(Chicago) – This is probably the most popular bread in the Philippines. I can’t recall a day in my 20 years of stay in Manila that we never had pan de sal on the table for breakfast. It is inexpensive, small enough for 2 or 3 bites, sweeter than regular rolls and works well with any spread: butter, cheese, reno, peanut butter or whatever, especially when warm. And it’s pretty powerful as well.  It can upset the whole Manila society whenever its price goes up.

While it is abundant and very accessible in Manila, pan de sal is scarce here in Chicago. Why not make my own?


  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1/3 cup white sugar + 1 teaspoon
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil + 1 tablespoon
  • 6 cups flour
  • ¼ cup dry bread crumbs


Dilute the yeast in 2 cups of warm water and add 1 teaspoon sugar. Mix well and set aside for 7 minutes.

In a separate bowl, mix together the remaining sugar, salt and oil. Pour the water with yeast and add 3 cups of flour. Mix well and gradually add the remaining 3 cups. Continue mixing until the dough no longer sticks to the bowl.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured board and knead for 9 minutes until smooth. Form the dough into a big ball and put in a lightly greased bowl. Brush the surface with the remaining oil and cover with damp cloth. Set aside in a warm place for 2 hours or until the dough doubles in size.

Put the expanded dough back on a floured board and punch down. Roll out to ¾ thickness and cut into 1 1/2 –inch strips. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon bread crumbs. Set aside for 15 minutes to rise.

Cut the dough into 1 ½ – inch pieces. Arrange on a lightly greased cookie sheet, cut side up, about 1 ½ inches apart. Sprinkle with the remaining 3 tablespoons bread crumbs. Let rise for 30 minutes more or until the dough doubles again in size.

While the dough is rising, pre-heat oven to 375°F. Bake the pan de sal for 12 minutes or until light brown.

How to Knead: I got this tip in one of Hippocrene books on Filipino food. To knead the dough, curve your fingers over it and press down with the heels of your palms. Give the dough a quarter turn, fold it over and push down again. Knead it until it is elastic and has a satin sheen.

Next time, I’d like to add a little more sugar, stuff cheese inside or perhaps, adobo flakes. Can’t wait! Speaking of waiting, just a word of advice, let the yeast takes its time to work on the dough. Don’t rush it unless you want some biscuits.

  • After kneading, before rising

  • After cutting into strips

  • Pandesal shaping up

  • The Spa

  • All done.