13 Best Asian Desserts To Try (My Personal Recipes)

group of 4 popular Asian desserts

For all you sweet tooths, here’s a list of 13 Asian desserts I’ve eaten and loved so much I developed recipes for them! In my opinion they’re some of the best Asian desserts out there.

Having grown in a Vietnamese household and community, I ate a lot of Asian desserts as a kid and have grown to really appreciate the variety and flavors. Asian countries share many similar ingredients like pandan leaves, coconut, rice and rice powder, sweet potato, tapioca balls, and tropical fruits.

Once you realize this, you then start to see a gradient of overlap in popular Asian desserts–but each with their own twist. You’ll see some desserts that are Vietnamese, that also have extremely similar Chinese, Thai, or Filipino versions too. Check out all my favorite popular Asian desserts below!

Vietnamese Pandan Waffles

Vietnamese pandan waffles

Vietnamese pandan waffles are the ultimate Asian dessert: crispy crust, chewy mochi centers, and not-too-sweet deliciousness. After getting addicted to Bambu pandan waffles over the years, I wanted to make my own version to make them without the fake food dye. 

Pandan is a palm leaf with an aromatic, nutty, earthy, and vanilla-like flavor. It’s one of my favorite aromas, and you’ll find pandan in many Asian desserts. Coconut milk is another level of these waffles, which gives them an extra rich taste. I use a mix of tapioca starch and rice flour to get the balance between chewy centers and an extra crispy outer layer. 

If you don’t have time to make these addictive waffles, you’ll be able to find these fresh waffles at your local Vietnamese store, such as Bambu or Lee’s Sandwiches

Chè Ba Màu (Vietnamese tri-color dessert)

3 cups of Vietnamese che ba mau

Chè ba màu is a tricolor Vietnamese dessert with a striking green, yellow, and red layered look. It is made of pandan jello, yellow mung beans, and sweet red bean filling. This dessert is served over crushed ice in a cup drizzled with a homemade coconut sauce.

It’s very similar to Filipino halo halo or Japanese kakigori desserts. You can find this dessert at many Vietnamese restaurants or dessert shops, like Bambu or Thạch Chè Hiển Khánh in Westminster, CA. 

Mango Sticky Rice

mango sticky rice dessert

Mango sticky rice is always a great treat when you have ripe mangoes. The aroma and taste is unmatched. This dessert is always a good soft landing ending for a hearty meal. It’s our go-to dessert at many Thai restaurants, markets, and food stalls. 

This dessert features ripe mangoes on a bed of sticky white rice and drizzled with sweet coconut milk syrup. Traditionally, it calls for Nam Dok Mai mangoes that have less fiber and are very sweet. However, it’s difficult to find in the US, so we often eat champagne or Ataulfo mangoes that are just as sweet.  

Although I’d love to eat mangoes year-round, I learned restaurants often keep this dessert off the menu when mangoes aren’t in season because it’s not worth serving sour mangoes with this dessert. You can also make mango sticky rice at home; we’ve even created an easy tutorial for cutting mangoes.

Chè Thái

Vietnamese che Thai

Chè Thái is similar to a fruit cocktail but has many more textures and flavors than your traditional plain canned dessert. It got its name from a Thai dessert called Tub Tim Krop, which features pomegranate seeds similar to the red water chestnuts in this treat. This Vietnamese version has a coconut milk base and is filled to the brim with aiyu jelly, juicy lychee, jackfruit, toddy palm seeds, longan, and red ruby-shaped water chestnuts. 

The most challenging part of this dessert is making the red rubies, which are just bite-sized pieces of water chestnuts coated in tapioca powder and boiled until they have a chewy consistency. You can also use red tapioca pearls if you don’t want to do the extra steps. The other ingredients can easily be found pre-made in canned jars in many Asian stores like Ranch 99. Many Vietnamese dessert shops also sell Chè Thái.  

Bánh Bò Nướng (Vietnamese Honeycomb Cake)

Vietnamese banh bo nuong

Bánh bò nướng is one of my favorite Vietnamese baked treats. I can get it at Bánh Mì Chè Cali or other dessert shops, where I can buy just a slice or a mini cake size. It’s lovingly referred to as honeycomb cake or Vietnamese cow cake because of its mochi texture inside, which is often green due to its popular pandan flavoring. 

It can be somewhat tricky to make at home, but my mom taught me her thoroughly tested recipe, with many tips and tricks to guide you to fresh bánh bò nướng at home. 

Mochi Donuts

glazed mochi donuts

My recipe for mochi donuts here! I don’t love waiting in long lines but I’ll wait or fresh mochi donuts. They’re often ring-shaped and have a chewy consistency and crispy outer layer. Japan’s Mister Donut popularized mochi donuts, which eventually found their way to the US. We finally tried Mister Donut in Japan, and they were light, chewy, and crispy even after sitting in a display case. 

At this point, I’ve tried several mochi donut stores and was quite saddened when my favorite store, MoDo Hawaii, closed in Orange County, CA. So, I’ve learned how to make mochi donuts at home. This style is slightly different from the ones in stores because we don’t have an automatic batter dispenser, so the consistency is slightly thicker. However, you still get a crispy, deep-fried crust and chewy, mochi-like consistency on the inside. 

