Pani Popo are Samoan coconut rolls. They are soft rolls baked in sweet coconut milk sauce. The result is a fluffy yet moist golden brown dinner roll with a sweet, sticky bottom.
Pani Popo Samoan Coconut Rolls
Panipopo are a great along with dinner or served as a sweet roll for breakfast along side your coffee. These delicious coconut milk buns would pair really well with glazed ham for your family’s holiday meal. The sweet rolls would certainly make for a unique bread side dish.
Of course, this Polynesian treat would also go well with dishes featuring other tropical fruits too.
You will love the fragrance of these baking rolls. I guarantee it! You will have a hard time making your family wait to try them when they come out of the oven!
3 Ingredient Coconut Rolls
I am sure there are many more complicated Samoan recipes for pani popo. I prefer this simple 3 ingredient coconut bun recipe. It is manageable and the predictable results are delicious.
Why fuss when it isn’t necessary? In these busy days, we all need to make the best use of our limited time.
Here is what makes these easy rolls so unique, the sweet sticky bottoms. The sauce somewhat saturates into the rolls. Rather than sopping your bread in gravy, it already comes with a sweet coconut sauce right on it. Yum!
These rolls make a fantastic side to serve with drier meats or meals without a sauce or gravy.
How to Make Pani Popo
Here is a guide to making this Samoan coconut buns recipe with pictures. I know the dish is new to many of you, so I included more in-depth pictures, despite it being an easy recipe. we want to know they will come out right the first time. Full printable recipe card can be found below.
The total time to make these sweet rolls including rising the dough is just over 2 1/2 hours, but hands on time is less than 10 minutes.
What you will need:
- 12 frozen dinner roll bread dough balls
- can unsweetened coconut milk
- 1/2 cup sugar
- non-stick cooking spray
- 9×12 baking pan (glass or ceramic works well)
Preparing the Buns (Visual Guide)
First I want to make it clear, use frozen bread dough type rolls for this recipe. DO NOT USE heat and serve style rolls that are already fully baked.
Place the dough balls in a 9 x 12 prepared* baking dish, making sure to space them out evenly. 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. Steam is great for bread.
*prepared with non-stick spray (or greased).
Allow the dough to rise until the rolls are doubled in size. This can be done in a warm oven (150 degrees) or other warm spot in your home.
Now prepare your sauce. Simply combine the 2-ingredients and mix.
Make sure to whisk the canned coconut milk and sugar together well.
Then pour the coconut milk mix over the top of the rolls in pan. Make sure you cover the entire dish, but don’t worry about any tiny clumps in the sauce they will melt in baking.
Bake until golden brown. The rolls take about 30 minutes to cook, if they seem to be browning too fast, cover with foil.
Allow the buns to cool about 15 minutes before serving.
The buns themselves will be soft and fluffy and the sauce will be syrupy and saturating into the bottoms of the dinner rolls.
One of the added benefits of using frozen dinner rolls to make these coconut buns is the easy ability to use the amount you need need for your family size. Just use a smaller shallow bowl for one or two people and put remaining coconut sauce in the fridge. For a crowd, grab the largest casserole you have (or two) and double the sauce.
- 12 frozen dinner roll dough balls such as Rhodes “thaw, rise, and bake” rolls
- Non-stick cooking spray
- 14.5 ounce can unsweetened coconut milk
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- Preheat the oven to 150 degrees F, then turn off.
- Grease a 9x12 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 350 degrees F.
- 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 sauce over top of the dinner roll dough. Be sure the tops of the dough are all evenly coated with the coconut milk.
- Bake the coconut buns for 30 minutes at 350 degrees F. 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.
More Coconut Recipes
Here Are a few more recipes featuring coconut you may enjoy!
- Coconut Bars Recipe
- Easy Coconut Macaroons
- Snowy Coconut Pound Cake Cupcakes: Dairy-free Reduced Sugar Recipe
- Keto Coconut Macaroons