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Recipes Around The World: Filipino Ensaïmada


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Cathrin Fowlkes



When it comes to exploring different cultures and cuisines, food travel is an incredible way to immerse yourself in a world of flavors. One cuisine that stands out is Filipino cuisine, which is known for its delicious and unique dishes. And one of the most beloved treats in the Philippines is the Ensaïmada.


Ensaïmada is a soft and fluffy pastry that is typically enjoyed for breakfast or as a delightful snack in the afternoon. This delicacy has a rich history and has become a staple in Filipino households and bakeries around the world. Whether you have a sweet tooth or crave something savory, Ensaïmada comes in a variety of flavors and fillings to satisfy every palate.


This article will take you on a gastronomic journey to discover the origins of Ensaïmada, its ingredients, preparation methods, and the different variations you can enjoy. Get ready to savor the unique flavors and textures of this delightful Filipino pastry.


History of Ensaïmada

The history of Ensaïmada can be traced back to the Spanish influence in the Philippines during the colonial period. The name “Ensaïmada” itself is derived from the Spanish word “saim,” which means pork lard, a key ingredient in the traditional recipe. The pastry was brought to the Philippines by the Spanish colonizers, who introduced their culinary traditions to the locals.


Originally, Ensaïmada was a simple and plain sweet bread made with flour, sugar, eggs, and pork lard. It was often enjoyed by the upper class as a luxury treat during special occasions. Over time, the recipe evolved and incorporated local ingredients and flavors, giving birth to the unique Filipino version of Ensaïmada.


Today, Ensaïmada is not only a popular Filipino treat but has also gained recognition and popularity worldwide. It is often enjoyed during Christmas celebrations, birthdays, and other festive occasions. The soft and fluffy texture, coupled with the sweet buttery flavor, makes it a delightful treat for people of all ages.


The traditional process of making Ensaïmada is labor-intensive, as it involves hand-rolling and coiling the dough, giving it its distinctive shape. However, modern baking techniques have made it easier to produce Ensaïmada in larger quantities, making it readily available in bakeries and stores.


Although Ensaïmada has its roots in Spanish cuisine, the Filipino version has taken on a unique identity, with variations that incorporate local flavors such as ube (purple yam), queso de bola (Edam cheese), coconut, and even salted eggs. These variations have added a Filipino touch to this traditional pastry, making it even more enticing and appealing.


As you indulge in a warm and freshly baked Ensaïmada, you not only experience a burst of flavors but also connect with the rich history and cultural heritage of the Philippines. So, whether you’re in the Philippines or exploring Filipino cuisine abroad, don’t miss the opportunity to savor this delightful pastry and indulge in a taste of tradition.



The ingredients used in making Ensaïmada may vary slightly depending on the recipe and regional preferences. However, there are key ingredients that are commonly found in traditional Ensaïmada recipes. Here are the main ingredients you’ll need:

  1. Flour: All-purpose flour is typically used for making Ensaïmada. It provides structure and gives the pastry its fluffy texture.
  2. Sugar: Granulated sugar is added to the dough to sweeten the pastry. The amount of sugar used can be adjusted to suit your desired level of sweetness.
  3. Eggs: Whole eggs are essential in Ensaïmada recipes as they add richness and moisture to the dough. They also contribute to the golden color of the pastry.
  4. Pork Lard: Traditionally, Ensaïmada is made with pork lard, which gives the pastry its distinctive flavor and texture. However, vegetable shortening or butter can be used as a substitute.
  5. Yeast: Active dry yeast or instant yeast is used to leaven the dough and help it rise. This is what gives Ensaïmada its airy and light texture.
  6. Milk: Some Ensaïmada recipes call for the addition of milk, which adds moisture and helps create a tender crumb.
  7. Salt: A small amount of salt is added to balance the sweetness and enhance the overall flavor of the pastry.
  8. Butter: Butter is usually brushed on top of the Ensaïmada after baking, giving it a glossy finish and adding a rich and buttery flavor.
  9. Toppings and Fillings: Depending on personal preference, Ensaïmada can be topped or filled with various ingredients such as grated cheese, buttercream, ube halaya (purple yam paste), or even salted eggs.

These basic ingredients form the foundation of Ensaïmada and can be customized to create various flavors and variations. Whether you prefer a classic Ensaïmada or want to experiment with different fillings, the ingredients offer flexibility for your culinary creativity.



