Hawaiian-inspired French toast with coconut syrup

Take one part doughnut, one part coconut, add sweet bread and spiced batter ... and have a vacation at breakfast

Topics: Kitchen Challenge, Food,

Hawaiian-inspired French toast with coconut syrup

What would be your last wish on your final morning in Hawaii? Catch the sunrise? A last-minute dip into the Pacific? Or perhaps one last exploration of tide pools, looking for crabs, starfish and sea turtles?

After a glorious week in the sun, while the rest of us were still asleep to the hypnotic sounds of waves, the breeze gently blowing through palm trees, and the lazy whir of the ceiling fan, my husband woke up quietly to sneak out for his one last wish. He drove 45 minutes (each way) to get a dozen malasadas. That’s the kind of guy he is.

Malasadas are the yeasty, eggy, sugary doughnuts that were introduced to the Hawaiian islands by Portuguese immigrants from the Azores generations ago. Eagerly incorporated into the cuisine of the Hawaiian islands, each island has a “best” place to get them. On the Big Island, that place is Tex Drive In, in Honokaa, near Waimea.

To the casual observer, the malasada looks like a typical raised doughnut, rolled in granulated sugar. Stace, one of the kama’aina (locals) I talked to, shed some light on what makes Tex’s malasada special: the first owners converted their recipe for pao doce (Portuguese sweet bread) and used it to make their mouth-watering and award-winning malasadas.

My husband arrived back with the box of malasadas just as the rest of us were waking up, and we quickly devoured them. That’s how you can eat on vacation — without consequences.

Back home, I wanted to make a Sunday brunch to remind us of Hawaii, which we miss too much already, but I don’t do much deep-frying in my kitchen. Thinking back to Stace, Tex’s malasadas, and the Portuguese immigrants who brought their sweet bread and malasadas to another heavenly island home, I made a not-too-guilty replacement: Portuguese sweet bread French toast with coconut syrup.

Portuguese-Hawaiian sweet bread French toast with coconut syrup

Sweet bread makes excellent French toast because of its eggy, light and slightly chewy texture. I made this version with guava- and taro-flavored sweet bread we brought back with us from Punalu’u Bake Shop, which by being located 30 minutes South of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park in Na’alehu is known as the “Southernmost Bakery in the U.S.A.” King’s Hawaiian bread or rolls, readily available in all major grocers on the mainland, make a great substitution. Hawaiian coconut syrup is more difficult to come by, so I’ve made a recipe you can make from ingredients easily found anywhere.


For coconut syrup

  • 1 can (13- or 14-ounce) unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 cup simple syrup (made of equal amounts of granulated white sugar and water, boiled together)
  • pinch of salt

For French toast

  • 1 pound loaf of Hawaiian sweet bread (or rolls), such as King’s Hawaiian
  • 5 large eggs
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • zest of a lemon, lime or tangerine
  • butter, as needed for griddle or pan


For coconut syrup

  1. Whisk together coconut milk, simple syrup and salt in a saucepan, and bring to a gentle boil over medium heat. Stir occasionally to prevent scorching.
  2. The syrup is ready when boiled, but you can reduce to desired thickness by continuing to cook over low heat, stirring frequently.

For French toast

  1. Slice sweet bread into desired size slices.
  2. Whisk together eggs, milk and seasonings.
  3. Heat griddle or pan to medium-high and grease with a small amount of butter.
  4. Dip slices of sweet bread into egg mixture, then cook on griddle for a minute or so on each side, until nicely golden.
  5. Serve with coconut syrup and a dusting of powdered sugar.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 17
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    John Stanmeyer

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Container City: Shipping containers, indispensable tool of the globalized consumer economy, reflect the skyline in Singapore, one of the world’s busiest ports.

    Lu Guang

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Man Covering His Mouth: A shepherd by the Yellow River cannot stand the smell, Inner Mongolia, China

    Carolyn Cole/LATimes

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Angry Crowd: People jostle for food relief distribution following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti

    Darin Oswald/Idaho Statesman

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    “Black Friday” Shoppers: Aggressive bargain hunters push through the front doors of the Boise Towne Square mall as they are opened at 1 a.m. Friday, Nov. 24, 2007, Boise, Idaho, USA

    Google Earth/NOAA, U.S. Navy, NGA, GEBCO

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Suburban Sprawl: aerial view of landscape outside Miami, Florida, shows 13 golf courses amongst track homes on the edge of the Everglades.

    Garth Lentz

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Toxic Landscape: Aerial view of the tar sands region, where mining operations and tailings ponds are so vast they can be seen from outer space; Alberta, Canada

    Cotton Coulson/Keenpress

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Ice Waterfall: In both the Arctic and Antarctic regions, ice is retreating. Melting water on icecap, North East Land, Svalbard, Norway

    Yann Arthus-Bertrand

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Satellite Dishes: The rooftops of Aleppo, Syria, one of the world’s oldest cities, are covered with satellite dishes, linking residents to a globalized consumer culture.

    Stephanie Sinclair

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Child Brides: Tahani, 8, is seen with her husband Majed, 27, and her former classmate Ghada, 8, and her husband in Hajjah, Yemen, July 26, 2010.

    Mike Hedge

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Megalopolis: Shanghai, China, a sprawling megacity of 24 Million

    Google Earth/ 2014 Digital Globe

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Big Hole: The Mir Mine in Russia is the world’s largest diamond mine.

    Daniel Dancer

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Clear-cut: Industrial forestry degrading public lands, Willamette National Forest, Oregon

    Peter Essick

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Computer Dump: Massive quantities of waste from obsolete computers and other electronics are typically shipped to the developing world for sorting and/or disposal. Photo from Accra, Ghana.

    Daniel Beltra

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Oil Spill Fire: Aerial view of an oil fire following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, Gulf of Mexico

    Ian Wylie

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Slide 13

    Airplane Contrails: Globalized transportation networks, especially commercial aviation, are a major contributor of air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Photo of contrails in the west London sky over the River Thames, London, England.

    R.J. Sangosti/Denver Post

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Fire: More frequent and more intense wildfires (such as this one in Colorado, USA) are another consequence of a warming planet.

  • Recent Slide Shows



Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>