Skip to main content

Palitaw (Filipino Boiled Rice Cakes)

As a child, Edwin's mom told him, "If you want to eat, you should cook it yourself." And that's exactly what he's been doing ever since.

Filipino palitaw (rice cakes)

Filipino palitaw (rice cakes)

What Is Palitaw?

Litaw is a Tagalog word meaning "to float." The reason this dish is called palitaw is that when rice cakes are boiled, they float to the surface when they finish cooking. Even if a family does not have an oven, they can easily make these rice cakes in a pot of boiling water. It can be served as a dessert or as a snack.

These cakes are made of simple, inexpensive, and easy-to-find ingredients: rice flour, water, and sugar. In the Philippines, this dish can be enjoyed by everyone—no matter their economic circumstances.

Cook Time

Prep timeCook timeReady inYields

10 min

10 min

20 min

10 servings


For the rice cakes:

  • 2 cups glutinous, sweet rice flour, available at Asian stores
  • 3/4 cup water

For the topping:

  • 3/4 cup white granulated sugar
  • 1 cup grated frozen coconut, available at Asian stores


  1. Combine the rice flour and water in a bowl and mix well.
  2. Using your hands, form the dough into small balls.
  3. Flatten the balls into round disks.
  4. In a pot, bring the water to a boil.
  5. Drop a few of the flattened rice dough disks into the boiling water and cook for 2 minutes or until they float to the surface.
  6. Remove the cooked rice cakes from the water and drain.
  7. Sprinkle each rice cake with grated coconut and sugar and serve.


  • Use dried, grated coconut instead.
  • If using sweetened, dried, grated coconut, you can reduce or omit the sugar.
  • Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and sugar instead of grated coconut and sugar.
  • Or combine the toasted sesame seeds, grated coconut, and sugar and sprinkle on the rice cakes.
  • Instead of sprinkling the toppings on the rice cakes, you can roll the rice cakes in the topping mixture to coat both sides of the cake.