Preparing Ensaïmada involves several steps, but the end result is well worth the effort. Here is a general overview of the preparation process:

  1. Activate the yeast: In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in warm water with a pinch of sugar. Let it sit for a few minutes until it becomes frothy, indicating that the yeast is active and ready to use.
  2. Make the dough: In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, and salt. Make a well in the center and pour in the activated yeast, eggs, milk, and melted pork lard (or substitute). Mix everything together until a sticky dough forms.
  3. Knead the dough: Transfer the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead it for about 10 minutes until it becomes smooth and elastic. Add a little more flour if the dough is too sticky, but be careful not to add too much, as it can make the Ensaïmada dense.
  4. First rise: Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover it with a damp cloth or plastic wrap, and let it rise in a warm place for about 1 to 2 hours, or until it has doubled in size.
  5. Shape the Ensaïmada: Punch down the dough to release any air bubbles. Divide it into small portions and roll each portion into a long rope. Twist the rope into a coil shape, similar to a snail’s shell. Place the shaped Ensaïmada on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  6. Second rise: Cover the shaped Ensaïmadas with a damp cloth or plastic wrap and let them rise for another 30 to 45 minutes, or until they have doubled in size.
  7. Bake: Preheat the oven to the specified temperature and bake the Ensaïmadas until they turn golden brown and have a slightly crisp exterior, typically around 15 to 18 minutes.
  8. Glaze with butter: Once the Ensaïmadas are out of the oven, brush them with melted butter while they are still warm. This adds a shiny finish and enhances the overall flavor.
  9. Add toppings or fillings: Finally, you can top the Ensaïmada with grated cheese, sprinkle them with sugar, or fill them with your desired ingredients such as ube halaya or buttercream. Get creative and customize your Ensaïmada to your liking!

Remember, the preparation process may vary slightly based on the recipe you follow, so it’s essential to refer to a detailed recipe for precise instructions. With a little patience and love, you’ll be able to enjoy your freshly baked Ensaïmadas in no time!


Traditional Ensaïmada Recipe

For those who prefer the authentic and traditional flavor of Ensaïmada, here is a classic recipe to try:



  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup melted pork lard (or vegetable shortening as a substitute)
  • Butter, for brushing
  • Grated cheese or powdered sugar, for topping (optional)


  1. In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in warm water with a pinch of sugar. Let it sit for a few minutes to activate the yeast.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, and salt.
  3. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the activated yeast mixture, milk, eggs, and melted pork lard. Mix well until a sticky dough forms.
  4. Transfer the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes until smooth and elastic. Add more flour if needed, but be careful not to add too much, as it can make the Ensaïmada dense.
  5. Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover it with a damp cloth or plastic wrap, and let it rise in a warm place for 1 to 2 hours, or until it doubles in size.
  6. Punch down the dough to release any air bubbles. Divide it into smaller portions and roll each portion into a long rope.
  7. Coil each rope into the traditional Ensaïmada shape, similar to a snail’s shell, and place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  8. Cover the shaped Ensaïmadas with a damp cloth or plastic wrap and let them rise for another 30 to 45 minutes, or until they have doubled in size.
  9. Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).
  10. Bake the Ensaïmadas for 15 to 18 minutes, or until they turn golden brown.
  11. Remove the Ensaïmadas from the oven and immediately brush them with melted butter.
  12. Let the Ensaïmadas cool slightly before topping them with grated cheese or powdered sugar, if desired.

Now, you can indulge in the warm and buttery goodness of traditional Ensaïmada. Enjoy them with a cup of hot chocolate or a steaming cup of coffee for a truly delightful experience!


Variations of Ensaïmada

While the classic Ensaïmada recipe is undoubtedly delicious, there are several variations that add exciting flavors and textures to this beloved Filipino pastry. Here are some popular variations to satisfy your taste buds:

  1. Ube Ensaïmada: Ube, a purple yam commonly used in Filipino desserts, is a popular flavor addition to Ensaïmada. The dough is infused with ube extract or ube halaya (ube jam) to give it a vibrant purple color and a subtle sweetness.
  2. Cheese-filled Ensaïmada: For cheese enthusiasts, a cheese-filled Ensaïmada is a delightful treat. The dough is rolled and filled with grated cheese like mature cheddar or even cream cheese. As it bakes, the cheese melts and creates a gooey and savory filling.
  3. Salted Egg Ensaïmada: Adding a touch of salted egg to Ensaïmada gives it a unique and savory twist. The salted egg yolks are mashed and incorporated into the dough, creating a rich and slightly salty flavor in each bite.
  4. Coconut Ensaïmada: Inspired by the tropical flavors of the Philippines, coconut Ensaïmada is a refreshing variation. Desiccated coconut is added to the dough, providing a subtle coconut aroma and texture.
  5. Chocolate Ensaïmada: For chocolate lovers, a chocolate Ensaïmada will surely satisfy your cravings. Cocoa powder is added to the dough, giving it a rich chocolate flavor. It can be topped with chocolate drizzle or filled with chocolate ganache for an extra decadent treat.
  6. Matcha Ensaïmada: Matcha lovers can enjoy the earthy and vibrant flavors of matcha by adding matcha powder to the dough. The result is a uniquely flavored Ensaïmada with a beautiful green color.

