Leonard's Bakery Honolulu

Hawaii’s Answer to National Doughnut Day

Today is the 37th annual National Doughnut Day, and that’s something that we can personally get behind celebrating. As a kid Jeff virtually lived on doughnuts, and confesses loving them to this very day (read on). National Doughnut Day was originally created by the Salvation Army to honor women who served doughnuts to our soldiers during the first World War. It’s now celebrated the first Friday of June.

Enter Malasadas

This amazing Portuguese confection was introduced to Hawaii in the late 1800’s when plantation workers brought them from the Azores and Madeira. They became interwoven with the culture of Hawaii and are a ubiquitous year around treat. Malasadas are egg-rich doughnuts traditionally fried then coated with plain sugar. Modern interpretation adds cream, jelly and other assorted fillings. Historically they were also a way to use up lard that would otherwise be forbidden during Lent.

Leonard’s Bakery

Honolulu’s inimitable Leonard’s Bakery is quintessential Hawaiian malasadas and has been since 1952. It was founded by the grandson of sugar cane immigrants who came to Maui in 1882 and is still run by Leonard Jr.’s children today. The address for which they’re famous is 933 Kapahulu Avenue, although you can now find their doughnuts in other locations including their Malasadamobiles. They’re even in Japan. If somehow you’ve missed Leonard’s, we highly recommend you head over  there on your next Hawaii vacation.

Malasada Day

Yes, there’s another doughnut holiday each year called Malasada Tuesday. It’s the same Shrove Tuesday (day before Ash Wednesday) that’s also known as Pancake Day, Fat Tuesday and Mardi Gras. On that day you’re guaranteed to find lines around the block at Leonard’s.

Jeff’s Doughnuts

“I have to confess that while I love malasadas, my lifelong passion is jelly doughnuts. Because of my obsession with the supreme doughnut, years ago I took to making them myself. Here’s what they look like. Because I can’t control myself with these, I usually limit production to once or twice each year. And today is one of those days.”

Do you have any malasada or doughnut stories to share?

14 thoughts on “Hawaii’s Answer to National Doughnut Day”

    1. Hi Lindy.

      We don’t have any recommendations. Perhaps someone else will offer one up.


  1. Malasadas are SO good! They are right up there with shave ice for what my guests must have before leaving the island. My best donut story … Voodoo donuts in Portland, Oregon has the funnest (and broadest) variety of donuts I’ve ever seen and the day olds come in random variety in a 5 gallon bucket for just $8. It’s a fun way to try several flavors… as long as you practice self-control and don’t try too many in one sitting. The last time we bought a bucket, it had 53 donuts in it!

  2. Our favorite malasadas by far are from Agnes Portuguese Bakery in Kailia, Oahu. Made fresh, they’re all shaped a bit differently, the way they should be — from my recollection of Latin and derivative languages, the “Mal…” Means badly done or badly made. (Italian malfati are handmade and mean ‘badly done’ since they are also irregularly shaped.) Leonard’s are good, but too much like jelly doughnuts.

  3. yup ! :Just another neighbor/reader over here waiting to hear when those scrumptious scrumptious looking donuts be ready? Hmmmm? Any chance we can get your recipe? 🙂

  4. OK…I have to say it…
    mmmmmm – doughnuts!
    I had a doughnut experience that I remember to this day. It was a Krispy Kreme store in Atlanta. They have this gigantic threading metal conveyor belt that carries the doughnut from start to finish…through the oil and onto the stagiing area. Some of the doughnuts after they come out of the oil have a little flag on them indicating that that particular doughnut has been spoken for. These doughnuts get special toppings that customers requested. Never having done this before, I just wanted a plain glazed doughnut.
    While I love doughnuts (creme filled elciars anybody?) and have had many Krispy Kremes, the ones I took fresh off of the conveyor were the best (OK, second best) doughnuts I have ever eaten. The best doughnuts? My mom’s. She woiuld take dinner roles that come in the tube…(pilsbury) and using a thimble, punch out the centers and deposit the raw bisquit in hot oil. Flip them over and then remove them and glaze or powder sugar. As a kid, these were a great treat…simple to make and delicious! In my childhood memory, those are the best doughnuts I have ever had.
    I’ll be heading out to Oahu next week for a short one week vacation, and second on my list of things to eat are the Malasadas. First to try are the Spam Musubi (want to grab one from an ABC store for authenticity) And since we’ll be staying on the North Shore, Shaved Ice with Red Bean paste from that famouse shaved ice store, and Malasadas. I would love to wake up one morning, walk out to the back deck of our rented beach house and have a box of Malasadas waiting there for me to eat for breakfast….mmmmm, Malasadas!

  5. I allow myself the pleasure of ‘sugar fried cakes of death’ only once a year – usually Tim Horton’s in Canada. I wonder how they would compare?

    1. Mahalo nui loa for your comments!

      I’m glad to not be the only one with a doughnut fetish. (Blush)

      Perhaps I got my fill of them when I was a kid such that twice a year will now do. But I can eat at least a half dozen when they are just made. Frankly I’d eat more, but it just seems so wrong.

      Yes Robin, temperature is totally critical to doughnut frying. Hot enough so they are light and puffed but not so hot that they burn. You made me laugh. The other time of year I always make doughnuts is at Chanukah.

      Funny story. After this post went up, my phone rang. It was a neighbor/friend and reader inquiring about what time the doughnuts would be ready. It seems I have a reputation in this area.



  6. In Judaism, jelly donuts are eaten at Chanukah, the Festival of Lights, because they are fried in oil and oil was important in the Holy Temple of Jerusalem in ancient times. They are called Sufganiot in Hebrew and they are filled with all kinds of jam, chocolate and cream. In Israel you’ll see them throughout the year, but they are abundant in December and every homemaker makes them for the holiday. When I lived in Israel in the 1980’s, I made them for the first time for a Chanukah party I was hosting. The baker that I am not, I didn’t know to let the oil get hot enough, so it kept disappearing and I had to keep replenishing it in the frying pan. Lo-and-behold, I used up a whole bottle of oil. The oil ended up in the donuts and they didn’t fluff up and were hard as rocks. My boss said I could have given them to the army to use! Needless to say, nobody ate them and I had to throw out three dozen hard balls! That was the last time I made donuts – I buy them now! May we get your recipe for those delicious looking donuts?

  7. I’m with you on the malasada and donut love. If I made them, I couldn’t control myself either. I eat a donut (or two) at least once a week. Am crazy about malasadas and can’t wait to have one again — hopefully soon!

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