Why You Need Malasadas in Hawaii (& Where to Find Them)

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Best Malasadas in Hawaii

A stop at a local bakery for malasadas is a must when you visit Hawaii. Here’s where to go for the best of these sweet treats on each island.

I was first introduced to malasadas in Hawaii after crossing the finish line at the Honolulu Marathon many years ago. 

Sweaty and exhausted, I was slowly hobbling my way through the finish line “funnel.” That’s where runners get the usual t-shirt, banana, orange slice, etc.

Somewhere along that line, a smiling volunteer handed over a warm, sugary donut-like piece of heaven. I took one bite of that magical malasada and I’ve been hooked ever since.

Over the years, every time I visited Hawaii for the marathon or just a vacation, stopping at a local bakery for malasadas was a top priority. 

Note: This post may contain affiliate links. If you choose to book through these links, I receive a small commission, which I will likely blow on mai tais, poke, and shave ice.  All of this internet voodoo takes place at no additional cost to you. 

And then I moved to Hawaii…

Now that I live here…well, let’s just say my love for malasadas is an addiction that needs to be kept in check for the sake of my waistline.  

Honolulu Marathon Finish Line Malasadas
My first malasada at the marathon finish line

But, as a dedicated blogging professional, it’s my job to help you find the best things to see, do, and eat on each Hawaiian island.

And that includes where to find the best malasadas in Hawaii. And as I recently explained to my husband (again) this obviously requires diligent research. And I am nothing if not thorough.

If you follow this blog closely, you already know that I’m a firm believer that you shouldn’t waste your time and money on a bad Mai Tai (instead seek out the great ones!).

The same goes for malasadas. Don’t settle for one that’s been sitting on a convenience store shelf for hours (or longer).

Go to a local bakery and get them fresh, hot, and diabolically delicious. You’ll thank me later.

So now, you may be wondering…

What exactly is a Malasada?

Malasadas are pillowy, yeast-leavened doughnuts without a hole (genius), traditionally rolled in granulated sugar.

It’s believed that malasadas were first made by the inhabitants of the Azores and Madeira regions of Portugal. These decadent sweet treats were concocted to use up all the lard and sugar in the house before Lent, a time of fasting in the Catholic tradition.

A traditional malasada is served plain, simply dusted with sugar.

However, the Hawaiian version has evolved to include fillings (again, genius) like custards and fruit jams to infuse a tropical twist. You’ll find everything from classic vanilla to island favorites like lilikoi (passion fruit) and guava.

Leonards Bakery Malasada Menu Oahu Hawaii
The malasada menu at Leonard’s Bakery

How did Malasadas get to Hawaii?

These sugary Portuguese doughnuts have found a special place in the hearts of locals and visitors alike. But how did a simple pastry from Portugal become a Hawaiian staple?

The story goes something like this…

Portuguese immigrants first arrived in the 1870s to work in Hawaii’s sugar cane plantations. Malasadas were popular as a festive food among the local communities but weren’t served to the general public until Leonard’s Bakery opened in the early 1950’s.

Leonards Bakery Malasadas Honolulu Oahu Hawaii
The original malasada bakery, Leonard’s Bakery

At the suggestion of his mother, owner Leonard DoRego first baked malasadas for Shrove Tuesday (Fat Tuesday), a Portuguese tradition. They were a big hit and the rest is history.

Today, malasadas are no longer just a holiday or special occasion treat but are enjoyed year-round. Many bakeries even put their own signature spin on the classic recipe (more on that below!).

Fun Fact

The word malasada roughly translates as “badly baked.” Which, of course, begs the question…where are they keeping the stuff that was nicely baked?

I’d like to try those, too, please and thank you.

But enough about the history of malasadas, let’s jump back to the here and now. Like where to go right now for a great malasada.

The Best Malasadas in Hawaii: An island by island guide

No matter which island you’re visiting, rest assured there’s a local bakery serving up delicious malasadas.

Here are my favorite places around the islands:

The Best Malasadas on Oahu

Leonard’s Bakery (Honolulu-Kapahulu)

As the undisputed king of malasadas in Honolulu since 1952, Leonard’s Bakery is Hawaii’s original malasada bakery. With a classic take that keeps locals and tourists lining up day after day, Leonard’s is a must when you visit Honolulu.

Leonards Bakery Malasadas Oahu Hawaii
A typical line outside Leonard’s Bakery

Don’t miss their original sugar-coated malasadas (regular, cinnamon sugar, or Li Hing), or enjoy them filled with custard, chocolate, guava, or haupia (coconut pudding).

There’s also a weekly rotating flavor of the week (lemon is one of my personal favorites). Tip: If you want the cute pink box, you’ll need to order at least six.

I freely admit that Leonard’s malasadas are one of my current vices and there doesn’t appear to be a 12-step program for it.

Note: The main bakery location on Kapahulu Avenue is currently closed for renovation and repairs. It is expected to reopen in early May. But don’t panic!

Leonard’s easy-to-spot food trucks, the Malasada Mobiles, are still serving fresh, hot malasadas around the island in 4 locations: Hawaii Kai, Waikele, Pearlridge, and Kaneohe. No, they’re not quite as good as the real thing from the bakery, but they’ll do in a pinch.

