simple cake mix. Add a splash of coconut and pineapple and it becomes a refreshing cake that tastes like a piña colada.
  • Coconut Cream Cake with Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting: This Coconut Cream Cake is a coconut lovers dream! Coconut infused cake, with a rich and creamy coconut cream cheese frosting, sprinkled with even more toasted coconut, you will be in coconut heaven with every bite.
  • Caribbean Coconut Fudge Bars: These Caribbean Coconut Fudge Bars can’t be beat! A soft oatmeal cookie crust with chocolate fudge and gooey coconut topping- an instant favorite!
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Pani Popo Samoan Coconut Rolls

Pani Popo (Samoan Coconut Rolls)

4.73 from 22 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 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Total Time 40 mins
Course Side Dish
Cuisine Hawaiian
Servings 20 rolls

Video

Ingredients

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

Instructions

  • 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).
    frozen Roll in a baking pan
  • 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.
    Plastic wrap on baking dish with rolls
  • 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 popop Glaze mixture
  • 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 ingredients on rolls
  • Remove from oven and pour remaining coconut mixture evenly over the top of the rolls.
    pani popo in pan
  • The rolls should be sticky and gooey on the bottom (read notes above). Can be served upside down or right-side up.
    pani popo with spatula

Notes

***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: 191kcalCarbohydrates: 32gProtein: 4gFat: 6gSaturated Fat: 3gSodium: 227mgPotassium: 81mgFiber: 2gSugar: 13gVitamin C: 0.2mgCalcium: 78mgIron: 2mg

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About the author

Erica Walker

Erica lives in Boise, Idaho with her husband, Jared, an attorney, and her beautiful three 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.

More about Erica Walker

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Comments

  1. 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!

  2. 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!

      Shelli

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