Halo-Halo: The Mix-Mix of the Philippines


Growing Up with Halo-Halo

Halo-halo is by far one of my favorite desserts. I mean, imagine this…

It’s a hot summer day. Your parents call you inside to have a snack. You go inside and you’re presented with a shaved-ice based dessert. It has all of your favorite mix-ins: leche flan, ube halaya, langka (jackfruit), pineapple jelly, white beans, pandan jelly, and red mung bean. Then you top it all off with a very generous amount of evaporated milk and watch it flow through the ice into your mix-ins. Before the milk even completely settles, you take your spoon and mix-mix it all up in excitement only to have your mom yell at you for not doing it right.

Despite the pestering, you know what is the most satisfying part after all that mixing? Having a piece of every mix-in in one spoon.

Now that’s what I call a dessert. In fact, I love it so much that I go straight to the dessert menu in hopes of finding halo-halo whenever I go to a Filipino restaurant. Am I always successful? No. But that doesn’t stop me from checking.

Anyway, let’s have a short and sweet brief of what exactly is halo-halo.

Halo-halo by yours truly
Halo-halo by yours truly

What is Halo-Halo?

Halo-halo in Tagalog means “mix-mix”, which is how you eat it. It consists of shaved ice, evaporated milk, and a colorful mélange of mix-ins. Every Filipino has their mix-in preferences, but the most common ones you’ll find are ube halaya or ube ice cream, leche flan, macapuno (coconut), sweetened beans (i.e. red mung bean), sweetened fruit pieces (i.e. langka or jackfruit), and jelly.

This cold, delicious dessert has been featured on a couple of family favorite television shows: Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown and Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern.

Halo-halo has also been featured on Top Chef when Chef Dale Talde whipped up in a “Quickfire Challenge” episode. His rendition consisted of kiwi, avocado, mango, and nuts. This goes to show that there truly is no “right way” to eat halo-halo. Well, except for how you eat halo-halo since the name literally tells you how to eat it.

Many have compared the Filipino Halo-Halo to South Korea’s Bingsu and Japan’s Kakigōri, which all consist of shaved ice, sweet add-ins, and evaporated or condensed milk. Nonetheless, each dessert is unique and delicious in their own right. But right now, it’s about halo-halo so let’s get back on track.

Where to Eat Halo-Halo

Fortunately, as Filipino cuisine continues to rise in popularity, more Filipino restaurants are popping up nationwide. As a result, access to these delicious Filipino restaurants and foods we share on Tamrah Lane are much easier to find.

One prime example of an increasingly popular Filipino restaurant is Jollibee! Jollibee only has 37 restaurants across the United States, so you may not have a nearby Jollibee yet. If you do, you better make your way down there right now and order a halo-halo. Just make sure to have it right away before the ice melts too much and you’re unable to mix-mix it.

If you don’t have a nearby Jollibee, but have a Filipino restaurant instead, I highly encourage you to pay them a visit. I guess you could also call ahead of time to make sure they have halo-halo to avoid a meaningless trip.

If you don’t have either of those things, here is a general recipe you can follow to make halo-halo at home. The only catch is that the ingredients traditionally used in the Philippines may be hard to find. However, if you have a nearby international foods market depending on whether or not you have a nearby international or Asian foods market. Of course, to cater to those who cannot go to an international or Asian foods store, we will provide a list of what you can add in your halo-halo.

How to Make Halo Halo

Before diving into the halo-halo recipe and ingredients, please note that the amounts listed below are for 2-3 servings.

Please also note that the ingredients listed below are based on our Filipino upbringing. The Halo-Halo style we are most familiar with is Razon’s style.

The Base Ingredients a.k.a. the Must-Haves

  • 1 12 fl. oz. can of evaporated milk
  • Shaved ice (not crushed or cubed)
  • Ube halaya or ube ice cream (topping)
  • Leche flan (topping)

The Halo-Halo Mix-Ins

Ingredients with the *asterisk next to them indicate ingredients most commonly used in halo-halo.

  • *Minatamis na saging (plantain bananas in syrup)
  • *Pineapple jelly
  • *Sweetened red mung beans
  • *Sweetened white beans
  • *Langka (jackfruit)
  • *Sago or tapioca pearls
  • *Nata de coco (coconut jelly)
  • *Gulaman (Filipino jelly)
  • Pandan jelly
  • Mango (sweetened or fresh)
  • Avocado
  • Fresh banana

The Halo-Halo Toppings

  • *Pinipig (glutinous rice or rice krispies)
  • *Macapuno (sweetened coconut strips)
  • Nuts for that crunch factor

The Halo-Halo Layering Process

The halo-halo layering process is perhaps the most important part in ensuring a satisfying mix-mix experience. To begin, grab a glass and layer your halo-halo starting from the bottom:

  1. Add the Mix-ins. This should not exceed over a third of your glass. As a general guideline, add a tablespoon of each desired mix-in.
  2. Shave your ice. We used a Ninja blender, which did the job super well. You can also use a snow cone machine or shaved ice machine.
  3. Scoop the ice and put it on top of your mix-ins. You want to fill it until it reaches just below the top of your glass.
  4. Top it off with your selection of toppings. We highly recommend ube ice cream and/or leche flan. Refrain from putting too many toppings or else everything will fall out of your glass.
  5. Drizzle evaporated milk until you reach your desired amount of sweetness. If you added a lot of evaporated milk and it’s still not sweet enough, add a tablespoon or two of sugar.
  6. Mix-mix it all up and enjoy!
Halo-halo, a Filipino shaved ice based dessert.

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