15 Pineapple Tarts Brands, Ranked From Worst To Best
UNDERCOVER REVIEW: The 8 DAYS team tarts things up this CNY.
There are three things we can’t do without for Chinese New Year: bak kwa (which we’ve already ranked), saintly patience for all those soul-sapping house visits, and pineapple tarts. While not everyone eats pork, almost anyone will accept a fruit-topped treat. It’s sweet, pretty and festive. It’s also extremely high in calories — and finding one worth inhaling all that sugar for is no easy task. Since not everyone is lucky enough to have a pastry wizard relative who gifts them amazing home-baked goodies, we scoured the island for 15 different pineapple tarts to buy and review. We chose only traditional-flavoured tarts for consistency. So no funky cheese or mala offerings here. However, we chose not to be super scientific about the shapes and sizes as we reviewed a mixture of open-faced and closed tarts. Because if we featured only one or the other — we'd have to exclude many must-try brands.
We won’t lie: it was tough ranking these tarts, which we purchased incognito and sampled in the 8 DAYS office. In fact, this is the most challenging food ranking story we’ve done so far. While our tasting panel of writers, editors and photographers agreed on what constituted the grossest pineapple tart, the results of our #1 pick and a few in between weren’t exactly unanimous. Why? Because a fruit tart, unlike a piece of bak kwa, is composed of many more elements. There’s the jam, which some people like sweet and smooth, while others prefer sharper with a bit of bite. Then there’s also the pastry, which in our ideal world, should be exceedingly buttery, sufficiently browned and toasty, with a gentle snap that dissipates into a melting morass of deliciousness. However, some folks would rather it be baked lighter and crumblier, with none of that caramelly oomph you get from the Maillard reaction of well-cooked pastry. Lastly, there’s the ratio of topping-to-crust. Some follow the more-jam-is-best school of thought; others believe just the opposite. For the record, most of us on the panel appreciate an almost equal balance of both.
While we haven’t yet found the Holy Grail of store-bought pineapple tarts (the search never ends), we’ve settled on this list of 15 to try. Most are popular chain store brands, mainly because they're accessible and what readers are familiar with. Save for a couple, we didn't include the smaller artisanal shops mainly because of their limited capacity for production — perhaps we'll include those in next year's review. Now, we understand that taste is subjective and the results may not sit well with everyone — but know that we rated all the bakes objectively, and that we have zero affiliation or business dealings with any of these brands (including the #1 tart). Disagree with our choices? Tell us why via the comments section in our Facebook post.
And now, starting from the bottom…
Pineapple Balls, $25 for 30 pcs
Backstory: You’re likely to have seen a Rasa Sayang booth at a Chinese New Year snack fair. This Indonesian brand is popular for its assorted keropok like the additive garlic emping. Their pineapple tarts — which look like, um, the shiny pates of bald Lilliputian men — are made in Jakarta using a Dutch-inspired recipe.
Taste test: “Keep refrigerated”, instructs a sticker on the plastic jar of tarts. As we pop a petite ball into our mouths, we think: no wonder. These ought to be banished to the back of the freezer and forgotten till next year’s spring-cleaning session. The pastry is disturbingly reminiscent of gamey mutton (similar to cheap room-temperature butter sold in cans, which should only ever be eaten if all other butters on earth are sucked into a giant vortex). The jam is gummy and sticks to our teeth; any flavour in it overwhelmed by that pongy pastry.
Available till Jan 23 at six pop-up stalls including Takashimaya Square B2. Tel: 9222-2106. Open daily 10am-9.30pm. www.rsayang.com/pages/find-us-at-the-following-event-locations
Traditional Pineapple Tart, $28 for 32-34 pcs
Backstory: This old-school bakery in Bukit Panjang has been around since 2000, and claims to be the creator of the “famous cheese pineapple tarts”. The Amethyst folks are so serious about their tarts, they’ve installed industrial ovens at their Takashimaya pop-up stall (their HQ is at Greenridge Shopping Centre) to bake piping hot snacks for their customers. We got ourselves a fresh tin of their plain pineapple tarts for this ranking.
