How To Make Coconut Buns aka Pani Popo to Die For

As per request here is the recipe we use in our household to satisfy not only our cravings but a small mass of people. If you have never had Pani Popo (or even if you have), I suggest you make this recipe! It’ll be a hit with everyone and you can claim you’re a masterchef of all polynesian recipes…(remember this post).  Why don’t you invite some friends over and have your own little luau?

So what are Pani Popo? In english (the way I have to say it because I can’t pull off speaking Samoan) they’re Coconut buns. They are a deliciously sweet, sticky bun. It’s said that they originated in the Samoa. I’m not an expert or anything but I’ll take it because then it’s something else I can claim comes from my heritage.

The buns are soft and doughy and get baked in a coconut sauce so good it will make you want to lick the plate. Not that I’ve done that before… do do do do do do….*Side glance*

Please note: You will need a large baking tray for this or 2 regular sized dishes. This recipe should make up to 25 small buns.

Ingredients for Buns:

5 ½ to 6 ½ cups plain all purpose flour
1 packet yeast, 7g (¼oz)
2 ¼ cups milk
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp butter 30g (1oz)
1 tsp salt
Canola Oil

Buns Method:

  • Add half the flour with the yeast into a bowl and mix.
  • Heat the milk in a saucepan stirring constantly, add sugar, butter and salt till warm and butter has just about melted. Do not let it boil.
  • Add the wet mixture to flour and yeast mix the combination slowly, being sure to scrape up the bits on the edge of the bowl.
  • Add the rest of the flour until you get a good doughy texture that is easy to pull but not dry. Knead on a lightly floured surface for 10 minutes. Be careful not to use too much flour or your bread will turn out dense and heavy.
  • Shape the dough into a large ball.
  • Coat the ball in canola oil.
  • Place the ball in a large bowl.
  • Cover the bowl with a clean tea towel and place in a warm place to rise for 45 minutes to an hour.
  • Flatten down the dough and make into little balls… or to pretty them up, roll out the balls into snakes and then make a swirl shape.
  • Place the balls into a large ungreased baking dish, cover and let rise for another 10 minutes while you make the sauce.

Sauce Ingredients:

2 cans coconut milk

1 cup sugar

Sauce Method:

  • Combine the coconut cream and sugar then pour over the buns. Simple!
  • Bake at 190°C (375°F) for 20 minutes.

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  • Lua March 26, 2010, 9:52 pm

    Your a legend! I can’t wait and my nieces, nephews, brothers always lick the plate! Always! My brother once grabbed a piece of bread cos all the pani’s were gone and wiped the plate!

  • Joanna March 27, 2010, 12:43 am

    Oh maaaaaan I LOVE me some Pani Popo!! I made them now and then over here when I want a taste of home – I actually bought some coconut milk the other day to make some, and now that you’ve posted about them – well it must be a sign ;) I remember we would buy them at the Otara markets oh so long ago:) Geesh that brings back memories!

  • Brenda March 27, 2010, 4:59 pm

    You are a legend. Thanks for answering my request. Can’t wait to make them. My mouth is watering.

  • Meeks March 27, 2010, 8:43 pm

    Yummy I love coconut buns too! I tried making it a couple of times…I found out the hard way, that if you use “LITE” coconut milk it tastes yuck!

  • Chavah March 28, 2010, 5:34 pm

    LOL Lua, your brother using the regular bread is tooo funny.

  • Chavah March 28, 2010, 5:38 pm

    I love the Otara markets!! Ahhh, glad I can help bring those memories back for you Joanna hehe. Let me know how you go with the recipe.

  • Chavah March 28, 2010, 5:49 pm

    No problem Aunty Brenda, I hope everyone enjoys the treat!

  • Chavah March 28, 2010, 5:49 pm

    Meeks lol. That’s actually a really good tip! Thanks for sharing :D

  • Chickie Little April 7, 2010, 6:34 pm

    Oh yum! These sound awesome. I’m going to try these – I’ll let you know how they go!

  • Mercedez Fredericksen April 8, 2010, 5:31 am

    Most of the time I don’t post on blogs, but I would like to say that this post really forced me to do so. Really nice post!

  • Bebe May 15, 2010, 6:13 pm

    Best pani popo I’ve come across! I made them massive and didn’t leave them to cook long enough, so whilst it was yum I mistook its unreadiness for that ‘doughy’ texture Lmao. And just as an FYI for people, if you’re using coconut cream, you mix it with water… the ratio calls for more water than actual coconut cream. Taste to test!

  • Bebe May 15, 2010, 6:15 pm

    Sorry, meant to say best Pani popo recipe Lol. Bless.

  • Chavah Kinloch May 15, 2010, 7:59 pm

    Fantastic Bebe!! So glad to hear your feedback and tips. So glad you left a message :D

  • Christine December 30, 2010, 5:13 pm

    Malo Lava I really enjoyed making the pani popo’s, this was my first time and it turned out great! Thank you for sharing this reciepe, it brought back many childhood memories.

  • Rosemary Mulligan January 21, 2012, 5:41 pm

    Chavah, please don’t recommend canola oil. It is a genetically modified oil made for light industry. It is used in printing to make the ink absorb better. It is not good for our bodies. Apparently it makes the wall of our cells sticky so that the good stuff cannot get in or out of the cell. It has also been linked to macular degeneration. Some people don’t care what they eat, but there is a growing number realising our food in manufactured to a price. Canola oil has a high burning point and it does not go ‘off’… it can be used over and over again…..If this doesn’t convince you… look it up. PS… thanks for the great recipe… : )

  • Tia January 30, 2012, 2:08 pm

    I’ve never made coconut buns before, but when I tried this receipe my husband & family were hooked.. he even told me that the coconut buns I made from your receipe was way way better than his mothers….THANK U SO MUCH !!!!!

