Puto: What are These Filipino Steamed Rice Cakes?

We may earn a commission on qualified purchases made through one of our links. Learn more

Puto is basically Filipino steamed rice cakes and comes in different varieties. The most common ones are puto secos (dried puto), puto lanson (cassava puto), and of course, the sweet and savory cheese puto.

Cheese puto is such a popular food because it’s the perfect combination of fluffy delicate rice dough, tangy cheese, and a bit of sweetness from the milk.

Puto has been a frequent sight during festivities and in Filipino households. It’s like bibingka and is already adopted as a Filipino food!

It can be served as a simple snack or as “food to go” when you need something to eat, but you can’t have a real meal yet. Since it’s made from rice, puto can make you feel full when hunger suddenly strikes.

What is puto

The traditional method of preparation and cooking takes a few hours or even more than a day.

The classic puto (full recipe here) was created using stone-ground batter, or what’s referred to as “galapong,” made from rice, water, and sugar. Before steaming, the mixture was often fermented for an entire night.

Naturally, once rice flour was accessible, everything got simpler. Now, puto takes less than an hour to make!

They used to place a sheet of katsa over the ring of the steamer, then the rice batter was poured onto it directly. Others use banana leaves as a substitute for katsa.

When cooked, it was placed in bilao and divided into pieces.

The shapes vary too; it’ll just depend on the person preparing the puto. Some are shaped like cupcakes, while some are shaped like stars.

If there are kids in the house, you can use molds that’ll excite them and make them enjoy eating puto more.

Check out our new cookbook

Bitemybun's family recipes with complete meal planner and recipe guide.

Try it out for free with Kindle Unlimited:

Read for free


It’s believed that the name “puto” came from the Malay word “puttu,” which is also a steamed rice cake.

“Puttu” means “portion,” and it refers to the fact that puto cheese rice cakes are small and can be eaten in one bite. This makes sense, given that puto is typically baked in little muffin tins or cupcake molds that are 1 to 1.5 inches in diameter.

The Filipino dish puto is a variety of kakanin, or “rice cake.” But rice cakes are actually popular throughout Asia.

The history of rice cakes can be traced back to ancient China, where they were a staple food of the upper class. Rice cakes were also popular in Japan and Korea.

Puto made its way to the Philippines during the Chinese trade period. Rice cakes were introduced to Filipinos by Chinese merchants, and they quickly became a popular snack food.

They were first popularized in 2 provinces: Batangas and Pampanga. But it quickly spread to other parts of the country, and it’s now a popular snack food all across the Philippines!

It used to be made using old-school molds and steaming techniques. But now, there are all sorts of different ways to make puto. You can use modern cooking appliances and tools like plastic molds, electric ovens, and microwave ovens.

The Rice Flour: The Heart of Filipino Puto

When it comes to making puto, the type of rice flour you use is highly important. Traditionally, Filipinos use ground rice that has been fermented overnight to make the batter. This process gives the puto a slightly sour taste and a softer, crumbly texture. However, this can be a time-consuming step, so many modern recipes skip the fermenting process altogether.

The Different Types of Rice Flour

There are different types of rice flour that you can use to make puto, and each one will give you a slightly different result. Some of the most common types include:

  • Glutinous rice flour: This type of flour is made from sticky rice and is great for making sweet puto.
  • Regular rice flour: This type of flour is made from non-sticky rice and is perfect for making savory puto.
  • Brown rice flour: This type of flour is made from brown rice and is a healthier alternative to regular rice flour.

The Importance of Sifting

No matter what type of rice flour you use, it’s important to sift it before using it in your puto batter. This will help prevent lumpy batter and ensure that your puto has a smooth texture.

The Role of Baking Powder

Baking powder is an important ingredient in puto because it helps the batter rise and become fluffy. Make sure to check the expiration date on your baking powder before using it, as expired baking powder can affect the texture of your puto.

The Shortcut: Blending Rice

If you don’t have rice flour on hand or don’t want to go through the trouble of making it yourself, you can use a blender to grind uncooked rice into a fine powder. This shortcut can save you time, but keep in mind that the texture of your puto may be slightly different.

The Cooking Process

Once you have your puto batter ready, it’s time to steam it. Here are some tips to ensure that your puto turns out perfect:

  • Grease your molds liberally with oil or cooking spray to prevent sticking.
  • If using silicone molds, there’s no need to grease them.
  • If using a glass or tin mold, cover the insides with cheesecloth or cotton to prevent condensation from dripping onto your puto.
  • Adjust the cooking time depending on the size of your molds. Smaller molds will take less time to cook than larger ones.
  • Insert a toothpick or cake tester into the center of your puto to check for doneness. If it comes out clean, your puto is ready.
  • Cover the steamer lid with a cloth to prevent condensation from dripping onto your puto.