Taste test: The tiny golden-brown pineapple balls resemble a colony of sultry suntanned aliens. It looks more appetising than its pallid contenders, and fits easily into our gobs. However, while its ingredients list states that it contains only pineapple paste, flour, butter, sugar and salt, there’s a nagging note of what seems suggestive of generic powdered milk and vanilla essence which coat our tongue unpleasantly. The pastry is soggy as well; likely due to the warm tarts being sealed in its tin too soon after being out of the oven. Pity, ’cos the jam is decent — not too sweet with crunchy bits of fruit.
Available in-stores and at Takashimaya Square pop-up store till Jan 23. #02-04, Blk 524A Jelapang Road, Greenridge Shopping Centre. Tel: 6759-2338. Open daily 6.30am-8pm. www.amethystpastry.com
Melt In Your Mouth Pineapple Tarts, $22.90 for 20 pcs
Backstory: Pineapple Tarts Singapore sells CNY snacks like hand-made pineapple tarts (duh), love letters and crab sticks all year round. It operates mostly online, though it has a small brick and mortar shop in Clementi for you to sample and buy its goods.
Taste test: These burnished spheres are smaller, neater versions of Le Café’s (below), and have a deeper bronzed cap. However, its pastry has an unwelcome milky instead of buttery quality to it, never mind that it melted in our mouths. The jam is passably tangy, but clings uncomfortably to our molars like a needy chick.
Available online at www.pineappletarts.sg or #01-109, Blk 352 Clementi Ave 2, S120352. Tel: 8481-5596. Open daily 10am-6pm.
Golden Pineapple Balls, $29.80 for 30 pcs
Backstory: This Singaporean brand has been around for over 30 years. On its website, it claims to use the best quality ingredients and family recipes to handcraft its pastries.
Taste test: These attractive orbs are baked to a golden finish, with bucolic cracked tops. But as with life, it’s not always about looks. The crust is flaccid and hints of what margarine tastes like — even though the shop assistant we spoke with insists only butter is used. Then it's time to change your brand of butter, guys. As for the jam? Sugary and forgettable.
Available in-store till Jan 23 and at road shows till Jan 22. Two outlets including 2 Smith St, S058917. Tel: 6560-1249. Open daily 10am-8pm. www.kelepineappletarts.com.sg
Pineapple Tarts, $36 for 25 pcs
Backstory: Local snack brand Divine, set up by a self-taught baker, is known for its reduced sugar, eggless cookies sold at department stores like Tangs and Isetan. Since we’ve tried and quite enjoyed its honey lychee cookies before, we decided to seek out its tarts too.
Taste test: The dark jammy mounds crowned with pale pastry dots look disconcertingly like sunburnt areola with albino nipples. There’s not a whole lot going for this tart taste-wise too. The base is like a tough cookie and the jam rather cloying and stiff with no discernible pineapple flavour.
Available till Jan 23 at Tangs department stores and Takashimaya Square pop-up store & online at www.divine.sg. Tel: 9113-5507.
Pineapple Flower Tarts, $28 for 16 pcs
Backstory: Singapore’s own celebrated pastry chef Janice Wong launched her eponymous luxury line of sweets in 2014, which also offers CNY goodies during the festive season. The goodies come in mod flavours — her dark chocolate bak kwa cookies are not bad (she also rolled out chocolate-coated pineapple tarts) — and the packaging is posh.
Taste test: If there’s a beauty pageant for pineapple tarts, Janice Wong’s one would probably win. It looks like a perky amber flower topped with a rustic jammy blob, and the jam-to-pastry ratio is ideal. The bottom is akin to a sablé (French butter cookie) — however, though it crunches tantalisingly initially, it quickly dissipates to a dry and rough finish. We’re also niggled by an unplaceable floral whiff that permeates our palate. At least the jam is perfectly munch-able with juicy pineapple bits.
