Shortcut Pani Popo - Sweetend Coconut Buns

Pani Popo is a soft, semi sweet, Samoan coconut bun, baked in a delicious creamy coconut sauce. This shortcut recipe is super simple to make using frozen dinner rolls.  
Today I'm sharing a yummy recipe that has quickly become a family favorite in our house. Ever since I was a kid, I have always loved just about any type of ethnic cuisine. My dad was in the Air Force and we were lucky enough to be stationed on Hickam Air Force Base in Oahu, Hawaii for 10 years! 

Hawaii really was one of the most beautiful places a kid could call home. For me Hawaii was like summertime all year round. Besides the beautiful weather and scenery, Hawaii also has the most delicious food.

Living in Hawaii meant that I was exposed to a variety of different foods, Samoan, Filipino, Japanese, Chinese, Polynesian and even Portuguese dishes. I learned to eat so many different dishes and I loved all of them. 

On the weekends, I would go with my dad to all the different island bakeries and get fresh Pan de sal, Portuguese sweet bread, Malasadas, steamed rice cakes, Penuche fudge, Pork Manapuas, red bean buns, coconut custard buns and so much more.

Even though I lived in Hawaii for quite some time, I don't recall ever enjoying Pani Popo, so that needed to change. If you're not familiar with Samoan Pani Popo it's a soft, semi sweet coconut bun, baked in a delicious creamy coconut milk sauce. "Pani" means bun (not bread) and "Popo" means coconut. 

After the Pani Pop buns are finished baking you will see all the sweetened coconut sauce pooled in the bottom of the baking dish. This ooey-gooey custard sauce gives each of these buns a sticky, sweet underside. All I can say is these delicious coconut buns really are a little piece of heaven in a pan. 

Since finding this recipe I've made these buns twice in 2 weeks and my daughter is already asking me to make them again. This Pani Popo recipe is super simple to make using this shortcut recipe that I found on the Rhodes bread Baking Blog.  

Yield: 6 - 8
Author: Tina Butler | Mommy's Kitchen
Pani Popo (Sweetened Coconut Buns)

Pani Popo (Sweetened Coconut Buns)

Pani Popo is a soft, semi sweet, Samoan coconut bun, baked in a delicious creamy coconut sauce. This shortcut recipe is super simple to make using frozen dinner rolls.
Prep time: 5 MinCook time: 30 MinTotal time: 35 Min


  • 15 to 18 Rhodes dinner rolls, thawed but still cold
  • 1 cup raw or granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoon flour
  • ¼ cup sweetened coconut flakes (optional)
  • 1 (14 ounce) can unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. Place frozen rolls in rows of three in a sprayed 13 x 9 inch baking pan.
  2. Cover with plastic wrap that has been sprayed with non stick spray.
  3. Allow the rolls to thaw and rise until double in size.
  4. In a large bowl, combine the sugar, flour, flaked coconut, coconut milk and vanilla. Mix well and set aside.
  5. Remove the plastic wrap from risen rolls and pour 3/4th of the coconut milk mixture evenly over the rolls (making sure to coat each roll completely).
  6. Bake the rolls (uncovered) at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until the rolls are golden brown and cooked through.
  7. Remove from oven and pour the remaining coconut milk mixture over the baked rolls. Let the rolls cool for 30 minutes, before serving. The coconut mixture will thicken as the rolls cool.
  8. Store any leftovers in the refrigerator in an airtight container. Warm the buns for 30 seconds to 1 minute on a microwave safe plate.
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