The Trendy Hawaiian Coconut Pudding Cubes You Should Know About

If you've ever been fortunate enough to visit the Hawaiian islands, then you've probably encountered one of the most common desserts there — haupia. According to Onolicious Hawaii, haupia (pronounced how-p-ahh) is most easily described as a coconut pudding, though its final texture differs slightly from most puddings.

Contemplating Sweets claims that there are different uses and preferences for this Polynesian dessert. Some prefer it to resemble a runny custard, but it is most commonly found in the form of solid white rectangles and squares. They have a soft, jiggly consistency closer to Jell-O than pudding, and have a light and sweet coconut flavor. Onolicious Hawaii claims that the dessert is ubiquitous throughout the islands, and is served as a dessert with casual lunches as well as important luau celebrations. It's also a versatile ingredient that can serve as a topping for brownies, shortbread cookies, and pies just as easily as being served on its own.

History of Haupia

Haupia is a unique dish that epitomizes the adventurous spirit of the Polynesian wayfarers that originally inhabited the Hawaiian islands. Connect2Local says that the two main ingredients in haupia are coconut milk, and arrowroot or pia. Both of these ingredients are not native to Hawaii but were instead introduced by the Polynesian explorers that came to the islands from across the Pacific Ocean, per Connect2Local.

Kōloa Landing Resort reports that coconut palms were likely first introduced to the island during prehistoric times, and came to be a vital resource for the Polynesians. The coconut fruit is of course used to make the coconut milk or cream that helps to flavor the haupia. Ke Ola Magazine points out that the other important ingredient in haupia is arrowroot. Arrowroot was spread throughout the Polynesian islands by explorers and was ground and dried into a powder for medicinal and culinary uses.

Connect2Local says that haupia was made with these two ingredients, and has been around for some time. Its popularity started to grow after the end of World War II though, and it is now a common treat throughout the islands.

Ingredients and variations

Onolicious Hawaii claims that the most important ingredients of haupia are coconut, starch, and sugar. Within each of these though, there can be some variation. Favorite Family Recipes adds that there is some debate over what form of each element to incorporate though. For example, while coconut is required for the recipe, some people prefer using coconut cream over coconut milk. MasterClass points out that there is little difference between these two, except that coconut cream is thicker and uses more coconut. Since starch is the main thickening agent, the thickness doesn't matter, but coconut cream may have a stronger flavor than milk.

The type of starch used is also up for debate. Connect2Local makes it clear that arrowroot starch is the traditional starch used in haupia. It might not be available in some regions though, and so there are substitutes available. Favorite Family Recipes says that cornstarch is probably the most common substitute available, but another starch option that still sets up nicely is agar-agar. The amount of sugar can also be adjusted to suit individual preferences, as it is mainly there to provide sweetness. Different types of sweeteners can also be substituted, though the quantity may vary.