Easy, Do-It-Yourself Hainanese Kaya (Coconut Jam)

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Oh, the yummm continues! Two posts ago, I wrote of a drool-inspiring, rich and creamy, homemade Nonya kaya (coconut jam), that we Singaporeans (and visitors alike, who are as much into our food culture as we are) enjoy in characteristic Singaporean fashion. Spread lavishly onto thick or wafer-thin slices of toasted, soft white bread, and the killer topper in my opinion, thickly cut slabs of cold butter laid on top. Yeee-uummm. As I was making the Nonya kaya, I was already thinking ahead (as I always do, when it comes to food) of trying the Hainanese version of homemade kaya, which is just as rich-tasting and smooth, but distinctly caramel-flavoured.


As a kaya lover, I am addicted to both – seriously, I cannot possibly argue the merits of one over the other, in any logical, sensible, or rational manner, without fearing that I might be doing injustice to either. I am certainly not a kaya connoisseur by any means, but colour differences aside, I find that Nonya kaya has a muted sweetness to it, and a distinctive pandan flavour as most typical homemade recipes incorporate freshly squeezed pandan juices, whilst Hainanese kaya is typically sweeter, and has a syrupy, honeyed flavour, due to the way it is prepared.

In traditional Hainanese kaya recipes, sugars are first heated until they melt and completely caramelise into a golden, toffee-coloured syrup state, before being added to the coconut-egg mixture. Sometimes, honey is used to sweeten the jam. Both Hainanese as well as Nonya kaya spreads are aromatic, and characteristically ‘lemak’ (a Malay word used, in gastronomic terms, to mean the richness of a food), attributed to the use of coconut milk, which is creamy and fatty.


It doesn’t take very long to prepare homemade kaya, and it seems more than fair, that for an hour’s light labour in the kitchen, you’ll be rewarded with this wonderfully rich and creamy coconut egg jam, and probably, with more than enough to last you a while.  I guarantee, homemade kaya will absolutely spoil you, once you try it. You probably won’t be able to appreciate those cloyingly sweet, bottled ones ever again!


In pinning down a recipe that’s easy and straightforward (because it just has to be, right?) I came across this one posted by Sonia of Nasi Lemak Lover (you can read the author’s full post here). The great thing about homemade versions is that you’re absolutely free to make it the way you and your loved ones enjoy them. The recipe, as reflected here, has had sugar reduced a tad, and a little butter, often incorporated when cooking fruit curds and jams, added at the end of cooking to enrich the flavour a notch, and blunt the sharp sweetness of sugars in the jam.

Do try this, and tell me what you think! If you’ve got a good recipe to share, or made one with your own adaptations, I’d love to hear about it! Sharing is caring! Have a wonderful week ahead!


Hainanese Kaya

An easy, simple recipe for rich and homemade Hainanese kaya (coconut jam) made with caramelised sugar, coconut milk and eggs. (Adapted from Nasi Lemak Lover at http://nasilemaklover.blogspot.com)
4.13 from 8 votes
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Course: Breakfast, Sauces & Jams, Snack, Snacks and Treats, Tea
Cuisine: Asian, Chinese, Hainanese
Prep Time: 15 mins
Cook Time: 45 mins
Total Time: 1 hr


  • 350 ml coconut milk, at room temperature
  • 225 g caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 - 3 pandan leaves, washed and knotted
  • 15 g butter (optional)


  • In a mixing bowl, combine coconut milk and 100 g of sugar. Whisk by hand until sugar has dissolved. Add eggs, whisk to combine well.
  • In a small saucepan, melt the remaining sugar over medium heat (the loose sugar grains will typically start to clump up as it cooks after a few minutes, before becoming a thick syrup, and then browns as it caramelises further). Once the syrup is the colour of caramel, turn off the heat. Do not over-cook as the syrup can burn and become bitter-tasting.
  • Then, carefully and slowly introduce the caramel syrup into the coconut milk and egg mixture, whisking as you add. Do not worry when the syrup hardens like brittle, as it mixes with the mixture. Continue to whisk, breaking down the syrup as you do so, and mixing it into the mixture (never mind the hardened bits, these will melt as the mixture cooks).
  • Fill a pot about one-third full with water, and bring to a gentle simmer over low heat. Place the mixing bowl over the pot, with the base of the mixing bowl above the water level. Add the knotted pandan leaves.
  • Gently cook the mixture, stirring regularly around the sides and bottom of the mixing bowl. Remove pandan leaves once they turn pale, and discard. Continue to cook the mixture until it thickens to desired consistency, between 45 minutes to an hour. Mixture is at ideal consistency when it thickly coats your spoon, without dripping off the edge. Add the butter (optional), and stir to mix well. Remove from heat, and set aside to cool completely to room temperature. Store in an air-tight container, and keep refrigerated. It will keep well for 1 to 2 weeks, if stored and handled well.
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