How to make Hawaiian Sweet Bread Rolls!

On my recent visit to the Kona Historical Society in Hawaii, I learned how to make the famous and delicious Hawaiian Sweet Bread. We rolled and kneaded the dough and then baked the loaves in a traditional Portuguese stone oven. We also got a little history lesson while we were there! Read on for the recipe and the video recap after the jump.

In the 1870’s when the Portuguese (mostly dairy farmers), originally came to Hawaii Island to work the plantations and dairy farms, they brought with them their special style of stone oven and also the recipe for their delicious sweet bread. What is known to us as Hawaiian Sweet Bread is actually Portuguese Bread. It was often baked for special occasions, and for commercial purposes, the name was changed to “Hawaiian Bread” – what we know of today.

Did you know?
The Portuguese brought to the islands not only an expertise in growing and harvesting bread, but grapes for making wine, and they are also credited with introducing the ukulele and slack key guitar to Hawai`i!

The bread is easy to make and super soft and chewy. Great for sliders, bite sized sandwiches or along side any meat. We spent about 3 hours rolling over 60 + loaves that day, and it was worth the wait! Here’s how you can make it at home:

Portuguese Sweet Bread a.k.a. Pao Doce a.k.a. Hawaiian Sweet Rolls
(recipe courtesy of the Kona Historical Society)
Makes 4 loaves

Mix together in a big bowl:
Warm water – 2 cups
Dry yeast – 4 pkg

Then stir in:
Sugar – 2 cups
Butter, melted – 2 sticks
Eggs – 4
Stir in – one cup at a time:
Bread flour
Approx. 8 cups, slowly stir/knead in up to 2 more cups (if needed)

When the dough is too difficult to stir, turn the dough out on floured table and knead in the rest of the flour for about 3-5 minutes. Add more flour as needed to keep the dough from sticking to the bowl, and cover it with a cloth until it has doubled in size (about 1 hour). Be careful not to over knead the dough!

Punch the dough down and divide it evenly into 4 loaves. Pinch off 7 equal pieces of dough from each loaf, roll and place in greased 9-inch round aluminum pie pans. Cover the dough again with a cloth and let rise until doubled (about 1 hour). Brush with egg wash (1egg mixed with 2 Tbsp of water). Bake in 400 degree oven for about 20-30 mins.

Originally founded in 1976, The Kona Historical Society is a community based, non-profit organization that collects, preserves and shares the history of the Kona districts. Supported by over 1000 members internationally they offer walking tours through Kailua Village, off-road jeep trips, historical boat cruises and a tour of a 5.5 acre preserved coffee and macadamia farm from the 1940’s. They offer the bread baking classes every Thursday from 10-1pm. It’s a great stop over when in Kona!

BYB Tip: Don’t have time to stay and bake? Drop in towards the tail end of the session (around 12:30 or so) and you can purchase loaves for $7 fresh out of the oven! Aloha!

[I was a guest of the Big Island Visitors Bureau and their partners and thank them for their Hawaiian hospitality. All comments and opinions expressed are strictly my own. Mahalo Lynn, Erin, Missy and all the new friends I made on Oahu!]


  1. Oh my goodness, thank you so much for this recipe!! I have searched and scoured and tested so many hawaiian bread recipes…foregoing the obvious fakes with their crushed pineapple…and this recipe stands true to be the only true hawaiian bread recipe I have found! God bless you!! We live in a country that has no access to this bread for the time being, and this has finally satisfied my cravings! I give the recipe a 10!

  2. I made this bread with my friend, we are teenagers. It does take long to make, but it is a super fun activity to do with friends and the ending is sweet! Thank you so much for posting this recipe. Tastes wonderful!!!

  3. I lived in Hawaii for about 6 years and we used to get the Hawaiian Sweet Bread all the time. Loved it. I was so glad to see this recipe. One question. What is the total amount of flour used? Is it 8 cups plus? I would love to try and make this. We get the King’s Hawaiian Bread here in Florida and it is good. But I would love to make this. Thank you.

  4. Hi! I was wondering if you know anything about Bolo Levedos. It’s another delicious baked option from the Azores/Portugal and I’d describe it as a cross between sweet bread and an English muffin. In fact a lot of people call them Portuguese muffins. I am trying to sort out if they can be baked instead of fried in a pan (which is what most folks recommend). Thought you might have some insight!

    • Hi Peter,

      I don’t know if you’re still interested or maybe you’ve all ready found the answer, but in the recipe for Bolos Lêvedos we use a frying pan but don’t grease it (no oil and no butter what so ever). The low heat will make it golden without the grease, and then we flip it. Make sure you use an anti-adherent pan so the dough wont stick to it (if you don’t own one, lightly sprinkle the bottom of the pan with flour).

      That’s the recipe I’ve learned from my grandma, and how we still do it in Portugal.

      Hope this helps!

  5. Used to live in Hawaii but now we buy the Hawaiian sweet rolls here in FL. I also wanted to know about the amount of flour. Is it 8 cups or up to 10 cups. Also if not mixing by hand and using an electric mixer how long should you mix & knead?

    • Good question Chan! I use Fleischmann’s active dry yeast packages and there are 1/4oz in each packet (approx 2-1/4 teaspoons)

  6. Aloha! I’m actually from Texas but I was very much into Hawaiian culture and had some hawaiian friends all the way back in high school. I moved to Europe and i seriously miss these! I use to buy them at the store but i really can’t get these here in Europe. Thanks soooo much for sharing! Mahalo!

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