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    Hello, i think that i saw you visited my web site so i came to “return the favor”.I’m attempting to find things to improve my web site!I suppose its ok to use a few of your ideas!!

  • Jess March 10, 2012, 9:39 am

    Hi, I’m Jess! I’m Spanish and my husband is Samoan..wanted to surprise him by making pani popos(it’s my favorite samoan dessert..and I was cravinng it lol)! This recepie is perfect. The first time I made them they turned out absoloutley perfect..the best pani popos my husband said hes ever tasted! Thank you thank you thank you!
    My next dish I would like to tackle is pumpkin you have a good recpie??
    Ps: I made ur chop suey and it was a hit!

  • Chavah Kinloch March 13, 2012, 11:03 pm

    Hey Jess! I’m going to ask my Mum if she has a really good faausi recipe I can pass along to you, ok :) I’m so glad your hubby is getting these yummy Polynesian treats made by his Spanish wife – that is AWESOME! Go you!

  • Happie Baker April 19, 2012, 8:15 am

    This sounds like a recipe I would want to try, but how do I get the recipe without all the comments and ads?

    • Chavah April 22, 2012, 10:37 pm

      Hi there Happie Baker! I’m so glad you asked. After my recent blog redesign, this is one of the things I overlooked replacing. Because you’ve asked I’ve now added a ‘print friendly’ button to the bottom of each post. Clicking on that you’ll be able to edit and save the recipe exactly how you want it to read.

      Enjoy your coconut buns! Please let me know how everything turn out.


  • Karen Stribling April 22, 2012, 10:58 pm

    Hi Chavah

    Have had a craving for coconut buns and just Googled it and your recipe came up first. W hat a small world.

    Aunty Karen

  • Chavah April 22, 2012, 11:51 pm

    Wow! Hi Aunty Karen! What a small world alright. I hope this recipe works out well for you :) I also hope all is well in your world. Much love, Chavah xxx

  • Jess April 23, 2012, 5:36 pm

    Hi there, its Jess again, just wondering if you had a chance to find a good pumpkin faausi recpie? been craving it lol.. thanks :)

  • Chavah Kinloch April 24, 2012, 3:24 pm

    Hey Jess, I was actually just thinking about you and how I hadn’t done that recipe yet! I don’t have it yet I’m sorry but I’m going to contact my Mum *right now* to see what she can offer me :D I will get that recipe for you!

    • Jess April 24, 2012, 6:29 pm

      lol..all good, just whenever you can, looking forward to making it!

      • Chavah Kinloch May 2, 2012, 3:32 pm

        Alright, I’ve got a recipe! Now I just need to make it (because the instructions I have are very strange) and see what type of tweaks it needs and as soon as that’s done (crazy week ahead but shouldn’t be too far away) I will post up :D

  • yasmin May 6, 2012, 7:26 pm

    I love Coconut buns,they`re delish! when I made them at my school I thought they were yum!

    • Chavah Kinloch July 24, 2012, 8:22 pm

      I hope you’ve been making more! They’re such a hit in my home too.

  • Mama Cas June 7, 2012, 3:52 pm

    By far the easiest n best Pani popo ever.. Im a afakasi samoan maori girl who doesnt know much about her hamo side and this so to speak makes me feel closer to my hamo side . So thank u so much for sharing this recipe. My family loved them my brothers and father fought over who should have the tray and who should get the plain bread also.. Lolz so thanks again..

    • Chavah Kinloch July 24, 2012, 8:24 pm

      I am so happy to hear this helped you feel more in touch with your Samoan side! I know what it’s like to be a afakasi girl in the world and wanting to identify with your heritage. I love your story about your brothers and Dad haha. xx

  • Staci June 19, 2012, 8:15 pm

    These were very yummy. I decided to give them a shot. Now I’m taking them in to my Samoan friends tomorrow to see how they like them.

    • Chavah Kinloch July 24, 2012, 8:25 pm

      How did it go Staci? I hope everyone enjoyed them as much as you did :)

  • Kim kpi July 24, 2012, 6:56 pm

    Im an australian girl married to a tongan. U have just made my life so much easier. Ur recipes r fantastic and so easy to follow. Thank u so much. My husband was blown away when i made him chop suey, just like his mums. U guys are amazing. Cheers kim

    • Chavah Kinloch July 24, 2012, 8:27 pm

      That is FANTASTIC Kim! I must add more recipes! I’m so happy to hear your husband loved them and you blew him away with some home favourites. Thank you so much for your lovely message.

      • Jez January 1, 2013, 7:41 pm

        Hi do you have a pumpkin fa’ausi

  • bob traffic August 4, 2012, 6:02 pm

    it was very nice must put more up

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  • Meripa May 24, 2013, 8:09 pm

    Hi Chavah,
    Awesome recipe girl! I got the thumbs up from my family who were craving pani popos for a while. I also used the same dough to make cinammon buns which are my ultimate fav!
    Have enjoyed reading your blog!

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    wish I’d found this site earlier would have saves so much time.

  • Tina Grey December 5, 2013, 2:17 pm

    Beautiful :) I made these in loving memory of my nanny :) who has moved back home. Brings back lovely memories of my nan and i.
    Thank you for the recipe :)

  • Leish December 13, 2013, 3:31 pm

    Hi am I able to use coconut cream as I can only find coconut milk in “lite”

    Thank you