“You’ve never had a malasada?!” My dad asked me this in disbelief when I first visited Hawaii. The word was so foreign to me, I didn’t even know what he was trying to say! I’ve always had a doughnut obsession, but I had never heard of a malasada before. Turns out, a malasada is a Portuguese doughnut without a hole. The first malasada I ever had was at Leonard’s Bakery in Honolulu, Hawaii – and it’s still my favorite place to get them. You can even buy a little malasada plush toy!
Leonard’s Bakery was founded in 1952 and has been a local favorite ever since. The bakery prospered from the beginning, but even more so after Leonard’s mother suggested that he make malasadas for Shrove Tuesday, a Portuguese tradition. Apparently Leonard thought selling malasadas was too ethnic for the bakery, but everyone who has ever tried one of these malasadas is glad that he baked them. They’re a huge hit and may have single-handedly created the Hawaii appetite for malasadas.
The malasadas at Leonard’s Bakery are golden brown on the outside, and light and fluffy on the inside. But wait, you also get to choose the type of sugar on the outside and the filling, according to your own tastes. You can choose from regular sugar, cinnamon & sugar or Li Hing Mui powder. Li Hing Mui powder is a strong, sweet and salty flavor that originates from China. It’s an acquired taste, but a popular flavor on the islands of Hawaii. I personally stick to the original sugar coating, since it’s a classic.
The filling options seem endless at Leonard’s Bakery. You can choose a classic custard, rich dobash (chocolate), or haupia (coconut). Those are the three staple fillings that will always be offered. However, like any good bakery, Leonard’s Bakery has new flavors for each month. I’ve tried the lilikoi (passion fruit), salted caramel, macadamia nut, guava, blueberry, pineapple and mango.
My personal favorites are the classic custard, haupia and the salted caramel (although the lilikoi is pretty good too!) It’s hard to choose favorites because they’re all so good! Malasada’s taste best when they’re warm, which is usually every time you get them. They’re so popular and delicious, that the bakery has to make them all day long! I’ve never gone and had them say, “Sorry, we’re sold out,” which I love. When you go, you will definitely be able to get some.
Some things to know before you go are: #1 – the parking lot is tiny. It is difficult to find a place to park, but sometimes you get lucky. Don’t be afraid to park else where and walk over – you’re in Hawaii so being outside is actually perfect. #2 – there is about a 20 minute wait, mostly because it takes everyone so long to choose one sugar and filling flavors. It is definitely worth the wait! #3 – there is no indoor seating. Leonard’s Bakery itself is small and adorable. They do offer benches outside, which are always fun to sit on for enjoying your very first (or millionth) malasada.
If malasada’s turn out to not be your thing, Leonard’s Bakery has many other selections, like other doughnuts, pastries, cakes, pao doce (bread), pies, cookies, etc. There are tons of drink options as well. Their menu is pretty large, but to be honest I haven’t explored too much more beyond the malasadas. They’re pretty captivating.
If this cold winter weather has you down, it might be time to fly over to paradise and get a box full of fresh, warm, and tasty malasadas. I always get a whole box for myself and end up sharing with anyone and everyone. They’re just so good!