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Mom’s “Volcanic” Jelly vs. Liliha Bakery’s “Nuclear” Jelly

If you’re a Hawaii local, chances you have someone in the family or know someone who makes a kick @ss Hawaiian Chili Pepper Jelly that they share, especially around the Holiday Season. For me that would be Mom.

If you read Liliha Bakery’s Yelp reviews, you’ll notice the unanimous menu item raved about by most folks who dine at their coffee shop is the Butter Roll, served with their famous “Nuclear” Jelly. Or “Atomic” Jelly. Or “Radioactive” Jelly, depending who you ask.

Liliha Bakery Butter Roll with “Nuclear” Jelly, a.k.a. “Atomic” Jelly”, a.k.a. “Radioactive” Jelly. Photo courtesy of of Jeni Mae M. on Yelp

I asked the girl working at the Nimitz bakery what the real name of their “Nuclear” Jelly is and she said it’s simply “Liliha Bakery Jelly”. She also confirmed that the flavoring ingredient is Raspberry, however if you ask me, I think it tastes more like Cherry, albeit in a VERY artificial way. My best description is that Liliha Bakery’s “Nuclear” Jelly taste like “Jelly-fied” Red Vines; nothing more, nothing less.

Mom bottles her Hawaiian Chili Pepper Jelly in sterilized canning jars, which last a very long time in the refrigerator. I’ve had an unopened bottle last over a year and not go bad. The one I have here today is over 3 months “ripe” and still kickin’ okole!

Let’s take a look at the two with a single dollop each on separate little condiment dishes…

You can clearly see pieces of real Hawaiian Chili Pepper floating within that Jelly on the left, while Liliha Bakery’s artificially-flavored Raspberry “Nuclear” Jelly is just colored a very artificial looking luminescent red. Mom’s Hawaiian Chili Pepper Jelly has no food coloring at all; its amber hue is strictly from the red color of the peppers.

What exactly do Hawaiian Chili Peppers look like? Here you go….

Here’s a Hawaiian Chili Pepper Tree growing in mom’s backyard…

So what’s the back story behind the Hawaiian Chili Pepper? Well, legend has it that this handsome, powerful and akamai Luna named Pomaika’i discovered the tiny red hot pepper while on a Hokule’a voyage to Tahiti, and fell in love with it. So he brought it back to the Hawaiian Islands as a gift to King Kamehameha. The King was so pleased with what he officially named the Hawaiian Chili Pepper, that he granted Pomaika’i any beautiful single woman he desired in the kingdom. And the rest is history.

Nah, just kidding. That did sound pretty good, though! LOL!

By far, my favorite bread to serve with butter and jelly are English Muffins. LOVE THE STUFF! You-u-u-u not MY MUFFIN! Sorry, inside joke there. Anyhow, and when it comes to brands, Hawaii’s own Hawaii Star English Muffins are the best!

Each pre-split muffin is plenty thick, with more than enough substance to hold up to whatever you want to put on it or serve it as, whether it’s making Eggs Benedict, topping it with pizza stuff, or as I love best, simply spreading on a generous helping of buttah and jelly!

What really sets the Hawaii Star English Muffin apart from the rest though, is the Yellow Corn Meal they dip each muffin in, that provides this fantastic gritty texture and mild corn bread-like flavor to the muffin. LOVE IT!

When I toast my English Muffins, I try to keep an eye on them, as I’m very picky about how toasted they get. I like it where they just begin creeping brown on the edges, but not all the way. I still like some parts of the top less toasted, exactly how you see pictured above. That’s PERFECT!

Now when it comes to butter, you’re probably going to wanna’ slap me upside the head when I tell you that, when it comes to anything on toast, I actually prefer “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter” over real butter. Yes, it’s true. I don’t know. There’s just something about real butter I don’t like the taste of on toast. I think it’s because I was raised on “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter” for toast. Yet not to fret, as for everything else that involves cooking, it’s strictly real butter for me. Salted butter, I might add.

