Recipe for Buko Pandan Salad

Young Coconut and Pandan Dessert Salad
recipe for buko pandan

This recipe for Buko Pandan Salad is a creamy, milky, refreshing dessert made from young coconut and pandan- infused gulaman and is a certified crowd pleaser!

buko pandan filipino

Buko Pandan Salad is a version of fruit salad that is so much a part of Filipino celebrations. Just like the Leche Flan, it is almost always present on the table if food is part of the agenda. And food is ALWAYS part of the plan (or sometimes it is the plan! :))

As Filipino celebrations are usually buffet, I go straight to the dessert table. I don’t want to run out of tummy space for the food I enjoy more.

Buko Pandan actually evolved from Buko Salad. Infusing Gulaman or Gelatin or Jelly with Pandan leaves became a big thing in the nineties or early 2000’s I think. Then people started doing Buko Salad with Pandan Gulaman which gave birth to Buko Pandan Salad.

buko pandan salad

Creamy Buko Pandan Recipe

buko pandan salad recipe

It is a creamy sweet dessert of shredded fresh young coconut in sweetened condensed milk with cream. Some would just add sago and pandan gulaman to the young coconut in their recipe for Buko Pandan. While other recipes also add Nata de Coco (Coconut Jelly) and Kaong (Sugar Palm Fruit) as well. I have been to to other celebrations where they also add Fruit Cocktail to their Buko Salad – that I feel becomes a fruit salad then.

The beauty of making a dessert salad recipe is its versatility. You can decide what you want to put in yours depending on personal taste and preference. It may not even be a buko salad or a fruit salad. It could be a cross or a hybrid. I have seen many people do that. The important thing is – that it is sweet and creamy.

Recipe for Buko Pandan Salad

This recipe for Buko Pandan has Sago, Pandan Gulaman, Nata de Coco, Kaong (Sugar Palm Fruit) and of course, shredded Buko or Fresh Young Coconut. The vital ingredients are the cream and sweetened condensed milk mixture that tie together this refreshing, milky, creamy sweet dessert salad.

Buko Pandan Ingredients

buko pandan ingredients
Buko

Fresh young coconut is popular in the Philippines as Buko. The flesh of the young coconut is soft enough to be grated so often they are available as such. As this is a recipe of Buko Pandan salad, you can’t omit nor substitute this one out. You have to call it a different name if you won’t have fresh young coconut in your buko salad.

Pandan Gulaman

I used the word Gulaman instead of gelatin or jelly/jell-o. It is really gulaman that I want to use for this recipe of buko pandan. The main difference is that gulaman or agar-agar is from seaweed. While gelatin is collagen from animal skins and bones. However, my choice is due to the firmer texture of gulaman.

Gelatin is softer and could disintegrate when you mix in the salad. Personally, the firm texture of gulaman is a perfect for this recipe. Having said that, other recipes like Cathedral Window Gelatin may call for the softer jelly.

How to make pandan gulaman is included in this recipe. It is flavoured with buko juice and infused with pandan leaves (or pandan extract). Some recipes will actually just have grated buko or fresh young coconut and pandan gulaman. If you want to go that route, that is totally fine. Fillipinos just love to add other “salad dessert” ingredients to this recipe. After all it is a salad and the different colours, textures and flavours make it more festive.

As I mentioned above, this salad has evolved from Buko salad. If don’t want to do the pandan-infused gulaman, it is totally fine. Then what you are doing is the Buko Salad that I know from my childhood.

Sago or Tapioca Pearls

If some opts for just buko and pandan gulaman on their recipe for buko salad; some people just add sago instead. Me thinks, it is the middle ground; a compromise. Sago adds an extra layer of texture, both visual and tactile.

There are two types of sago. One type is the starch from various tropical palm trees. Although the most common is from the pith from Metroxylon sagu, thus the name Sago. Another type is from Tapioca starch. This is often what you can find in Asian stores labeled as Sago or Tapioca pearls. The bubble tea revolution made them famous and because of it, they are even available in different colours.

