The classic Filipino dessert, the buko pandan, deserves a little love and care to make it right. This creamy no-bake dessert is commonly the dessert you’ll find served at many celebrations, gatherings, and even at restaurants when you order a meal.
What makes the buko pandan so popular? It caters to our inherent love for the coconut and of course, our sweet tooth. Coconut cream ensures it’s extra creamy which is commonly made sweet using sweetened condensed milk, another Filipino favorite ingredient. This sweetened coconut mixture is tossed with coconut strands and two other Filipino favorite ingredients: gulaman and sago.
With such a combination that easy to make, we think the buko pandan deserves to be made with extra care. Here are tips to follow to make your buko pandan dessert that’s irresistible:
1 Make the gulaman and sago first.
The biggest mistake some people make when making the buko pandan dessert is not making the gulaman (gelatin) and the sago (pearls) first. These components do not spoil easily. In fact, it’s best if these were both made ahead of time so any liquid that oozes from the gulaman can be discarded and the sago will be cool before you add either to the rest of the mixture.
Not only that, both the gulaman and the sago need to be cooked first. That means both ingredients also need to be cooled and then chilled before using. You need time so making either of these ahead of time, whether hours ahead, the night before, or even a day or two prior to needing the serve the buko pandan dessert is the best time to make it.
2 Cook the gulaman and the sago right.
Contrary to what some believe, gelatin and gulaman are not the same. The biggest mistake people make is thinking that gulaman does not need to be cooked. It does. In fact, the gelatinizing property of the gulaman is activated by the heat, so bringing the gulaman mixture to a boil, even for a few seconds is enough to get it started. (Powered and flavored gulaman is the easy ingredient to use compared to the gulaman bars for this dessert.)
The sago meanwhile is similar but its difference is that it starts off as a hard little pebble. These hard little pebbles need to soften and to do that quickly, it should be simmered in a lot of water, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, until the sago pearls turn completely transparent or translucent. You can rinse the sago in water until cool then keep the sago submerged in water so it won’t stick together when you set it aside.
Once you have activated the gelling properties and cooled both of these two ingredients, proceed with the rest of the recipe.
3 Use the freshest ingredients.
When making buko pandan, it is best to always start with the freshest ingredients. The coconut cream and the coconut meat all need to be as fresh as possible since these two ingredients are the ones that will spoil the easiest.
If possible, purchase the buko components the day or even a few hours before you need to serve your dessert.
4 Make the coconut cream mixture only.
The sweetened coconut cream is the ingredient that makes the buko pandan come together into a dessert. To make this, it’s as simple as mixing coconut cream and the sweetened condensed milk together according to your taste. It can be as sweet as you like depending on how much of the condensed milk you use. Stir in the coconut meat and then chill this immediately.
This tip may sound basic but the best way to enjoy the buko pandan is when it’s completely chilled. Once you have made prepared the components of the buko pandan dessert (the gulaman, sago, coconut cream, and coconut meat) it’s best to chill everything before combining them together.
5 Mix it together right before serving.
Right before serving is the best time to mix the gulaman and the sago with the coconut cream together. If each has been chilled completely, mixing everything together before serving is easy and will result in the buko pandan that you want to eat by the bowls instead of by the shot glass.
Thinking about what to cook next? Join our Facebook group, Yummy Pinoy Cooking Club, to get more recipe ideas, share your own dishes, and find out what the rest of the community are making and eating!
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