We’re here to talk about the local cookies (or biskuwit? crackers? the line’s really blurry here, but we can work around it) that we all grew up eating: broas, lengua de gato, araro, etc. We have several of them, and they often vary in name and make depending on the region.
Filipino cookies can be traced back to the Spanish period, almost at the same time we learned how to bake. That’s why they generally resemble Spanish delicacies. But through the years, we’ve developed and refined our own versions, using local ingredients and methods, and making them to fit our own tastes.
This growing guide features 17(!) different Philippine cookies. If you know of a local cookie that isn't included here, let us know!
Araro (or uraro) are starchy, dry cookies made out of arrowroot flour through a labor-intensive process. It’s commonly found in the Southern Luzon region, and considered a local specialty in the town of Liliw in Laguna, where it’s referred to as galletas de Liliw.
Araro often comes in the shape of a flower (it’s known as sampaguita in Pampanga), and is packed in Japanese crepe paper. It’s slightly sweet and powdery (not just because it’s dusted with flour), but melts into a more creamy texture in your mouth.
Apas are another Southern Tagalog specialty, particularly in Lucena. They’re thin, oblong, wafer-like biscuits topped with sugar. The base is your typical biscuit, boasting hints of milkiness and sweetness. But the cookie is pasty enough to need the sprinkling of sugar.
Bañadas are round cookies glazed with a white sugar spread. The biscuit is light and crumbly, and the coating accounts for all the sweetness (and it’s a lot). Bañadas are believed to have originated from the Iloilo-Bacolod area, with several brands still selling it as pasalubong to this day.
Barquillos come from a Spanish recipe for wafer rolls using flour, sugar, egg whites, and butter. Unlike the barquillos from Spain’s barquilleros, the Filipino version is thinner, rolled out into a long cylindrical shape, and doesn’t have the same waffle-like grid pattern.
There are several variations of barquillos. They can come in different flavors—and their corresponding colors—such as ube and pandan. Sometimes, they’re sold as barquiron, where it’s filled with polvoron. Some people also combine barquillos with other desserts; for example, as a vessel for ice cream or a cake topping.
Most people associate biscocho with Iloilo’s Original Biscocho Haus, which has been producing the biscuit since 1975. However, their versions are just some of many. Biscocho is actually an umbrella term for twice-baked (old) bread that’s usually coated with butter and sugar (and sometimes garlic).
Iloilo is known for biscocho de caña and biscocho prinsipe. Both use stale bread as a base, but de caña doesn’t use butter (only sugar); while prinsipe uses a good amount of butter and sugar. Kinihad (Ilonggo for “sliced”) is another type of biscocho from the region. This one’s made thinner, and with neither butter nor sugar.
Manila also has its own biscocho, aptly named biscocho de Manila. These are small and round, and are dusted with sugar. Yet another variant is Pasuquin biscocho, named after the town of Pasuquin, Ilocos Norte where it originated. Unlike the others, this biscocho is made using freshly-baked buns that are later rolled. They come either hard (like other twice-baked biscochos) or soft (baked only once). They don’t use butter or sugar; instead, they’re flavored with anise, giving them a slightly tangy and salty taste.
Broas are traditionally made using only three ingredients: eggs, flour, and sugar. It’s our local version of ladyfingers, so it works well in foreign desserts that call for it, eg. tiramisu or trifle. Similarly, it has a crispy exterior and a spongy inside.
Broas are widely available now, with most commercial variants made with more flavoring agents (e.g. vanilla) and mixed using industrial mixers. But there are some bakeries that continue to produce them in an old-school manner. This process involves incorporating everything by hand, then baking it in a charcoal-fired oven.
Galletas (from the Spanish word meaning “biscuit”) are another Ilonggo delicacy. Unlike their Tagalog counterpart, these plain cookies are thin and round. They’re generally tasteless (not really) in the sense that bread is, but has a hint of sweetness that makes it an addicting snack.
