Pineapple custard filled pies from Sāmoa. (Image: Archi Banal)
Pineapple custard filled pies from Sāmoa. (Image: Archi Banal)

FoodMay 29, 2022

Recipe: Sāmoan paifala pineapple pies

Pineapple custard filled pies from Sāmoa. (Image: Archi Banal)
Pineapple custard filled pies from Sāmoa. (Image: Archi Banal)

If you’re a fan of buttery pastry, pineapple custard filling pies or simply like fun shaped baked goods, then this recipe is for you.

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

In celebration of Vaiaso o le Gagana Sāmoa (Sāmoan language week), which runs from today until Saturday June 4, I, with the help of Shanice and Lima Sula, a lovely Sāmoan couple based in West Auckland, present to you a modern take on the traditional half-moon pie. In Sāmoa, tapioca starch is usually used in the filling. Many recipes use cornstarch, but this recipe uses custard powder, which achieves a more custardy 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 fillet o fish burgers, no-bake lotus biscoff slices and Sāmoan favourites like luau mamoe, faalifu kalo and pisupo. They say they never expected to build up such a huge following in such a short time, having only been on the platform for three months. It 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 onto TikTok in February and are now planning Sāmoan-recipe social media content for the 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 voyage with competent wayfinders of the ocean”. This year marks 12 years of Sāmoan language week being celebrated in Aotearoa. The overarching theme of sustainability was chosen by the Sāmoan community to reflect the journey of language revitalisation, and how to keep it alive in communities away from their homes in Sāmoa.

Here are some words to know before we get into the recipe:

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


Serves 5

For the filling:

  • 2 cups drained, crushed 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


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


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

Add the vanilla essence, milk and sugar, mix together and bring to a simmer (don’t allow it to boil).

In a small bowl mix together the reserved pineapple juice and custard powder thoroughly. Make sure there are no lumps.

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

Take your pan off the heat and set aside to cool – your mixture needs to have cooled down completely before you can add onto your pastry.

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

Making the pastry

Preheat the oven to 190℃.

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

Put the butter and coconut milk in a bowl. Mix all together with either your hands or a wooden spoon, but don’t overmix it.

Sprinkle a little flour over a clean surface where you’re going to fold your dough.

Place your dough on the surface and bring it together over the flour, turning it into a big ball. Keep in mind – you don’t need to knead the dough.

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

Assembling the paifala

Take a section of your dough that’s big enough to be rolled out flat onto a medium-size oven-proof dinner plate and using a rolling pin, roll your dough out onto your floured surface until you have a circle shape.

Make sure the plate is lightly buttered to avoid the pastry sticking to the plate during the bake.

NB: if you don’t have an oven-proof plate, feel free to use a serveware plate and once assembled, lift the pie onto an oven tin with the bottom surface covered in baking paper.

Lay your rolled out circle of  dough onto the plate making sure it overlaps the edges of  the plate and put a few tablespoons of the filling onto the middle of the dough.

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

Baked Sāmoan 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 pastry up, it sticks together.

Lift one half of the dough over to the other side. Use e a butter knife or kitchen scissors to trim off the edges of the dough that are hanging over the edge of the plate.

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

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

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

Place your plates into the oven to bake for approximately 30-40 minutes until lightly golden.

Take the plate out of the oven and let it sit for five minutes before transferring the pies onto another plate to serve.

This is Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air.

The Spinoff’s first-ever food newsletter is here. Written by Charlotte Muru-Lanning and produced in partnership with Boring Oat Milk, The Boil Up is your weekly catch-up on what’s happening in our diverse and ever-changing culinary landscape, covering the personal, the political and the plain old delicious.

Subscribe to The Boil Up here and go in the draw to win a three-month supply of Boring Oat Milk and cool Boring merch.

Mad Chapman, Editor
Aotearoa continues to adapt to a new reality and The Spinoff is right there, sorting fact from fiction to bring you the latest updates and biggest stories. Help us continue this coverage, and so much more, by supporting The Spinoff Members.Madeleine Chapman, EditorJoin Members

Get The Spinoff
in your inbox