Nothing triggers a flood of childhood memories like hearing the crunch of a potato chip or the rustle of someone opening a bag of crackers. In the Philippines, our favourite Filipino snacks conjure so many of our favourite moments growing up. Not to mention the powerful nostalgia of when life was simple and uncomplicated. So, broaden your horizons, foreign friends, because we’re about to enter Filipino snack territory — the salty, the sweet, and the irresistibly sinful.
Are these Pinoy snacks our guilty pleasures? To that, we say: There’s no such thing!
Traditional Filipino snacks and classic Pinoy merienda
What it is: Made with silken tofu, brown sugary syrup, and chewy sago or tapioca pearls, taho is a classic Filipino merienda that usually comes in small affordable cups and is sold by street vendors during the daytime. With its creamy texture and sweetness, it never fails to leave a smile on people’s faces or provide comfort on an otherwise gloomy day. Not only is taho a well-loved delicacy for many Filipinos, but it’s also a good source of protein and can double as a warm breakfast snack in the morning as well.
2. Pan de sal
What it is: Translating to “salt bread” in Spanish, pan de sal is a classic Filipino bread roll made from flour, eggs, yeast, salt, and sugar. The bread has a soft and chewy texture and is dusted with breadcrumbs on top. Popular fillings for pan de sal include cheese, butter, ube, coco jam, and liver spread. But for many Filipinos, the best way to enjoy pan de sal is to dip it into their morning coffee.
3. Bibingkang malagkit
What it is: Bibingkang malagkit (or biko, as some locals call it) is one of the most delicious examples of kakanin, which refers to Filipino delicacies that combine glutinous rice and coconut milk. Here, the sweet rice of bibingka is covered in a coconut caramel sauce, giving it a decadent flavour. It’s not to be confused with bibingkang galapong, the golden charcoal-baked rice cake that Filipinos like to eat during holidays.
What it is: Sticky glutinous rice cooked in coconut milk, then wrapped securely in banana leaves and steamed. Many provinces in the Philippines have their own unique way of preparing and enjoying suman. Do as the locals do, and drizzle your suman with white sugar or slather the sticky rice in latik sauce — a sweet and thick sauce from coconut milk.
What it is: A popular Filipino delicacy made with sticky rice, coconut milk, and brown sugar. Toasted coconut bits sprinkled on the surface make this a creamy, highly addictive treat for any time of the day.
What it is: A steamed rice cake that is frequently enjoyed with grated coconut on top. It has a chewy, almost jelly-like texture. Since it’s one of the healthy Filipino snacks out there, you can eat several of these without feeling too guilty.
What it is: Just like kutsinta, this is a steamed rice cake that is extremely popular in the Philippines. Soft and fluffy, the classic white puto is traditionally made from rice flour. But it has a lot of varieties all over the country and can be served in many flavours, such as cheese or ube. Moreover, its light and subtle taste makes it a great snack to have alongside savoury meals at the dinner table.
8. Ginataang mais
What it is: Essentially, a sweet corn porridge that’s often eaten as either merienda or dessert, especially during colder months. This easy-to-make comfort food is a mix of corn kernels, glutinous rice, and coconut milk. In some provinces, it’s also referred to as lugaw na maisor lelot mais.
9. Ube jam
What it is: A thick, creamy spread made with native purple yam and three kinds of milk: condensed, evaporated, and coconut. You can either put it on bread or enjoy it on its own! Some of you have probably already heard of ube, especially since it has gained well-deserved global popularity in recent years. But for the benefit of those who don’t, it features a sweet, mellow taste with subtle vanilla and nutty undertones.
What it is: Think of a toasty, flaky flatbread filled with indulgent muscovado and sprinkled with sesame seeds. Originally from the province of Negros Occidental, it’s hands down one of the best Filipino snacks. An equally yummy alternative to the usual muscovado flavour would be ube.
What it is: More commonly referred to as “dirty ice cream” (which it really isn’t), what sets this classic Filipino merienda apart from regular branded ice cream is its taste and texture. It’s traditionally made from carabao milk and served in small scoops on wafer or sugar cones. But if you want a truly local twist, you can put the scoops in between a bun, like how some vendors do it! It’s the Filipino take on an ice cream sandwich.
