Buko Pandan Salad is a dessert made with young coconut and pandan-infused agar-agar in a creamy sauce. It is delicious, easy to make, and not too sweet!
You may also like Mango Float, a version of an icebox cake loved by many Filipinos.
Ingredients you'll need
Notes and substitutions
- Buko (or young coconut): It's the sweet, tender coconut meat from coconuts harvested before they mature.
- Nata de coco (or coconut gel): It is chewy and sweet made from fermented coconut water and also used in Halo-Halo (Iced Shaved Dessert). You can also use kaong, a chewy fruit from sugar palm trees
- Pandan leaves (also called screwpine): It has no taste, but the aroma is like no other. It is overpowering in a good way — grassy, nutty, and floral. You can use fresh or frozen leaves, extract, or essence.
- Agar-Agar (or gulaman): It is a plant-based gelatin from red seaweed extract. It comes in powder form, flakes, bars, and strands. Choose the green, unflavored variety or buko pandan-flavored, if available. You can substitute with unflavored green gelatin.
- Sago: You can also use tapioca pearls which are similar and cooked the same way. Sago is the starch from tropical palm trees, while tapioca is from cassava plants. Choose white, small-size sago or tapioca pearls.
- Cream cheese: It makes a thick and creamy sauce that balances the watery nature of coconut and nata de coco. You can also use all-purpose cream or table cream.
- Sweetened condensed milk: It is thick, concentrated milk with sugar. Adjust the amount to your desired sweetness. Start with ½ cup and go from there.
- Pinipig (or pounded young rice): These glutinous rice flakes get crunchy after being toasted.
How to make this recipe
I've doubled the recipe to feed a crowd, as shown in the photos.
(1)Combine agar-agar powder and water or coconut juice in a saucepan. To make firm jelly cubes, reduce the amount of liquid called for in the package by ¼ cup.
(2)Tie the pandan leaves and add them in. They have to be bruised or cooked to extract their flavor and light green hue. Let it boil for about a minute.
(3)Discard the leaves and strain the mixture into a dish or pan (approximately 8x4-inch or 8x8-inch for a double recipe, as shown in the photo). Refrigerate until set, about an hour.
(4)Boil three cups of water over medium-high heat. Add sago only when it starts boiling, so it does not disintegrate. (5)Stir occasionally to prevent them from sticking together. Cover and lower to medium heat.
(6)Cook until translucent, about 20 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold running water to remove the residual starch.
(9)Combine young coconut, nata de coco, sago, and cream in a large bowl. (10)Mix them together.
(11)Cut agar-agar into small cubes. (12)Gently mix them in.
Cover and chill for a few hours before serving. Serve Buko Pandan Salad with toasted pinipig for extra crunch and a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Frequently asked questions
No. Both have no taste, though vanilla can be slightly bitter. Pandan is used in Asian cuisine, much like vanilla is used in the West. It has a unique flavor that tends to be overpowering in a good way. Its aroma is a combination of grassy, nutty, and floral.
To hydrate the bars, cut them into small pieces and soak them in water. Boil them with water or another liquid until completely dissolved. Strain and let it set.
Make sure to drain the ingredients very well. Coconut and nata de coco tend to be watery.
More about buko pandan salad
Here are more frequently asked questions about Buko Pandan Salad, including extra tips, troubleshooting, and other information.
Watch how I make it here
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Buko Pandan Salad
- Mixing bowls
- Whisk or hand mixer
- 8x4-inch dish
- Skillet (optional)
- 1 pound fresh or frozen shredded young coconut about 2 cups; drained
- 16 ounce nata de coco or coconut gel drained
- 1 3-ounce box unflavored green agar-agar powder sub:unflavored green gelatin
- 4 fresh or frozen pandan leaves rinsed; sub:6 drops pandan extract
- ¼ cup sago sub:tapioca pearls
- 4 ounces cream cheese softened; sub:all-purpose cream or table cream
- ½ cup condensed milk more to taste
- toasted pinipig or pounded young rice (optional)
- vanilla ice cream (optional)
- Combine agar-agar powder and water or coconut juice. To make firm jelly cubes, reduce the amount of liquid called for in the package by ¼ cup.
- Tie the pandan leaves and add them in. Let it boil for about a minute.
- Discard the leaves and strain the mixture into a dish or pan. Refrigerate until set, about an hour.
- Add sago to about three cups of boiling water. Stir occasionally to prevent them from sticking together. Cover and lower to medium heat.
- Cook until translucent, about 20 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold running water.
- In a medium bowl, combine cream cheese and condensed milk until smooth. Taste and add more condensed milk as desired.
- Combine young coconut, nata de coco, sago, and cream in a large bowl. Mix them together.
- Cut agar-agar into small cubes and gently mix them in.
- Cover and chill for a few hours before serving.