Recipe: Samoan paifala pineapple pies


If you’re a fan of buttery pastries, pineapple cream pies, or just fun-shaped pastries, this recipe is for you.

If you haven’t heard of the Samoan paifala dessert, just imagine a calzone or turnover, but filled with a sweet pineapple custard that slowly oozes out once you’ve taken your first bite.

To celebrate Vaiaso o le Gagana Sāmoa (Samoan Language Week), which runs from today until Saturday June 4th, I, with the help of Shanice and Lima Sula, a lovely Sāmoan couple based in West Auckland, bring you a modern take on the traditional half moon pie. In Samoa, tapioca starch is usually used in the filling. Many recipes use cornstarch, but this recipe uses custard powder, which provides a creamier texture and sweetness.

If you’re on TikTok, Shanice and Lima and their cooking videos may have ended up on your “for you” newsfeed. The duo have over 21,400 followers and share recipes such as their take on fish fillet burgers, no-bake lotus biscoff slices and Samoan favorites like luau mamoe, faalifu kalo and pisupo. They say they never expected to build such a large following in such a short time, having only been on the platform for three months. It all started with Shanice sharing the results of her cooking on her personal Instagram account and receiving countless messages from people asking for the recipe or if she had a pop-up store where they could buy her food. The couple moved their content to TikTok in February and are now planning Sāmoan recipe social media content for Language Week.

This year’s theme for Sāmoan Language Week is Fa’aāuāu le Folauga i le Va’a o Tautai, which means ‘continue the journey with competent scouts of the ocean’. This year marks 12 years of Sāmoan Language Week celebrated in Aotearoa. The overarching theme of sustainability was chosen by the Samoan community to reflect the journey of language revitalization and how to keep it alive in communities away from home in Samoa.

Here are a few words to know before we jump into the recipe:

  • Fala (pineapple)
  • Pai (pie)
  • Pou (bowl)
  • Ogaumu (oven)
  • Falaoa mata (dough/flour)
  • Suka (sugar)


For 5 people

For the filling:

  • 2 cups drained, mashed pineapple (about two 432g cans), plus ⅓ cup pineapple juice from the can
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup white sugar (or raw sugar)
  • ⅓ cup custard powder

Pastry shop:

  • 3 cups plain/all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 75 g butter (room temperature), cut into small cubes


Place a saucepan over medium-low heat and add the drained crushed pineapple.

Add vanilla essence, milk and sugar, mix and bring to a boil (do not boil).

In a small bowl, carefully combine the reserved pineapple juice and custard powder. Make sure there are no lumps.

Add your custard powder mixture to the pan and stir constantly to make sure your mixture doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. We want the filling mixture to be the same consistency as the custard.

Remove your pan from the heat and allow to cool – your mixture must have cooled completely before you can add it to your batter.

The filling mixture on the stove. (Photo: Sela Jane Hopgood)

Make the pastry

Preheat the oven to 190℃.

To make your batter, put the dry ingredients in a large bowl and mix well.

Place the butter and coconut milk in a bowl. Mix everything together with your hands or a wooden spoon, but don’t mix too much.

Sprinkle a little flour on a clean surface where you will fold your dough.

Place your dough on the surface and bring it together over the flour, forming it into a big ball. Remember that you don’t need to knead the dough.

The finished paifala before going into the oven. (Photo: Sela Jane Hopgood)

Assembling the paifala

Take a section of your dough large enough to roll out flat on a medium ovenproof flat plate and using a rolling pin, roll out your dough on your floured surface until you have a circle shape.

Make sure the pan is lightly buttered to prevent the dough from sticking to the pan while baking.

NB: if you don’t have a baking dish, feel free to use a serving platter and once assembled, lift the tart onto a baking pan with the bottom surface lined with parchment paper.

Spread your spread circle of dough on the plate making sure it overlaps the edges of the plate and put a few tablespoons of filling in the middle of the dough.

Try not to overfill the dough and keep the filling away from the edges.

Baked Samoan paifala made by the Sula aiga. (Photo: Sela Jane Hopgood)

Lightly brush the edges of the circle of dough with water so that when you close the dough it sticks together.

Lift half of the dough on the other side. Use a butter knife or kitchen shears to trim the edges of the dough that stick out from the edge of the plate.

You should have a half moon shape on your plate. Press the edges of the dough with a fork going from one end to the other.

Take your fork and poke three holes in the top of your pie.

Repeat with the remaining dough – you should have four to five pies.

Place your plates in the oven to bake for about 30-40 minutes until lightly browned.

Remove the sheet from the oven and let it rest for five minutes before transferring the pies to another sheet to serve.

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