Pani Popo Recipe

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This easy pani popo recipe is a traditional Samoan sweet roll that gets baked in a sweet coconut sauce. They are perfectly fluffy rolls drenched in a luscious, creamy coconut sauce. 

pani popo

I promise these Pani Popo will be on your dinner roll rotation once you sink your teeth into one of these little rolls of heaven. This is a traditional Samoan dish. 

I was recently introduced to by one of my friends. They soon became my new favorite thing and I had to make them for myself. After much trial and error this recipe is to die for! 

The best part is they go with just about everything and you can even serve them as a dessert. I love to serve them with my Kalua Pork recipe

What is Pani Popo:

Pani Popo originated in the Samoan Islands. They are a yeast dough that is soaked in a sweetened coconut sauce, hence the name. Pani means bread and popo means coconut in Samoan.  

The dough for the rolls:

Many recipes use pre-cooked dinner rolls. Although this is convenient you will not get the traditional flavor and fluffiness as you would with this homemade version. 

The rolls for this recipe are quite easy.  The only thing you need to make sure of is making sure your yeast activated properly for a proper rise.  

How to activate yeast:

Yeast is a living microorganism and takes a little attention.

To activate yeast, you will need to combine the dry yeast with warm water. I also like to add a little sugar. Sugar helps feed the yeast and helps it to activate quicker.
 
It is very important to use warm water or milk, not hot or cold water or milk. The water should be like a baby’s bath water. If the water is too hot it will kill your yeast.

before and after activating yeast

Coconut sauce for pani popo:

This sauce is literally drinkable! I even use this as a syrup on pancakes or waffles. So double the portion of sauce to have some for breakfast the next day. 

Some tips with this sauce…. Make sure you add the cornstarch to the room temperature coconut milk. You can even dissolve it in a tablespoon of water before adding it to the coconut milk to prevent clumps. 

How to store the rolls:

This recipe makes a large quantity of rolls so you may have some leftovers. If you do have extra just 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 Recipe:

pani popo

Pani Popo

Yield: 12 rolls
Prep Time: 2 hours 10 minutes
Cook Time: 18 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours 28 minutes

Fluffy rolls drenched in a creamy luscious coconut sauce!

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup warm milk
  • 2 teaspoons dry active yeast
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 3 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour

Coconut Sauce:

  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch mixed with 1 tablespoon water

Instructions

  1. Add warm milk and yeast to a mixing bowl fitted with a dough hook.
  2. Add the sugar and let sit for 10 minutes to activate and become bubbly.
  3. Add warm water, softened butter and vanilla to the mixer. Turn on low to mix to combine slightly.
  4. Add the eggs and turn on low to mix slightly.
  5. Add flour a little at a time while the mixer is on low speed.
  6. Add the salt. The dough should come together off the sides of the bowl, but will be slightly sticky.
  7. Flour your hands to remove the dough off the dough hook.
  8. Spray a bowl with cooking spray and place the dough into the bowl. Cover and let rise for 1 hour.
  9. While the dough is rising, make the sauce by combining all the ingredients. Add the ingredients to a saucepan and heat over medium heat for 7 minutes to thicken. Whisk to prevent burning.
  10. Spray a pan and your hands with cooking spray and grab about 1/4 cup of the dough. Form balls and place in the pan about and inch apart.
  11. Cover with plastic wrap and rise another hour. Preheat the oven to 350 F about 20 minutes before cooking.
  12. When you are ready to cook, cover the rolls with the coconut sauce and bake for 18 minutes.
  13. Spoon the extra sauce over the rolls when serving.

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