Either type, Sago is translucent and pearl shaped. They are spongy and neutral-tasting as they are made of starch. If you live in an area where you find them ready to use, then you are in luck. You can skip a step – the cooking of the sago. The process is included in this recipe for the traditional sago type (see picture under prep). There are other types and brands of sago that take the pain out of preparation. Thus, always check the cooking instructions for the pack that you grab.

buko pandan salad ingredients
Nata de Coco

Loosely translated as Coco Gel, it is a popular ingredient in Halo-Halo. It could be found in other sweet recipes or drinks as well, like salads, puddings and fruit cocktail. Nata de Coco is chewy and translucent like Sago. Fermenting coconut water produces this gel or cellulose. Then they are sweetened during preparations as they are mostly for sweet desserts or drinks.

They are available in Asian or Filipino stores and even local grocery stores that carry Asian items. They also come in red and green colours, aside from the colourless. Again they are for lively sweet desserts especially during Christmas (can you tell with the choice of colours, LOL).

The colours bleed though so I always try to wash off the syrup and the surface colour. My brother’s additional tip is to let them “dry” out a bit. If you are not concerned with your salad having red and green colours bleeding everywhere, that is fine. But if you are serving to guests, you might want to remember this tip.

Kaong

The fruit of the sugar palm tree, it looks like a jelly bean. Kaong is primarily used for Halo-Halo. However, because it is candied or sweetened, it is also found in other dessert recipes like this one. You can find it in Asian restaurants or in Asian aisles if your favorite grocery has one. If you don’t have one or you can’t find any, don’t bother.

Your buko pandan salad will still be amazing without it. My biases are showing, LOL. I don’t have much love for Kaong. But because it has a different texture from Nata de Coco, Gulaman and even Sago, it is a necessary evil, LOL. It brings an additional layer of texture (and even flavour) so why not? Let Kaong join the partey!

Sweetened Condensed Milk

It is a dessert so of course it is sweet. Just like Fruit Salad, another salad dessert. Sweetened condensed milk is both to make the recipe sweet, as well as for that milky caramel flavour.

Condensed milk is usually sweetened (I still have to find one that isn’t). It is available in groceries (not just in Asian stores or Asian aisles). You can substitute with evaporated milk and sugar but it will end up more watery. Plus condensed milk has that caramel flavour – something that makes your recipe level up in flavour.

Another option is to boil 12 oz evaporated milk. Add 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar. Stir constantly until all the sugar dissolves and the mixture thickens up. Cool it down and use in your salad. That is an extra step you probably can do without. Just go buy a can of sweetened condensed milk next time you are in the grocery.

buko salad ingredients
Heavy Cream or Table Cream

My household didn’t put cream in our recipe for Buko Pandan (or even in plain Buko Salad). I tried to think of the reason why but I can’t think of any. We put cream in our fruit salad so why not in Buko salad. I like it both ways I guess. Although if you want to skip cream, it will still be soooo good.

Then there is another thing I will throw out there which I did for this recipe for Buko Pandan salad. I didn’t go and buy table cream or all purpose cream. Instead, I used heavy or whipping cream. I then beat it by hand for a minute or two until it was almost as thick as table cream. (We usually use Nestle brand. Some table cream are thinner in consistency though).

You don’t need to do it but I like the thicker consistency of the condensed milk and cream mixture.

How to make this Buko Pandan Salad

Preparing Sago

If you are using pre-prepared sago, then move on to the next step.

sago

If you are using the semi or half-cooked ones which is ready in 3 minutes, then follow the package instructions.

Then finally if you are doing this kind of sago, then this is the step for you:

Boil 3 liters of water. (For future reference, always use a minimum of 1:6 ration meaning, if you are doing 1 cup uncooked sago then boil 6 cups of water. The sago hydrates so you need to “feed” it with water).

When the water is boiling, add in the uncooked sago and let it boil for a minute or two in medium heat.

Turn off heat (or better yet, remove from heat as some stove has retained heat). Cover the pot and allow the heat inside the pot to work on cooking the sago.

