22 Best Sweet Treats from Around the World (and How to Make Them at Home)

Last updated on January 22, 2024

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It’s no secret that I have a sweet tooth, especially for cake, so a side effect of my travels is that I’ve become somewhat of an expert at finding the best sweet treats and desserts around the world.

In this post, I’m sharing a round-up of my favourite international desserts and, seeing as we can’t travel right now, I’m also adding links to recipes so you can recreate them in your own kitchens.

I’d love to know what you make! And let me know if you have any more favourite round the world desserts to add to the list.

Enjoy!

The Best Desserts from Around the World

Doughnuts, USA

Doughnuts at District Donuts, New Orlans
Doughnuts at District Donuts, New Orleans

America is the champion of doughnuts. Pretty much every city I’ve been to there has had at least one incredible doughnut shop and in places like New York and Portland, you’re completely spoiled for choice. Some of my favourites have been at NYC’s Doughnut Plant, Blue Star on the West Coast and District Donuts in New Orleans.

I personally think fried yeast doughnuts win the day, but you can get all sorts of varieties from sour cream to cider to baked to dropped to boston creams and more. And the flavours, shapes and style are endless. It’s making me ravenous just thinking of them.

To have a go at making your own, try this copycat recipe for Blue Star’s blueberry-bourbon-basil glaze doughnuts.

Paletas, Mexico

Best international desserts - Paletas
Photo from Green Kitchen Stories

One of the most refreshing snacks imaginable is the Mexican version of an ice lolly, made with plenty of fresh fruit. They taste as good as they look and come in a never-ending rainbow of flavours and styles, normally with a base of water, milk or coconut milk.  Some of my favourites have been strawberry and basil, and margarita lime. They look especially appealing when whole pieces of fruit are frozen inside. They’re one of the best foods to eat in Mexico.

Try this recipe from Green Kitchen Stories. But you can get creative with whatever flavours you can imagine.

Brigadeiros, Brazil

Best international desserts - Brigadeiro
Photo by Olivia’s Cuisine

Oh my, I love these, and they’re small enough that can easily convince myself I’m having a “little” treat. Let’s just forget that they’re made of pretty much pure sugar! The brigadeiro is a little ball of condensed milk, cocoa powder and butter, covered in chocolate sprinkles. Different flavour combinations have also started to take off, but you’ll at least find the traditional one in bakeries all over Brazil. I’ve also noticed them cropping up in farmer’s markets worldwide, much to my delight.

And they’re easy to make at home too. Try this recipe from Olivia’s Cuisine.

Churros, Spain

Best international desserts - Churros
Photo by Sweet and Savoury Meals

I first discovered churros on a Spanish exchange trip when I was about 13, sold from a little van in the local park, and I’ve been a fan ever since – especially when they’re covered in cinnamon sugar and accompanied by a pot of hot chocolate sauce. They’re essentially fried doughnut sticks that you can dip in chocolate, caramel or whatever you fancy. As well as Spain, they’re also popular in Portugal and Mexico, and you’ll see them served at festivals around the world.

Try making them at home with this recipe. Definitely best tried warm and fresh!

Victoria Sponge, UK

Best international desserts - Victoria Sponge
Photo from the BBC

This is my number one favourite cake – very simple but 100% delicious when done well. And believe me, you can find a very bad Victoria sponge. Always best homemade, your best bet of finding a good one is in someone’s home or in a cafe that makes its own cakes. It’s a simple sandwich cake with two layers of buttery sponge and strawberry jam and buttercream in between. Best served with a cup of tea, of course.

To make one at home, try this recipe from the queen of English cakes, Mary Berry.

Gelato, Italy

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Italy gets so many things right when it comes to food and gelato is one its best. Similar to ice cream, but better, gelato has more milk than cream, and is churned more slowly, which makes it freeze at a lower temperature and have a denser, more intense flavour. I find it more refreshing than standard ice cream. And the flavours tend to be more inventive too. Nowadays it’s caught on around the world, but you’ll still find the best in Italy – and you won’t have to look hard to find it. Every town has at least one gelato shop and we ate so much on our Florence to Amalfi road trip!

Here’s a Jamie Oliver recipe for how to make gelato at home.

