Hamakua Harvest Haupia Sweet Potato Pie by Lei Lei Paolacci

Haupia Sweet Potato Pie is a shoe-in winner during sweet potato season and Lei Lei is a talented woman who loves creating delicious dishes using fresh local ingredients. Hamakua Harvest farmers market manager, Lei Lei Paolacci, has been passionate about cooking since she was young and knows her way around the kitchen, these days you are just as likely to find her outside tending her bee hives and medicinal plants or bodyboarding. In her professional realm she is a massage therapist, beekeeper and herbalist.

“It’s so exciting when we can take the diversity of the ecosystem here on the Big Island and collect unique, locally grown products from our local farmers to create something from scratch! I love looking at a plate and seeing all of the different farms that are represented – the meal tells a story!”

Lei Lei Paolacci

As anyone who has spent time at a farmer’s market can tell you, the job of a market manager can be challenging.  There are many duties and skills required to keep a market safe yet inviting and open to the community.  Even though these have been trying times, the vibe at the market has always been wonderful.  Many regular shoppers and visitors have commented on the great “feeling of community” of Hamakua Harvest.  When asked what she does to help keep the market positive, Lei Lei replied “it takes the input of the vendors, customers and community members to make it all happen! The goal is to always create a safe environment for people to collect their goodies for the week.  But it is also a place where we can educate our community about Sustainable Agriculture, Gardening & Zero Waste Programs. We also are very intentional with our vendors.  I want to support them to bring their high-quality products to our market!”

Being the market manager also gives Lei Lei a great opportunity to select fresh ingredients for dishes she creates for her friends.  One of her most recent and celebrated creations has been Haupia Sweet Potato Pie which she discovered through a famous spearfishing woman from Maui — Kimi Werner’s video blog about collecting ingredients from the aina and creating this beautiful pie. Kimi collected sweet potatoes and macadamia nuts from her parents’ and their neighbors yards in Maui. Lei Lei was inspired by the recipe made with so many local ingredients she decided to do the same with local ingredients from the farmers in Hāmākua.

Lei Lei’s Haupia Sweet Potato Pie



1 1/2 sticks of Unsalted butter (or coconut oil)
1 tbsp of Kiawe Honey from Pahale Farms
1 1/2 cups All purpose flour (or almond flour)
1/2 cup Macadamia nuts, chopped

Okinawan Sweet Potato 

2 cups (about medium-sized) Okinawan sweet potatoes from Tess Gardens 
1 stick of unsalted butter
1 tbsp Kiawe Honey from Pahale Farms
2 eggs
1/2 cup Coconut cream
1 teaspoon Vanilla
1/4 teaspoon Salt½ tsp of Ahualoa Grown Cinnamon


1/2 cup Coconut sugar
1/2 cup Cornstarch
1 1/4 cups Lukewarm water
2 12-ounce cans Coconut milk

*You can also use the stand alone haupia recipe as well.

Optional (but highly recommended)

Fresh whipped cream
Toasted coconut flakes 
Any leftover chopped macadamia nuts from the crust

Preparation Instructions:

Making Crust

Whisk together honey and flour. Cut in butter or oil until mixture is crumbly. Add macadamia nuts and mix well. Press into a 13″ x 9″ baking pan.  Bake at 350°F for 12-17 minutes, until just lightly browned.  Set aside.

Okinawan Sweet Potato 

Boil the sweet potatoes until fully cooked–so that you can easily pierce them through and through. They should be a very deep purple color in the center. Peel, mash and then whip so that they are fluffy. Let them cool.

Cream butter and honey in a mixer (Kitchenaid if you have one) and then add the eggs.  Mix in the now cooled whipped Okinawan sweet potatoes. Add coconut milk cream, vanilla and salt. It will be a homogenous, poi-colored, fairly viscous batter. Pour onto crust and bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes. Remove from oven. Set aside to cool completely.


In a mixing bowl, combine dry ingredients.  Add water and stir until coconut sugar and cornstarch are dissolved.  In a heavy bottomed pot, heat coconut milk on low until warmed through.  Slowly add in coconut sugar/cornstarch/water mixture, stirring constantly until coconut milk mixture starts to thicken.  Let cool slightly, then pour over now-cooled sweet potato + crust layers.  Refrigerate until firm, ideally overnight.

Cut into small wedges, add a dollop of whipped cream and sprinkle with toasted coconut and macadamia nuts. Enjoy the delicious pie made of local ingredients from Hāmākua Harvest Farmers’ Market. 

Interested in sharing a recipe featuring local Hawaii produce? 
Email us at hawaiifarmersmarkets@gmail.com 

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