Pani Popo are deliciously soft, fluffy Samoan coconut bread buns, baked in a sweet and thick coconut sauce. Sticky soft bread rolls, ideal for breakfast, dessert or as a snack.

Pani Popo (Samoan Coconut Bread Rolls). Pani Popo are deliciously soft, fluffy Samoan coconut bread buns, baked in a sweet and thick coconut sauce. Sticky soft bread rolls, ideal for breakfast, dessert or as a snack

I first came across Pani Popo when I was lucky enough to visit the Maldives on holiday. Whilst these rolls originate from Samoa, which is a Polynesian island in the Pacific Ocean, I was surprised to see them served in a Maldivian hotel, in the Indian Ocean! I spoke to the chef to ask where these rolls were from, as you will probably guess, I needed the recipe!

The rolls were in a large pyrex type oven dish, and served as a warm dessert at the buffet island. I was very curious why they would serve bread for dessert. But then I tried one, and then another... and then another.

I was amazed at how soft, sweet, and tropical these pani popo tasted. I can't even tell you if there is anything else similar to these rolls. You just need to make them and see for yourself.

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Pani Popo (Samoan Coconut Bread Rolls). Pani Popo are deliciously soft, fluffy Samoan coconut bread buns, baked in a sweet and thick coconut sauce. Sticky soft bread rolls, ideal for breakfast, dessert or as a snack

I've made our famous Aloha Bread rolls many times, which is a pineapple flavored bread roll, but these are on a different level! The coconut flavor is amazing.

So, long story short, I spoke to the dessert chef at the hotel and asked him if he would be able to tell me what the ingredients were and how he made them. I was over the moon when he gave me the recipe!

I went back to my dinner table and made a note of everything he said on my phone for safekeeping, and when I got back home from holiday, I made them.

So here is the recipe, it's definitely aimed at coconut lovers, and I would suggest making this for a celebration breakfast, perhaps a Thanksgiving or Christmas morning breakfast, or as a dessert and serve warm.

You can certainly make the dough up the day before if you prefer, keep refrigerated and then give it a second rise in the morning, once you've shaped the rolls.

Pani Popo (Samoan Coconut Bread Rolls). Pani Popo are deliciously soft, fluffy Samoan coconut bread buns, baked in a sweet and thick coconut sauce. Sticky soft bread rolls, ideal for breakfast, dessert or as a snack

What is Pani Popo?

Pani popo is a soft bread roll, originating from Samoa. The buns are baked in a delicious sticky, sweet coconut sauce. The bread itself is light and fluffy, and the crust of the bun is slightly sticky and also has a very thin film of crispy coconut flavor sugar from the baking. The underside of the rolls is also soft and spongy in texture.

What is pani popo made of?

Pani Popo is made from yeast bread and sweetened coconut milk.

What does Pani Popo mean in Samoan?

Pani means bread and popo means coconut in Samoan.

Pani Popo (Samoan Coconut Bread Rolls). Pani Popo are deliciously soft, fluffy Samoan coconut bread buns, baked in a sweet and thick coconut sauce. Sticky soft bread rolls, ideal for breakfast, dessert or as a snack

Prep Time

25 minutes

Cook Time

20 minutes

Serves

16 buns

Ingredients

The Sweet Yeast Dough

Pani Popo (Samoan Coconut Bread Rolls), bread dough ingredeints

2 & 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
1/4 cup or 60ml warm water
1/2 cup or 120ml unsweetened coconut milk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 eggs
1/4 cup or 50g sugar
1/4 cup or 28g milk powder
1 tsp salt
3 & 2/3 cups or 460g all purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

The Coconut Sauce

Pani Popo (Samoan Coconut Bread Rolls), Coconut sauce ingredients

2 & 1/2 cups or 600ml unsweetened coconut milk
1/2 cup or 100g sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch mixed with 2 tablespoons water
Pinch of salt