Baklava, Turkey

Best desserts around the world- Baklava
Photo by Saving Room for Dessert

Baklava is popular throughout the middle east, Greece, Balkans and Central Asia, and you’ll no doubt have come across it if you’ve ever been to a restaurant from those regions. It originated in the Ottoman Empire, and Turkey is where I first came across it. It’s a very sweet and rich little pastry made up of layers of filo and chopped nuts, held together by a honey syrup. Different nuts and syrups create a wealth of different flavours, but don’t make the mistake we did once and mistakenly order a savoury one, which was a most unwelcome surprise!

Try making your own with this recipe from Saving Room for Dessert.

Pasteis de Nata, Portugal

Where to eat in Porto

Mmmmm, these are one of the best things about visiting Portugal. I make sure to have at least one a day when I’m there! Pastel de Nata or Portuguese custard tarts as you might call them in English are little custard-filled pastries dusted with cinnamon and bets served with a coffee. Have a look at the bottom of the pastry to see the distinctive swirl pattern, which lets you know it’s authentic. The best I found in Portugal were at Manteigaria, which is in Lisbon and Porto, and if you can brave the queue, it’s also worth getting one at Pastéis de Belém where the whole thing started.

Here’s a recipe to try at home.

Cinnamon buns, Scandinavia

Best desserts around the world - Cinnamon buns
Photo by Call me Cupcake

Another one of my absolute favourites is the traditional cinnamon bun, which originated in Sweden and Denmark but can be found all over. It’s made up of a roll of dough coated in cinnamon, sugar and butter and baked in the oven, often with sugar nibs on top. You can also get a fried version, although baked is definitely my preference. And the Swedish ones normally have cardamon added too. They’re perfect for enjoying on a cosy afternoon, curled up with a coffee and celebrating all things hygge.

Try making your own with this Call me Cupcake recipe from Sweden.

Mochi, Japan

Best desserts around the world - Mochi
Photo by Mochi Mummy

Mochi is somewhat of an acquired taste/texture, but you soon get into it when visiting Japan. It’s a type of rice cake made from a particularly glutinous rice that is moulded into all sorts of different shapes, but most typically domes in pastel shades. It’s normally filled with a red bean paste, but also comes in all sorts of other flavours, such a nuts, strawberry and whole pieces of fruit. And as in the Japanese style, it’s often decorated in a very cute Kawaii style.

Make your own with this rainbow mochi recipe from Mochi Mommy.

Macarons, France

Best desserts around the world - Macarons
Photo by Preppy Kitchen

France’s iconic rainbow sweets that decorate the windows of bakeries across the country are one of the most decadent of patisserie treats. The colourful cookie sandwiches are made from two layers of almond meringue with a filling in between, which can be anything from ganache to buttercream to fruit jelly. They make ideal gifts.

Not the easiest thing to make, but very satisfying when you get it right. Try this recipe from Preppy Kitchen.

Kulfi, India

Best desserts around the world - Kulfi
Photo by My Ginger Garlic Kitchen

India’s version of ice cream isn’t shipped, making it denser and less quick to melt than its western counterpart. Traditionally made with cream and flavoured with cardamom, rose, saffron, pistachio or mango, it also nowadays comes in whole range of different flavours. It’s the perfect sweet treat in intense Indian heat.

To make some at home, try this mango kulfi recipe from My Ginger Garlic Kitchen.

Sticky rice with mango, Thailand

Best desserts around the world - sticky rice and mango
Photo by Curious Cuisiniere

Mango is a gorgeous dessert in itself – the first time we gave it to Otis, he became obsessed and started asking for it at every meal! But to up things a notch, the popular South-East Asian  dessert of sticky rice and mango is A+ delicious. It originated in Thailand and consists of glutionous coconut rice, accompanied by ripe mangoes, a coconut sauce and topped with sesame seeds. Sugar and salt add the dish’s distinctive sweet and salty flavour.

Here’s a recipe to try from Curious Cuisiniere.

Tres leches cake, Mexico

Best desserts around the world - Tres Leches cake
Photo by Sugar Spun Run

I’ll admit this isn’t my favourite type of cake, but some people go crazy for it, so I think it needs a spot on the list. Translated as ‘three milk cake’, the sweet vanilla sponge is soaked in three types of milk – evaporated, condensed and heavy cream – and also tends to be topped with whipped cream too. You might expect it to be soggy, but the lightness of the sponge counteracts this and it’s a light, but very sweet, dessert.