Leonards Malasada Mobile Hawaii Kai Oahu Hawaii
Leonard’s Malasada Mobile, Hawaii Kai

Pipeline Bakeshop & Creamery (Kaimuki)

There are so many scrumptious things to talk about at this bakery I hardly know where to start. But, let’s start with the malasadas.

The malasada claim to fame at Pipeline is that their unique recipe can be enjoyed for several days without drying out or getting oily like most.

They don’t offer filled malasadas but they do have several sugar coatings to choose from like Li Hing, cinnamon, and cocoa.

Pipeline Bakeshop and Creamery Malasadas in Hawaii
Malasadas at Pipeline Bakeshop

But while they don’t condone filled malasadas, they do make something extra special called a “malamode.” This extraordinary contraption is a malasada wrapped in ice cream and, yes, it’s as amazing as it sounds.

Full disclosure, I love the malasadas at Pipeline but I’m an even bigger fan of their Cake Bombs. If you go, be sure to get one of those, too!

Agnes’ Portuguese Bake Shop (Kailua)

After nearly 50 years in business, the brick-and-mortar location for this popular Kailua bakery sadly closed in 2018.

Thankfully, in 2020, local resident Ryan Katsuno revived the bakery’s malasada tradition by purchasing the rights and recipes and re-inventing it in food truck form.

He stayed true to the original recipe and cooking technique and today Agnes’ malasadas are once again a beloved local favorite. Chewy, crispy, and thicker than other malasadas baked around the islands, these are likely the closest you’ll get to an original Portuguese malasada.

Liliha Bakery (multiple locations)

Better known for their to-die-for coco puffs, this popular local bakery also serves a darn good malasada. 

The original bakery on Kuakini Street in Honolulu is a fun place to visit. But you’ll also find locations around greater Honolulu, including one conveniently located in Waikiki’s International Marketplace.

Liliha Bakery Malasada Coco Puffs Oahu Hawaii
Liliha Bakery Malasada & Coco Puffs

The Best Malasadas on Maui

Sugar Beach Bake Shop (Kihei)

This tiny bakery is known for its big, bold flavors. And that’s why it’s my favorite malasada spot on Maui. It’s the kind of place where you’re tempted to try one of everything but you know you probably shouldn’t.

The stuffed malasada options include Ube (a must-try), lilikoi, vanilla cream, and coconut cream. My other favorite menu items at Sugar Beach are the banana bread and the Lilikoi Key Lime Pie.

T. Komoda Store and Bakery (Makawao)

This century-old bakery in Makawao is famous for its stick donuts, cream puffs, and malasadas. Their guava malasadas are an extra special treat.

Home Maid Bakery (Wailuku)

Since 1960, this popular Maui bakery has been cooking up local favorites from freshly baked bread to cakes and bentos. Known as the “Home of the Crispy Manju,” Home Maid Bakery also offers a darn good malasada (available plain or filled with custard cream).

The Best Malasadas on Hawai’i Island (Big Island)

Tex Drive In (Honoka’a)

Located in Honoka’a, Tex Drive-In is so famous for its malasadas that you can even watch them being made through a viewing window. They offer classic sugar-dusted malasadas and a version filled with tropical flavors like mango and lilikoi.

If you’re driving from Hilo up to the Waipio Valley, the Tex Drive In is the perfect rest stop.

Punalu’u Bake Shop (Naalehu)

This famous bakery on the southern end of the Big Island is the southernmost bakery in the United States. Best known for their delicious traditional Hawaiian sweetbreads, they also serve pretty tasty malasadas.

Don’t miss the Punaluu Bake Shop if you’re headed from Kona to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Or from Hilo, if you’re visiting Punalu’u Black Sand Beach. From the beach, the bake shop is well worth the extra 15-minute drive.

KTA Superstores

With 7 locations around the island, this grocery store chain might seem like an unlikely place to find a good malasada. But the excellent bakeries in each store serve surprisingly good malasadas.

So if the other bakeries on this list are out of the way for your itinerary, your local KTA is worth a visit!

The Best Malasadas on Kauai

Kauai Bakery (Lihue)

Located in the Kukui Grove Center, Kauai Bakery makes malasadas that are a hit with both locals and visitors. Their malasadas are known for a crispy exterior and a soft, fluffy interior, perfect with a cup of local coffee.

Passion Bakery Cafe (Kapa’a)

You’ll want to arrive early at this popular breakfast spot (and on the right day) if you want to score a malasada. They only serve malasadas on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. They’re made from scratch and often sell out quickly, so it’s a treat worth planning your day around.

And there you have it!

All of my best suggestions for finding the best malasadas in Hawaii, no matter which island you visit.

Malasadas are a delicious example of how a culinary tradition from one culture can integrate into and become a staple of another.

In fact, malasadas are so beloved in Hawaii that they even get their own special day.

When is Malasada Day?

Not surprisingly, it falls annually on the day before Ash Wednesday, also known as Shrove Tuesday. In 2025, that’s March 4th – mark your calendars now!

Good luck getting one on this day (you do NOT want to see the line at Leonard’s). But don’t worry, it’s easy to get them every other day of the year!

So whether you’re in Honolulu, Maui, Kauai, or the Big Island, now you know the best local bakeries to indulge in your new favorite sweet indulgence.

Enjoy!

Best Malasadas in Hawaii on Every Island
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