~15 minute kaya recipe

Posted on April 13, 2014


The last recipe left me with 4 egg yolks to find a use for, and what better than to make some kaya? If you need to ask what kaya is; you have been deprived a great treasure. Commiserations. Kaya is a South East Asian condiment that is widely referred to as a ‘coconut jam’. However if you think about it technically; it’s actually more like a coconut custard, since it is essentially a custard recipe except you replace the diary component with a coconut version. You’ll see what I mean when you get to the recipe.


Technicality aside, the use of kaya is probably more akin to the jam. In fact, kaya on toast probably the best known way of having kaya. Kaya and a small slab of butter on crustless toast with a soy sauce seasoned soft poached egg on the side is a much loved breakfast item across a number of South East Asian countries. Outside of breakfast, kaya is also used as a filling for many sweets and snacks. It is basically as versatile as any other jam or custard.


The 4 key ingredients are constant for any kaya recipe, but there are a number of variants on ratio of ingredients and preparation method. The most common recipes will use whole eggs and require the cooking of kaya over a water bath for at least an hour. Being rather on the lazy side of things, I tracked down a brilliant recipe that conjures up kaya in about 10-15 minutes using only egg yolks. Usually I prefer recipes using whole eggs rather than needing to deal with stray whites/yolks, but in this case the time and effort saved is worth having to deal with leftover whites!


This brilliant recipe is courtesy of the Kitchen Tigress. Her excellent blog post even goes on to explain why her recipe is able to save you so much time; it’s worth a read if you really want to understand the cooking science behind kaya. Unfortunately not living in SE Asia, short from milking my own coconut, I have yet to track down readily available fresh coconut milk in Melbourne. Finding fresh pandan leaves can also be a bit of a hit and miss. In Melbourne fresh pandan leaves can be found at some Asian markets (I get mine from Footscray Market and/or Saigon Market also in Footscray), but if you cannot find the fresh version just double the amount of frozen pandan leaves (found in the freezer of most Asian grocers). Obviously if fresh coconut milk and pandan leaves are available to you, use them as your first port of call. One little tweak I did make to her recipe is to add a little bit of salt. I’m sure this will make kaya purists shake their heads in disapproval, but my reason is that the salt helps bring out some of the nutty notes from the packaged coconut milk. Since packaged things tend to have a duller flavour, I believe the salt brings back some life to the coconut. Feel free to omit it if using fresh coconut milk or if you just think I’m just talking crazy! Also, when using palm sugar for this recipe, try to use Malaysian palm sugar or gula melaka which is darker in colour than Thai style palm sugar.

A final note about the Kitchen Tigress’ original recipe is that she specifies the use of “undiluted fresh coconut milk”. I have previously talked about how coconut milk and coconut cream can mean different things. It is much more meaningful to check the percentage of coconut in the package than whether it is labelled as ‘coconut milk’ or ‘coconut cream’ because the amount of coconut extract in packaged coconut milk/cream varies greatly between brands. Given that her recipe specifically refers to undiluted coconut milk, it’s pretty safe to assume it means to go for something that consists of 100% coconut extract with no water added. In Australia 100% coconut extract usually refers to coconut cream, but like I said it doesn’t matter if it’s called milk or cream, as long as has no added water. And I can attest to the fact that if you use coconut milk/cream with water added, the kaya will not be the right consistency; it will be too thin.

RECIPE – Kaya (yields ~250mL)

Original recipe from the Kitchen Tigress


  • 200mL undiluted coconut milk (if using packaged coconut milk/cream, check to ensure it is 100% coconut extract)
  • 45g palm sugar (gula melaka)
  • 45g white sugar
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 4 fresh pandan leaves knotted (8 if using frozen variety)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (optional)


  1. In a small saucepan, place coconut milk, sugars, pandan leaves and pinch of salt on low to medium heat to dissolve sugars and the mixture is starting to simmer gently. Remove from heat.IMG_8491
  2. In a small bowl, lightly beat egg yolks with a small whisk (or wooden chopsticks) and continue stir yolks as you pour the coconut milk mixture into the yolks.
  3. Return yolk and coconut milk mixture back into the saucepan and place on low to medium heat.
  4. Continuously stir the mixture until it thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. When ready, it should be thick enough for you to draw a clean line on the back of your spoon/spatula (see photo below). Remove from heat and allow to cool completely.IMG_8493
  5. Remove and discard pandan leaves, squeezing out any kaya from the leaves. Transfer kaya into a jar or airtight container. Kaya should keep in the fridge for up to a week or so. (I don’t know about the actual longevity of kaya since I clean out my jars rather quickly, so one week might be erring on the side of caution. But if in doubt, just trust your nose.)


The recipe produces a beautifully rich and smooth kaya. Serve with toast or use your kaya in any sweets/snacks/desserts as desired. But I’m going to share a secret indulgence of mine…I like kaya the way I like Nutella, spooned straight out of the jar…

Posted in: MissC cooks, Sweets