As for amount of “butter” on my English Muffin, I like it just to the point under being totally saturated, where when I bite into it, it practically spurts in my mouth. Ha ha!  Naughty boy.

And, voila…

Gotta’ dig my chili pepper “prop” there. Yet I dare you bite into that Hawaiian Chili Pepper just like that. I triple dare you! Dude, believe me, you do NOT want to bite into a Hawaiian Chili Pepper straight up, as you will DEEPLY REGRET IT!

According to this West Hawaii Today article, the Hawaiian Chili Pepper — also known as the “Bird Pepper” — has a Scoville rating between 10,000 to 20,000 SHU. Which I find hard to believe actually, as I think it’s much higher than that. More like in the 6-digit Habanero and Ghost Pepper Scoville range. They say the smaller the pepper, usually the hotter they are, and Hawaiian Chili Peppers are very tiny, yet pack one hell of a Capsaicin punch!

Let’s try the Liliha Bakery “Nuclear” Jelly English Muffin…

And? Excellent! I don’t know what it is about this otherwise “phony” tasting jelly. It’s so candy-like, you gotta’ love it! I also think that luminescent bright red color has a psychological effect on you while you look at as you’re eating it. Surprisingly that Red Vines like flavor compliments the buttery English Muffin quite nicely.

Now let’s try Mom’s “Volcanic” Jelly English Muffin…

Ding! Ding! Ding! We have the winner! Oh man, Mom’s Hawaiian Chili Pepper “Volcanic” Jelly SLAMS Liliha Bakery’s “Nuclear” Jelly clear out the park! Dusted! Done!

The absolute heat from the punchy Hawaiian Chili Peppers, along with that sweet bell pepper flavor immediately hits your taste buds in all the right places, where you’re like, “WOW!, this is so ono!” It’s kinda’ fruity, yet I’d say more “zesty”, where this Jelly would be equally welcome on a pizza. Then you get the buttery English Muffin, along with the fantastic texture of the gritty meal dusted under the muffin, and it’s like “KA-BAM!”.

I should seriously start my own Tasty Island product line called “Mom’s Volcanic Jelly”. Or perhaps “Mom’s Pahoehoe Jelly”. Cha-ching! Seriously though, I’m going to propose to Peter Kim that they start serving this Hawaiian Chili Pepper Jelly in the coffee shop, and officially name it “Volcanic Jelly”.

By the way, another EXCELLENT way to serve Hawaiian Chili Pepper Jelly is on crispy artisan crackers spread with cream cheese. Broke da’ mout’ winnahz!

So the verdict is in:

Liliha Bakery’s “Nuclear” Jelly

Taste – 3 SPAM Musubi
Texture – 4 SPAM Musubi
Overall – 3 SPAM Musubi

Mom’s “Volcanic” Jelly
Taste – 7 SPAM Musubi
Texture – 3 SPAM Musubi
Overall – 5 SPAM Musubi

I don’t have the recipe for Mom’s Hawaiian Chili Pepper Jelly because, well, she doesn’t have one. She just “eyeballs it”. However, here’s one I found from the Honolulu Star-Bulletin archives:

Rachel Tamashiro, left, Sarah Tamashiro and Lauren Leong hold jars of Incredibly Hot Pepper Jelly that were one of the featured items at the St. Andrew Priory bazaar sale. Photo by Dennis Oda, courtesy of StarBulletin.com.

Holiday Fair Hot Pepper Jelly*
Adapted from “Paradise Preserves” by Yvonne Neely Armitage

2 cups red bell peppers chunks
1/4 cup seeded red Hawaiian chili peppers
6-1/2 cups white sugar
1-1/2 cups cider vinegar
6 ounces Certo (liquid fruit pectin, sold in boxes of 3-ounce packets)

Grind bell peppers together with chili peppers in a blender, using caution in handling chilis.

Combine sugar and vinegar in large pan and bring to full rolling boil. Remove from burner and let stand, uncovered, 20 minutes.

Add peppers to pan. Return pot to burner and bring to boil again. Continue to cook another 2 minutes, boiling rapidly.