The Versatility of Puto

Puto is a versatile food that can be eaten on its own or paired with different foods. Here are some interesting ways to enjoy puto:

  • Top with grated coconut or cheese for extra flavor.
  • Serve with hot chocolate or coffee for a perfect breakfast or snack.
  • Freeze leftover puto and reheat in the microwave for a quick snack.
  • Make mini puto in muffin or cupcake tins for a fun twist on the traditional recipe.

Reader Shared Tips

Some readers have shared their own tips for making the perfect puto:

  • Use a steamer instead of a pot with boiling water to prevent the puto from getting wet.
  • Add extra water to the batter for a softer texture.
  • Use a lid with a hole in the center to prevent condensation from dripping onto your puto.
  • Add a pinch of salt to the batter for a more balanced flavor.

The Many Variants of Filipino Puto

Puto is a traditional Filipino dish that originated from the ancient practice of steaming rice. Today, it is a staple food in the country and is usually served as a sweet or sticky dessert. There are many versions of puto, each with its unique taste and preparation method. Here are some of the most popular types of puto:

  • Plain Puto: This is the basic version of puto, which requires only a few ingredients such as rice flour, sugar, and water. It is typically steamed in small containers and served as a snack or dessert.
  • Puto Bumbong: This is a special type of puto that is usually prepared during the Christmas season. It is made from ground sticky rice and is steamed in bamboo tubes. It is served with grated coconut and brown sugar.
  • Pork Puto: This version of puto is made with ground pork and rice flour. It is a savory dish that is usually served as a snack or appetizer.
  • Egg Puto: This type of puto is made with eggs, rice flour, and sugar. It is a sweet and fluffy dessert that is perfect for special occasions.

How to Make Puto

Making puto is easy and requires only a few ingredients. Here is a simple recipe that you can follow:

  • Mix rice flour, sugar, and water in a bowl to make a batter.
  • Add some food coloring if you want to make your puto more colorful.
  • Pour the batter into small containers and steam for about 15-20 minutes.
  • Once done, remove the puto from the containers and let them cool.
  • Serve with grated coconut or your favorite topping.

Substitutes for Rice Flour

If you don’t have rice flour on hand, you can use other ingredients as a substitute. Here are some options:

  • All-purpose flour: This is a common substitute for rice flour. However, the texture and taste of the puto may be slightly different.
  • Cornstarch: This can be used as a substitute for rice flour, but it may make the puto slightly harder.
  • Mochiko flour: This is a type of rice flour that is commonly used in Japanese cuisine. It can be used as a substitute for regular rice flour.

Why Filipinos Love Puto

Puto is a popular dish in the Philippines for many reasons. Here are some of them:

  • It is easy to make and requires only a few ingredients.
  • It is a versatile dish that can be served as a snack or dessert.
  • It is a great way to use up leftover rice.
  • It is a traditional dish that brings back fond memories of childhood.
  • It is a cheap and filling food that can be found in almost every town in the Philippines.

Where to Buy Puto

If you don’t want to make your own puto, you can easily buy it from food chains or small stores in the Philippines. Puto is a common food item that is sold in large and small sizes. You can also find different varieties of puto, such as cheese puto or ube puto.

Is Puto a Dessert? Let’s Find Out!

Puto is a traditional Filipino steamed cake made from rice flour, sugar, and water. It is a popular snack or dessert in the Philippines and is often served during special occasions like weddings and birthdays. Puto is known for its light and airy texture and can be made in different flavors and colors.

Is Puto a Dessert?

Yes, puto is traditionally served as a sweet dessert. It is usually made with white rice flour, sugar, and eggs, and can be flavored with coconut, cheese, or other ingredients. However, there are also savory versions of puto that are served as a snack or accompaniment to savory dishes. These savory versions are made with rice flour, water, and salt, and are often topped with char siu or other savory toppings.

Tips for Making Perfect Puto

  • Use accurate measurements: Puto is a delicate dish that requires precise measurements. Use volumetric measurements instead of weight measurements for the best results.
  • Sift the flour: Sifting the flour will help to make the puto light and fluffy.
  • Don’t overmix the batter: Overmixing the batter can make the puto tough and chewy.
  • Preheat the steamer: Preheating the steamer will ensure that the puto cooks evenly.
  • Cover the steamer: Covering the steamer with a lid will help to trap the steam and cook the puto faster.
  • Let the puto cool before removing from the molds: Allowing the puto to cool for a few seconds before removing them from the molds will help to prevent them from breaking apart.

