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Khanom Tom Recipe (Thai Coconut Balls Dessert)

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This khanom tom recipe is deliciously sweet, coconutty, and a whole lot of fun! My Thai coconut balls dessert is no bake and totally doable for every home cook, plus it’s perfect to get those little hands involved too.

Khanom tom - Thai coconut balls served in a blue and white bowl on a banana leaf. In the distance are more colorful coconut balls, served in coconut shells.

Love the creamy goodness of coconut milk? Try these easy bananas in coconut milk next.

What is khanom tom

Khanom tom is a traditional Thai dessert known for its sweet coconut taste. It’s a boiled rice flour treat made from coconut meat, palm sugar, salt, coconut milk, and glutinous rice flour, often enjoyed during festivities.

Thai coconut balls dessert

These vegan coconut balls? Absolutely THE BEST traditional Thai dessert. They’re a tradition, a culture, and yes, they’re super delicious too!

Close-up of blue khanom tom, topped with shredded coconut.

They’re perfect to make ahead for your next gathering, just boil them when it’s party time.

This recipe for easy, no-bake coconut balls with coconut milk is total perfection. It’s a gift from my grandma’s neighbor, along with three fresh brown coconuts right off their tree.

Word of my Thai food blog is slowly spreading in my rural village, and people are more than happy to share their recipes with you!

Three coconut shells, each containing a different color of Thai coconut balls.

The lovely lady who shared this recipe with me often whips up khanom tom for the monks during festive times, and everyone loves ’em.

They’re exploding with coconut flavor and perfect for those sweet cravings, and the kids go crazy over them too!

Hungry for more? Browse through my collection of Thai dessert recipes.

5 Reasons to try this coconut dessert recipe

  • The perfect party treat. They’re not just for dessert, you can also serve them as a snack at your next party, and they’re perfect for Christmas too.
  • Fun and easy-to-make. You’ll have a blast making them with the kids. No chef hat required, this recipe is doable for every home cook.
  • A taste of Thai culture. Thai coconut balls are rich in tradition. They’re also a fun way to introduce your guests to Southeast Asian cuisine.
  • Unique and addictive. Khanom tom are the definition of cozy comfort food. Just the right sweet, the perfect texture, and so irresistible.
  • Crowd-pleaser. Kids are fans, vegans are fans, I’m a fan, you’ll be a fan! Everyone loves Thai-style coconut balls.
Top-down view of vegan coconut balls served in a blue and white bowl.

Ingredients

Ingredients can be sourced at Asian grocery stores and Asian markets.
The exact measurements are in the recipe card at the end of this post.

Coconut filling

Bird's eye view of coconut filling ingredients; palm sugar, grated coconut, coconut water, and salt.
  • Grated coconut flesh – You’ll need some brown husk coconuts that are not too young, not too old. If you end up with an old coconut, the meat will be tough, in this case shred it super finely. In Thailand, we use these to make homemade coconut milk. If you can’t find a middle-aged coconut, you can use young ones. Skip the preshredded stuff. I searched for husk coconuts at Amazon, but the reviews aren’t good, so I suggest getting them at your local Asian grocery store.
  • Fresh coconut water
  • Palm sugar – Palm sugar is a caramel-infused sweetener, derived from the sap of palm trees.
  • Salt
Bird's eye view of dough ingredients; butterfly pea extract, coconut milk, glutinous rice flour, coconut water, and pandan extract.

White dough

  • Glutinous rice flour – This is what gives the balls their soft, chewy texture.
  • Coconut milk – Use full-fat coconut milk for a rich flavor.

Green dough

  • Glutinous rice flour
  • Pandan leaves
  • Coconut milk
  • Water

Purple dough

  • Glutinous rice flour
  • Coconut milk
  • Butterfly pea flowers – You can use fresh flowers or dried ones. Leftover flowers can be used in my Thai purple sticky rice.
  • Lime juice
  • Water

Topping

Top-down view of shredded coconut and salt for topping.
  • Grated coconut flesh
  • Salt

Cooking instructions

Prepare the coconut filling

Instructions for cooking the coconut filling.

1. Finely shred the coconut flesh.

2. Place a wok or skillet over medium heat and combine coconut water, palm sugar, and salt. Cook until the mixture begins to bubble and thicken.

3. Stir in the shredded coconut and continue to cook. Once bubbles surface, prolong the cooking until the mixture becomes sticky in texture.

4. Add shredded coconut.

5. Continue to cook and stir the mixture until the liquid is fully absorbed, ensuring it does not dry out completely.

6. Once done, transfer the mixture to a baking dish and allow it to cool down.

Prepare the dough

Coconut balls dough prepared in a clear bowl.

1&2. Prepare the white dough by combining glutinous rice flour and coconut milk in a large mixing bowl, kneading the mixture until a dough forms.

3. For the green dough, blend pandan leaves with water and strain the mixture through a sieve cloth to remove impurities and extract the pandan juice. In a mixing bowl, combine 2 tablespoons of the pandan extract, coconut milk, and glutinous rice flour, kneading them together to form a dough.

4. Set a pot on medium heat and add water along with butterfly pea flowers. The water will turn blue; once it does, introduce fresh lime juice until the liquid changes to purple. In a mixing bowl, combine 2 tablespoons of this purple liquid, coconut milk, and glutinous rice flour, kneading them together to form a dough.

Shape the coconut balls

Instructions for making coconut balls.

1. Shape the filling into small balls.

2. Pinch off a piece of dough and form it into a ball, then flatten it out.

3. Place the ball-shaped filling at the center of the flattened dough.

4. Fold the dough around the ball, sealing it.

Boil the coconut balls

Instructions for boiling the coconut balls.

