A recipe for Pani Popo (Samoan Sweet Coconut Buns)! These light and fluffy yeast-based rolls are baked in a sweetened coconut sauce until golden.
I first came across the inspiration for these Pani Popo (Samoan Sweet Coconut Buns) over on Samoa Food a few years ago and they continue to be an absolute favorite!
Soft, yeast-based rolls are arranged in a deep baking dish, covered with a sweetened coconut sauce, and baked in a 400˚F (200˚C) oven until the tops of the buns are golden and the coconut sauce is bubbly.
If desired, pair the Pani Popo with Koko Samoa (Samoan Cocoa).
A Few Tips
I have seen these buns prepared as simply round rolls or as spirals. I personally prefer the look of the spirals, but they can be formed into round balls and arranged in the pan seam side down.
The dough should be doubled in size before forming into rolls. This usually takes about 2 hours in my kitchen. In warmer rooms, it may take closer to 1-1 1/2 hours.
Knead the dough just until smooth and elastic. If too crumbly, add a little more warm water at a time. Only add a little more flour if too sticky to handle. Too much flour will create tougher rolls.
Cover each of the rolls when pouring the coconut sauce into the baking dish. This will help add to the golden color when baking.
After baking until golden, remove the Pani Popo from the oven and cover the pan with foil. Allow to sit, covered, at room temperature for 30 minutes to 1 hour before serving to cool and soak up more coconut sauce.
Some recipes add about a tablespoon of cornstarch or flour to the coconut sauce to thicken it a bit.
Looking for more recipes with coconut milk?
- Coconut Lime Baked Donuts
- Paletas de Aguacate y Coco (Mexican Avocado and Coconut Popsicles)
- Cà Ri Gà (Vietnamese Chicken Curry)
This recipe was originally published in March 2013 and updated September 2021.
Pani Popo (Samoan Sweet Coconut Buns) Recipe
Adapted from Samoa Food
Pani Popo (Samoan Sweet Coconut Buns)
- 2 1/4 teaspoons (7 grams) active dry yeast
- 1-1 1/4 cups (237-300 milliliters) lukewarm water 105-115˚F (40-46˚C)
- 3 cups (375 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons (42 grams) unsalted butter softened at room temperature, plus more for greasing the pan
- 1 cup (237 milliliters) coconut milk
- 1 cup (237 milliliters) water
- 1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
- In a small bowl, sprinkle yeast over the lukewarm water and stir together. Allow to sit until frothy, about 10 minutes.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook or a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, and salt.
- Mix in the softened butter, then the frothy yeast with water until a soft dough comes together.
- On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough just until smooth and elastic. Place in lightly greased large bowl, turning to coat. Cover and let rise at room temperature until doubled in size, about 2 hours.
- Grease a 9x13 inch (23x33 centimeter) deep baking dish with butter.
- Place dough on lightly floured surface. Roll the dough into a long rectangle, then roll up long side to long side to create a spiral.
- Cut the dough into 12 equal spiraled rolls. Arrange the rolls in a single layer in the prepared baking dish. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 30 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 400˚F (200˚C).
- In a small bowl, whisk together the coconut milk, water, and sugar until well combined.
- Pour the coconut sauce evenly over the tops of the buns and bake in preheated oven until golden brown and coconut sauce is bubbling, 25-30 minutes.
- Remove the pan from the oven and cover with a piece of foil. Allow to cool covered in the pan for 30 minutes-1 hour before serving.