Mastering the Art of Puto: Cooking Tips

  • Sift the flour and baking powder together to ensure a smoother and lighter texture.
  • Use a silicone mold for easier removal and to prevent sticking.
  • Cut a cheesecloth or towel to fit underneath the molds as a barrier to avoid uneven heat distribution.

Ingredients Matter

  • Use glutinous rice flour for a sticky and moist puto or regular rice flour for a slightly drier result.
  • Add a little extra water or milk to amplify the creaminess and sweetness of the puto.
  • Substitute coconut milk for regular milk to add a rich and tropical flavor.

Cooking Techniques

  • Steam the puto on medium to low heat to avoid overcooking and drying out.
  • Place a lid on top of the steamer to prevent water from dripping onto the puto.
  • Slow and patient cooking creates a light and fluffy texture opposed to dense and mochi-like.
  • Run a toothpick or knife around the edges of the molds to remove the puto easily.

Choosing the Right Molds

  • Mini muffin molds are perfect for individual servings and pairs well with condensed milk drizzled on top.
  • Purchased molds that fit into a big steamer are the easiest to use for big batches.
  • If using individual molds, make sure they are close in size to avoid uneven cooking.

Drying and Storage

  • Let the puto cool slightly before removing them from the molds to avoid breaking.
  • Place the puto on a plate or rack to dry slightly before storing to avoid moisture buildup.
  • Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week or freeze for longer storage.

Remember, the key to perfect puto is patience and attention to detail. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different ingredients and techniques to find what works best for you. Happy cooking!

Keeping Your Puto Fresh: Storage After Steaming

You’ve followed the recipe, mixed the ingredients, and steamed your puto to perfection. Now what? Well, if you want to enjoy your puto for more than just a day or two, proper storage is key. Here’s why:

  • Puto is a type of cake, and like any cake, it can dry out quickly if not stored properly.
  • The mixture of rice flour, water, sugar, and eggs in puto makes it a prime breeding ground for bacteria if left out too long.
  • Storing puto in an airtight container in the fridge can help keep it fresh for up to a week.

The Best Method for Storing Puto

So, how do you keep your puto fresh and delicious for as long as possible? Follow these steps:

  1. Allow your steamed puto to cool completely in the pan or muffin tin.
  2. Remove the puto from the pan and place it in an airtight container.
  3. Store the container in the fridge.

How Long Can You Keep Puto in the Fridge?

Puto can last for up to a week in the fridge if stored properly. However, it’s best to consume it within 2-3 days for the best taste and texture.

Does Storing Puto Affect its Taste?

Storing puto in the fridge can affect its texture slightly, making it a little firmer and less fluffy. However, it will still taste just as good as when it was first steamed.

Other Tips for Keeping Your Puto Fresh

Here are a few other things to keep in mind when storing your puto:

  • Make sure your container is completely airtight to prevent moisture from getting in.
  • Don’t store your puto in the same container as other foods, as the flavors can mix and affect the taste of your puto.
  • If you’re going to be storing your puto for longer than a few days, consider freezing it instead. Puto freezes well and can be thawed in the fridge or at room temperature.

Is Puto a Healthy Snack Option?

Puto is a humble Filipino snack that is made from rice flour, water, and sugar. It is a relatively easy recipe that takes a short time to prepare and cook. The ingredients used in making puto are rich in vitamins and minerals, making it a nutrient-dense snack. Here are the nutritional components of puto:

  • Calories: A small serving of puto (one piece) contains around 70-80 kcal.
  • Carbs: A small serving of puto contains around 14-16 g of carbs.
  • Vitamins and minerals: Puto contains trace amounts of vitamins and minerals such as iron, sodium, and supplemental vitamins like vitamin D.
  • Net carbs: Puto contains around 12-14 g of net carbs per serving.
  • Fiber: Puto contains around 0.5-1 g of fiber per serving.
  • Starch: Puto contains around 11-13 g of starch per serving.
  • Sugar alcohols: Puto contains trace amounts of sugar alcohols.


So there you have it- everything you need to know about Filipino puto. It’s a delicious rice flour dish that’s perfect for breakfast or a snack. 

You can make it with just rice flour and water, but it’s best to add some salt and baking powder for a fluffier texture. 

I hope you’ve found this guide helpful and don’t forget to try it out soon!

Check out our new cookbook

Bitemybun's family recipes with complete meal planner and recipe guide.

Try it out for free with Kindle Unlimited:

Read for free

Joost Nusselder, the founder of Bite My Bun is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with Japanese food at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.