The many ways to enjoy puto bumbong

Published November 11, 2020, 4:01 PM

by John Legaspi

Christmas wouldn’t be complete without this holiday delicacy

Among the most notable Christmas food in the Philippines is the puto bumbong. This sticky rice delicacy, cooked by steaming inside bamboo tubes, hence the term bumbong, has been a must-eat dish for decades after attending Simbang Gabi, or just to get into the Paskong Filipino feel.

The puto bumbong is made from the glutinous rice called pirurutong, which has a dark purple hue. Bamboo tubes are filled with the grounded rice, and after minutes of steaming, the puto bumbong is taken out of the tube with the help of a buttered stick, and placed on a banana leaf. Traditionally, it is served with a spreading of margarine, muscovado sugar, and grated coconut on top. 

Food historian and author of the book The Foods of Rizal Felice Prudente Sta. Maria‘s notes have shown that Filipinos have been eating the holiday delicacy since the 1880. She also pointed out that the puto bumbong was mentioned in one of Jose Rizal’s letters in 1883 for his father. 

But as time passes, Filipinos have created new ways on how they want their puto bumbong served. While the classic will always win in a Filipino dining set up, the modern culinary takes on the Christmas food staple are worth trying.

1. Stuffed with bukayo

This puto bumbong creation by Kakanin Kusina breaks away from the usual log shape of the dish. Looking somewhat like a puto pao, this version comes in the round and has a surprise in the center in the form of bukayo, another Philippine delicacy made of sweetened coconut meat.

Photo from @kakaninkusina

2. With ube and cheese

Since ube and cheese has been the champion flavor combo for many Filipinos this quarantine, it seems natural to have them in a puto bumbong

Photo from

3. Topped with salted egg

While salted egg is one of the ingredients of another holiday treat, the bibingka, Filipinos are also trying it with their puto bumbong, maybe to contrast that sweet flavor of the muscovado sugar.

Photo by

4. Add some Nutella

Many cannot resist chocolate, especially the gooey Nutella. Having the spread on the puto bumbong is quite different from its Filipino flavor origin, but as many say, “chocolates makes everything better.”

Photo from @grabchamilktea

5. Have it in a cake

This Ultimate Paskong Cake by Dulce Bakery by Mela combines the Christmas kakanin in one dessert. The cake has layers of bibingka and ube chiffon cake, with leche flan, latik, and macapuno in between layers. 

Photo from @dulcebakerybymela

6. Make it fruity with mango

Looking for a touch of freshness on your puto bumbong, Mila’s Puto Bumbong is offering to serve your order with a mango twist.

Photo from Mila’s Puto Bumbong Facebook

7. Pour in some milk or caramel

For a more creamier and caramel-like flavor, a generous topping of condensed milk or dulce de leche on the puto bumbong does the trick.

Photo from

8. Cheescake sounds good

Max’s Corner Bakery’s special take on the classic Simbang Gabi kakanins puto bumbong and bibingka comes with a modern cheese cake twist. These Pinoy Holiday Cheesecakes are available for dine-in, take-out, and delivery starting at P289. 

9. Nothing beats the classic

For puto bumbong purists, The Manila Hotel and Via Mare’s version sticks with the original recipe. No added ingredients, just pure holiday nostalgia.

Photo from @themanilahotel