These are just a few examples of the many variations you can experiment with when making Ensaïmada. Feel free to combine and create your own flavor combinations to satisfy your taste preferences.


Whether you prefer the classic recipe or want to explore the different variations, Ensaïmada offers a world of possibilities to tantalize your taste buds and add joy to your culinary adventures.


Serving and Enjoying Ensaïmada

Ensaïmada is best enjoyed fresh out of the oven when it’s still warm and fluffy, but it can be enjoyed at room temperature as well. Here are some tips on serving and savoring this delectable Filipino treat:

  • Traditional Presentation: Ensaïmada is traditionally served on a round or oval plate, dusted with powdered sugar or grated cheese on top. This presentation showcases its beautiful shape and invites you to indulge in its buttery goodness.
  • Pairing: Ensaïmada pairs exceptionally well with a hot beverage, such as coffee or hot chocolate. The rich flavors of the pastry complement the warmth and aroma of these comforting drinks, creating a perfect combination.
  • Sharing: Ensaïmada is often shared with family and friends during special occasions or gatherings. It’s common to slice it into smaller pieces and offer it to guests as a sweet treat. Sharing the joy of Ensaïmada enhances the experience and creates memorable moments.
  • Breakfast or Snack: Ensaïmada is versatile and can be enjoyed at any time of the day. It makes for a delightful breakfast companion or a satisfying snack in the afternoon. Pair it with a glass of warm milk or your favorite beverage for a truly enjoyable experience.
  • Storing: If you have leftover Ensaïmada, store it in an airtight container at room temperature. To reheat, you can briefly warm it in the oven or microwave to recapture its softness and enhance the flavors.
  • Creative Uses: Ensaïmada can also be used as a base for other desserts or as an ingredient in innovative recipes. It can be transformed into a bread pudding, used as a base for a decadent ice cream sandwich, or even incorporated into a trifle dessert.

No matter how you choose to serve and enjoy Ensaïmada, the key is to savor its fluffy texture, rich flavors, and the lovingly crafted dough. The experience of indulging in Ensaïmada is not just about the food itself but also about the warm and comforting feeling it brings.


So, gather your loved ones, brew a fresh cup of coffee, and savor the delightful flavors of Ensaïmada. Let this Filipino pastry transport you to a world of culinary bliss.



Ensaïmada, with its rich history, mouthwatering flavors, and delightful variations, is a true gem of Filipino cuisine. This soft and fluffy pastry has captivated the hearts and taste buds of people around the world. Whether you’re enjoying a traditional Ensaïmada or exploring the myriad of flavor combinations, this Filipino treat offers a delightful experience that combines tradition with creativity.


As you indulge in each bite of Ensaïmada, you not only savor the buttery and sweet flavors but also connect with the cultural heritage of the Philippines. Each coil shape and golden crust tells a story of Spanish influence, adapted and personalized by the Filipino people over generations.


Ensaïmada is more than just a pastry; it is a symbol of celebration, togetherness, and joy. It brings families and friends together during festive occasions, and it brings a sense of comfort and familiarity during everyday moments. Whether enjoyed for breakfast, as a snack, or as a dessert, Ensaïmada adds a touch of sweetness to life’s simple pleasures.


So, let your taste buds travel to the Philippines as you savor the authentic flavors of Ensaïmada. Discover the different variations, get creative with your own recipes, and immerse yourself in the beauty of Filipino cuisine. Make Ensaïmada a part of your food travel adventures and let it transport you to the vibrant and diverse culinary world of the Philippines.


Remember, whether you’re exploring the traditional recipe or trying out a unique twist, the magic of Ensaïmada lies in the love and passion you put into the preparation. So, gather your ingredients, roll up your sleeves, and embark on a delicious journey into the world of Ensaïmada. Share it with loved ones, create lasting memories, and let the flavors of this beloved Filipino pastry fill your heart and soul.