Everything You Need To Know About Puto

These soft and fluffy kakanin can be eaten as merienda or paired with dinuguan!

IMAGE Riell Santos

Mildly sweet and fluffy, puto are beloved merienda or snacks that are not only delicious by themselves but also pair well with many classic Filipino dishes, too!

What is Puto?

butter puto arranged on a cooling rack, with one served on a plate with shaved coconut on the side
These steamed rice cakes are mildly sweet and make great snacks!
Photo by Roselle Miranda

Puto are Filipino steamed rice cakes that can be made with galapong (fermented rice) or rice flour. They are characteristically soft, fluffy, and just a little chewy. Depending on the kind of flour used, they can also be a little sticky. Puto are a kind of kakainin, which are Filipino delicacies that use rice flour, sugar, and coconut milk as base ingredients. Just as puto are a kind of kakainin, the term "puto" can also be a blanket term for a wide variety of steamed rice cakes.

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Puto are traditionally made with galapong, which is a kind of rice dough made by soaking glutinous rice overnight to soften the grains, grinding it up until smooth, and then letting it ferment. For traditional puto varieties like puto Calasiao, galapong is a necessary ingredient as the flavor of the fermented rice is what makes it unique. Before the advent of yeast and chemical leaveners like baking soda and baking powder, puto recipes required galapong not only to add flavor but also as a leavener: because it is fermented, it caused puto batter to rise as it is steamed, which in turn made it soft and fluffy.

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Nowadays, puto can also be made with rice flour or all-purpose flour, depending on the recipe. Puto ingredients also typically include eggs, sugar, and evaporated or coconut milk (or a mixture of both).

Table of Contents

How to Cook Puto

How to Serve Puto

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• Puto Recipes

Regional and Sasonal Puto Recipes

Other Puto Recipe Variations

Best Puto Making Tips

• Puto Storage Tips

How to Cook Puto

corn puto on a plate
No oven? No worries! Puto (yes, even these corn puto) are usually steamed, so all you need to make them is a stove.
Photo by Bianca Laxamana

Puto are traditionally steamed in small plastic or tin cups called puto molds. Whether you're using galapong or flour to make puto, the process is straightforward: after measuring the ingredients. All you need to do is mix them all together to form a smooth, lump-free batter! Then, get your steamer ready; the water needs to be simmering gently already before loading up the filled puto molds.

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In the meantime, grease the puto molds lightly and pour in the batter. Make sure to fill each only up to three-fourths full as the puto will need the extra space in the mold as it rises while being steamed. Once the steamer is ready, the puto molds can now be loaded in carefully. Steam over medium heat. Steaming time depends on the size of the puto molds, and this is usually indicated in puto recipes, but in general, you can tell that the puto is done cooking when it springs back when lightly pressed.

If you don't have a steamer, you can also bake puto in an oven or even a toaster oven!

How to Serve Puto

stack of ube puto topped with grated cheese on an intricate plate
These mini puto are made vibrantly purple from the ube.
Photo by Patrick Martires
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Puto are widely considered as a merienda or snack in the Philippines. They are usually served at room temperature and best eaten fresh, within the day of being made.

While puto are delicious as is, they also pair well with savory Filipino dishes like dinuguan or pork blood stew. They are also popularly paired with Filipino noodle dishes like pancit canton or pancit palabok!

Puto Recipes

puto bigas in a wicker basket
These traditional puto are made with galapong or fermented rice batter.
Photo by Mira Angeles
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Ready to make puto at home? One of the reasons why puto is such a popular merienda is because of how easily accessible its ingredients are. We've got puto recipes using all-purpose flour for no-fuss puto and more traditional puto recipes that use rice flour as well. Plus, anyone with a stove can make these since you don't need an oven! No matter how you've stocked your pantry, there's a puto recipe for you.

Here is our classic cheese puto recipe that uses all-purpose flour. You can also watch how to make cheese puto here.

Here is our traditional puto bigas recipe, which is made with rice flour.

Regional and Seasonal Puto Recipe Variations

1 Puto Calasiao - Pangasinan

puto calasiao topped with toasted sesame and coconut on an orange plate, with a steamer basket in the background
These stickier versions of puto are so addicting!
Photo by Majoy Siason
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Puto Calasiao is named after Calasiao, Pangasinan, where these smaller and stickier versions of the steamed rice cakes originate. What gives them their unique texture is the use of galapong or fermented glutinous rice batter. While making puto this way takes longer than the versions that use all-purpose flour, the mildly sweet and complex flavor that using galapong yields is worth it!

Try this puto calasiao recipe!

2 Puto Bumbong - Christmas Season

puto bumbong topped with butter and coconut on a banana leaf
You know it's the Christmas season when you can smell these cooking!
Photo by Roselle Miranda
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This variety of puto is popular during the Christmas season in the Philippines. Puto bumbong are usually made in stalls near churches, steaming and ready to eat after the Catholic tradition called simbang gabi, which are masses held at dawn during the 9 days leading up to Christmas Eve. Unlike regular puto, puto bumbong are cylindrical and purple in color. They are made with a variety of black or purple rice called pirurutong rice, which is what gives these cylindrical rice cakes their unique color.

Here's our puto bumbong recipe that you can try at home! You can also watch how to make puto bumbong here.

