Malasadas are a mardi gras tradition in Hawaii.

Mardi Gras Malasada Recipe

If you need a sweet treat on Fat Tuesday, this malasada recipe is for you! Malasadas are sweet, pillowy, doughnut delights deep fried until golden brown and coated in crunchy sugar crystals. They are so 'ono (delicious!) it's no wonder they have become a signature treat served from legendary Hawaii bakeries to satiate the sweet cravings of locals and visitors alike. But, how did these comforting confections become synonymous with Mardi Gras in Hawaii? The answer may surprise you.

Malasada Recipes Brought to Hawaii During the Sugar Rush

From 1885 to 1910, some 450,000 immigrants arrived in Hawai'i. Many sought work in the nascent sugar cane industry taking shape across the islands. Portuguese immigrants from the Azores and Madiera Islands were some of the first Europeans to arrive in Hawaii. They brought traditional recipes and cultural practices with them, contributing to the culinary kaleidoscope present in Hawaii to this day.

Many Portuguese immigrants were Catholic, and malasadas were traditionally prepared before Lent to use up butter and sugar before the fasting season. Malasadas continue to be a Mardi Gras tradition in Hawaii to this day but can be found year-round at bakeries, school carnivals, birthday parties, and beyond. Malasadas are traditionally served unfilled, but it's not uncommon to find them filled with custards and jams today.

coffee is poured into a bright blue mug with the kauai coffee logo printed on it. A mardi gras colored lei and some malasadas are visible in the bottom corner of the photo

Malasada Recipe

Almost nothing is as satisfying as a perfectly plump malasada and piping hot cup of Kauai Coffee. Make malasadas and let the good times roll on Mardi Gras, or any day you need a delicious doughnut! This recipe has been adapted from the collection of plantation stories in West Kauai Plantation Heritage: Recipes and Stories for Life from the Legacy of Hawaii's Sugar Plantation Community compiled by Evelyn Cook.


  • 1/3 cup warm water
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 package dry active yeast
  • 2 pounds flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1 1/3 cup warm water
  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  • 8 eggs lightly scrambled
  • High heat tolerant oil for frying (vegetable or peanut oil works well)
  • Cinnamon and sugar or powdered sugar + lemon juice for optional coating


  1. Dissolve one teaspoon of sugar and active yeast in 1/3 cup warm water. Let stand until all other ingredients are mixed.
  2. In a large bowl, combine flour, 1/3 cup sugar, and salt.
  3. In another bowl, combine the heavy cream and water and then mix into dry ingredients.
  4. Add melted butter and beaten eggs.
  5. Add the yeast mixture and combine all ingredients until a soft dough is formed.
  6. Cover the dough and let sit in a warm spot until at least doubled in size.
  7. Heat oil over medium heat in a large wok or dutch oven until shimmering (about 325 to 375 degrees)
  8. Drop heaping spoonfuls of dough gently into the oil and fry until golden brown.
  9. Remove from oil and drain on wire rack. While still warm, coat the doughnuts in sugar, cinnamon, or simple syrup glaze.
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