Instructions

  • In a jug, add the water and heat in the microwave at 30 second intervals until it is warm to touch. Then add the yeast and 1 teaspoon of sugar from the dough ingredients. Give it a stir and let stand for 5 - 10 minutes until frothy.
  • The photo below shows all the bubbles forming when the yeast is activated.
Pani Popo (Samoan Coconut Bread Rolls), showing bubbles in yeast during activation
  • Transfer the yeast mixture to a large mixing bowl, then add the remaining dough ingredients.
Pani Popo (Samoan Coconut Bread Rolls), bread dough ingredients added to mixer
  • Using a dough hook, mix until the dough until it comes away from the sides of the mixing bowl. This should take around 10 - 15 minutes. The dough should feel smooth and stretchy.
  • This image below shows the start of mixing where the dough is still wet.
Pani Popo (Samoan Coconut Bread Rolls), dough consistency at start of mixing

After around 15 minutes of kneading, the dough becomes elastic and looks like this photo below

Pani Popo (Samoan Coconut Bread Rolls), dough consistency after 15 minutes
showing stand mixer and dough consistency

If the dough is still ‘wet’, add a little more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl.

  • Transfer the dough to a large, lightly oiled bowl and cover with a tea towel or plastic wrap. Let it sit in a warm, draught free place and allow to rise for 1 hour, or until the dough has doubled in size.
Pani Popo (Samoan Coconut Bread Rolls), dough before first rise

After 1 hour of proving, see the dough has grown larger.

Pani Popo (Samoan Coconut Bread Rolls), dough doubled in size
  • Once doubled in size, punch the dough down on a lightly floured surface
Pani Popo (Samoan Coconut Bread Rolls), punching dough down
  • and then divide into 16 equal pieces.
Pani Popo (Samoan Coconut Bread Rolls), divide dough into 16 pieces
  • Shape each piece into a ball
Pani Popo (Samoan Coconut Bread Rolls), shape into balls
  • and transfer to a greased baking tray. You can use a 9 x 13 pan, 2 bundt pans, or two 8 inch round pans. Arrange the rolls so they are evenly spaced apart. They will need room to rise.
Pani Popo (Samoan Coconut Bread Rolls), arrange in pan for 2nd prove

Each time I make these rolls I use a different pan! It really doesn’t matter, so use what you have to hand.

Pani Popo (Samoan Coconut Bread Rolls)., showing different baking pans
  • Then cover with the tea bowl or plastic wrap, and allow to rise for a further 45 minutes, until the rolls are touching each other.
  • Can you see the rolls have risen and are now touching each other. That means they're ready for the oven!
Pani Popo (Samoan Coconut Bread Rolls), after 2nd prove
See how the rolls have risen nicely and touch each other
  • Meanwhile, make the coconut sauce. Using a small pan, add the cornstarch with 1 tablespoon of coconut milk, stir until dissolved, then add the remaining coconut milk and sugar.
  • Over medium heat, warm up the coconut mixture, stirring continuously, until the mixture has thickened.
  • This should take around 2 - 3 minutes. Add a pinch of salt.
Pani Popo (Samoan Coconut Bread Rolls), making coconut sauce

If you don’t stir, the cornstarch will make the sauce go lumpy!

  • Preheat oven to 350F or 180C. When the rolls have risen, pour the coconut mixture all over the tops of the rolls. Tilt the pan around so the coconut sauce gets to every side and corner of the pan.
Pani Popo (Samoan Coconut Bread Rolls), add coconut sauce to bread
  • Bake for 20 - 25 minutes until golden brown.
Pani Popo (Samoan Coconut Bread Rolls). Pani Popo are deliciously soft, fluffy Samoan coconut bread buns, baked in a sweet and thick coconut sauce. Sticky soft bread rolls, ideal for breakfast, dessert or as a snack

Serve the warm buns from the pan and enjoy!

You can eat these whilst they're still hot from the oven and are a little sticky and gooey, or eat them cold. Either way, they really are wonderful!

Pani Popo (Samoan Coconut Bread Rolls). Pani Popo are deliciously soft, fluffy Samoan coconut bread buns, baked in a sweet and thick coconut sauce. Sticky soft bread rolls, ideal for breakfast, dessert or as a snack

How to store the rolls

Place some plastic wrap over the pan and keep at room temperature for 2-3 days. When you are ready to eat, you can pop one in the microwave for 15 seconds to warm slightly.

