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How to Make Manapua

How to Make Manapua

Last Updated on 20th July 2022 by

Have you ever had the Hawaiian food manapua and wanted to learn how to make it yourself? This traditional dish can we make from scratch at home, and it’s a great way to use leftover bread dough and barbecue pork.

What Is Manapua?

This dish is essentially a dinner roll that’s filled with steaming hot barbecue pork. It’s baked to a golden brown for a delightful comfort food that will fill you up and satisfy your cravings.

These fluffy buns are kind of like the Hawaiian version of char sui pork, which is a pork filled bun that’s popular in Asian cuisine.

The Hawaiian version is lightly different, though, and I want to share with you a method for how to make manapua yourself.

What Does Manapua Mean?

Like most Hawaiian foods, the name has some meaning in the native language, and manapua could be translated as “delicious pork thing”.

The straightforward and kind of comical name is just another reason to love this dish.

The original version was brought over to Hawaii by Chinese immigrants who were employed as plantation workers.

What Is Manapua Made Out of?

The two main ingredients in manapua are light, fluffy bread and sweet barbecue pork. There are few different ways this dish can be made, and sometimes these two primary ingredients are changed up a bit.

Some versions may use a heavier or crunchier version of the dinner roll, and some may use a spicy pulled pork or slices of pork ready and shredded pork.

The traditional manapua dish, however, is made from shredded barbecue pork and a light bread that is very similar to a dinner.

How to Make Baked Manapua

Let me share with you a method for how you can make this yourself. I made it is simple as possible try to stay true to the traditional methods for making this Hawaiian dish.

The version I’m sharing with you is a shortcut version that uses already made dinner rolls that you can buy the grocery for really cheap.

These may even be called Hawaiian dinner rolls. If you make them yourself, the dish will take a lot longer, however, it’s also more rewarding.

Making everything from scratch helps you to control all of the ingredients and will usually yield a better, tastier dish, but I definitely suggest starting with the shortcut version until you are more comfortable with this dish and making it yourself.


  • 1 dozen frozen dinner roll dough balls
  • 1 large egg, well beaten and mixed with one teaspoon of water
  • One teaspoon of honey, mixed with a teaspoon of hot water
  • Flour for dusting

To make the char sui filling:

  • One tablespoon of grapeseed oil
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 2 tablespoons of dark brown sugar
  • 1 thinly sliced green onion
  • ½ diced yellow onion
  • 16 ounces of char sui pork, diced small
  • 1/3 cup of chicken broth
  • 2 ounces of diced water chestnuts
  • 1 teaspoon of sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons of hoisin sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of oyster sauce
  • Salt and white pepper, to season
  • 1 tablespoon of cornstarch, mixed with a tablespoon of water


  1. The dough needs to be prepared several hours ahead of the rest of the dish, allowing it to thaw out for 3-4 hours. To thaw the dough, place the balls on baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Space the rolls out about 2 inches from each other on the sheet and cover the sheet and rolls with plastic wrap.
  2. After the rolls have thawed, prepare the char sui filling by cooking grapeseed oil on medium heat in a skillet. Add in a pinch of salt and pepper to season, and then add the chopped onion as well. Cook until the onion turns translucent, and then add in the water chestnuts and green onions and mix everything together.
  3. Cook for an additional 1-2 minutes, once the green onions are soft.
  4. Add char sui pork and dark brown sugar to a separate skillet and stir to coat. Cook until the sugar dissolves.
  5. In a separate bowl, mix together sesame oil, hoisin sauce, chicken broth, and oyster sauce. Add that broth to the char sui pork and stir together.
  6. Bring the mixture to a simmer on medium heat and cook for about 2 minutes. Add in the cornstarch slurry and cook for an additional 2 minutes.
  7. Add the onion mixture to that and mix together.
  8. Dust a countertop with flour and place the dough balls there.
  9. Flatten each dough ball out into a circle and add filling to the center of the circle. Then pinch the sides together to cover the filling completely in dough. That should a kea seam on one side. Place the seam side down on the baking sheet.
  10. Cover the manapua with lightly oiled plastic wrap or 30 minutes and preheat the oven to 3650 degrees.
  11. Once the oven is heated and the dough has rested for 30 minutes, you can place the baking sheet in the oven and bake for 18-20 minutes. You can brush the finished rolls with honey.

How to Make Manapua Bread

If you want to make them from scratch, you can follow a recipe for making dinner rolls. Just make sure that you use a recipe that’s going to give you mostly light and fluffy rolls, rather than thick and heavy ones.

The reason they need to be fluffy so you can put the filling in the middle, but you could do with only made dinner rolls, rather than using frozen dough balls.

You have so many options for how to make this dish, particularly in how you want to prepare the rolls and where you are getting the rolls from.

Depending on how much time you have and how much work you put into the dish, you may want to choose one of the simpler options.

I use the premade rolls or dough balls, as that’s my preference, but you do whatever you like to make this delightful Hawaiian delicacy.

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I'm Pauline, a mother of four grown children, my passion for cooking stemmed from the joy i get cooking for my family. I love to try new dishes, especially when dining out but creating and sharing my own recipes is my favourite thing to do!

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Saturday 9th of March 2024

Thanks for sharing. I read many of your blog posts, cool, your blog is very good.


Wednesday 13th of September 2023

"Your article on food is absolutely fantastic! It's not just informative; it's incredibly engaging and well-written. Reading it was like taking a culinary journey. I'm genuinely inspired to step into the kitchen and try out some new recipes. Keep up the great work!"