How To Make Easy, Old-Fashioned Coconut Cream Pie

published Oct 18, 2020
thanksgiving
How to Make Easy, Old-Fashioned Coconut Cream Pie

A step-by-step recipe for making a classic coconut cream pie.

Serves8 to 12

Makes1 (9-inch) pie

Prep30 minutes

Cook29 minutes to 37 minutes

Jump to Recipe
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Coconut cream pie.
Credit: Photo: Ghazalle Badiozamani | Food Stylist: Jesse Szewczyk

Coconut cream pie has it all: a flaky crust, creamy coconut custard, mountains of whipped cream, and crunchy flakes of toasted coconut. I’ve always had a soft spot for this light-as-air pie, and I honestly feel it doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Can we all agree it’s time to bring back this classic dessert?

This step-by-step recipe will guide you through making an absolutely perfect coconut cream pie. It includes a simple all-butter crust, a creamy coconut filling prepared entirely on the stovetop, and a just-sweet-enough whipped cream topping to pile on top. Serve it with Sunday brunch, as an after-dinner treat, or for no real reason at all. You can’t go wrong with a classic coconut cream pie, and this recipe will help you perfect it.

Credit: Photo: Ghazalle Badiozamani | Food Stylist: Jesse Szewczyk

What’s the Difference Between Coconut Cream Pie and Coconut Custard Pie?

The difference between coconut cream pie and coconut custard pie comes down to how the filling is prepared. Coconut cream pie filling is prepared on the stovetop and poured into a fully baked crust. The pie is then chilled for several hours to allow the filling to set. Coconut custard pie is cooked in the oven. The crust is typically only partially baked; filled with an uncooked mixture of eggs, coconut milk, and sugar (among other ingredients); baked until the filling is set; and then cooled in the fridge.

Both pies have their pros and cons, but the biggest advantage of making a coconut cream pie versus a custard pie is that you don’t have to worry as much about overcooking the filling or that the crust will get soggy during baking. Cream pies also come together a bit more quickly, although you do have to spend some time stirring the filling as it cooks.

Credit: Photo: Ghazalle Badiozamani | Food Stylist: Jesse Szewczyk

How to Make the Creamiest Coconut Filling

One of the biggest issues people run into when making coconut cream pie is a watery filling. This can happen for a variety of reasons, but it’s easy to avoid if you keep these tips in mind.

For starters, make your filling with egg yolks and cornstarch, which both act as thickeners. Next, make sure your filling comes to a full simmer. Cornstarch needs to reach a certain temperature to activate its thickening power, so allow your filling to come to a proper simmer. Once simmering, let the filling cook for a full four minutes. It’s tempting to rush the final few minutes of the cooking process, but those last four minutes are the most important! Set a timer, whisk constantly, and let it thicken. If you follow these three steps, your filling will turn out thick, perfectly set, and not-at-all watery.

Credit: Photo: Ghazalle Badiozamani | Food Stylist: Jesse Szewczyk

3 Tips for the Best Coconut Cream Pie

Before you head into the kitchen, keep these tips in mind.

1. Use full-fat coconut milk. Full-fat coconut milk gives the filling a silky richness and bold coconut flavor. Be sure to avoid reduced-fat options as well as coconut cream, which is a thicker, more syrupy product typically used in mixed drinks.

2. Strain the filling through a fine-mesh sieve after cooking. Straining the mixture removes any lumps of cornstarch or cooked egg that may form during cooking. Use a rubber spatula to press it through the sieve.

3. Chill the filling for at least four hours before serving. Although it’s tempting to slice into the pie right away, the filling will be fairly loose and pudding-like. Chilling it for at least four hours firms it up and gives it a chance to become more custard-like.

Credit: Photo: Ghazalle Badiozamani | Food Stylist: Jesse Szewczyk
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Here's how to make a classic coconut cream pie.

How to Make Easy, Old-Fashioned Coconut Cream Pie

A step-by-step recipe for making a classic coconut cream pie.

