Pandan coconut jelly dessert is my favorite way to beat the heat at the street food markets of Thailand. It's a sweet and refreshing no-bake dessert that's perfect for hot summer days.
This recipe comes together with a blend of creamy coconut milk and fragrant pandan leaves, two staple ingredients in Thai desserts.
Before we dive into the instructions for making this refreshing jelly dessert, let me tell you a bit more about it.
Pandan coconut jelly is a refreshing Thai dessert, blending fragrant pandan leaves with creamy coconut milk. This gelatinous-like delight is a staple in Thai cuisine and a popular item at Asian food markets.
Thai dessert has a fun, jiggly texture that makes it fun to make and eat. I love preparing it with my young niece and nephew – we're the biggest fans of sweet treats!
The top layer has a firm structure that's simply irresistible, packed with rich coconut flavor from coconut milk. Hands down, it's my favorite part of this layered dessert. Sometimes I even whip up a single layer dessert using just coconut.
The bottom layer has a soft, jelly-like consistency and a beautiful green color. It's made up mostly out of water and fragrant pandan leaves.
Both layers get their gelatin structure from agar-agar powder, a common ingredient in the world of jellies, puddings, panna cotta, and mousses.
Agar-agar powder is a staple in many Southeast Asian desserts. This vegan ingredient comes from the red algae, and it's used as an alternative for gelatin. It forms a jelly like structure when combined with boiling water, taking just about 5 minutes to dissolve completely.
Unlike gelatin, it doesn't need to be chilled in the fridge to set, letting it rest at room temperature does the trick.
When agar is used in desserts, it gives them a firmer structure compared to those prepared with gelatin. For this traditional dessert, it's important that the agar-agar is fully dissolved before continuing with the next step in the recipe.
You can check whether the agar powder is dissolved by dipping a spoon into the boiling liquid containing agar. If the spoon still contains traces from agar, then you need to cook for longer. With this tip in mind, you’ll have an easy time cooking with agar-agar.
For the exact measurements, please scroll down to the recipe card at the end of this post.
All ingredients you need to make this pandan coconut jelly dessert can be found at your local Asian market or Asian grocery store.
Fully dissolve agar powder: While cooking, make sure that the agar-agar powder is fully dissolved before continuing with the next step.
Firm pandan layer: Make sure the pandan layer is firm enough before adding the coconut layer on top. If this is your first time making a double layered jelly dessert, you can use a small cup as a "test cup".
Stir agar mixture: Before adding the agar-agar and water mixture to your dessert, give the mixture another quick stir.
Layering: This jelly is often seen with multiple layers. 2, 4 or 6, anything is possible. I suggest starting out with 2 layers if this is your first time making jelly.
Green color: If you use older pandan leaves, you will get a beautiful dark green pandan layer. If your pandan leaves are still young, you can add a drip of green color liquid to make the bottom layer look darker and more visually appealing. You can add green color liquid after blending the pandan leaves. You can also use pandan essence, this will not only enhance the green color, but it will also add more pandan flavor and fragrance.
Use a fine cheese cloth to catch the blended pandan leaves.
Enjoy it immediately after preparation, or enjoy it chilled by letting it rest in the fridge overnight. I like it best when it's cold and refreshing. I'm a big fan of using a round or square baking mold to pour in the layers, and I like to slice the jelly into equally sized pieces right before serving.
This make ahead dessert is perfect for serving after a family dinner, or for simply cooling down on a hot summer's day.
This Thai jelly dessert is best stored in your refrigerator, it will remain fresh and firm for up to 5 days (but I doubt it will last that long).
This recipe makes a delightful double-layered jelly dessert, with a fragrant pandan base topped with a sweet layer of creamy coconut.
Start by thoroughly mixing the agar-agar powder with 1/2 cup water in a small bowl. Afterward, let it rest for 15 minutes.
Cut the pandan leaves into 1-inch sized pieces.
Toss the sliced pandan leaves into a blender, add the remaining water, and roughly blend.
Next, pour the fresh pandan juice into a bowl and use a cheese cloth to catch the blended leaves. The finer your filter, the smoother your pandan layer will be.
Simmer the filtered pandan juice in a wok, skillet, or cooking pot over low to medium heat for 1 minute. Then, add the agar-agar mix from step 1, but first give it another stir.
Cook and stir until the agar-agar powder is completely dissolved, no longer than 5 minutes. The agar has to be fully dissolved before moving on. Dip a spoon and check the back to see if there’s still traces of agar.
Once the agar-agar has dissolved, it’s time to add the sugar. Keep cooking and stirring until the sugar has also dissolved.
Gently pour or scoop the pandan layer into a baking mold, cup, or any bowl you like. Let it rest at room temperature to become firm for about 30 minutes until it firms up.
Next, we can make the coconut layer. Just like in step 1, combine the agar-agar with 1/2 cup water in a bowl and stir. Let it rest for 15 minutes.
Wait 15 minutes and then pour the coconut milk into a pan or skillet and simmer it gently over a low to medium heat. Once the edges start to bubble, add in the agar mix. Let it cook until the agar-agar powder is completely dissolved, no longer than 5 minutes.
Add sugar and salt, cook until the sugar is fully dissolved (2 min) and remove from heat.
Use your finger to check if layer 1 has firmed up. When firm, use a large spoon to gently layer on the creamy coconut mixture.
Let the jelly dessert rest at room temperature for 30 minutes. After that, you can dig in straight away, or pop it into the fridge to enjoy it chilled later.
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily value may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.