These vegan pani popo are fluffy with a rich and sweet coconut milk sauce! They’re super delicious and easy to make without getting your kitchen messy with flour!
This recipe was originally published on April 28, 2020. It was updated with new photos and information on June 8, 2022.
- Water - Use lukewarm water, about 100°F/38°C, to activate the yeast.
- Active dry yeast - Yeast is a very important ingredient that helps these coconut buns rise and adds beautiful flavor.
- Flour - Use all-purpose flour for this recipe.
- Salt - Use fine salt.
- Sugar - Granulated sugar works best for this recipe.
- Coconut oil - You can use either virgin or refined coconut oil. Adds both moisture and adds richness to make up for the lack of eggs and whole milk.
- Coconut milk - Use full fat coconut milk that comes in a can. Half the can will be used for both the dough and the coconut sauce.
- Active dry yeast - You can also use quick-rise yeast, also known as instant yeast or rapid-rise yeast. If you’re using quick-rise yeast, you can skip activating the yeast first.
- Sugar - Although the recipe calls for granulated sugar, you can also use cane sugar or light brown sugar. Brown sugar or coconut sugar would taste
- Coconut oil - You can use melted vegan butter instead of melted coconut oil.
How to make pani popo
Activate the yeast
- In a bowl, combine the lukewarm water, sugar, and yeast. Set it aside for about 5 minutes until the mixture is frothy.
Make the dough
- In a large bowl, combine the all-purpose flour and salt.
- Add half a can of coconut milk, melted coconut oil, and the yeast mixture. Mix the ingredients together using a wooden spoon or spatula until it comes together.
- Take out the dough onto a clean surface. Channel your inner kindergartener playing with playdough, and knead the dough for about 5 minutes until it forms a smooth ball of dough.
- Put the smooth ball of dough in a large bowl greased with coconut oil, cover, and let it rise about an hour until it’s doubled in size.
Roll the dough into balls
- After the dough’s risen, gently deflate the dough in the bowl and take it out onto your work surface.
- Separate the dough into 12 equal pieces, and roll them into balls.
- Place the balls in a 9x13 inch pan greased with coconut oil, cover, and let it rise again for about 45 minutes.
Make the sweet coconut sauce
- While the buns are rising, combine the leftover coconut milk and sugar in a small bowl.
- Pour about ⅔ of the mixture over the buns.
Bake the bread
- Bake the buns in a preheated oven for about 30 minutes at 350°F/180°C.
- Once the buns come out of the oven, pour the rest of the coconut milk mixture on top.
Pani popo recipe pro-tips
- Don’t overheat the water. Cold water won’t activate the yeast, and hot water will kill the yeast, so make sure the water is at or around 100°F/38°C.
- Don’t flour your work surface. Adding extra flour will cause the sweet bread rolls to get tough. This dough generally doesn’t stick to the counter, but if you find that it sticks, sprinkle as little flour as possible on the countertop.
- Use a bench scraper. If the dough is really sticking to your work surface, use a bench scraper to help your dough release off the surface.
- Let the dough rise properly. In order to get fluffy panipopo, you need to let the dough rise and double in size. Mine took about an hour, but depending on the weather, humidity, and altitude of where you live, it can take much longer.
- Evenly cover the vegan sweet rolls with the coconut sauce. You can use a pastry brush or spoon to make sure the sweet buns are evenly coated.
This Samoan bread is best eaten right out of the oven. If you want to store them, allow the bread to cool completely and place them in an airtight container. Store them somewhere dark and cool like your pantry or in your fridge for 2 to 3 days.
If storing the coconut rolls for more than 3 days, I highly suggest you freeze them. Wrap each bun individually with aluminum foil and place them in a freezer bag.
Thaw them in the fridge and reheat them in the oven for a few minutes until warm and fluffy.
Tools needed to make this recipe
To make this recipe, you will need bowls, a wooden spoon, and an oven! It’s super simple, doesn’t require much to make, but super delicious!
Frequently Asked Questions
What is pani popo?
Pani popo are Samoan bread rolls baked in a sweet coconut sauce. My vegan pani popo recipe uses coconut milk in both the dough and the coconut sauce!
Coconut sweet bread taste like soft and fluffy dinner rolls with a sweet, coconutty, and gooey bottom!
You can have these sweet coconut milk buns for breakfast, snack, or dessert with a cup of coffee or tea! These buns are also great for dinner as a side dish!
More vegan recipes to try!
- Salted caramel chocolate cupcakes
- Chocolate banana cupcakes
- Banana cupcakes
- Thumbprint cookies
- Lemon cookies
- Decorated sugar cookies
- Mango lime sorbet
- Rhubarb crisp
- One bowl peanut butter banana oat bars
- Caramel apple upside down cake
Pani Popo - Samoan Sweet Coconut Buns (Vegan!)
- ¼ cup lukewarm water (about 100°F/38°C)
- 2¼ teaspoons active dry yeast
- 3½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1¼ teaspoons fine salt
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- ¼ cup coconut oil, melted
- 6.75 fl oz canned coconut milk
Sweet coconut sauce
- 6.75 fl oz canned coconut milk
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- In a bowl, combine lukewarm water, sugar, yeast, and set aside for about 5 minutes until the mixture is frothy.
- In a large bowl, combine all-purpose flour and salt. Add coconut milk, melted coconut oil, and the yeast mixture. Mix the ingredients together until it comes together, and take it out onto a clean surface.
- Knead the dough for about 5 minutes until it forms a smooth ball. Put the dough in a large bowl greased with coconut oil, cover, and let it rise about an hour until it's doubled in size.
- Gently deflate the dough in the bowl and take it out onto your work surface. Separate the dough into 12 equal balls. Place the balls in a 9x13 inch pan greased with coconut oil, cover, and let it rise again for about 45 minutes.
- While the buns are rising, make the sweet coconut sauce. In a small bowl, combine coconut milk and sugar. Set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C.
- Pour about ⅔ of the sweet coconut sauce over the buns and bake for about 30 minutes.
- Once the buns come out of the oven, pour the rest of the coconut milk mixture over the top.