If you find yourself traveling to the Philippines and find yourself with a sweet tooth while there, you’ll be able to find something to satisfy it with the wide range of desserts you can find. Most Philippine sweets aren’t just your everyday sweets either. Thanks to cultural influences from the country’s history and some Filipino flair, some interesting and rather tasty sweets have resulted.
So, skip your typical cakes and pastries and take advantage of trying some of the country’s sweetest sweets whether you are visiting or not. Here’s a list of the top 10 you should consider trying.
Top 10 Sweetest Philippine Sweets
Anytime is a good time to have sweets when you think about it. In the Philippines, sweets and other treats are eaten twice a day, and the types of sweets you’ll find here are tasty, unique, and sure to tide you over until you eat again.
Leche flan has easily become one of the most common desserts the Philippines like to indulge in. “Leche” is milk in Spanish. Leche flan comes from Leche de flan, meaning milk flan. Oddly enough, when churches in Spain were being constructed, they used egg whites while saving the yolks for another purpose. Thus, Leche flan was created, and the Philippines version is a lot heavier than the Spanish version as they use more eggs and even more condensed milk.
Halo halo means “mix-mix” and is a popular option for Merienda. Halo halo is a cold and tasty treat sure to cool you off on a hot summer day. This dish dates back to the early 1920s to the 1930s. This dessert has grown in popularity worldwide, and now many other countries have their own version of this dessert. There are different variations to preparing this delicious treat. It comes down to personal preference with key ingredients including:
- Shaved ice
- Assorted toppings
Some add in other ingredients, which can include jackfruit, red beans, or nata de coco. Halo halo comes with Leche flan on top as well. As the name suggests, to enjoy all the flavors and ingredients of your sweet treat, mix it all together. This treat has a toasty, milky, creamy, and nutty taste to it. Adding a scoop of ice cream on top allows flavors to be enhanced.
Ube Halaya comes from the word ube, which is Indian (pronounced oo-be), purple yam, and Halaya, mash or jelly. The main ingredient to this delectable, sweet treat is purple yam. Ube Halaya refers to a smooth-textured and sweet pudding. Ube Halaya is usually for dessert or a snack. Some Philippine people also use it as an ingredient or flavoring in cakes or ice creams. It’s purple and primarily associated with Philippine natives, as red beans are for Chinese and green matcha, which comes from Japan.
While Ube Halaya can be used in several recipes, preparing it is pretty simple. It’s peeled and boiled. It’s then grated and then mashed. Condensed milk or coconut milk is added in for sweetening. It’s then put in a saucepan along with some melted butter and stirred quickly until it becomes thickened. Finally, it’s left to cool and eaten cold. This dessert has a creamy texture, and with the yam addition, it gives it a crunch.
Kutsina is one type of dessert that’ll have visitors agreeing with the love affair Filipinos have with it. Most people have something with all meals, and due to their love for it, they sometimes have it after they eat. Kutsina is a rice cake that’s been steamed. Rather than being soft and spongy, it is more sticky and somewhat rubbery. For an extra tasty flavor, some put grated coconut on top. Some people even put dulce de leche on the top. These are great no matter what time of day it is.
Turon is a banana lumpia or deep-friend banana roll. It’s popular among Filipinos and consists of wrapping a banana in a spring roll wrapper. There is usually caramelized sugar on it as well. The popularity of turon comes from availability and its simplicity. Ingredients are affordable and plentiful, making them one of the Philippines’ most accessible treats.
Turon is a typical street food and can be found by several different street vendors. These vendors are both in rural and urban areas. It’s sometimes served with slices of jackfruit as a filling and is served warm with caramel drizzled on top. This dessert is soft and crunchy while having a cheesy flavor to it if the saba is overripe. Some people drizzle chocolate sauce on top to enhance its rich flavor.
This Philippine dessert consists of three ingredients: sugar, water, and grated cassava. This concoction gets steamed until there is a firm, glutinous texture and then rolled in coconut shreds. Pichi pichi is a rather popular dessert, especially for Merienda or other celebrations.
This dessert is made with glutinous rich dough, condensed milk, coconut milk, sugar, and sometimes jackfruit or ube flavoring. This colorful and festive dish features a chewy, dense texture similar to pudding. Sapin Sapin has a relatively diverse flavor to it. It’s sweet, smooth, crunchy, and nutty, thanks to the various ingredients used to make it. You’ll often see it served at festive occasions or other social gatherings.
Sapin Sapin is also a rather time-consuming dessert to make, with the process beginning with making your sticky rice dough. For better results, make it from scratch. You then extract coconut milk and cooking your Ube Halaya, just one of several layers. Typically, it’ll take about a day for this dessert to be entirely made. This festive dessert will typically have three layers; white, purple, and yellow. This dessert is served with toasted coconut curds or latik.
Mais Con Yelo
Mais con Yelo, or corn with rice, is a refrigerated dessert that’s refreshing for many Filipino people. It’s made with shaved ice, sugar, sweet corn, and milk. You can serve it plain, or you can put different toppings on top, which can include:
- Crushed corn flakes
- Ice cream
- Toasted rice krispies
- And more!