Available while stocks last online and in-stores. Three outlets including #B1-k28 Paragon Shopping Centre, S238859. Tel: 9712-5338. Open daily 10am-9pm. www.janicewong.online
Glory Pineapple Tarts, $24.80 for 24 pcs
Backstory: Glory has been run by the Chin family since 1979, and the heritage brand dishes out Peranakan food, including nonya-style popiah. While the flagship store in Katong closed down last year, Glory still operates its catering and kueh arm. It currently offers five types of pineapple tarts, including plain open-faced and kawaii apple-shaped ones. They’re sold mostly in supermarkets and Sinpopo bakeshops.
Taste test: Glory’s tarts via Sinpopo come packaged in a hipster-cool black box. The bakes look endearingly messy and kinda homey, with heaps of jam pressed onto well-glazed pastry discs. Each is handily sized, so you can plonk it whole into your mouth. While it appears like something your aunt may have made, the pastry is a smidgen sandy and in need of more butter. The jam passes muster, even if it reminds us a bit of ready-made syrupy pineapple pastes sold in supermarkets for bakers too lazy to scrape the actual fruit for their “home-made” tarts.
Available at Sinpopo Grocer outlets all year round, two outlets including #B1-33 The Paragon, S238859. Tel: 6365-1772. Open daily 10am-10pm. www.sinpopo.com
Original Pineapple Tart, $26.80 for 10 pcs
Backstory: Pastry chef and Bakerzin founder Daniel Tay founded his vintage-inspired bakery Old Seng Choong in 2016, named after his parents’ Marine Parade bakery which operated from 1965 to 1996. It started out as an online business that became popular enough for Daniel to open two brick-and-mortar shops. He offers localised goodies in mod flavours, like Bak Kut Teh Cookies. There’re also traditional CNY picks like Nian Gao and pineapple tarts stuffed with yuzu-infused jam.
Taste test: We didn’t have high hopes for this pineapple tart at first glance. 'Cos it may be housed in a quaint retro tin, yet the individually plastic-wrapped tart looks too commercialised. And it’s shaped like a too-thick gold ingot with slightly over-baked edges. So we were surprised to find the pastry fairly buttery without the invasive pong of cheap milk powder (what's with this milk powder nonsense that we seem to taste in many other store-bought tarts these days anyway? It's horrible). And unlike some other specimens on this list, the sweet-sour pineapple jam is actually fruity and the balance of crust-to-filling acceptable. Our main grouse is that it lacks a certain homey taste.
Available in-stores while stocks last. Two outlets including The Central @ Clarke Quay, 6 Eu Tong Sen St #01-48, S059817. Tel: 6224-0915. Open daily 11am-10pm. www.oldsengchoong.com
Original Pineapple Tarts, $23 for 30 pcs
Backstory: A relative newcomer compared to the other heritage brands here. But we’ve always enjoyed the nonya food like the rendang at PeraMakan’s flagship Keppel Club restaurant, which opened in 2004. There’re also five casual spin-offs called Tingkat PeraMakan dotted around the island.
Taste test: We got our tarts from Tingkat Peramakan at Arc mall and suspect someone dropped this jar. As we unscrew the lid, we discover some broken specimens, with the rest tragically showered in crumbs. Happily, it tastes better than it looks. The pale yellow pastry may appear under-baked, but it has a sound buttery roundness and crunchy yet tender kick. Topped with slightly firm “hand-scraped jam from fresh pineapples” (says the shop staff) that’s saved from being too saccharine with a zing of tartness. Not bad at all.
Available while stocks last. Six outlets including #02-223 Marina Square, 6 Raffles Blvd, S109918. Tel: 6264-1545. Open daily 11am-9pm. www.peramakan.com
Golden Pineapple Pillow Tart, $28.80 for 32-35 pcs
Backstory: This home-grown halal bakery started out as a takeaway kiosk at Changi Airport in 2011, and grew into a dine-in cafe at Jalan Besar with another takeaway outlet at Takashimaya’s basement. It’s more well-known for its Insta-worthy cakes, though a pal helpfully informs us that the brand’s CNY pineapple tarts are also “pretty good”.
