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Why does Hawaiian bread taste so good?

Hawaiian bread, sometimes also called Hawaiian sweet bread or Hawaiian rolls, has a sweet, soft, and fluffy texture that makes it simply delicious. But why exactly does authentic Hawaiian bread taste so good? Let’s take a closer look at the ingredients and baking process that give Hawaiian bread its distinctive sweet flavor and soft texture.

The Main Ingredients

There are three main ingredients that set Hawaiian bread apart:

  • Bread flour: Hawaiian bread is made with a higher protein bread flour, which gives it a chewy, soft texture.
  • Eggs: Eggs add moisture, richness and tenderize the bread.
  • Pineapple juice: The addition of canned pineapple juice gives Hawaiian bread its signature sweetness.

Along with these key ingredients, Hawaiian bread also contains:

  • Sugar: White sugar enhances the sweetness.
  • Milk: For even more moisture and a softer crumb.
  • Butter or margarine: Adds flavor and tenderness.
  • Yeast: Leavens the bread.

The proportions of these ingredients and the techniques used while mixing and baking impact the final taste and texture of Hawaiian bread.

The Baking Process

In addition to ingredients, the steps followed when baking also affect the delicious taste of Hawaiian bread:

  1. The dough is enriched: Enriching the dough adds fat, sugar and eggs which tenderize the crumb and keep the bread soft and moist.
  2. The dough is kneaded thoroughly: Good gluten development during kneading gives Hawaiian bread its stretchy, soft texture.
  3. The dough rises twice: Allowing the dough to rise twice creates air bubbles and a light, fluffy interior crumb.
  4. It’s topped with egg wash: Brushing rolls with egg wash before baking gives Hawaiian bread its golden brown, glossy top crust.
  5. It’s baked at a higher temperature: A hot oven sets the crust while keeping the inside tender and moist.

Following these steps carefully is key to achieving the perfect fluffy, sweet texture of authentic Hawaiian bread.

The History of Hawaiian Bread

While bread has been eaten in Hawaii since the arrival of Westerners in the 1800s, Hawaiian bread as we know it today traces its origins back to the early 1900s when Portuguese immigrants came to work on Hawaii’s sugar plantations. The Portuguese brought with them pão doce, a sweet, eggy bread that was a special treat back home. Local bakers started making their own versions of this bread, substituting pineapple and coconut milk from Hawaii’s bounty of local ingredients. These tropical twists resulted in the sweet, soft Hawaiian bread that became an island favorite.

In the post-World War II era, commercial production of Hawaiian bread began. Mainland US servicemen and tourists who had fallen in love with the bread spurred demand for Hawaiian bread to be made commercially and exported. The Hawaiian bakery that many credit with popularizing the bread and spreading its fame was Love’s Bakery, established in Hawaii in 1951 by James Love. Love’s Bakery created the now-iconic round Hawaiian sweet rolls, packaged them and shipped them to stores on the US mainland. The rest is history!

Variations on Hawaiian Bread

While traditional Hawaiian bread has a simple ingredients list of flour, eggs, pineapple juice, sugar, milk, butter and yeast, many creative bakers have come up with twists on the classic recipe by incorporating other tropical island flavors. Some common Hawaiian bread variations include:

  • Hawaiian Coconut Bread: Adds coconut milk and shredded coconut for tropical flair.
  • Hawaiian Macadamia Nut Bread: Features macadamia nuts and honey for crunch and sweetness.
  • Hawaiian Guava Bread: Made with guava puree or guava jam for a bright, fruity taste.
  • Hawaiian Pineapple Bread: Includes chunks of pineapple or crushed pineapple for bursts of fruit flavor.
  • Hawaiian Banana Bread: Uses banana puree and banana chips to incorporate this island staple.

The possibilities are endless when making Hawaiian bread with Hawaii’s abundance of tropical fruits, nuts and flavors!