Remove from burner, add pectin and stir for a full 5 minutes. Pour into hot, sterilized jars and seal. Makes enough to fill 6 to 7 8-ounce jars.

Note: Other peppers, such as green peppers work equally as well in this recipe.

*Source: Honolulu Star-Bulletin: Hot Pepper Jelly


25 thoughts on “Mom’s “Volcanic” Jelly vs. Liliha Bakery’s “Nuclear” Jelly

  • November 7, 2014 at 2:10 pm

    My grandmothers pepper jelly recipe is virtually identical, however her oldest recipe uses natural pectin from guava, as there was no Certo. 

    We also still use the family hot sauce recipe. One handful Hawaii chili peppers, one handful Hawaiian salt, 12 ounces or so of white vinegar. Liquefy, put in dispenser like soyu or Worchesteshire bottle, add 3 or 4 whole peppers. Use.

    • November 7, 2014 at 2:32 pm


      How do you extract the natural pectin from guava? I understand Papaya also has natural pectin.

      Interesting Hot Sauce recipe. Sounds like Hawaiian Chili Pepper Water, sans the water.

      I’m actually not really into super spicy hot food. If it’s medium to mild like this Jelly, fine. but if it’s making me run for a glass of milk, pass. A bottle of Tapatio and/or Tobasco hot sauce will last over a year in my fridge before I get through it.

      • November 8, 2014 at 8:36 am

        She used a pulp from the skin. My grandmother was a home economics teacher for the neighbor islands. She sailed from island to island and taught second grade girls basic food prep like making flour, soda crackers, bread and hygiene. That two week class was often all the girls got because they often left school at ten. Here last student died about ten years ago. All her students remembered the classes fondly.

  • November 7, 2014 at 2:29 pm

    I have those small peppers growing in yard but use them for making kimchee and mabo

    tofu dishes.  Wonder if you brush some pepper jelly on rib along with sauce you get a

    Kick Ass spicy rib for sure and on chicken too.

    • November 7, 2014 at 2:37 pm


      Brushing the Hawaiian Chili Pepper Jelly on some BBQ Baby Back Ribs is a KICK @SS idea! I think it would totally rock! I’m thinking perhaps put a light coat of ketchup first for that tomato element, then finish it with the Hawaiian Chili Pepper Jelly. Grill over hot coals until nicely seared and caramelized (after ribs have been pre-tenderized in oven). Yeah!

      You heard it here first: Amy’s Kick @ss Hawaiian Chili Pepper Pulehu Baby Back Ribs!

    • November 8, 2014 at 5:28 am

      Those little peppers in a mabo tofu dish won’t be eaten by anyone unless they’re used to Sichuan or Hunan style Chinese cuisine. I’ve made Cantonese-style hot sauce with those little peppers and it will make you jump about a meter in the air–they’re spicier than even the peppers used in Tabasco sauce.

      • November 8, 2014 at 6:52 am

        I make a chili oil with garlic and put into mabo tofu dishes.  My late father was a

        Northern Chinese heritage from Chengtu and born in Taipei.  So spicy food is known

        in his family very well.  My mom American Born Chinese Cantonese and do not like

        too spicy food .   Pomai should bottle his mom chili pepper jelly with bar b q sauce.

        • November 9, 2014 at 6:39 am

          I remember one time taking a small jar of that super-strong hot sauce I made and mixed it in with soy sauce to make it like a dipping sauce at a dim sum restaurant. After eating pieces of dim sum dipped in that mix, my mouth kind of felt it for three hours afterwards. :-/

  • November 8, 2014 at 1:54 am

    Now my sisters want to try it on meatballs for party and see it now good for all kind of


    • November 8, 2014 at 8:39 am

      We use it as a condiment for roast pork. So meatballs or even hamburger patties definitely works.

  • November 8, 2014 at 7:24 am

    @ Sacto1654 – the keyword to your comment is RESPECT. Hawaiiian Chili Peppers definitely command respect, I don’t care how much anyone thinks they’re “Captain Scoville”. Their tiny size can be very deceiving, unless someone knows that means they really are HOT!

