Buko Pandan Salad made with gulaman cubes, tropical palm fruits, 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 such as Knox or Alsa, if you like, and prepare according to package directions.
Finely shred the gulaman bars and soak until very soft so they’ll dissolve faster.
Soak the agar agar in coconut juice and infuse 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.