Nutrition Information

Here is the basic nutrition information for a standard slice of Hawaiian bread (one roll):

Nutrient Amount
Calories 131
Fat 2.7 g
Saturated Fat 0.4 g
Trans Fat 0 g
Cholesterol 18 mg
Sodium 137 mg
Carbohydrates 24 g
Fiber 0.7 g
Sugars 4 g
Protein 3 g

As you can see, Hawaiian bread is higher in carbohydrates, sodium, and calories compared to whole wheat bread. The sugar and fat also make Hawaiian bread a higher-calorie choice. However, enjoyed in moderation as an occasional treat, it can be part of a balanced diet.

Where to Buy Hawaiian Bread

Craving that sweet Hawaiian bread taste but don’t live in Hawaii? No worries – Hawaiian bread is widely available at grocery stores across the mainland US. National brands like King’s Hawaiian are mass-produced and distribute their Hawaiian rolls to major supermarket chains throughout the country. You can typically find King’s Hawaiian rolls in the bakery section along with other breads and rolls.

If you’re lucky enough to live in Hawaii, you can get your hands on Hawaiian bread at local bakeries, farmers markets, and food stores. Some well-known bakeries to buy authentic Hawaiian bread include:

  • Love’s Bakery – This historic Hawaiian bakery ships bread globally but you can also visit their local Oahu stores.
  • Liliha Bakery – A Honolulu institution since 1950, famed for its crunchy crusted loaves.
  • Leonard’s Bakery – Home of the famous malasadas doughnuts but also makes great Hawaiian sweet bread.
  • Tango Delight – Specializes in Hawaiian-style pandesal bread and ube rolls.
  • Kono’s on the North Shore – Bread bakery in the famous surf town of Haleiwa.

It’s worth tasting Hawaiian bread straight from any of these local bakeries if you’re taking a trip to the islands. And many also ship their Hawaiian bread worldwide if you need your fix!

How to Make Your Own Hawaiian Bread

Want to recreate that Hawaiian bread taste in your own kitchen? It’s easy to make your own Hawaiian bread or rolls at home. Here is a simple 5-step recipe:


  • 3 cups bread flour
  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 1⁄4 cup warm water (100-110°F)
  • 1⁄4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3⁄4 cup pineapple juice, at room temperature
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1⁄4 cup milk, at room temperature
  • 1⁄4 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled


  1. Activate the yeast: In a small bowl, combine the warm water and yeast. Let stand for 5 minutes until foamy.
  2. Make the dough: In a large bowl, combine the bread flour, sugar, and salt. Mix well. Add the activated yeast, pineapple juice, eggs, milk, and melted butter. Mix until a shaggy dough forms.
  3. Knead the dough: Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface. Knead for 10 minutes until smooth, elastic, and not sticky. Place in a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 1 hour.
  4. Shape the dough: Punch down the risen dough to release air bubbles. On a floured surface, shape into 12 equal sized rolls. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover with a towel and let rise for 30 minutes.
  5. Bake: Preheat oven to 375°F. Brush rolls with egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 tsp water). Bake for 25 minutes until golden brown. Enjoy warm!

Be sure to allow the dough to rise fully for light, airy rolls just like the Hawaiian bakeries make. The touch of pineapple juice gives them that sweetness, while the egg wash on top bakes up glossy and brown. Enjoy this homemade Hawaiian bread still warm from the oven.


With its fluffy interior, soft and moist crumb, and subtly sweet flavor, Hawaiian bread is irresistible. The combination of a special bread flour, eggs for richness, and pineapple juice for tropical fruity sweetness all contribute to Hawaiian bread’s beloved taste and texture. Traditional recipes enriched with fat, sugar and eggs create a melt-in-your-mouth softness. Proper kneading and rising develops Hawaiian bread’s signature chew. And steaming in the hot oven gives it that shiny, cracked crust. Hawaiian bread offers a taste of the islands whether buying it from a Honolulu bakery, your local supermarket, or baking it yourself at home. No wonder this bread has become so popular far beyond Hawaii’s shores.