Haupia squares on a wooden plate.

Hawaiian haupia squares: the flavour of the islands

Maysie Dee

Contributing writer

This simple Hawaiian recipe really brings the flavour of the Hawaiian Islands to your plate! Anyone who visits Hawaii can’t help but notice haupia, the tasty coconut milk pudding-like dessert that shows up at every luau and is a necessary item in Hawaiian plate lunches.

Haupia (pronounced how-pee-ah) is made from heated coconut milk, thickened with sugar and food starch. Originally, ground Tahitian pia root (also known as arrowroot) was used, but these days, cornstarch is the usual choice because it’s less expensive and easier to find.

The pudding can be soft and creamy, and served in a small cup to be eaten with a spoon, along with a meal. Or, with a bit more thickener, haupia will set up almost like stiffer-but-creamy jello. It is cut into squares and eaten as a finger food or with a fork or spoon.

A plate of Hawaiian haupia squares

Today, there are numerous variations on the haupia theme, with restaurants and bakeries throughout the islands offering their special modern haupia creations. Haupia is everywhere – from haupia pie (pie crust with a layer of haupia, a layer of chocolate haupia, and whipped cream on top), to strawberry or lime flavored haupia, haupia stuffed Hawaiian malasadas (doughnuts) to haupia-topped brownies.

Traditional haupia is the base for all of these adaptions. It’s not difficult to make Hawaiian haupia, so give this easy recipe a try. Just follow the instructions and don’t leave the stove once you get started! The pudding can burn if it gets too hot, and you need to keep stirring to guarantee no lumps in that creamy Hawaiian haupia texture.


  • 1 (14 oz) can coconut cream (full fat)
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 4-5 tbsp cornstarch*
  • Shredded coconut for garnish (optional)

* For firm squares, use 5 tbsp of corn starch. If you want a more pudding-like haupia, use 4 tbsp. If you prefer to use arrowroot powder, you can substitute it 1-1 for the cornstarch.


  1. 1
    In a small bowl, mix cornstarch and water. Grease a 8” x 8” square cake pan (stainless or glass is perfect). You can also opt to cover the bottom of the pan with parchment paper.
  2. 2
    In a medium saucepan, mix the coconut milk and sugar, and whisk on a high heat until the sugar is completely melted and just comes to a boil.
  3. 3
    Turn the heat to low and stir your cornstarch mixture, so the cornstarch isn’t settled on the bottom. SLOWLY, add the cornstarch mixture, half a cup at a time, to the coconut sugar in the saucepan, whisking all the while.
  4. 4
    When the cornstarch water is all in the saucepan, whisk vigorously for 10-15 minutes, until the pudding thickens and begins to pull away from the sides. If you want a softer pudding-like haupia, stop before it starts pulling away from the edges. If you want really firm haupia to cut into squares, keep whisking for longer than you think you need to!
  5. 5
    If making squares, pour the pudding into the cake pan and smooth the top. Work quickly – you only have a few minutes until the haupia begins to firm up and you can no longer smooth the top. If you are making spoon-able pudding, pour the haupia into individual cups.
  6. 6
    Let the haupia set for around 15 minutes and then refrigerate for up to 6 hours, covered with a plate or plastic wrap.
  7. 7
    The trick to getting super smooth-looking haupia squares is to turn the un-molded squares upside down. You can un-mold the entire pan, like an upside-down cake, where you run a knife around the edge, cover with a plate and turn the entire pan upside down. I don’t have much luck with that method, so I just run a knife around the edge of the pan and then slice the haupia into squares, carefully removing and placing each square upside down on a serving tray or platter.
  8. 8
    Garnish with coconut flakes, shredded coconut or toasted coconut, fruit or edible flowers. Enjoy!

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Maysie Dee

Author - Maysie Dee

Maysie Dee is a freelance writer, content editor, and recipe creator. She and her husband have travelled across the world for decades as natural product consultants, collecting stories along the way.

Last Updated 31 July 2023

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