Hawaiian sweet bread on cooling rack

Thanksgiving is almost upon us, people! Does that freak you out? It shouldn’t; it really shouldn’t. Even if the turkey is tough and the pies are burnt to a crisp and all you’ve got left to eat are dinner rolls and a marshmallow fluff and green Jell-O salad, hey, it’s OK. Are you surrounded by the people you love? Are you healthy and safe and have a roof over your head? Then that’s all that matters.

Of course, truth be told, I know I’d still blow a bit of a gasket if all I had to eat on Thanksgiving was a gelatinous salad and dinner rolls (though if it were these dinner rolls, I might chill out a bit). I’ve always been one for tradition, and unless there is a sincerely relevant reason for straying from what we always do, I get a little hostile. I know, crazytown. But I need my sweet potato casserole and cranberry sauce in the shape of a can!

OK, not need. Definitely not need. But most certainly want.

Hawaiian sweet bread loaf on cooling rack

One of those random-but-necessary traditions we do every. single. year. (you heard me, Mom. Don’t even think about leaving this out this year.) is serve spinach dip in a Hawaiian sweet bread roll. It’s the most retro-ly awesome and delicious pre-Thanksgiving dinner appetizer, and we all devour it alongside our deviled eggs and cheese and crackers (hope you’re listening, Mom). It’s almost all usually store-bought, too, which is fine, but I wanted to mix things up a bit this year. So, I made my own Hawaiian bread.

Good grief. Where has this been all my life? Oh, that’s right. Conveniently available at the grocery store. But certainly not as delicious.

close up Hawaiian sweet bread loaf

Did you know Hawaiian bread (or as it’s sometimes called, Portuguese sweet bread) is often made with potato flour (or in this case, mashed potatoes)? Who knew? Luckily, that makes it one of those easy-to-rise breads. And what’s more, most of that rising occurs in the oven — when I put the bread in the oven, it was a typical free-form loaf, but when I took it out, it had transformed into that signature glossy, puffed dome. And the taste? Well, let’s just put it this way — you don’t even need the spinach dip on the side to enjoy it (but that doesn’t mean we won’t still have it, Mom!).

P.S. Mom, I love you, even if you don’t make all the things we normally have for Thanksgiving. But I might secretly go cry about it later. Just saying. Hugs!

Hawaiian Sweet Bread
Adapted from Baking Bites

Yields: 1 free-form round, about 10 rolls or 1 sandwich loaf


1 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 tablespoons warm water
1/2 cup sugar, divided
1/4 cup instant mashed potatoes, cooled
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons warm milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2-3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed and softened


In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whisk together yeast, water, 1 tablespoon sugar and mashed potatoes. Let sit for 5 minutes. Add remaining sugar, lemon juice, milk, salt, eggs and 1 cup flour and stir thoroughly to combine. Replace paddle attachment with dough hook and add 1/2 cup more flour and butter, mixing on low speed until smooth. Add more flour a few tablespoons at a time, mixing on low speed, until the dough starts to come away from the sides of the bowl.

Increase speed to medium and knead about 5-6 minutes, adding more flour as necessary until the dough is slightly sticky but no longer tacky. Alternatively, remove the dough from the bowl and knead for 10 minutes on a lightly floured surface until slightly sticky. You might not use all the flour, and that’s OK.

Shape dough into a ball and place in a lightly greased bowl covered with plastic wrap until doubled, about 2 to 3 hours.

Turn risen dough out onto a lightly floured surface and punch down. Shape into a large free-form round, into rolls or into a sandwich loaf (see here for how to shape it). Place free-form loaf or rolls onto a lightly floured baking stone or parchment paper-lined baking sheet; place rectangle into a lightly greased 8-by-4-inch loaf pan. Cover with a towel and let rise 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake bread for 30-40 minutes until a deep golden brown or when an instant-read thermometer inserted in the bottom of the loaf reads 200 degrees F. Remove from oven and cool completely on a cooling rack before slicing or serving.

Note: If you want to make this ahead of time for Thanksgiving, you can cover the bread tightly in plastic wrap, then aluminum foil, and place in freezer until turkey day. Just be sure to take it out of the freezer and let it sit on the counter about 12 hours before you want to serve it.