You probably know what the answer is when you ask kids which toppings they would like on their ice cream, right!? Exactly: All! As long as it is colorful and sweet, they usually don’t shy away from the weirdest combos. Now, looking at this popular summertime treat from the Philippines could make you think that this is exactly what happened. And even the dessert’s name quite precisely describes its look as Halo-halo stands for mishmash in Tagalog.

A Rainbow Made Of Sweets

The layered dessert is a wild and colorful mix of sweet treats and comes in many different variations. Though, any proper Halo-Halo will usually contain some standard ingredients such as shaved ice, mung beans, kidney beans, garbanzos, coconut strips, crushed young rice and plantains.

All of these are complemented depending on region and taste by various other ingredients. Examples hereof are agar or gelatin cubes, jackfruit, star apple, tapioca or sago starch. A very popular addition that goes by the name “nata de coco” is another Filipino specialty that you may not have encountered before. The chewy and translucent jelly is made by fermenting coconut water. You see we could go on and on with possible toppings. The list is sheer endless.

Halo-halo or Haluhalo, tagalog for mix-mix or mishmash: filipino dessertNow, you probably wonder: why do they not mention this extraordinarily beautiful scoop of violet ice cream at all? And you are right. In the modern version of the Filipino dessert, ube ice cream is probably its most distinct element. Ube is a special purple yam native to the Philippines. Especially in a boiled and mashed form, known as ube halaya, the root has always been lending its sweet, nutty flavor and vibrant color to many traditional Filipino desserts. While classic ube halaya has been an integral part of Halo-Halo for a long time, the purple ice cream is a more recent addition.

Bring It All Together!

Once all these different fruits, beans and other sweets are layered on top of each other in a bowl or tall glass and covered with shaved ice, the whole mix receives a generous serving of evaporated milk for some extra creamy sweetness. Ube ice cream, ube halaya or leche flan crown the delicious mishmash. And since more is more, combining all three toppings is not a crime either.

Now for everybody who doesn’t live in the tropics, classic Halo-Halo will be rather a summertime exclusive. But fear not that you have to forgo this delicious treat in winter. A great variation from the Visayas Islands is here to bridge the cold winter months. So-called “Ginataan” contains mostly the same ingredients as Halo-Halo but is served hot in coconut milk.

Did Kids Actually Invent Halo-Halo?

While it looks like a children’s dessert at first glance, Halo-Halo is actually believed to derive from Japanese Kakigōri. Pre-war migrants from Japan allegedly brought the traditional dessert with them to the Philippines. At first, locals only added only cooked red beans or mung beans, sugar and milk to the simple base of crushed ice. Over time and with growing popularity, more native Filipino ingredients found their way into the sweet chaos. Even “Chowking”, the popular Filipino fast food chain, included Halo-Halo in their steady menu and had a substantial influence in creating the modern version of the dessert as we know it today. Thus, it also doesn’t come as a big surprise that the colorful mix has become the restaurant’s best-selling product.

How To Make Halo-Halo At Home

To make Halo-Halo at home, all there is to do is layer the wild range of ingredients. Depending on where you live, availability of the individual items may be limited though. The good news is that you can easily vary and leave things out or add additional stuff to your liking. To give you a bit of guidance on what goes into the original version, you can find our authentic Halo-Halo recipe below.


Halo-Halo – A Colorful Dessert Made Of All Things Sweet

Halo-halo, a traditional dessert form the Philippines with all kinds of sweets


  • Sweet red bean (munggo)
  • Sweet white beans
  • Sweet garbanzos (chick peas)
  • Jackfruit (fresh or canned)
  • Sweetened saba banana
  • Maraschino cherries
  • Sweet kamote (sweet potato)
  • Nata de coco (coconut jelly)
  • Kaong (sugar palm fruit)
  • Cooked sago (granular starch)
  • Macapuno (coconut sport)
  • Ube nice cream
  • Ube haleya
  • Leche flan
  • White sugar (optional)
  • Shaved ice
  • Evaporated milk
  • Mango strips
  • Pinipig (crushed young rice)


  1. Cut fruits into cubes or small pieces according to your liking
  2. Layer equal parts of all fruits, sweet beans and jellies in a tall glass or bowl
  3. Add a good seving of shaved ice on top
  4. Add white sugar for extra sweetness if you like
  5. Top it off with cubes of leche flan, ube halaya and a scoop of ube ice cream
  6. Cover it all with strips of Mango, pour evaporated milk all over and besprinkle with crushed young rice
  7. Enjoy your crazy creation!


Similar to:

Patbingsu from Korea

Find more food and drinks from the Philippines here.

Go to other interesting issues on the Philippines: Music & Dances

Photo by Joey Parsons, punctuated

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