    @ Amy – Andrew Zimmern did a great episode on the Sichuan province of China (Chendu is the capital city). They clearly love their peppers there, as you’ll find them in all forms on the streets of Chengdu.

    Here’s Bizarre Foods’ entire episode in Chengdu (Schichuan province):


    Funny you mention Chili Pepper Jelly with BBQ Sauce, as I’ve actually done that before with Guava Jelly, for “Guava Glazed Baby Back Ribs”. And it turned out AWESOME! I simply mixed a full bottle of Heinz BBQ Sauce, the basic hickory smoke flavor, combined with a full bottle of Hawaiian Sun Guava Jelly, heated on a stove until well combined. Let that cool, then glazed Baby Back Pork ribs with my Guava BBQ Sauce and grilled it. The fruity and sweet guava flavor totally complimented the porky ribs. Was so ono!

    @ Kelike – I think Hawaiian Chili Pepper Jelly would work AWESOME on meatballs! Make sure they’re 50/50 ground beef/ground pork. Minced green onion, cilantro and garlic would probably be best in their as well to compliment the zesty flavor of the Hawaiian Chili Pepper Jelly.


    • November 9, 2014 at 5:44 am

      Thanks for showing that video of Chengdu and Andrew Zimmern.  My late father family

      do not cooked spicy when my mom have meals with them.  Last time she got hive for

      three days from hot peppers in food and boy they put alot in it.  She like somewhat the

      peppers but it does not like her.  Now she just eat a little of it.

  • November 8, 2014 at 8:45 am

    Pomai, if Liliha Bakery find out they will make ribs and chickens dishes with pepper jelly

    in it too.

  • November 8, 2014 at 1:11 pm

    Seems like your mother’s jelly would also work in that holiday classic: pepper jelly over a brick of cream cheese with crackers. (disclaimer: I have never tried this myself, but people seem to go crazy over this combo)

    • November 8, 2014 at 1:31 pm


      Ah, I forgot all about that one! I didn’t know it was a deep south dish. I think I’ll serve that as a pupu (appetizer) this Thanksgiving. Much easier than plating it with the cream cheese and jelly topped crackers individually preassembled.

      • November 9, 2014 at 1:19 pm

        Yo, a couple comments re hot…… “PIKA” Haw’n. Cheeleepepah Jehlee……….commercial places cannot serve stuff that will make you sweat & paralyze your tongue…….unless it’s a Thai restaurant with posted disclaimers! HA!  I also love the homemade versions mo bettah!
        Tex Drive-in
        in Honoka’a offers hot jelly as one of their many fillings for the world famous Malasadas……but it seems every time I go by there, they are plum out!  (pun intended)
        Not only are the pepper bushes useful, they make a nice decorative hedge……and, no fohget cheeleepepah wahtah!
        Here’s a project for you, Mr. Food Blog Man, find out WHY Raspberry Jelly costs more than the other flavors?????????????



      • November 10, 2014 at 5:37 am

        First time I had hot pepper jelly and cream cheese on crackers was when my wife made up some as pupus. She’s from Virginia, so maybe it is some sort of Southern thing. No matta, was ono, still is! It seems to be a combo (hot pepper, cream cheese & sweet) that works; I’ve been to restaurants where they serve deep fried jalapenos filled with cream cheese and give you some strawberry jam to dip them in. Gonna have to make that jelly for Christmas this year; probably also steal the BBQ / HPJ idea, too!

  • November 8, 2014 at 4:17 pm

    Oooh! I love that deep south dish blog. Reminds me of some of my southern grandma’s (dot) recipes. Like I’ve said I’ve never tried the pepper jelly over the brick of cream cheese, but it always gets “oohs and ahhs” whenever I see it at a party. and, let’s be real, is there an easier appetizer (spread, pupu, whatever) to serve guests? I always go the hard way with homemade artichoke and spinach dip (I’m known for it), and stuffed mushrooms (because I like them and hope for leftovers), but you honestly will not go wrong with cream cheese and your mom’s jelly. I wonder how it would work with cracked pepper water crackers? Probably too much flavor, right?

