Embracing local food and eating traditions while traveling is one of the best ways to experience a new culture. Other than sampling traditional dishes, I absolutely love tasting desserts from each country I visit. I put together this list of my favorite sweet treats to help other sugar addicts know which desserts from around the world are worth bookmarking for their next trip!
12 Bucket-List-Worthy Desserts From Around the World
1. Mango Sticky Rice (Thailand)
I had to start off this list with one of my all-time favorite desserts from around the world: Mango Sticky Rice.
This traditional Thai dessert is made with glutinous rice and the juiciest and freshest mango you will ever taste. Although mango sticky rice seems to be available all year round in Thailand, the best time to try it is between April and June, when mangos are in their prime. During this time of the year, the mango flesh is bright yellow and particularly sweet!
Perfectly ripe mango served with sticky rice doused in luscious coconut milk make up this tasty Thai dessert. Its taste is similar to that of rice pudding, although not quite as moist.
This dish is best eaten when the rice is still warm and topped with off with a drizzle of coconut cream and sprinkled with roasted sesame seeds or mung beans.
2. Belgian Waffle (Belgium)
Belgian-waffle-making dates all the way back to the Middle Ages when street vendors would sell waffles as snacks outside of churches.
Since Belgians have been making waffles for centuries, it’s safe to say they know what they’re doing. Consequently, it doesn’t involve gallons of syrup and towers of whipped cream.
A true Belgian waffle is more than just a vehicle for toppings – it’s the main attraction. Most locals enjoy their waffles with a generous dusting of powdered sugar, however, toppings such as strawberries, chocolate, and ice cream are also available.
In Belgium, this rich and fluffy treat is sold all over the place as street food that you eat with your hands. While many locations offer a perfectly traditional Belgian waffle, the best place to try them is at Maison Dandoy. This famous shop makes waffles the traditional way, using a family recipe from the owner’s great-great-great-grandfather.
3. Tiramisu (Italy)
Rich, creamy, and with a burst of coffee flavor, tiramisu is just the right choice for when you need a little lift.
This delightful concoction of ladyfingers, mascarpone, whipped cream, cocoa, and espresso, literally translates to pick me up. As one of Italy’s most famous desserts, it can now be found in restaurants and cafes across the world. However, as with most other foods, trying tiramisu directly from the source is a whole other experience.
The beauty of this dessert is that there are no hard and fast rules on how to make it. Therefore, you will likely come across countless spins on this classic treat. Buon appetito!
4. Kannelbullar (Sweden)
Beautiful, pillowy cinnamon buns with a hint of butter and cardamom, make this special Swedish treat oh so irresistible.
Traditionally, kanelbullar is eaten alongside coffee during fika – an important coffee and cake break that the Swedes practice on the regular.
So, when we spent the weekend in Stockholm, it only seemed fitting that we participate in this tasty tradition! Kanelbullar can be found in almost every cafe or supermarket, and are the perfect midday treat.
Unlike their American cousins, the cinnamon roll, kanelbullar is not as gooey and is never served with icing. Instead, they’re loaded with cinnamon and cardamom, and flecked with sliced almonds and pearl sugar.
5. Pasteis de Nata (Portugal)
A specialty of Belem, these Portuguese custard tarts are surrounded by a crisp, puff pastry crust, and are absolutely heavenly.
Light and flaky, there is so much to adore about these little cups of delight, including their history!
Back in the day, many monasteries and convents used egg whites for starching nuns’ habits, leaving them with a lot of leftover egg yolks. The egg yolks were then used to create pastries like Pasteis de Nata.
To raise money for the monasteries, the monks would make and sell their Pasteis de Natas to a sugar refinery. Unfortunately, they were not able to sustain themselves and eventually shut down, selling their recipe to Domingos Rafael Alves, the owner of the refinery. Recognizing just how special the recipe was, the refinery owner went on to open up his own bakery – Pasteis de Belem, which is still owned and operated today by Alves’ descendants!