Other Puto Recipe Variations

What makes puto a fun snack (aside from how delicious it is) is how easy it is to incorporate flavors and toppings into it. Once you've mastered how to make classic puto recipes, you can mix and match your favorite flavors and toppings to create colorful and unique puto! Here are a few you can start with:

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Puto Recipes with Different Flavors

With a simple switch or addition of an ingredient, you can spruce up the regular puto! These puto recipes are perfect for parties as they not only get a boost in flavor with additional ingredients; they are more colorful, too!

stack of colorful rainbow puto on a white plate
Make these colorful puto for your next handaan!
Photo by Majoy Siason
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• Butter Puto Recipe

• Pandan Puto Recipe

• Ube Puto Recipe

• Chocolate Puto Recipe

• Rainbow Puto with Cheese Recipe

• Brown Sugar Puto Recipe

• Muscovado Puto Recipe

Puto Recipes with Toppings and Fillings

We were serious when we said you could add any number of toppings to your favorite puto recipe! And if that's not enough, we've also got several recipes that feature cheese-stuffed puto for an extra gooey bite.

bacon and cheese puto on a blue plate
Puto can also be savory with the addition of bacon and cheese!
Photo by Karishma Etong
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• Cheese-stuffed Cheese Puto Recipe

• Ube-stuffed Cheese Puto Recipe

• Corn and Cheese Puto Recipe

• Corn Puto Recipe

• Bacon and Cheese Puto Recipe

• Puto with Buro Spread Recipe

Puto Cake Recipes

Puto are usually enjoyed as small bites, but did you know that you can also have puto in cake form? They take a little longer to steam or bake, but it's definitely worth the wait!

puto cake in the background, slice of puto cake in front
If you can't get enough of puto, make it into a cake!
Photo by Bianca Laxamana
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• Puto Cake Recipe

• Puto Cake with Cream Cheese Recipe

• Puto Flan Cake Recipe

Puto Flan Recipes

What do you get when you put puto and leche flan together? Puto flan! This delicious mash-up combines the light and fluffy puto with the creamy and decadent leche flan. 

puto flan or puto leche flan on a plate
Puto and leche flan just make sense.
Photo by Riell Santos
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• Puto Flan Recipe (You can also read this recipe in Filipino.)

• Ube Puto Flan Recipe

Tips For Making the Best Puto

ube stuffed cheese puto, cut in half so the ube is oozing out
This puto is for ube and cheese lovers!
Photo by Roselle Miranda

1 Pay attention to the ingredients.

Even though it is steamed, puto are similar to baked products such that the ratio of ingredients matter greatly: make sure to measure accurately, and make sure that you're using the correct kind of flour in your recipe. Different flours and leaveners produce different tastes and textures. For example, puto made with rice flour or galapong tend to be denser and stickier while puto made with all-purpose flour have a more cake-like texture.

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2 Don't overmix the batter.

Many puto recipes use all-purpose flour or a mixture of all-purpose flour with rice flour, and this is important to note as all-purpose flour contains wheat, which develops gluten when mixed with liquids. Gluten is what gives baked or steamed goods like puto or bread structure, and while you need a bit of gluten to make your puto fluffy, developing too much can result in a tough cake.

To develop just enough gluten in your wheat flour putoprevent overmixing by adding the wet ingredients to the dry in two or three additions, lightly stirring between additions. You should stop mixing as soon as there is no more loose flour. It also helps to sift the dry ingredients first, to prevent any big lumps from forming and forcing you to mix more vigorously to crumble those lumps.

3 Steam them gently.

Puto are well-known for their perfect dome shape, and to achieve this, the key is in letting the puto steam or bake slowly. Whether you are steaming or baking, it's important to get your steamer or oven to the correct temperature. For baking, this is more straightforward as all you need to do is preheat your oven to the prescribed temperature.

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For steaming, it's important to ensure that the water is already gently simmering before the filled puto molds are added in. Make sure to steam at medium heat, and avoid disturbing the steamer or oven by opening it for at least five to seven minutes or until the puto has set.

Puto Storage Tips

pandan puto topped with cheese and arranged on a plate
These pandan puto need to be covered with cling wrap to keep them from drying out.
Photo by Patrick Martires
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1 Puto is best served within the day of making it.

Puto have a short shelf life, especially when they are made with rice flour. They can usually be stored for 1 or 2 days, but beyond that, the mildly sweet puto can begin to turn sour and dry.

2 Keep puto covered at all times.

The best way to store puto is by making sure it is tightly covered with cling wrap. Puto dry out easily, and the less it comes into contact with open air, the longer it can stay fresh and soft. If it needs to be stored overnight, tightly wrapping the puto is all the more important as refrigerators tend to absorb moisture to cool down products.

3 You can reheat puto to make it soft again.

If you've stored puto in the refrigerator or left it uncovered, it can dry out. The good news is that you can make them soft and moist again by spraying them with water and reheating them while covered in the microwave. Alternatively, they can also be steamed again for about two to three minutes. They can then be consumed once they've reached room temperature again.

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Thinking about what to cook next? Join our Facebook group, Yummy Pinoy Cooking Club, to get more recipe ideas, share your own dishes, and find out what the rest of the community are making and eating!

Got your own version of the classic dishes? Pa-share naman! Get your recipe published on Yummy.ph by submitting your recipe here.


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