How to Make Halo-Halo

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Halo-halo layers together all kinds of ingredients to make a popular Filipino ice cream treat. Read on to learn how to make it.

Halo-halo (pronounced haa-low haa-low) is the perfect frozen treat to help you cool down. Layered with preserved fruit, sweet beans, shaved ice and ube ice cream, it’s a choose-your-own-adventure dessert to get you though hot days.

What Is Halo-halo?

Halo-halo is a Tagalog word that means “mix and mix.” It’s a layered dessert with sweetened beans and mixed preserves on the bottom. It’s then packed with shaved ice that has been drizzled with evaporated milk. At the top of the halo-halo is a scoop (or several) of ube ice cream and a slice of leche flan. Then, to round out this treat, we use a sprinkling of pinipig (Filipino puffed rice) and a crunchy wafer roll.

The origin of halo-halo can be traced back to Japanese immigrants in the Philippines before WWII. Many came during the early 20th century to work in abaca farms. To help deal with the humid heat, many Japanese people brought a cold treat called kakigori.

Kakigori is a Japanese dessert made with shaved ice and syrup. It took off in the Philippines during the 1920s and ’30s. The Japanese taught the Filipinos how to preserve beans and other root crops in sugar syrup and the modern halo-halo was born.

Because it’s a layered dessert, each person has a different preference on how to eat halo-halo. Some like to mix it all up so that you get chunks of ice mixed with the ice cream and preserves all in one bite. Some like to eat the ice cream first and then finish with the milky ice and preserves. It’s up to you on how to enjoy your halo-halo!

Key Ingredients for Halo-Halo

Halo Halo LabelsRezel Kealoha for taste of home

Learn how to make halo-halo with these traditional ingredients:

  • Shaved ice
  • Evaporated milk
  • Ube ice cream
  • Leche flan
  • Pinipig (young rice that has been pounded and puffed)
  • Sweetened chickpeas
  • Macapuno (sweet coconut strips)
  • Nata de coco (coconut jelly)
  • Preserved sugar palm fruit
  • Sago (tapioca pearls)
  • Langka strips (sweet jackfruit strips)

Optional (but still traditional) ingredients include:

  • Gulaman (Jell-O)
  • Steamed and sweetened sweet potato
  • Sweetened sliced saba bananas
  • Ube halaya (purple yam jam)
  • Corn

How to Make Halo-Halo, Step by Step

Halo Halo SpreadRezel Kealoha for taste of home

This recipe makes one serving. For this version of halo-halo, I used:

  • 1 teaspoon chickpeas in syrup
  • 1 teaspoon tapioca pearls
  • 1 teaspoon nata de coco
  • 1 teaspoon sugar palm fruit
  • 1 teaspoon macapuno
  • 1 teaspoon lanka strips
  • 2 cups shaved ice
  • 1/4 cup evaporated milk
  • 2 scoops ube ice cream
  • Slice of leche flan
  • 1 teaspoon pinipig
  • 1 or 2 wafer roll cookies

Tools You’ll Need

Directions

Step 1: Layer the fillings

Halo Halo IngredientsRezel Kealoha for taste of home

Take your tall glass and fill the bottom with each of your fillings: chickpeas, tapioca pearls, nata de coco, sugar palm fruit, macapuno and lanka strips.

Then, top with the shaved ice. Use your hands to really pack it down and make it super tight!

Step 2: Top with even more

Halo Halo Ice And MilkRezel Kealoha for taste of home

Drizzle the evaporated milk all over the ice and top with ube ice cream. Lay the slice of leche flan on the side of the ice cream and stick the wafer cookie on the side. Finally, finish it off with a sprinkling of pinipig.

Step 3: Serve

Serve on a small plate because the halo-halo will get messy! You’ll also need a spoon with a long handle and a straw. The ice will eventually melt into the ice cream, creating a milk shake-type consistency. You can alternate between sipping and mixing and scooping up the little treats from the bottom.

Tips for Making Halo-Halo

Use shaved ice

The best type of ice to use is shaved ice. Many shave ice machines come with ice molds to use in the machines or some can even shave normal ice cubes. You might even be able to use a high-end blender to create powder soft ice.

Shop at Filipino stores

To find the preserves and authentic ube ice cream, visit a Filipino grocery store such as Seafood City (found on both the West and East Coast of the U.S. and parts of Canada) or Island Pacific (found in California and Las Vegas only).

You can also find halo-halo ingredients in local Filipino mom and pop stores around the country. Look at Chinese or Korean grocery stores, too, because most have a Filipino section.

You can add fresh fruit

It’s not traditional, but you can add in some diced fresh fruit, like cantaloupe, mango or pineapple, to your halo-halo.

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Rezel Kealoha
I am a food stylist, food photographer, recipe developer and food writer. I work from my home studio while listening to my Kindergardner do her zoom classes.