Panaderia de Molo is galletas’ most famous producer. They recommend pairing the cookies with a cup of tsokolate.
Jacobinas are thick, crunchy, cubed biscuits, comparable to egg cracklets (aka galletas de patatas). If you look closely, it has several layers (like napoleones) which you can sometimes peel apart.
Jacobinas are trademarked to Noceda Bakery, where it was first produced by its founder Paterno Noceda. It is said that the biscuit was named after a beautiful woman Noceda once met. The bakery continues to make jacobinas to this day, and they use the same recipe and process that was originally used in 1947.
Lengua de Gato
Lengua de gato are long, milky biscuits that resemble cats’ tongues, hence the name. They’re baked to a crisp, but are piped thinly to melt in your mouth. Lengua de gatos are sweet and very buttery. These are popular holiday gifts, and are best enjoyed with a cup of coffee.
Lubid-lubid are small, crispy pieces of bread resembling twisted ropes, hence its name. “Lubid” means “twisted” or “rope” in Hiligaynon. It’s also called “pinisi,” “pilipit,” or “shakoy.” They’re made using regular dough made of flour, sugar, salt, and yeast. Recipes vary in the type of flour used; those that use rice flour end up being chewier. These are then deep-fried, and later coated in sugar and/or sesame seeds.
Some may argue that meringue is more candy than cookie, but its crumbly texture lands it a spot on this list. Although not native to us, Filipinos have re-imagined the European dessert as our own. Our local version is referred to as “meh-reng-geh,” and can come in various flavors and sizes.
Otap have a puff pastry-like texture, and are topped with granules of sugar. They’re similar to French palmiers, but are made with shortening and/or coconut oil. They're also thinner and more tightly layered, making them crispy.
Although some locals might reserve the cookies for wakes (“burol“), paboritas are also popular as pasalubong. It’s very easy to snack on, and has just the right tinge of sweetness to keep you popping these bad boys in your mouth.
Pacencia are drop cookies made using beaten egg whites, giving it a resemblance to meringue. They’re typically hemisphere-shaped with a flat bottom, and is recognized as a close relative to Nissin’s eggnog cookies (which are said to be a modern iteration).
Its name is derived from the Spanish word for “patience,” a virtue many bakers say you need while making it. These are traditionally eaten during the Christmas season, and have become a popular holiday gift.
Inspired by Hershey’s chocolate kisses, peanut kisses are similarly shaped cookies made from peanuts and egg whites (and sugar). These are a Boholano delicacy (and thus, an essential pasalubong), reminiscent of the city’s famous Chocolate Hills.
Peanut kisses were conceptualized by Carolina Alvarez Butalid in an effort to maximize her family’s peanut farm. The recipe is said to have been developed around World War II, but stayed within the family. It was only in the 60’s that it was mass-produced.
Puto seko (also spelled puto seco) refers to white, thick-cut, spherical cookies. They’re crunchy to the bite, but dissolve into a dry, powdery, chalky texture when eaten. It’s made using glutinous flour, just like the kakanin it’s named after: puto. (In fact, puto seko literally means “dry puto.”)
There’s a variation called puto masa (from Laguna and Batangas) which uses corn flour instead of rice flour, and come in different colors.
Rosquillos are sweet, egg-y circular cookies with flower-like edges and a hole in the center. Despite sharing a name, these local cookies are not the same as the Spanish donut. That said, they were named after the Spanish word “rosca,” which means “ringlet,” by President Sergio Osmeña (according to rumors).
Margarita “Titay” T. Frasco invented rosquillos in 1907, using ingredients from her own kitchen. She used to just give it away to her customers with a bottle of soda. Eventually, people started seeking it; and news of it reached the local government. Later, it became an official Cebu delicacy. The town of Liloan, where Frasco first made it, even celebrates a festival dedicated to it annually.
This article was originally published in 2019.