    • November 8, 2014 at 4:38 pm


      Then you must have already read my review for Stonemill Kitchen’s Spinach & Artichoke Parmesan Dip:

      One reader commented recently that Stonemill Kitchen has since change the recipe, and it’s not as good  as before.

      What’s your favorite Stuffed Mushroom Recipe? As you probably already read in the previous post, a friend recently slapped together Bleu Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms that were FANTASTIC.

      And I totally here you about hoping for leftovers! Ha ha!

  • November 8, 2014 at 11:14 pm

    My spinach artichoke dip is one of a kind, store-bought or restaurant versions can’t compare! Seriously! My stuffed mushroom recipe is something I learned from my mom (who probably got it from one of the big 70’s cookbooks in the day), but added my own touch here and there.

    (as usual, eyeball amounts)

    Clean mushrooms and remove the stems

    Recipe call for cutting off the bottom and chopping up the rest, I must admit, I’m a bit lazy for this, o I usually buy a pack of sliced mushrooms to mince up instead of dealing with all the trimming and then trying to mince tiny stubs of stems. I do it for the longer ones, short ones just get removed and tossed

    Mince onions and shallots (the latter being one of my additions)

    Saute minced onions, shallots and minced mushrooms till you cook out all the liquid(use butter or olive oil, whichever) I like to add lots of pepper. I don’t add salt at this point because the breadcrumbs are salty, but salt away if you want.

    Add sour cream as a binder, I usually make a lot, so about half a pint

    Add italian breadcrumbs till the mixture sticks together and isn’t gloppy, but not too dry either

    Stuff the mushrooms, then baste lightly with melted butter or olive oil.

    When I was a kid and my mother made this, she’d put Parmesan over the top. I did not remember this step and have been making it w/o forever. You can add parmasean if you want. I think it might take away from the mushroomy flavor, or make it too salty, but try it if it sounds good.

    Bake the mushrooms at 325-350 depending on your oven for 40ish minutes, till the tops are golden and the mixture is cooked through.

    These are delicious, but considering they are baked mushrooms, they are ugly



    • November 9, 2014 at 4:22 am


      I love how “purist” your Stuffed Mushroom recipe is. It’s just like how Ken recommends a true Maine Lobster Roll, where all it calls for is Maine Lobster, Mayonnaise and a buttered sweet bread roll (bun), and that’s it. Nothing more, nothing less.

      Interesting twist with the sour cream binder on your part. Which actually has me wondering how that would work with the Maine Lobster Roll, mixing 50/50 Mayo/Sour Cream with the Lobster meat.

      Of course, you’re probably having nightmares right about now just thinking about crustacean food. It’s your inner Kosher Jew’. :-)

      Speaking of which, have you ever tried making Crab, Spinach & Artichoke Dip for your guests?

      • November 9, 2014 at 1:46 pm

        I have no inner kosher jew, but my inner strict vegetarian withers a bit at the idea of crustacean. Between my experience with blue crabs and their innards, and reading about how coconut crabs possibly ate Amelia Earhart’s remains (and if they didn’t, they are certainly capable)… I’m not a fan. Also, I’ve never put crab in my dip because it’s a special blend of flavors and crab would muddle it. When I was a kid, my mother used to make a hot crab dip though. I remember it being pretty good (pre-vegetarian days for me so15 or younger). It was whipped cream cheese, crab, chives and curry powder, all baked together, and guests ate it on crackers. You should give it a try if you like curry powder.

        • November 9, 2014 at 6:45 pm


          I’m really not a fan of crustaceans (bottom feeders) either, yet thoroughly enjoy it when I have a craving, such as how I get with Shrimp Cocktail. I go on BINGES with the stuff! Nom-nom-nom!

          Your mom’s Hot Crab Dip with curry sounds supah ono! Post the complete recipe in detail, and I’ll add it to the recipe page on this site.

          Mahalo, h! You rock!  :-)


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