Buko pandan salad is a Filipino dessert that is so easy to recreate. It consists of young coconut and pandan-infused agar-agar with a creamy sauce that isn't too sweet.
What makes a good buko pandan salad
Buko pandan salad should be light and refreshing. The coconut should be tender and almost jelly-like in texture. Sago pearls should be chewy and not clumped together.
Cream cheese makes a thick and creamy sauce that balances the watery nature of coconut and nata de coco.
Ingredients you'll need
Notes and substitutions
- Buko (or young coconut): a sweet, delicate coconut meat from coconuts harvested before they mature.
- Nata de coco (or coconut gel): sweetened cubes made from fermented coconut water. They are chewy and also used in Halo-Halo. 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. They have to be bruised or cooked to extract their flavor and light green hue.
- Agar-Agar (or gulaman): a plant-based gelatin from red seaweed extract. They come 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. You can also use all-purpose cream or table cream.
- Sweetened condensed milk: 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 are toasted, adding a lot of crunch.
How to make this recipe
I've doubled the recipe to feed a crowd, as shown in the photos.
Make the agar-agar (gulaman)
(1)In a saucepan, combine the agar-agar powder and water or coconut juice. Check package instructions for the amount of water.
To make firm jelly cubes that don't break apart easily, reduce the liquid by ¼ cup. (2)Tie the pandan leaves and add them in. Let it boil for about a minute.
(3)Discard the pandan leaves and strain the mixture into a dish or pan (approximately 8x4-inch or 8x8-inch for doubled recipe as shown in the photo). Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or until set.
Make the sago
(4)Boil about 3 cups of water over medium-high heat. Only add the sago when it starts to boil to prevent it from disintegrating.
(5)Stir occasionally to avoid sticking on the bottom or clumping together. Cover and lower the heat to medium.
(6)Cook until translucent for about 20 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold running water to remove the residual starch.
Make the cream mixture
Combine and refrigerate
(9)In a large bowl, combine the young coconut, nata de coco, sago, and add the cream mixture. (10)Mix them together.
(11)Cut the agar-agar into small cubes. (12)Gently mix them in.
Cover and chill for a few hours until cold before serving.
How to serve
You can serve buko pandan salad as a dessert or a snack. It's especially good with toasted pinipig for extra crunch. Many enjoy it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top.
It is particularly good to serve buko pandan after lunch or dinner because it has a cooling effect from young coconut. Its other ingredients like agar-gar and nata de coco make for a good palate cleanser.
How to store
Buko pandan should be stored in the refrigerator and consumed within three days to maintain its flavor and texture. I wouldn’t recommend freezing buko pandan salad.
When thawed, it gets watery. The sago pearls will also lose their chewy texture. If you must freeze to extend its shelf life, mix it well after thawing.
Frequently asked questions
No, they are very different. Both have no taste, though vanilla can be slightly bitter. Pandan is used in Asian cuisine, much like vanilla is used in the West.
Pandan has a unique flavor that is hard to describe. It tends to be overpowering in a good way. Its aroma is a combination of grassy, nutty, and floral.
Cut the bars into small pieces and soak them in water to hydrate them. Boil them in water or another liquid until they are dissolved completely. Strain into a dish 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 to room temperature; 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 the agar-agar powder and water or coconut juice. Check package instructions for the amount of water. To make firm jelly cubes that don't break apart easily, reduce the liquid by ¼ cup.
- Tie the pandan leaves and add them in. Let it boil for about a minute.
- Discard the pandan leaves and strain the mixture into a dish or pan (approximately 8x4-inch). Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or until set.
- Add the sago to about 3 cups of boiling water. Stir occasionally to avoid sticking on the bottom or clumping together. Cover and lower the heat to medium.
- Cook until translucent for about 20 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold running water.
- In a medium bowl, combine the cream cheese and condensed milk until smooth. Give it a taste and add more condensed milk as desired.
- In a large bowl, combine the young coconut, nata de coco, sago, and add the cream mixture. Mix them together.
- Cut the agar-agar into small cubes and gently mix them in.
- Cover and chill for a few hours until cold before serving.