After 10 minutes, bring to a boil again and let it boil for 1 minute. Stir while it boils to prevent the sago pearls from clumping. Take it off the heat and cover the pot for another 10 minutes. Do this cycle until the sago comes out translucent until the center.

I actually had to do it ten times (for the regular size). By about the 2nd or the 3rd, you will notice that the outer part of the sago will turn translucent while the inner part remain white (if you are doing white or colorless sago). With the smaller sago (refer to the picture above), I did the cycle 6 times.

Skye Tip: This type of sago is actually very precise with cooking instructions. It needs to slowly hydrate to be able to keep its shape. I tried to just boil it in water for my trial and error. They ended up clinging to each other that what I had was this big lump of spheres attached to each other like fish eggs.

When the entire sago pearls turned translucent, pour into a sieve and run cold water through it for about a minute. This will stop the hydrating process. Think of them like pasta as they are the same as pasta – dehydrated starch. This will also help separate the clumps that may have started forming.

Wait for the water to drain completely (until almost all the liquid has dripped through) and set aside.

condensed milk and cream

Preparing Pandan Gulaman

Following package instructions, prepare gulaman crystals for 500 mL of liquid. Skye-Tip: Instead of using water, use buko or young coconut water.

If using unsweetened agar-agar, add 1/3 cup granulated sugar. Add in the pandan extract and stir ensuring that all the gulaman and sugar crystals have completely dissolved.

Bring to a boil with constant stirring. Once it boils, pour into a square or rectangular container. Allow to set, either at room temperature or inside the fridge.

Unmold the Pandan gulaman and cut into desired sizes.

Putting together Buko Pandan Salad

Cook Sago (if applicable).

Cook gulaman and cut into preferred size (and shape) :).

Wash and drain both the Kaong and Nata de Coco. Pour the entire bottle on a sieve. Run water through to wash out the taste of the syrup (until all the colour has run off if you are using coloured ones). Let sit for a few minutes until all the liquid is gone.

If you are using frozen shredded Buko, drain all the coconut juice that comes with it by putting it in a sieve. Run water for a few seconds and allow to drain until all the liquid has dripped through.  Skye Tip: Don’t let the buko stand at room temperature for a long time. The coconut oil (yes, even if you can’t taste the oil in these young coconuts) will make them go rancid quick if left at room temperature for a few hours.

Skye Tip: I didn’t use to wash and drain all the liquid from Kaong, Nata de coco and Buko. But I realized that they are packaged in liquid or often in heavy syrup. I want to be able to control the flavours that go into this recipe for Buko Pandan Salad as I need that Pandan flavour to come through. Thus, I don’t want to introduce other flavours. Plus, extra water or liquid will make your salad runny and watery and could dilute the flavour. That’s also the reason why each instruction included ensuring that most, if not all the water or liquid has dripped through.

Optional Step: If you are using Heavy or Whipping cream, beat it for a few minutes. I just beat it by hand with a whip but if you want it quicker, you can use a handheld mixer. When the cream has thickened, add the condensed milk and mix until fully incorporated.

creamy buko pandan

If you are using a shelf-stable all-purpose cream which is thicker in consistency than heavy or whipping cream, there is no need to whip. I actually whip the heavy cream to mimic the thicker all-purpose cream consistency.

It adds volume to the “salad sauce”. Else the heavy cream and condensed milk mixture will be thin and more fluid. Nothing wrong with that though and other people prefer it that way.

Then finally in a big bowl, put all the other ingredients. Pour the cream and sweetened condensed milk mixture and mix together.

Chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours before serving.

pandan salad

Storage

Buko Pandan Salad should keep inside the fridge for 3 days. Make sure to put it back right away and never leave it sitting at room temperature for longer than you should. As mentioned above, the coconut oil turns the coconut rancid quicker in warmer temperatures.

Should you freeze it? At your own risk. LOL. The cream and sweetened condensed milk will turn it to something that resembles an ice cream. But it will form ice crystals which will thaw as water, which kind of waters down the Buko Pandan Salad.