Popular flavours include cheese, mango, and chocolate. Though in recent years, there have also been newer flavours like cookies and cream, avocado, and macapuno.
What it is: A semi-sweet concoction of toasted flour, powdered full cream milk, sugar, and butter. It features a soft and crumbly texture that easily melts in your mouth. Granted, it could be a bit messy to eat on the go — but hey, that’s all part of the experience. While nothing beats the original milky flavour, you also might want to try other variants like ube, pinipig, and cookies and cream.
Popular Filipino chips for snacking
13. Potato chips
What these are: For an introduction to popular Filipino snacks, you won’t find a better place to start than best-selling local potato chips that come in different shapes and flavours! Whether you love the classic cheese and barbeque, or more unusual flavours like roast beef and nacho pizza, there’s certainly something for you. They’re a fantastic pick for any occasion — house parties, road trips, or just casually catching up with friends.
What it is: No Pinoy merienda experience would be complete without a bag of chicharon(deep-fried pork rinds). Indulge in the incredibly satisfying crisp and crunch, best enjoyed with a side of vinegar as your dip. While chicharon is traditionally made from pork, you’ll also find meat-free alternatives — perfect for vegetarians, our Muslim friends, or simply those looking to try something new! Take your pick between homegrown brands with multiple branches around the country, or grocery store brands with their own cool modern take on this staple snack.
15. Corn chips
What these are: For many Filipinos, corn chips are the old-school snacks that remind them of happy childhood days. Each bite is packed with a sweet and yummy corn flavour that can bring a smile to anyone’s face. We only wish that the bag was bigger! Some come in fun shapes like bright golden balls and or in the form of cornick (deep-fried crunchy puffed corn kernels, usually in garlic flavour).
16. Cheese-flavoured chips
What these are: We can never have enough of bite-sized Filipino snacks overloaded with cheese. Brimming with an addicting combination of salty, crunchy, and mildly sweet, we wouldn’t be surprised if you find yourself craving these long after your visit. Fun fact: Some brands of Pinoy cheesy chips have been around since the 1970s — how cool is that?
Filipino candies and staple merienda that will brighten your day
17. Chewy candies
What these are: Super addicting chewable candies with different fruity flavours like grape, strawberry, orange, and lemon. Bonus points for the delightfully colourful wrappers! Also, there’s something therapeutic about chewing on these sweets — especially on more hectic days when you can’t be bothered with a bag of chips.
18. Milk chocolates
What these are: Pinoys are known for having quite the sweet tooth, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that the Filipino snacks roster includes locally made chocolates! Some of these are designed with a slightly grooved shape for a richer taste and smoother mouthfeel; while others are tinged with a roasted peanut flavour and feature a delicate, crumbly texture for some melt-in-your-mouth goodness. Feel free to pair ’em with your morning cup of coffee or cocoa, or as a mid-afternoon treat.
19. Dried fruits
What these are: It’s hard not to fall in love with the yummy tropical fruits in the Philippines. But alas, you can’t bring fresh fruits with you when you leave. Fortunately, dried fruits are there to save the day! Dried mangoes and pineapples are the crowd fave Filipino snacks, though there are also healthier versions that are made sans oil or frying.
Some dried fruit snacks even have a delightful combination of tropical flavours; from coconut chips mixed with ube and banana, to mango crisps mixed with banana and sweet potato. Granted, some combos might initially seem odd, but we promise, they’re worth a try.
20. Instant pancit canton
What it is: No list of Pinoy snacks would be complete without the instant gratification that a pack of ready-to-cook pancit canton noodles! These fuss-free, extremely addictive stir-fried noodles capture the savoury flavours of Filipino pancit. Must-try flavours include calamansi, sweet & spicy, and extra hot chili.
These are just some of the best Filipino snacks and Pinoy merienda that we remember stuffing our faces with when we were younger. If you’re anything like us, you were probably halfway through this list before walking to the kitchen and whipping up a treat for yourself, too.