1. Fill a pot or a wok with water and place it over high heat.

2. Gently lower the coconut balls into the boiling water. Once they float to the surface, cook for 5 more minutes.

Top with shredded coconut

Instructions for topping the Thai coconut balls with shredded coconut.

1. Mix salt with shredded coconut to prepare the filling.

2. Spread some of the coconut filling on a tray. As soon as the coconut balls finish cooking, place them over the filling, making sure each ball is topped with the shredded coconut.

Kitchen tools

  • Measuring spoons and cups
  • Small saucepan: For making the coconut filling.
  • Coconut grater
  • Mixing bowls
  • Cheesecloth: Ideal for extracting the juice from pandan leaves and butterfly pea flowers.
  • Pot

Tips for the best rice flour dumplings

  • Use fresh ingredients. If you can, use fresh brown husk coconuts, and fresh coconut water.
  • Adjust the sweetness. If you’re a real sweet tooth, you can add some more palm sugar.
  • Use food coloring. You can alternatively use food coloring if fresh pandan and butterfly pea flowers are not available.
  • Adjust the colors. Use more or less pandan extract, or more or less butterfly pea flowers & lime juice to alter the green and purple color. You don’t have to use different colors, you can just stick to one if that’s what you prefer.

How to serve

Khanom tom are perfect just the way they are, but add some toppings if you’re feeling it.

  • Give them a melted chocolate coating.
  • Condensed milk
  • Chocolate chips
  • Coconut flakes
  • Cocoa powder
  • Crushed nuts

Serve in a coconut shell for that extra exotic feeling.

How to store and reheat

Khanom tom is best enjoyed fresh, but they can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to one day. You can also keep them for several days in the fridge, but they will harden over time.

Did you know?

  • “Khanom” means snack or dessert in Thai, and “tom” refers to the boiling process.
  • Kanom tom is traditionally prepared during Thai festivals and special occasions.
  • You can add different extracts for different colors, like vanilla extract, coconut extract, and almond extract.

Frequently asked questions

Can I use shredded coconut from a packet instead of fresh coconut?

No, shredded coconut from a packet is dried (heng) and it cannot be used to make this dessert recipe.

Can I freeze khanom tom?

After shaping the balls, you can freeze them and boil later.

Is this recipe gluten-free?

Yes, glutinous rice flour does not contain gluten.

More Thai dessert recipes you’ll love

If you loved reading this khanom tom recipe, please make my day by dropping a star rating and/or a comment below!

Khanom Tom Recipe (Thai Coconut Balls Dessert)

Khanom tom - Thai coconut balls served in a blue and white bowl on a banana leaf. In the distance are more colorful coconut balls, served in coconut shells.
This khanom tom recipe is traditional, fun to make, and super delicious. Make it with the kids and you'll have a blast.
Praew
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Cuisine Thai
Course Dessert
Serving Size 40

Ingredients

FOR THE COCONUT FILLING

  • 12.3 ounces grated coconut meat
  • 8.8 ounces palm sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup coconut water

FOR WHITE COLOR

  • 3.5 ounces glutinous rice flour
  • 1/3 cup coconut water

FOR GREEN COLOR

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 5 pandan leaves
  • 3.5 ounces glutinous rice flour
  • 1/3 cup coconut milk

FOR PURPLE COLOR

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 5 butterfly pea flowers
  • 1/2 lime
  • 3.5 ounces glutinous rice flour
  • 1/3 cup coconut milk

TOPPING

  • 7 ounces grated coconut meat
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Instructions

PREPARE THE COCONUT FILLING

  • Finely shred the coconut flesh.
  • Place a wok or skillet over medium heat and combine coconut water, palm sugar, and salt. Cook until the mixture begins to bubble and thicken.
  • Stir in the shredded coconut and continue to cook. Once bubbles surface, prolong the cooking until the mixture becomes sticky in texture.
  • Add shredded coconut.
  • Continue to cook and stir the mixture until the liquid is fully absorbed, ensuring it does not dry out completely.
  • Once done, transfer the mixture to a baking dish and allow it to cool down.

PREPARE THE DOUGH

  • Prepare the white dough by combining glutinous rice flour and coconut milk in a large mixing bowl, kneading the mixture until a dough forms.
  • For the green dough, blend pandan leaves with water and strain the mixture through a sieve cloth to remove impurities and extract the pandan juice. In a mixing bowl, combine 2 tablespoons of the pandan extract, coconut milk, and glutinous rice flour, kneading them together to form a dough.
  • Set a pot on medium heat and add water along with butterfly pea flowers. The water will turn blue; once it does, introduce fresh lime juice until the liquid changes to purple. In a mixing bowl, combine 2 tablespoons of this purple liquid, coconut milk, and glutinous rice flour, kneading them together to form a dough.

SHAPE THE COCONUT BALLS

  • Shape the filling into small balls.
  • Pinch off a piece of dough and form it into a ball, then flatten it out.
  • Place the ball-shaped filling at the center of the flattened dough.
  • Fold the dough around the ball, sealing it.

BOIL THE COCONUT BALLS

  • Fill a pot or a wok with water and place it over high heat.
  • Gently lower the coconut balls into the boiling water. Once they float to the surface, cook for 5 more minutes.

TOP WITH SHREDDED COCONUT

  • Mix salt with shredded coconut to prepare the filling.
  • Spread some of the coconut filling on a tray. As soon as the coconut balls finish cooking, place them over the filling, making sure each ball is topped with the shredded coconut.

Notes

  • Use the nutrition card in this recipe as a guideline.
  • This recipe is gluten-free and vegan.
  • Use more or less pandan extract, or more or less butterfly pea flowers & lime juice to alter the green and purple color.

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