Here’s a tres leches cake recipe to try.

Black Forest Gâteau, Germany

Best desserts around the world - Black Forest Gateau
Photo by Also the Crumbs Please

Germany’s black forest gâteau (schwarzwälder kirschtorte) is a layered cake of chocolate sponge, whipped cream and cherries. The cake is usually flavoured with kirschwasser, a sour cherry spirit. It’s a classic throughout Germany and many other European countries.

It’s a perfect party dessert and this recipe from Also the Crumbs Please isn’t too hard.

Alfajores, Argentina

Best desserts around the world - Alfajores
Photo by Pies and Tacos

Argentina has a seriously sweet tooth as evidenced by the national obsession with dulce de leche and super sweet mate. I even wrote a post asking ‘Is Argentina is the sweetest country in the world?‘! One of the country’s favourite uses of dulce de leche is sandwiched between two buttery cornstarch biscuits in an alfajor. We ate a lot of these while in Argentina, especially for merienda, the Argentinian version of teatime.

Make your own with this recipe from Pies and Tacos.

Belgian Waffle, Belgium

Best desserts around the world - Belgian Waffles
Photo by Amanda Cooks and Styles

Mmmmm, Belgian chocolate could have its own listing here, but I’ve gone for Belgian waffles instead, preferably topped with Belgian chocolate. There are lots of different varieties of waffles across Belgium, but perhaps the most famous is the Brussels waffle, which is also very popular in the USA (known there simply as a Belgian waffle). In Belgium, they tend to be served hot by street vendors and are traditionally only served with a dusting of icing sugar, but you’ll find them with cream, berries and chocolate too.

To make them at home, you’ll need a waffle iron, which is an excellent investment in my opinion! Try this recipe from Amanda Cooks and Styles.

Pie, USA

Best desserts around the world - Apple Pie
Photo by The Produce Moms

I’m finding it impossible to choose the best type of American pie, so I’ve gone for a catch-all pie category. From pecan to apple to pumpkin, there’s a pie for every taste, and there’s no end to the creativity. Some of the best we ever had were at the Baked Pie Company in Asheville where you could order a pie flight with several different flavours – perfect for someone as indecisive as me! I’m a particular fan of cheesecake pies, chocolate pie and cherry pie.

For a classic all-American apple pie, try this recipe from The Produce Moms.

Mandazi, Tanzania/the Swahili Coast

Best desserts around the world - Mandazi
Photo by Pika Chakula

Mandazi or African/Swahili donuts are a type of fried bread that come from the East Africa, covering Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi. I remember them fondly from my first trip to Tanzania, aged 15. They tend to be more of a savoury snack or meal accompaniment, but can be also be enjoyed as a dessert when sweetened with cinnamon sugar or cardamom and made with coconut milk. In this instance, they are better known as mahamri. Best served with a hot chai.

To make yhem at home, try this recipe from Pika Chakula.

Lamingtons in Australia

Best desserts around the world - Lamingtons
Photo by Sugar Salt Magic

This classic Australian treat is a buttery sponge cake coated in a chocolate glaze and covered in desiccated coconut. A layer of cream or strawberry jam is often added in the middle. Often called ‘lammos’ for short, you find them in cafes across Australia and there’s even a National Lamington Day on 21 July.

They’re super easy to make. Try this recipe from Sugar Salt Magic.

Dragon’s Bead Candy, China

Dragons Beard
Photo by Bionic Grrl on Flickr

Chinese cotton candy/candy floss is a traditional art of china and one of the nation’s favourite sweets. Shaped into a little cocoon and flavoured with peanuts, sesame seeds and coconut, it’s a very sweet little dessert and not one that’s easily re-created at home. But you could give this recipe a go if you’re up for the challenge!

Syrniki, Russia

Best Desserts from around the world - Syrniki

Syrniki is a popular breakfast and dessert in Russia. They’re little sweet cheese pancakes often topped with berries and sour cream. And while they’re traditionally made with tvorog cheese, but you can also use quark, cottage cheese or ricotta.

Try this recipe from Yummy Addiction.

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