Halo-halo is renowned as the Filipino dessert to know and try because of its distinct flavors and how fun it is to eat. "Halo-halo" literally translates to "mix mix," which is exactly what's required for this not-recipe. And because of the variety of sweet ingredients used—ice cream, fruit, jelly, and more—halo-halo is a great dessert to set up as a bar for folks to help themselves to.
Here’s how to mix together halo-halo:
1. Pick your ingredients.
The fun of halo-halo is that by definition, it's a mixture of ingredients that are completely up to you. But to give you some guidance, here's a list of traditional ingredients to start you off:
- Sweetened fruit and vegetables: Common options are ube (a purple yam), jackfruit, plantains, red or black beans, and coconut. Each are cut and cooked in sugar water to sweeten.
- Jelly: You can use store-bought Jell-o, but Filipinos will usually use gulaman (an agar jelly) or nata de coco (fat from fermented coconut water), which are thicker and give a sturdier texture.
- Pinipig: This is roasted, pounded sweet rice. When roasted, it’s similar to crisped rice.
- Sago or Filipino tapioca balls. If you use boba, stick with the smaller size.
- Kaong: a jelly bean-shaped fruit from sugar palm trees.
Most of these ingredients can be sourced at a local Asian market. Sometimes health food stores will carry the ingredients, but they're generally more expensive. If fresh versions of the fruit are unavailable or you'd like to save time preparing, a lot of the fruit items will be in the canned section (namely, jackfruit, ube—sometimes called "ube jam" or "ube halaya"— sweetened beans, coconut, and kaong). Pinipig, gulaman (agar), and sago are all in the dry ingredients section.
2. In a tall glass, add small spoonfuls of your desired ingredients.
The heavier, starchy ingredients are often added first, but ultimately, the order you choose doesn't matter because everything will be mixed up anyway!
3. Sprinkle with sugar.
This step is optional—sugar can also be added later to taste.
4. Add shaved ice.
You can make shaved ice by crushing ice cubes in your blender.
5. Add evaporated milk.
A drizzle of evaporated milk (which is unsweetened condensed milk) gives the halo-halo its creaminess. While you might be tempted to substitute with condensed milk, stick with the evaporated. Condensed will be too thick and will make it difficult to mix and melt with the shaved ice.
6. Finish with your topping of choice.
This is traditionally tropical ice cream (i.e. ube, mango, coconut) and/or leche flan, which is similar to the European version but uses sweetened condensed milk in place of regular milk.
Once all the layering is done, the halo-halo is ready to mix together—or you can craft each perfect spoonful: a little of this, a little of that. Enjoy!