Prep time 30 minutes

Cook time 29 minutes to 37 minutes

Makes 1 (9-inch) pie

Serves 8 to 12

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

For the crust:

  • 1 1/2 cups cups

    all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

  • 1 tablespoon

    granulated sugar

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 8 tablespoons

    (1 stick) cold unsalted butter

  • 2 tablespoons

    ice water, plus more as needed

For the filling:

  • 1 1/2 cups

    full-fat coconut milk

  • 1 1/2 cups

    half-and-half

  • 5

    large egg yolks

  • 3/4 cup

    granulated sugar

  • 1/4 cup

    cornstarch

  • 3/4 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 2 teaspoons

    vanilla extract

  • 1 cup

    shredded, sweetened coconut

For the topping:

  • 1/2 cup

    shredded, sweetened coconut

  • 3 cups

    cold heavy cream

  • 1/2 cup

    powdered sugar

  • 2 teaspoons

    vanilla extract

Equipment

  • Measuring cups and spoons

  • Food processor (optional)

  • Stand mixer or electric hand mixer

  • Plastic wrap

  • 9-inch pie plate (not deep dish)

  • Rolling pin

  • Mixing bowls

  • Fine-mesh strainer

  • Rimmed baking sheet

  • Aluminum foil or parchment paper

  • Pie weights or dried beans

  • Cooling rack

  • Medium frying pan

  • Medium saucepan

  • Whisk

Instructions

  1. Heat the oven. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 375°F.

  2. Make the pie dough. Place 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. (Alternatively, use a large bowl and pastry cutter or fork.) Pulse a few times to combine. Cut 1 stick cold unsalted butter into 1/2-inch cubes and scatter over the flour mixture. Pulse until the mixture resembles a coarse meal, about 10 pulses. Add 2 tablespoons ice water and pulse until the dough forms a cohesive mass, 10 to 15 pulses. If the dough is too dry and does not come together, pulse in an additional tablespoon ice water.

  3. Line the pie plate with the dough. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface, gather into one piece, and press into a rough disk. Roll out to a 12-inch wide round using a rolling pin. Transfer the crust to a standard 9-inch pie plate (not deep dish). Press the dough into the plate, then roll the excess dough under itself on the edges of the plate. Crimp the crust with your fingers or a fork.

  4. Blind bake the crust. Place a sheet of aluminum foil or parchment paper onto the crust and fill with pie weights, dry beans, or granulated sugar for blind baking. Bake until golden-brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Using the parchment paper as a sling, remove the pie weights and let the crust cool while you prepare the filling.

  5. Make the filling. Place 1 1/2 cups full-fat coconut milk, 1 1/2 cups half-and-half, 5 large egg yolks, 3/4 cup granulated sugar, 1/4 cup cornstarch, 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract in a medium saucepan and whisk until no streaks of yolk remain and sugar is completely dissolved. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until simmering, 7 to 9 minutes. Simmer, whisking constantly, until thickened, about 4 minutes.

  6. Strain and chill the filling. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer set over a large bowl. Add 1 cup shredded, sweetened coconut and stir to combine. Pour into the pie shell. Cover the top with plastic wrap, gently pressing it against the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until chilled, at least 4 hours and up to overnight. Meanwhile, toast the coconut for the topping.

  7. Toast the coconut. Place 1/2 cup shredded, sweetened coconut in a medium frying pan and toast over medium heat, stirring frequently, until light golden-brown and very fragrant, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.

  8. Make the topping. When ready to serve, place 3 cups cold heavy cream, 1/2 cup powdered sugar, and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. (Alternatively, use an electric hand mixer and large bowl.) Whip on low speed until the mixture begins to thicken, about 1 minute. Increase the speed to medium-high and whip until soft peaks form.

  9. Assemble the pie. Uncover the pie. Add the whipped cream to the center of the pie and use a spoon to push it to cover the filling from edge to edge. Sprinkle with the toasted coconut and serve immediately.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The crust can be filled up to 1 day in advance. The coconut can be toasted up to 1 day ahead and stored in an airtight container at room temperature. Top with the whipped cream and coconut before serving.

Storage: Leftover pie can be loosely wrapped in plastic wrap and refrigerated up to 3 days.