Looking for a unique, exotic and easy-to-make treat to share with friends or family? This recipe for Pani Popo (Samoan Coconut Rolls) fits the bill, perfectly! These rolls are the South Pacific equivalent to cinnamon buns–warm, fluffy rolls coated in a delicious, sweet coconut sauce. Though Pani Popo originally hails from Samoa, it is a popular dish in Hawaii as well.
Today I’m going to share a secret with you about Pani Popo that a Samoan family shared with me–you can make them with frozen dinner rolls! It does not get much simpler (or budget-friendly) than that, especially if you are serving a lot of people!
IMPORTANT: the trick here is NOT to buy pre-cooked rolls. You want to buy the ones that are frozen dough. To prepare the Pani Popo, you need your dough to thaw and rise, so that you can infuse it with lovely coconut gooey-ness before it’s baked.
To get those rolls thawed and doughy, pre-heat your oven to 150. Grease up a 9 x 12 inch, glass baking dish very well with a non-stick cooking spray, and arrange your balls of dough into 4 rows of 3.
Next, you’re going to turn your oven off (no you didn’t misread that) and place a small sauce pan that is halfway filled with water in your oven. This creates a warm, high-moisture environment in the oven for the dough balls to thaw and rise. Place your dish of dough balls in the oven (uncovered), which will allow them to thaw and rise.
(Note: This will probably take a couple of hours. You don’t need to watch it carefully, so use the time for whatever you need .)
After about two hours, check to see that your dough has risen. It should have doubled in size. If so, remove the dish from the oven and set it aside. Now pre-heat your oven to 350 (you’ll keep it on this time.)
While your oven preheats, stir together the coconut milk and sugar until they are well-combined. It’s okay if there are little pieces of coconut that don’t fully incorporate because it’s all going to melt together in the oven.
Now, my favorite part: pour all of the sweet coconut milk mixture over top of the uncooked rolls. Be sure the tops of the dough are all evenly coated with the coconut sauce. A lot of it will sink into the rolls and collect on the bottom of the glass pan as they bake, too (YUM).
Bake the Pani Popo for 30 minutes at 350F. Check the rolls after 20 minutes of baking and, if they are getting too brown, lay a piece of foil over the top of the rolls to prevent them from over-browning during the final 10 minutes of baking.
When the rolls are cooked through and golden-brown on top, remove them from the oven and cool them for at least 15 minutes in the pan. Serve warm or at room temperature.
One reason I love these Pani Popo coconut rolls is because they are really versatile, making a delicious treat in a variety of settings. Like cinnamon rolls, or carrot cake, they make a delicious morning treat with coffee or tea. You can also serve them as a sweet side at family gatherings or holidays. Pani Popo is also a great choice to bring to any kind of potluck, because they are so easy to make (and cheap, too, but you don’t have to tell anyone that!) We hope that this delicious, exotic 3-ingredient treat becomes one of your new favorites!Print
Pani Popo, a sweet coconut roll from the South Pacific, is a delicious, exotic treat that anyone will love. This recipe tells you the easiest way to make it–with only 3 ingredients!
- 12 frozen dinner roll dough balls (such as Rhodes “thaw, rise, and bake” rolls)
- Non-stick cooking spray
- 5 ounce can unsweetened coconut milk
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- Preheat the oven to 150F, then turn off.
- Grease a 9×12 inch glass baking dish very well with non-stick cooking spray.
place the 12 frozen dinner roll dough balls into the pan in 4 rows of 3.
- Fill a small sauce pan half way with water, then bring to a boil on the stove over medium-high heat. Remove the pot of boiling water from the heat and place in the warm oven on one of the oven racks. This will create a warm, high moisture environment in the oven for the dough balls to thaw and rise.
- Place the baking dish of dough balls in the oven uncovered and allow to thaw and rise until the dough balls have more than doubled in size; approximately 2 hours.
- Remove the bread dough from the oven and set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 350F.
- In a medium mixing bowl, stir together the coconut milk and sugar until well combined. There may still be some very small bits of the coconut cream that does not full incorporate. This is okay and they will melt as the rolls bake.
- Pour all of the sweet coconut milk mixture over top of the dinner roll dough. Be sure the tops of the dough are all evenly coated with the coconut milk.
- Bake the Pani Popo for 30 minutes at 350F. Check the rolls after 20 minutes of baking and if they are getting too brown, lay a piece of foil over the top of the rolls to prevent them from over browning during the final 10 minutes of baking.
- Remove the rolls from the oven and cool for at least 15 minutes in the pan. Serve warm or at room temperature.