Pandan kaya is a coconut egg jam, widely eaten as a spread over toasted bread, soft buns, and as a cake filling or topping. It has a smooth texture, is creamy and rich tasting, made primarily with coconut milk and eggs, subtly flavoured with pandan juices, and sweetened with sugar.
Today, I’m updating my easy and simple recipe for making Nonya pandan kaya or pandan coconut jam. Kaya or coconut jam needs no introduction if you live in South East Asia, especially in countries like Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia. I’ll be using both names, kaya and coconut jam interchangeably throughout this post so both will sound equally familiar to you.
Kaya is a coconut jam we love to slather on toasted or steamed slices of milk bread as a staple for breakfast or a mid-afternoon treat. Its also highly favoured as a filling in local desserts like pandan kaya cake and pandan egg tarts, just to name a few ever-popular Singaporean treats.
Watch this recipe in action on a video tutorial for making kaya butter steamed buns created by the talented people at Share Food Singapore.
What is kaya?
Though popularly thought of as a jam, nonya pandan kaya is essentially a soft but thick curd or paste-like spread. Its a cooked custard made with eggs, sugar, coconut milk and pandan juice. Pandan juice is the juice obtained from the tropical plant pandanus amaryllifolius, a tropical plant used in many cuisines for flavouring foods, especially desserts and cakes.
Homemade pandan coconut jam is very easy to make from scratch. It can be smooth or slightly curdled when cooked. We love it for its sweet, rich and creamy coconut flavour. It’s made primarily with coconut milk and eggs, flavoured with pandan juice, and sweetened with sugar. It’s also commonly referred to as srikaya or serikaya.
The colour of your coconut jam depends on the colour of the egg yolks, the amount of pandan juice, types of sugars used, and the extent of caramelization. Nonya kaya is light green in colour. Hainanese kaya uses caramelised sugar, has a toffee colour, and is often sweetened with honey.
How to enjoy kaya or coconut jam as a treat
Whenever I feel inclined for a light, delicious snack, I most enjoy kaya when thickly spread onto warm toast with slabs of cold butter or melted peanut butter.
What I just described is a local snack known as kaya butter toast or simply kaya toast. On toast, kaya’s sweet creamy flavour goes well with cheese slices as well as peanut butter. We also spread it on cream crackers and plain biscuits. And if you love it sweet and simple, there’s absolutely nothing to stop you from taking in spoonfuls of it right out of the jar! Just as you would peanut butter or ice cream!
It’s easy to get commercially produced kaya spreads off the shelf in grocery mini-marts and supermarkets. If you enjoy kaya with more of a ‘homemade’ taste, you can also buy those produced and sold by specialty bakeries and confectionary shops.
As easy and convenient as it is to buy ready made kaya, I always enjoy making kaya at home as it’s easy and simple. It does take some patience and time to cook since you’ll need to cook the mixture gently using a double boiler.
How to cook this
Like all custards, kaya or coconut jam needs to to be cooked gently. The aim is to get the kaya to a smooth texture without too much curdling. Slight curdling is almost unavoidable with homecooked kaya, but a quick blitz in a food processor or immersion blender will get it all smooth!
Kaya is best cooked using indirect heating like a double boiler or bain marie. Because we’ll need to whisk the kaya mixture regularly as it cooks, a stove-top double boiler is ideal. This method works best so that we can see and gauge the texture of the coconut jam as it cooks. This will help us avoid overcooking the kaya. The aim is to get a cooked, curd-like custard with a smooth texture that isn’t too curdled.
What you’ll need to set up a double boiler
A double boiler is very easy to set up in your kitchen. You will need:
❶ A medium-sized pot which can hold about 3 to 4 litres of water.
❷ A medium-sized heatproof metal or glass mixing bowl which can sit snugly over the rim of the pot.
The base of the mixing bowl should sit inside the pot, above the water level in the pot. The base should not come into contact with the water when the water is gently simmering.
Set the water-filled pot on your stove-top heating element, start at low to medium heat. Bring water to a gentle, continuous simmer. Set the mixing bowl containing the kaya mixture over the pot, and stir the mixture frequently with a whisk as it gently cooks. The kaya will start to thicken, get sticky and curdle as it cooks, so frequent stirring with a whisk will help smoothen the texture. Remember to keep the heat low throughout the cooking time!
Once the kaya is cooked to the consistency of a soft curd or thick paste, it is done. Bear in mind that it will firm up slightly as it cools.
How to get your kaya smooth?
I have cooked coconut jam on many occasions. Yet, in spite of my best efforts, I can sometimes inadvertently end up with an overly curdled or lumpy texture. Now, I don’t know about you, but this really annoys me. I love kaya smooth and glossy – we eat with our eyes after all!
If this happens to you, I’ve got the simplest fix. Give the cooked coconut jam a couple of quick pulses or blitzes in your food blender, or with a handheld immersion blender, until its free of lumps and smooth!
That’s it! Easy peasy!
Ultimately, making your own homemade kaya is ensuring that it has much less preservatives, artificial flavourings, colourings and reduced sugar. So, I do hope you’ll try this and enjoy!
Check out these other pandan and coconut treats you can try:
Homemade Nonya Pandan Kaya (Coconut Jam)
- 5 eggs
- 175 g sugar
- 225 ml coconut milk
- 40 ml pandan juice
To make pandan juice:
- 5 pandan leaves, sliced into 1-cm sections
- 3 tbsp water
- To make pandan juice, blend or pulverize pandan leaves with water in a food processor or blender, until as fine as possible. Strain the mixture, pressing it with the back of a metal spoon, to obtain pandan juice. Measure out 40 ml (leftover juice will keep well in an airtight container for up to 5 days, refrigerated).
- In a mixing bowl, combine eggs and sugar, and whisk by hand until sugar dissolves, about 2 minutes. Add coconut milk and pandan juice, and stir to mix well. Strain the egg-coconut milk mixture into a medium-sized heatproof metal or glass mixing bowl.
- Set up the double boiler. Fill a medium-sized deep pot with about two inches of water. Set the water-filled pot on your stove-top heating element. Bring water to a gentle, continuous simmer over low to medium heat. Set the heatproof mixing bowl containing the kaya mixture over the pot, making sure the base of the mixing bowl does not come into contact with the simmering water.
- Stir the mixture frequently with a whisk as it gently cooks. As the mixture cooks, it will gradually thicken and become sticky. Keep stirring until kaya is at the desired consistency. This may take about 40 mins, depending on how your double-boiler is set up. When it thickens to a soft paste, pour out the kaya, and set aside to cool completely. Note: The kaya will firm up a little more as it cools.
- If a smooth, lump-free texture is desired, pour the cooked kaya into a food processor or blender, and pulse the mixture for a few seconds, or until desired smoothness. Set aside to cool completely. Once cool, store in an air-tight container and refrigerate.