Taste test: The tarts’ appearance stands out from the rest of its counterparts, which are shaped into balls or an open-faced flower. Instead, these hand-made munchkins are like adorable mini sausage rolls with a dab of crunchy, piquant pineapple jam within a cocoon of blonde pastry. Our tart crumbles alluringly, and true to its name, is very buttery, though with an unnecessarily strong milky hint (which some of the tasters on our panel dislike). The texture is great, though.
Available till Jan 23. Two outlets including #B208-4A Takashimaya, S238873. Tel: 6734-6153. Open daily 10am-9.30pm. www.thebutterstudio.com
Signature Pineapple Tarts (Open), $24.90 for 25 pcs
Backstory: Mention HarriAnns and we think platters of colourful nonya kueh. Its flagship stall, which opened in Tiong Bahru Food Centre in the early ’50s, still stands today and is according to the brand’s website, still “manned by our friendly founders uncle Harry and auntie Annie”. They’ve done well for themselves — there are also four modern HarriAnns cafes around Singapore.
Taste test: The misshapen splodges of jam look as if they were plopped on by a five-year-old. Well, at least that shows it’s not made by a machine, eh? The base is quite yum — there's an assertive biscuity snap, and it melts gratifyingly after a few butter-filled chomps. The jam drew mixed reactions from our tasting panel: it starts off sour but ends off with a slightly heavy sweetness, as if unripe pineapples were used and tons of sugar later added to the mix to counter that. What we like: the fact that the uncle from the HQ store we spoke to tells us it’s “scraped by hand from fresh fruit”. A perfectly snack-able if not phenomenal tart.
Available till Jan 23. Five outlets including #01-01A Bugis Junction Towers, 230 Victoria St, S188024. Tel: 6238-1200. Open daily 7am-9pm. www.harrianns.com
Pineapple Tarts, from $13.50 for 10 pcs
Backstory: These large spherical bakes kick-started the ‘golf ball’ tart trend. They’re created by the charmingly retro Le Café bakery, formerly headquartered at Middle Road, now relocated to Mackenzie Road. Le Café started out as a zi char joint that also sold pastries in 1949. It was then converted into a takeaway shop in the ’90s and became beloved for its oversized pineapple tarts and wobbly bean curd tarts. Its website claims that its bakes are “100% crafted by hand, and contain no pork or lard”.
Taste test: We used to adore these pale, massive orbs for its delightfully chewy, luscious mouthfeel. While it’s still quite fun to eat, it’s not as fab as we recall them to be. The pastry is uniformly smooth and fairly buttery, but has a slightly powdery finish. Meanwhile, the jam still possesses that beguilingly soft, chewy consistency we’re fond of, but it’s also more candy-like than zesty and bracing.
Available till Jan 23. Three outlets including 31/33 Mackenzie Rd, #01-01, S228686. Tel: 6337-2417. Open daily Mon-Sat 10.30am-7pm; Sun 10.30am-4pm. www.lecafe.com.sg
Pineapple Tarts, from $20.80 for 30-35 pcs
Backstory: Seen in practically every shopping centre in Singapore, Bengawan Solo needs no introduction, really. Started by Indonesian-Chinese Tjendri Anastasia in her HDB flat in 1979, the brand has since grown to become a local powerhouse with 44 outlets. It’s synonymous with pandan chiffon cake, nonya kueh and to a certain extent, CNY goodies.
Taste test: We haven’t had a Bengawan Solo tart in ages because we thought a chain store’s offering would inevitably be mediocre. Instead, the neat cocktail sausage-shaped munchkin is surprisingly moreish. True, the crumbly pastry is a bit too lurid a shade of yellow, and it could be baked slightly crisper. But the butter used in it is sufficiently rich and fragrant, while the modest dab of jam (made in-house with Malaysian honey pineapples) within has a good hit of tang, which cuts the richness of its casing. There’s a pricier, larger premium option that’s hand-crafted (these are machine-made) and stuffed with more jam and butter. We recall those to be even better than this version.
