Buko Pandan

published Jan 28, 2023
Buko Pandan Recipe

Originating from the Phillipines, buko pandan is a refreshing fruit salad composed mainly of young coconut chunks, pandan-flavored jelly, and sweetened table cream. It's a true textural delight.

Serves5 to 6

Makesabout 7 1/2 cups

Prep10 minutes to 15 minutes

Cook10 minutes

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Photo of buko pandan in a glass, spoon sitting on the counter next to it
Credit: Photo: Andrew Bui; Food Styling: Rebecca Jurkevich

My Filipino family has always loved eating and sharing cold desserts. Ever since I was a kid melting away in hot California summers, I’ve always looked in the refrigerator for a reprieve from the sweltering heat. While desserts like halo-halo and even avocado con yelo (avocados mixed with ice, evaporated milk, and condensed milk) are time-tested favorites, I sometimes preferred the ready-to-serve kind that didn’t require a shaved ice maker. That must be why I gravitated towards buko pandan at every family party. There was always a large bowl of it in the fridge meant to be taken out and easily ladled into red Solo cups. And each bright-green spoonful was a textural delight with distinctly chewy, sweet, and creamy components. 

Key Ingredients in Buko Pandan

Buko pandan is a fruit salad that originates from the Bohol province in the Philippines. It is made up mainly of young coconut chunks, pandan-flavored jelly, and sweetened table cream and tastes like a creamy, coconut-y fruit salad with sweet jellies. 

  • Buko, or young coconut, although very delicious fresh, can be difficult to find in stores (not to mention open without a giant cleaver). I opt for canned meat in this recipe for the sake of convenience.
  • Pandan, or screwpine leaf, gives the jelly an earthy vanilla flavor.
  • Gulaman, also known as agar-agar, can come in powdered or bar form. It’s a traditional ingredient in the jelly. (The word gulaman can refer to the jelly dessert itself too!) Gulaman is a seaweed-based alternative to gelatin. I prefer powdered agar-agar because it takes extra time to soak and dissolve the bar versions.
  • Table cream is a rich type of canned cream with 18 to 30% percent milk fat. Mixed with sweetened condensed milk, it coats all of the jellies in a thick, velvety sauce. 
  • Nata de coco is coconut gel, which are translucent, sweet, and chewy cubes made from fermenting coconut water.
  • Kaong are sugar palm fruit that are oval-like and also chewy. Besides the white variety, you can find them in different colors like red and green. Both nata de coco and kaong are commonly found in Filipino grocery stores stored in jars filled with syrup. 
Credit: Photo: Andrew Bui; Food Styling: Rebecca Jurkevich

How to Make Pandan Jelly for Buko Pandan

To make the pandan jelly (or the gualaman), combine a pandan leaf tied into a knot, coconut water, sugar, and agar-agar powder in a small saucepan. Let it come to a boil, cook for a couple more minutes, then pour into a prepared 8×8-inch dish. Once it’s cooled and set in the fridge, you can take it out and cut it into your desired shapes.

Once you’ve made the gulaman, cut it up, and added it to the mixture of table cream and condensed milk, buko pandan comes together in the blink of an eye.  All you have to do is drain the canned ingredients of their syrup, mix them in, and then stir. The hardest part is really just waiting for the salad to chill in the fridge.

Buko Pandan Recipe

Originating from the Phillipines, buko pandan is a refreshing fruit salad composed mainly of young coconut chunks, pandan-flavored jelly, and sweetened table cream. It's a true textural delight.

Prep time 10 minutes to 15 minutes

Cook time 10 minutes

Makes about 7 1/2 cups

Serves 5 to 6

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Let 1 frozen pandan leaf sit at room temperature until thawed, then tie into a knot.

  2. Coat an 8x8-inch square metal pan with cooking spray. Line it with parchment paper along the bottom and over two opposite sides to create a sling. Gently wipe off any excess spray on the sides of the pan with a paper towel. (Alternatively, use a glass or ceramic 8x8-inch square pan, no need to coat with cooking spray or line with parchment.)

  3. Make the gulaman (jelly): Place the pandan knot, 1 1/2 cups coconut water, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, and 1 teaspoon agar-agar powder in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently with a heatproof spatula, until the mixture starts to boil and the agar-agar and sugar are dissolved 5 to 6 minutes. Continue to boil for 2 minutes more. Add 1 to 2 drops of green gel food coloring and stir to combine. Remove the saucepan from the heat. Discard the pandan leaf.

  4. Immediately pour the mixture into the pan. Place the pan on a wire rack and let cool to room temperature, about 20 minutes.

  5. Refrigerate uncovered until completely chilled, about 1 hour. Grasping the excess parchment paper, pull the gulaman slab out of the pan and place on a cutting board. Cut into flower shapes with a 1-inch flower cookie cutter or into 1/2-inch squares. (If you used a glass pan, just cut directly in the pan.)

  6. Place 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk, 1 (7.6-ounce) can table cream or 1 cup light cream, 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pandan extract in a large bowl and whisk until smooth. (If your extract is not green, you can add a few drops green gel food coloring to this mixture if you would like it to be green.) Add the gulaman and stir to combine.

  7. Place a large colander set in the sink. Pour the contents of 1 (12-ounce) jar nata de coco in syrup, 1 (12-ounce) jar kaong in syrup, and 1 (20-ounce) can young coconut meat in syrup into the colander to drain. Cut the young coconut meat into bite-sized pieces with kitchen shears.

  8. Transfer the contents of the colander to the bowl with the gulaman. Gently fold together with a flexible spatula until combined. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Serve cold.

    Recipe Notes

    Pandan leaf substitution: An additional 1/4 cup pandan extract can be added to the condensed milk mixture if you can’t find frozen pandan leaves.

    Storage: Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 3 days.