Pani Popo (Samoan Coconut Bread Rolls). Pani Popo are deliciously soft, fluffy Samoan coconut bread buns, baked in a sweet and thick coconut sauce. Sticky soft bread rolls, ideal for breakfast, dessert or as a snack

We'd love to hear from you and what you thought of our recipe. Did you make any changes or add some other ingredients? Let us know in the comments below. Thanks for reading and happy cooking!

Pani Popo (Samoan Coconut Bread Rolls). Pani Popo are deliciously soft, fluffy Samoan coconut bread buns, baked in a sweet and thick coconut sauce. Sticky soft bread rolls, ideal for breakfast, dessert or as a snack

If you love coconut as much as we do, be sure to check out our other tasty coconut recipes too!

Recipe Card

Pani Popo (Samoan Coconut Bread Rolls). Pani Popo are deliciously soft, fluffy Samoan coconut bread buns, baked in a sweet and thick coconut sauce. Sticky soft bread rolls, ideal for breakfast, dessert or as a snack

Pani Popo (Samoan Coconut Bread Rolls)

Yield: 16
Prep Time: 3 hours
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 3 hours 20 minutes

Pani Popo (Samoan Coconut Bread Rolls) are deliciously soft, fuffy Samoan coconut yeast bread buns, baked in a sweet and thick coconut sauce. Perfectly delicious rolls, ideal for breakfast, dessert or as a snack.

Ingredients

The Sweet Yeast Dough

  • 2 & 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup or 60ml warm water
  • 1/2 cup or 120ml unsweetened coconut milk
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup or 50g sugar
  • 1/4 cup or 28g milk powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 & 2/3 cups or 460g all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

The Coconut Sauce:

  • 2 & 1/2 cups or 600ml coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup or 100g sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch mixed with 2 tablespoons water
  • Pinch of salt

Instructions

      1. In a bowl, add the water and heat in the microwave at 30 second intervals until it is warm to touch. Then add the yeast and 1 teaspoon of sugar from the dough ingredients. Give it a stir and let stand for 5 - 10 minutes until frothy.

      2. Transfer the yeast mixture to a large mixing bowl, then add the remaining dough ingredients. Using a dough hook, mix until the dough until it comes away from the sides of the mixing bowl. This should take around 10 - 15 minutes. The dough should feel smooth and stretchy.

      If the dough is still 'wet', add a little more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl.

      3. Transfer the dough to a large, lightly oiled bowl and cover with a tea towel or plastic wrap. Let it sit in a warm, draught free place and allow to rise for 1 hour, or until the dough has doubled in size.

      4. Once doubled in size, punch the dough down and then divide into 12 equal pieces.

      5. Shape each piece in to a ball and transfer to a greased baking tray. You can use a 9 x 13 pan, 2 bundt pans, or two 8 inch round pans. Punch the dough down. Divide into 12 equal pieces. Arrange the rolls so they are evenly spaced apart. They will need room to rise.

      6. Then cover with the tea bowl or plastic wrap, and allow to rise for a further 45 minutes, until the rolls are touching each other.

      7. Meanwhile, make the coconut sauce. Using a small pan, add the cornstarch with 1 tablespoon of coconut milk, stir until dissolved, then add the remaining coconut milk and sugar.
      Over a medium heat, warm up the coconut mixture, stirring continuously, until the mixture has thickened. This should take around 2 - 3 minutes. Add the pinch of salt.
      * If you don't stir, the cornstarch will make the sauce go lumpy!

      7. Preheat oven to 350F or 180C. When the rolls have risen, pour the coconut mixture all over the tops of the rolls. Tilt the pan around so the coconut sauce gets to every side and corner of the pan.
      8. Bake for 20 - 25 minutes until golden brown.

      Remove a warm bun onto a serving plate and use a spoon to drizzle some of the remaining coconut sauce from the pan over the top of the bun.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 16 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 252Total Fat: 12gSaturated Fat: 9gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 31mgSodium: 170mgCarbohydrates: 33gFiber: 1gSugar: 10gProtein: 5g

Nutrition information isn’t always accurate

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