Looking for other dessert recipes?

Tips and FAQ’s

What is Buko?

Young coconut (Buko) as the name suggests is coconut that has been harvested before it matures. Being an immature coconut, the white flesh is softer and thinner (and the coconut water or juice, sweeter). The sweet flesh is soft and tender that you can grate it with a spoon or even with the coconut shell. Usually though there is a specialized grater that produces Buko or coconut meat in strips. These grated young coconut meat is what you find in salads, drinks and other desserts.

What is Pandan?

Pandan or pandan leaf is an aromatic plant with blade leaves that bunch in a fan-like structure. Commonly found in Southeast Asia, it is often used to infuse aroma to different dishes and recipes.

What is Pandan leaf in English?

Pandan plant is called screw pine in English. Some refer to it as Vanilla Grass as it smells like grassy vanilla.

buko salad recipe
What does Pandan leaves smell like?

Pandan leaves have this sweet aroma both fresh and cooked. The smell is close to vanilla and thus they are even called grassy vanilla. It is also a hint of nut, almost like coconut but not quite.

Can I use Pandan extract instead of Pandan leaves?

I can’t really get Pandan leaves here in North America. (Sometimes though I see them in frozen packs in the Asian stores but never tried them that way). My next best thing is Pandan Extract which is available in most Asian stores (usually under McCormick label). They are actually green in colour to add to that Pandan look.

How do you cook with Pandan leaves?

Growing up, I only know of Pandan leaves being used when cooking rice. Two leaves are tied in a knot and added to rice and water. That sweet aroma of pandan wafts out as soon as the lid is lifted. And of course the rice absorbs the aroma elevating the simple rice more appetizing and sweet smelling.

A decade or so after (as I mentioned early in this blog), Buko Pandan Salad and Pandan Gulaman became a thing.

How do you cook Pandan?

To infuse water or liquid with Pandan aroma, bring to a boil 2 cups of water. Remove from heat then add 2-3 pandan blades. Check every few minutes (and taste the water) to get the preferred concentration. Remove leaves and your water-infused-pandan is ready. Store chilled in fridge if you are using it for later.

Can you freeze Pandan?

If you are in the tropics, you probably don’t need to freeze pandan leaves. However if you need to, the answer is yes. The blades are sturdy and can be kept in the freezer.

buko pandan
recipe for buko pandan
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Recipe for Buko Pandan Salad

Difficulty: Beginner Prep Time 15 mins Cook Time 10 mins Rest Time 2 hrs Total Time 2 hrs 25 mins
Servings: 12 Calories: 219
Best Season: Suitable throughout the year

Description

This recipe for Buko Pandan Salad is a creamy, milky, refreshing dessert made from young coconut and pandan- infused gulaman and  is a certified crowd pleaser!

Ingredients

For Sago

For Pandan Gulaman

Buko Pandan Salad

Instructions

Preparing Sago

  1. If you are using pre-prepared sago, then move on to the next step.

    If you are using the semi-cooked ones which is ready in 3 minutes, then follow the package instructions.

    Then finally if you are doing this kind of sago, then this is the step for you:

  2. Boil 3 liters of water. (For future reference, always use a 1:6 ration meaning if you are doing 1 cup uncooked sago then boil 6 cups of water).

  3. When the water is boiling, add in the uncooked sago and let it boil for a minute or two in medium heat.

  4. Turn off heat (or better yet remove from heat as some stove has retained heat). Cover the pot and allow the heat inside the pot to work on cooking the sago.

  5. After 10 minutes, bring to a boil again and let it boil for 1 minute. Take it off the heat and cover the pot for another 10 minutes.

    Do this cycle until the sago comes out translucent until the center.

  6. When the entire sago pearls turned translucent, pour into a sieve and run cold water through it for about a minute.

    Wait for the water to drain completely (until almost all the liquid has dripped through) and set aside.

Preparing Pandan Gulaman

  1. Following package instructions, prepare gulaman crystals for 500 mL of liquid.

    Instead of using water, use Buko or young coconut water.