Vietnamese Pandan Sticky Rice

pandan sticky rice

Vietnamese Pandan sticky rice, also called xôi lá dứa, is a blend of nutty, sweet, and salty flavors. If you like the aromatic flavors of pandan leaves, rich coconut, and toasted sesame seeds, this dessert is for you. Sticky rice is one of my favorite things to get from local Vietnamese dessert shops since they’re lightly sweetened, not too messy to eat, and easy to share.

The base of sticky rice is also common in many Asian cuisines, like mango sticky rice; however, this version is steamed and flavored with fresh pandan leaves and some artificial flavoring. Use my guide to learn how to extract pandan leaves

Filpino Puto (steamed rice cakes)

puto - Filipino steamed rice cakes

Puto is a popular Filipino rice cake (or kakanin). Made of rice flour and coconut milk, it has a soft and tender consistency similar to a sponge cake. Unlike other popular Filipino desserts, puto is less sweet and comes with toppings like cheese, salted egg, and ube. Traditionally, it’s made from a fermented rice batter to be tangier; however, these days, it’s mostly made from rice flour and made on the same day. 

The name comes from the Malay word “puttu,” which means “portioned.” This refers to the size and shape of the puto, which often comes in mini cupcake form. It appears at just about every Filipino party and comes in different flavors, like pandan and ube. 

Chè Bắp (Vietnamese Sticky Rice & Corn Dessert)

pot of Vietnamese che bap

Many Asian sweets include a lot of ingredients that you wouldn’t typically categorize as a dessert, like cheese, beans, and, in the case of this dessert, corn. Chè bắp is a sweet, slightly liquidy sticky rice treat that is made up of sticky rice, corn, pandan, and coconut milk. 

There’s no single English word that translates the category of this dessert properly because, in America, we don’t have enough of this texture dessert to have a name for it. It’s not as liquid as a soup, but it’s a dessert, so you wouldn’t call it a stew. I’ve hilariously seen it translated in Vietnam as “gruel,” but it sounds way too unappetizing. Make no mistake, this dessert is amazing! Making this dish at home is super easy, and all you need is one pot to make a big batch. 

Japanese Soufflé Pancakes

souffle pancakes with fruit & whipped cream

I first had Japanese soufflé pancakes at Basilur Cafe in Brea and immediately loved their light and fluffy texture. It was like eating a cloud with just the right sweetness. Every dish was made to order and came out steaming hot from the kitchen. These soufflé pancakes have a delicate meringue batter that gives them that airy texture. 

Popularized initially by two cafes in Japan, Happy Pancake and Gram Cafe, the souffle pancake went viral online due to its addictingly soft and fluffy consistency. While regular pancakes quickly make you full, souffle pancakes are light and airy. After making them at home a handful of times, I can say it’s definitely worth it to wait and pay at a cafe because making them at home can be pretty cumbersome and take some some tries to master.

Bánh Cam (Vietnamese Sesame Balls)

Vietnamese banh cam

Bánh cam are lightly sweetened, Vietnamese fried sesame balls with mung bean centers. They’re ultra crispy and coated in sesame seeds, but they have a chewy, mochi-like crust and a soft filling of sweetened mung beans. Bánh cam is similar to Chinese sesame balls at dim sum restaurants, but the crust on bánh cam is often crispier and holds its shape better even after you bite into it. The Chinese version usually has different fillings like red bean, black bean paste, or lotus seed paste. 

My mom’s recipe for bánh cam has a secret ingredient that helps create an extra-crunchy shell and mochi-like consistency that I haven’t found in many dessert shops. 

Ube Waffles

ube waffle texture

Anything ube is still trending lately, and there’s a good reason. There are ube crinkle cookies, cheesecake, ube cake, and even ube waffles. Ube is an indigenous Filipino yam known for its deep purple coloring and slightly sweet and nutty flavor. These ube waffles have a sweet vanilla flavor and are paired with a mochi-like chewy center and crispy crust. You’ll be addicted to ube waffles if you like pandan waffles or mochi donuts with the same consistency. 

What’s great about these waffles is that they’re also easy to make at home and you can premake a big batch ahead of time too. My preferred method is to add ube halaya (or ube jam) to my waffles to get actual ube root inside–many recipes call for only ube extract, which I find mostly artificial in flavor and makeup. 

Ginataan Bilo Bilo (Filipino Sweet Coconut Soup Dessert)

Filipino ginataan bilo bilo

Ginataan bilo bilo is a comfort dessert in the Philippines similar to Vietnamese sweet soup, like chè chuối. It has a base of sweetened coconut filled with pieces of taro, jackfruit, banana, sweet potato, tapioca balls, and mochi balls.

The name ginataan means “cooked in coconut milk,” and bilo bilo are colorful mochi balls made from tapioca starch, water, and flavoring (like pandan and sweet potato). It’s the perfect dessert to eat on a rainy and cold day.  

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