When it comes to Hawaiian cuisine, you probably picture something typical, like a pig roast, poi, or maybe a poke bowl. But lilikoi, a variety of yellow passion fruit, is a lesser-known island favorite that's so delicious and so versatile. At the Waikiki Resort Hotel's cafe, it's actually a key ingredient in our iconic buttermilk pancake dish. When you order 'Da pancake' at Ilima Cafe, you'll get a stack of fluffy pancakes topped with powdered sugar, butter, fresh fruit, and lilikoi syrup – the island's tropical alternative to traditional maple syrup.
A Taste of Lilikoi Syrup
In Hawaii, lilikoi syrup is popular for more than just pancakes – it's commonly used as a topping for shave ice, a glaze for ham, and even as a sweetener for cocktails. And luckily, you don't have to live in Hawaii to add a bottle of lilikoi syrup to your pantry. You can find it online and at select specialty grocery stores.
Or, if you're feeling really ambitious, you can whip up a batch of the syrup yourself. Just boil one cup each of sugar and water in a saucepan, then stir in the pulp of 5-6 passion fruits. After the mixture thickens, strain out the seeds to create a smooth, fruity syrup that's sure to become a family favorite. You can store the finished syrup in the fridge to keep it fresh!
Ilima Café Buttermilk Pancakes with Lilikoi Syrup
Want to bring a taste of Hawaii into your home? Find the recipe below for the hotel's much-loved pancakes with some insider tips from the executive chef – thanks to the buttermilk, they're the perfect mix of sweet, salty, and tangy. Now, you can enjoy a restaurant-worthy breakfast at home. Just make sure you stop by Ilima Cafe next time you're exploring Waikiki or strolling around Honolulu. Because what better way to kick off a Waikiki beach day than with a delicious breakfast?
- 1 cup flour
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 4/5 cups buttermilk
- 1/6 cup unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 large egg
- Fresh fruit, butter, Hawaiian lilikoi syrup, or maple syrup, for serving
- Combine the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
- Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add buttermilk, vanilla, egg, and melted butter (let it cool slightly).
- Use a wire whisk to combine the wet ingredients, then slowly fold into the dry ingredients. Mix until smooth.
- Set the batter aside to rest for 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, preheat a nonstick pan or griddle on medium heat. Once hot, lower to low-medium heat and then grease the pan lightly with butter. (This technique is what will help you get crisp edges and that fluffy sponge cake texture!)
- Use a ladle to pour 1/3 cup of the batter onto the pan and spread out into a round shape.
- Flip with a spatula when the underside is golden and the surface begins to bubble.
- Repeat the process with the remaining batter, then stack the finished pancakes and top with butter, lilikoi syrup, and your favorite fresh fruit.
Whether you're a Honolulu local looking for a new breakfast spot or want to reminisce on a recent Hawaiian vacation, this buttermilk pancake recipe is sure to bring a taste of the tropics into your kitchen...wherever that may be.