    If using unsweetened agar-agar, add 1/3 cup granulated sugar.

    Add in the Pandan extract and stir ensuring that all the gulaman and sugar crystals have completely dissolved.

  2. Bring to a boil with constant stirring. Once it boils, pour into a square or rectangular container. Allow to set, either at room temperature or inside the fridge.

  3. Unmold the pandan jelly and cut into desired sizes.

Putting together Buko Pandan Salad

  1. Cook Sago (if applicable). 

    Cook gulaman and cut into preferred size (and shape)

  2. Rinse and drain the Kaong and Nata de Coco.

    Pour the entire bottle on a sieve. Run water through to wash out the taste of the syrup (until all the colour has run off if you are using coloured ones).

    Let sit for a few minutes until all the liquid is gone.

  3. If you are using frozen shredded Buko, drain all the coconut juice that comes with it by putting it in a sieve. Run water for a few seconds and allow to drain until all the liquid has dripped through. 

  4. Optional Step: If you are using Heavy or Whipping cream, beat it for a few minutes. I just beat it by hand with a whip but if you want it quicker, you can use a handheld mixer. When the cream has thickened, add the sweetened condensed milk and mix until fully incorporated.

  5. If you are using a shelf-stable all purpose cream. It is already thicker than heavy or whipping cream so no need to whip. Actually I whip the heavy cream to mimic the all purpose cream consistency.

    It adds volume to the “salad sauce”. Else the heavy cream and condensed milk mixture will be thin and more fluid. Nothing wrong with that though and other people prefer it that way.

  6. In a big bowl, put all the other ingredients.

    Pour the cream and sweetened condensed milk mixture and mix together.

  7. Chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours before serving.

Nutrition Facts

Serving Size 150 grams

Servings 12


Amount Per Serving
Calories 219kcal
Calories from Fat 37kcal
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 6g10%
Saturated Fat 4g20%
Cholesterol 16mg6%
Sodium 59mg3%
Potassium 99mg3%
Total Carbohydrate 40g14%
Dietary Fiber 2g8%
Sugars 26g
Protein 3g6%

Vitamin A 3 IU
Vitamin C 2 mg
Calcium 9 mg
Iron 4 mg
Vitamin D 1 IU
Thiamin 2 mg
Riboflavin 7 mg
Vitamin B6 1 mg
Folate 1 mcg
Vitamin B12 2 mcg
Pantothenic Acid 2 mg
Phosphorus 7 mg
Magnesium 2 mmol
Zinc 2 mcg
Selenium 6 mg

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily value may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs. Nutrient information is not available for all ingredients. Amount is based on available nutrient data. If you are following a medically restrictive diet, please consult your doctor or registered dietitian before preparing this recipe for personal consumption. source: https://nutritiondata.self.com

Notes

  1. If using cooked sago, use 1 cup cooked. For more information and other instruction on cooking sago, see blog above.
  2. I use Mr Gulaman with these measurements. If using other brand or type, check the cooking instructions and calculate how much gulaman powder or crystals for 500 mL of liquid. It will yield about a cup of gulaman cubes. Omit the sugar if using sweetened gulaman. Buko Juice or Coconut Water replaces water to make the Buko-Pandan flavour in gulaman. See blog above for more tips and info.
  3. I used frozen grated Young Coconut I found at the Asian store. The pack said 1 pound but after draining the water, it was about 1 cup or 230-250 grams of grated Buko. So for this recipe of Buko Pandan, I used 3 packs. If you are using freshly grated Buko, measure by cup. One Buko could yield about 1 cup depending on the size and the thickness of the coconut meat.
  4. Always wash with running water and drain the Nata de Coco and Kaong. It rinses away the flavour of the syrup they were immersed in. Plus it washes off some of the colours (if using coloured) that might eventually bleed when you mix them with the rest of the ingredients. See blog for more expert tips and tricks.
Keywords: buko salad ingredients, buko pandan, buko pandan ingredients, buko salad recipe, salad buko

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