Buko Pandan Salad is made with gulaman cubes, tropical palm fruits, and shredded young coconut in sweetened cream. Rich, creamy, and loaded with pandan flavor, this Filipino classic dessert is sure to be a crowd favorite.
I first posted this recipe in May 2013, but I'm updating it today with new photos, tips, and video to give it better justice. Something so delicious and popular in our cuisine should be showcased as best as possible, and I hope you find all the information helpful.
What is Buko Pandan
Buko Pandan is a Filipino cold dessert made of jelly cubes, young coconut, and sweetened cream infused with pandan or screwpine flavor. Although the above three are the standard ingredients, tapioca pearls or sago, kaong, and nata de coco are also commonly added.
This tropical salad is usually enjoyed as a midday snack or after-meal sweet treat and is often made for holiday parties and other special occasions.
I learned how to make this Filipino dessert on one of my yearly trips to the Philippines. There is a popular restaurant in Tarlac specializing in merienda, and I was so smitten with their buko pandan salad that I would pass by the place every day of my three-week vacation to buy a large container to-go.
Imagine my delight when one of my aunts claimed she makes the best buko pandan salad and that for a little bit more than what I pay for the small tub at the restaurant, I could have a bucketful in the refrigerator good to enjoy for a few days. And she sure wasn't lying. It was the best I've ever tasted!
Her secret? The agar-agar or gulaman is cooked in coconut juice instead of water.
Making the gulaman
Buko pandan salad is so easy to make; the hardest part of the recipe, really, is waiting for the gulaman to set!
- I use agar-agar bars or locally known as gulaman. Although they require pre-soaking and longer cook time, they yield a firmer texture and need no refrigeration to set. You can substitute gelatin powder like Knox or Alsa and prepare according to package directions.
- Finely shred the gulaman bars and soak them until very soft so they'll dissolve faster.
- Soak the agar-agar in coconut juice and infuse it with a few drops of pandan extract to heighten flavor and aroma.
- If using fresh screwpine or pandan leaves, tie a few strips into a knot and add when boiling the agar. Remove and discard when enough flavor and color are extracted.
- Use young coconut that is meaty but still soft and tender. If you're in the Philippines, ask the vendor for "pang buko salad".
- Once all the ingredients are combined in a bowl, I like to perfume the mixture and deepen the green color with additional drops of pandan extract. This is optional and you skip it depending on your taste.
- If you find the cream too thick, adjust the consistency with coconut juice.
For best results, enjoy buko pandan well-chilled. Refrigerate for a few hours or overnight before serving. You can also freeze it if you want an icy texture.
Place in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw when ready to serve.
- 2 bars (.70 ounce) green agar-agar, shredded to very small pieces
- 3 cups coconut juice
- 1 cup sugar
- 4 drops pandan extract
- 2 cups shredded young coconut
- 1 bottle (12 ounces) Nata de coco, drained
- 1 bottle (12 ounces) Kaong, drained
- 1 can (14 ounces) table cream
- 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
- In a pot, combine agar-agar and coconut juice and soak for about 30 minutes.
- Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook, stirring regularly, until agar-agar is melted.
- Add sugar and stir to dissolve. Continue to cook for about 10 to 15 minutes or until agar-agar is completely dissolved.
- Add 2 drops of pandan extract and stir to combine.
- Remove from heat and carefully pour into a flat dish. Allow to cool until gulaman is set and hardened. Cut into ½-inch cubes.
- In a large bowl, combine gulaman, young shredded coconut, nata de coco, kaong, table cream, and condensed milk.
- Add about 2 to 3 drops pandan extract and stir to distribute flavor and color. Chill for about 1 to 2 hours. Serve cold.
“This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. Nutrition data is gathered primarily from the USDA Food Composition Database, whenever available, or otherwise other online calculators.”