Leonard’s Bakery Malasada History and Facts

Whenever someone mentions the name Leonard’s Bakery, mouths immediately begin watering in Honolulu. Images of fresh malasadas spring to mind; a delicious pastry that is a fluffy, fried golden brown, sugar coated and often referred to as the “Portuguese Doughnut.” These confections are warm, delicious, and utterly addicting. The malasada is by no means endemic to Hawaii. Its roots are Portuguese, specifically from the Atlantic Island of Madeira. In Madeira, malasadas are traditionally eaten on Fat Tuesday, a way for families to prepare for Lent by using their remaining lard and sugar. When laborers from Madeira came to work in the Hawaiian sugar plantations in 1882, these workers brought their favorite food, the malasada. However, the malasada didn’t begin gaining its massive popularity here in Hawaii until Leonard Rego Sr. first opened the doors of Leonard’s Bakery in 1952. Initially the malasada wasn’t even on the menu, but Leonard’s mother suggested they make some for Shrove Tuesday. The malasada was an immediate hit, thus becoming a permanent fixture on the menu. By 1957, the successful bakery had already outgrown its original space. Leonard Sr. moved his bakery down the street to its current location at 933 Kapahulu Avenue. For the past six decades now, long lines have gathered outside the doors of Leonard’s Bakery each morning of the week, all patiently waiting for a fresh, warm malasada. Still family owned and operated, Leonard Jr. continues to run the bakery his father started. Throughout the years Leonard’s Bakery has become an institution in Honolulu. Leonard’s has even become well known outside of Hawaii, having been written about in travel articles published in various newspaper and travel magazines around the world. And these perfectly fried pieces of dough seem to keep on getting better and better. There are even new variations of the traditional malasada available now, concoctions such as cinnamon sugar malasadas, and malasada puffs with custard and haupia filling. Of course, most devotees to Leonard’s agree that the traditional malasada is still the best. Leonard’s has even expanded, opening another store, called Leonard’s Bakery Jr. out in Aiea. What’s more, there are now Malasadamobiles (two in fact), that are mobile and capable of delivering delicious malasadas all over the island. Leonard’s has even journeyed across the Pacific and opened its first international bakery in Yokohama, Japan! So the next time you find yourself on Oahu (or Yokohama, Japan), it is imperative that you try a malasada from Leonard’s Bakery. Krispy Kreme Doughnuts can’t hold a candle next to a malasada from Leonard’s!

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