Available all year round. 44 outlets including #B207-2-2 Takashimaya. Tel: 6735-5391. Open daily 10am - 9.30pm. www.bengawansolo.com.sg
Pineapple Tarts, $18.80 for 40 pcs
Backstory: This neighbourhood bakery chain has a decidedly unsexy and nondescript moniker, so it’s easy to overlook its potential and dismiss it as merely a source for your weekday breakfast buns. But give its pineapple tarts a go — we’re glad we did.
Taste test: The tarts, each about the size of a large chocolate gold coin (remember this classic CNY candy?), are packed in an unwieldy zipper plastic bag, which is then stuffed into a tin sealed with tape. We feel a sense of achievement when we finally manage to pluck a tart out, a flattish disc that looks like a homelier version of Arnott’s Raspberry Tartlets. It’s adorned with a perfectly-shaped, cartoonishly oversized blob of pineapple jam pressed onto the golden pastry. The pastry’s texture is more like a freshly-baked, crunchy butter cookie. Delish, if just a tiny bit over-baked. The jam veers on the sweet side but is flavourful with a pineapple-y crunch. Pity there's just too much of it crammed onto the pastry, which makes it all a bit jelak after a while. Otherwise, it’s a respectably yummy pineapple tart with a home-made aura about it.
Available while stocks last. 12 outlets including Blk 449 Ang Mo Kio Ave 10, #01-1713, S560449. Tel: 6455-6191. Open daily Mon-Fri 8am-10pm and Sat & Sun 10am-11pm. www.bakeinc.com.sg
Pineapple Cake, from $14.50 for 5 pcs
Backstory: Think of SunnyHills as the Prada of Taiwanese pineapple cakes. If you think that a Taiwanese pineapple cake doesn't qualify to be on this list, know that SunnyHills' is different from its oft-soggier brethren. Its PR rep tells us: [our pastry uses] a traditional European tart recipe like how [regular] pineapple tarts are made . So yes, it's still a pineapple tart, albeit in a blockish form. The Seah Street flagship store (the Takashimaya one is less glam) is styled like a designer apartment, where you can taste complimentary tarts washed down with oolong tea. Its bakes are equally atas too, boasting ingredients such as organic pineapples from Bagua Mountain in central Taiwan, which is famous for the fruit, plus Japanese flour, New Zealand butter and eggs “from a farmer who plays classical music for his hens”.
Taste test: Each hefty bar, which according to the brand's PR rep is partially made by hand in Taiwan, is tastefully wrapped in waxed paper. We like that the pastry is evenly brown and not anaemic. The wodge of jam within is superb: it’s the most rustically chunky and succulent on this list with ambrosial sun-ripened pineapples blended with slightly sour fruit for a super refreshing jolt of acidity. SunnyHills claims its fruit is “hand cut by locals” at its pineapple factory after all. Full disclosure: this #1 choice wasn’t unanimous on our tasting panel: some declared the crust a mite parched. Indeed it could be a touch more buttery and crisp, but its slight dryness is mitigated by that bodacious jam and the pastry’s toasty, fresh-outta-the-oven fragrance. In truth, we would’ve loved to have picked a less sleek, more homespun pineapple tart as our winner. But after carefully weighing our options, the overall flavours in this confection trump its rivals. We'd even eat it outside of Chinese New Year. Caveat: skip SunnyHill's so-so limited-edition festive flavours like the apple one and only get this, okay?
Available all year round. Two outlets including #B2-27A Takashimaya, S238872. Tel: 8522-9605. Open daily 11am-9pm. www.sunnyhills.com.sg
With additional reporting by Zoey Chow
PHOTOS & FOOD STYLING: ALVIN TEO & YIP JIEYING