Kakanin: The “stomach-fillers” of Filipino desserts (Part 1)

As an agricultural country, the Philippines is filled with natural resources for food making. That is why the common kakanin of Filipinos is made with native resources such as rice, coconut, root crops, and seeds. Kakanin is a collective term to describe a Filipino dessert made with malagkit (glutinous rice) and other variants like galapong (powdered glutinous rice). In addition, secondary ingredients like coconut milk, grated coconut meat, sugar, and linga (sesame seeds) are incorporated to improve the sticky rice’s flavor and texture.

Other substitutes like carabao’s milk, goat’s milk, and other root crops like taro, cassava, sweet potatoes, and bananas are also included in the comprehensive kakanin map. Due to their heavy and starchy nature, Filipino desserts are known as “stomach-fillers” since they can be substituted as agahan (breakfast) or minindal (afternoon snack).

If you love the decadent and sweet side of the food world, then Filipino desserts are the perfect isle for you.


Tibuktíbuk or carabao milk pudding is a Kapampangan dessert made with soaked galapong and coconut milk. The name of this kakanin is derived from the sound it makes during its cooking process, similar to a beating heart (tibok).

Tibuktíbuk has a flavor profile of sweet and creamy, with a bit of saltiness coming from a carabao’s milk. Do not be confused with maja blanca, which uses coconut milk and cornstarch as a thickener.

This dessert pudding has a texture similar to Japanese mochi, with a perfect complement of tropical flavors from nutty coconut milk. Commonly, tibuktíbuk is served with latik, a mixture of boiling coconut milk and water into low heat until it curdles.

One of the best authentic tibuktíbuk makers in Pampanga is Susie’s Cuisine, which is commonly sold in slices or in bilao, a rice winnower made with strips of abaca or bamboo. You can also make your own carabao milk pudding by using ingredients available in the Filipino market. Whole carabao milk is required to achieve this dessert’s salty and stringy texture, similar to mozzarella cheese.

Ube Jam

Ube or purple yam (anglicized) is a delicious Filipino kakanin made into a tasty jam. As a staple indigenous Philippine root crop, this tuberous root vegetable is cultivated worldwide. Purple yams are known for their deep purple color with a starchy texture like sweet potato and sometimes stringy like taro.

Once cooked, ube can produce a nutty, sweet vanilla flavor—similar to other Philippine root crops. Due to their mellow taste, purple yams are mixed with sweeteners like vanilla and sugar to improve their sweetness. Just like other root crops, purple yam is enriched with carbohydrates, vitamins, and fiber. Traditionally, ube is prepared with pure coconut milk and water until it has a dough consistency. Then, it is cooled and shaped into elongated flans or a bit fancier like a fish, flower, and even stars.

Another way of preparing purple yam is by turning it into tasty, spreadable preserves. In the Philippines, one of the known use jam producers in the Mountain Maid—a group of nuns preparing preserves on the convent grounds. Unlike the ube halaya, ube jam has a thinner consistency, similar to peanut butter. This makes it easier to spread to your hot pandesal or toasted bread.

Other products sold by Good Shepherd of Baguio include strawberry jam, mango jam, orange marmalade, peanut brittle, and strawberry jelly. You may consider dropping your inquiry on their Facebook page for local orders within Baguio and Metro Manila areas.


Sinukmani is Laguna’s native delicacy made with a mixture of glutinous rice, coconut milk, and panutsa (unrefined sugar cane candy). Nowadays, panutsa is substituted with muscovado sugar or brown sugar, giving its distinct light brown color. This Filipino rice dessert is paired with a pancit canton served on the altar during All Souls Day.

For the Manileños, sinukmani is called biko. Other regions outside Laguna also coined sinukmani as bibingkang malagkit or kalamay bilao. It is served on special occasions like birthdays, fiesta, and even holidays. Inisisna, a Kalinga variant of sinukmani, is made with yonga, glutinous rice known for its natural purple color.

Another distinct character of sinukmani is its sweet topping made with coconut caramel sauce or the traditional latik. Chopped roasted peanuts or curdles of latik are drizzled on diagonal slices of this hearty kakanin. Modern-day sinukmani are infused with other Filipino flavors like pandan, macapuno—even tablea and kesong puti.

Sinukmani is available on the daily morning market served in banana leaf slices or in styrofoam packaging. You can also order this amazing kakanin in large bilao or in square-shaped aluminum foils.

Lumpiyang Saging (Turon)

As a popular snack and street food, turon is a Philippine snack that falls under the lumpiya family. Historically, lumpiyang saging is produced out of Filipino farmers’ plantain surplus before being sold on the local roadside.

The art of making sweet turon relies on utilizing wheat wrappers as a vessel to clump dishes together before it is submerged in hot, deep-frying oil. In lumpiyang saging, slices of plantains (particularly the saba or Cardaba variants) are rolled into thick layers of brown sugar before placing at the top of the fresh wheat wrapper.

Other flavors infused with the traditional banana turon include durian, jackfruit, ube halaya, sweet potato, macapuno, mango, mung bean, and cheese. The crispy lumpiyang saging is drizzled with caramel or chocolate sauce and sprinkled with roasted sesame seeds.

In Malabon, turon is sold in triangular shapes and is called Valencia trianggulo. First, slices of saba are mixed with sweetened mung bean before it is deep-fried in oil. Next, brown sugar is added to the boiling oil, which turns into a runny, caramel sauce. Once it cools down, the sugar will add another layer of crunch to the already crunchy turon.  

Bitso-Bitso (Cascaron)

This Ilonggo kakanin is similar to the traditional pilipit, only that it uses coconut milk in dissolving the galapong. The change of liquid ingredients adds to the already rich flavor of malagkit rice. Another variant of this Ilonggo kakanin is made by substituting galapong with mochiko flour. Mochiko is a Japanese rice variant harvested from mochigome grains.

Due to the similar name to Cabanatuan’s bread recipe, Bitso-Bitso is also locally called cascaron. This afternoon snack is a hybrid between palitaw and carioca, only that it doesn’t use slivers of young coconut as filling. Traditionally, Bitso-Bitso is prepared in small, meatball-sized mounds before it is deep-fried in canola oil.  Other regional areas twist the galapong-coconut milk mixture to give it a variety of shapes.

Like turon, Bitso-Bitso is covered with melted muscovado sugar until it forms a crispy and sweet texture outside. Once you get through the tasty crystal exterior, you’ll be chewing along the soft and stretchy galapong mixture inside. Buchi, a variant of this deep-fried dessert, is made by filling the galapong mixture with sweetened mung bean before rolling on sesame seeds.

Maria Kristelle C. Jimenez

Maria Kristelle C. Jimenez works as a freelance writer, layout artist, and website specialist in Pampanga. Some of her works have been recognized by the Saranggola Blog Awards and the Gawad Digmaang Rosas. Her topics revolves around new media, pop culture, and the postmodern. Email Maria at: maria@voxpopuliph.com.

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