Traditionally, you’ll find Halo Halo and Mais con Yelo are crushed desserts and will have a sweet, milky sauce mixture to drizzle over the top.
Banana cue is a similar yet simpler dessert to make than Turon. This treat is served on skewers as street food. It’s made by taking saba bananas and coating them in brown sugar before frying them in hot oil. For easier handling, they are sold on skewers making walking the city streets easier. There’s a variant to this dessert that uses kamote, which are sweet potatoes instead of saba bananas. These both make great midday snacks and are easily found on the streets by food vendors.
This dessert is sweet and consists of a buttery and sweet bread that has roots from Spain. It’s evolved to please the taste buds of Filipinos ideally. Ensaymada is a coiled dough brushed with butter then topped with grated cheese and sugar. There are other variants to this delicious dessert, including Ube flavored types. Another option is to top it with queso de bola, a staple cheese around Christmas for the Philippines. You’ll find these can be stuffed with several different options, including:
- Purple yam
- Coconut meat
- Salted eggs
- And more!
Why is Philippine Cuisine So Sweet?
The biggest thing you’ll find with Filipino cuisine is that sugar is all around. You’ll find it in more than desserts and sweets. You’ll find sugar in other dishes, including turon or suman, or more savory dishes like adobo, their version of spaghetti, or tocino.
Beverages including tea and coffee or shakes and juices rarely have no sugar in them. This is one of the biggest reasons people feel the Philippine people have big sweet tooths. However, their sweet tooth is no more than any other human would typically be.
But their ingenuity regarding desserts goes back to their history with sugar. Sugar is a staple ingredient as its widely used in everything they cook. That’s why it’s no surprise they have such a wide variety of sweets and treats.
Desserts are typically served either after lunch or dinner. However, in the Philippine culture, people do not adhere to the typical eating schedule (breakfast, lunch, or dinner). Instead, they have Merienda time in the morning after breakfast, before lunch, and mid-afternoon, after lunch, and before dinner.
Merienda is a snack or light meal that is either sweet or savory. As far as the types of food they eat during Merienda, Filipinos are pretty lenient with what they can and can’t eat during Merienda. They eat a wide variety, including:
- Banana fritters
- Camote fritters
- Rice porridge
Why do Filipinos Love Sweets So Much?
As stated above, sugar is everywhere, meaning most Filipinos enjoy eating sweets at any time of the day. Something sweet can always be seen on the table for special occasions and holidays, whether desserts or other dishes. Here are a few reasons Filipinos enjoy sweets so much.
It’s a Comfort Food
When you have a sweet tooth, chances are you crave cookies, cakes, or ice cream. When Filipinos crave sweets, though, especially to help them feel better, they want something sweet such as a dessert or maybe their favorite dish, including candied glaze pork, hotdogs, Lechon sauce, or spaghetti. These comforting flavors help gratify the stomach and can make them feel better almost immediately.
Sweet and Savory Go Hand in Hand
Adding some sugar or other sweet ingredients to savory dishes can help balance the salty flavors while giving the dish more depth. Filipinos tend to feel more satisfied after they eat dishes that are sweet and savory. However, adding sweetness to different dishes isn’t as simple as you might think. There are several ingredients required to give a dish that sweet and salty sensation. If you find you don’t have much time, consider trying Knorr Rock Sugar Honey Sauce. This can give you that ideal mix to make any dish even more delicious.
Rice and Manamis-Namis Ulam Just go Together
Filipinos will most times have rice in just about every meal. No meal is complete without it. This even includes desserts as well. Mashed potatoes, bread, and corn can be appetizing as well, just not as much as rice. While rice can taste primarily bland, it goes so well with Ulam since it helps balance out other dishes’ flavors.
What Types of Desserts are Served During Christmas in the Philippines?
The Philippines is known for its long Christmas, lasting longer than any other country’s Christmas season. No Filipino celebration is complete unless several desserts and other tasty treats are up for grabs at the table.
Ice cream and chocolate are some common staples you’ll find being served, but some local desserts will most likely take the spotlight at Christmas in this culture. But, of course, desserts at Christmastime are often very sweet and sinful, too, so make sure you save room to try some of the area’s most common delicacies and other treats.
Common desserts from the Philippines you might come across include:
- Buko salad
- Leche flan
- Mango Tapioca
- Mais con Hielo
- and more!
You’ll find that a lot of recipes have purple yam in them or Ube. Filipinos love this ingredient as it offers several benefits. It’s highly nutritious, rich in major antioxidants, helps manage blood sugar levels, and can even help with blood pressure issues. In addition, this root vegetable is tasty and offers vibrant color.
Ube Halaya is the most popular dessert in the Philippines, which uses this purple yam in its recipes. This ingredient can be used in several desserts and also in many savory dishes. You’ll never run out of unique foods to try when it comes to Philippine sweets, so get your taste buds ready for a ride of flavors this culture has become well-known for.