6. Mochi (Japan)
Just like Mango Sticky Rice, mochi is made from glutinous rice that has been pounded into a chewy, sticky rice dough.
This Japanese sweet treat is popular to eat in a variety of shapes and forms including stuffed mochi (daifuku), mochi ice cream, and even mochi balls served on a skewer.
Mochi is often flavored with traditional Japanese flavors like green tea and matcha but has in recent years come to include flavors like strawberry, chocolate, and vanilla!
7. Stroopwafel (The Netherlands)
Visit any market in the Netherlands and the sweet smell of cinnamon will lead you to a stand that is churning out the delicious Dutch delicacy – the stroopwafel.
This thin waffle-cookie is filled with caramel and sometimes even garnished with toppings like chocolate or sprinkles. However, I personally recommend eating it plain and hot off the (waffle) press, when it is most delicious.
The best stand to try stroopwafels in Amsterdam is at the Albert Cuyp Market at Rudi’s Original Stroopwafels. Trust me, these waffles are divine. At Rudi’s, they make fresh stroopwafels right on the spot. You can also pick up a pre-packaged bag of their stroopwafels to take home (which you definitely should).
If you do get a bag to take home, here’s a tip for you to enjoy them like a local:
Place the stroopwafel over a cup of hot tea or coffee and let the center get all warm and gooey inside before taking a bite.
8. Baklava (Turkey)
Baklava is a very old pastry whose origins go back to the Middle East, where many ethnic groups claim to have coined the recipe. During the Ottoman Empire, the current form of baklava was developed and became a favorite among wealthy families.
Baklava is a simple recipe made with chopped nuts spread between layers of phyllo dough and doused in syrup or honey. Depending on the region, the type of nuts used to make baklava can vary from pistachios to walnuts, and even hazelnuts.
9. Klepon (Indonesia)
Klepon is a favorite market munchie that originated in Indonesia but can also be found in other Southeast Asian countries as well. Despite its deceiving color, this sweet Indonesian rice ball is made from all-natural ingredients. It gets its green hue from pandan leaves!
Pandan is used in many Southeast Asian desserts and is most similar to vanilla extract used in Western cooking.
Klepon are similar to mochi with liquid palm sugar inside, and the entire rice cake is coated in desiccated coconut.
10. Knafeh (Middle East)
Knafeh is a dangerous piece of dessert. This sweet cheese pastry is popular all throughout the Middle East and once you’ve tasted it, you’ll know exactly why.
There is truly no other dessert in the world that is as ooey, gooey and cheesy as knafeh is. The traditional way to make knafeh is over an open flame, where it is continually stirred until the cheese melts and dough begins to crisp. Once it’s cooked, the entire concoction is doused in sweet syrup and sprinkled with pistachios.
I promise you, try knafeh once, and you’ll never stop craving it!
11. Sachertorte (Austria)
Sacher Cake is a classic Viennese cake that is perhaps the most famous chocolate cake of all time. Three layers of chocolate sponge cake with a generous layer of apricot jam between them make up the joyful confection known as Sachertorte.
This distinguished cake was originally created by pastry chef Franz Sacher in 1832 for the prince of Austria. Since then, it has become a symbol of Vienna – there’s even a hotel named after it!
Today, nearly every cafe in Vienna has its own Sachertorte, though no two versions are the same.
12. Alfajores (Peru)
Topping off the list of bucket-list-worthy desserts from around the world is one of my favorite treats – alfajores.
When I visited Peru, we were welcomed to our hotel with a small box of alfajores. This was the first time I tried these soft and creamy sandwich cookies and I immediately fell in love!
Alfajores taste similar to shortbread cookies that are melt-in-your-mouth delicious. To take things to the next level, these sweet little cookie sandwiches are held together by Dulce de Leche – the Nutella of Latin America. Need I say more?
That wraps up my list of 12 bucket-list-worthy desserts from around the world! What other desserts would you add to this list? Let me know in the comments.