Yesterday, my friend who lives down the hall from me came and knocked on my door. She was holding a can of unsweetened coconut milk that she purchased on a whim because she thought it might be interesting to drink. Heh… after the first few sips I think she realized that this stuff isn’t for drinking :P She asked me if I knew of anything I could make with coconut milk so that it wouldn’t go to waste, so I went about looking for dessert ideas that would not require me going out to shop for ingredients. I wanted the coconut milk to be the star of the show, since I had a whole can to use up, which made an Asian dessert the most likely candidate. I did not have any frozen taro on hand to make the taro sago dessert I have made before, but I did have some mini tapioca balls left over from the last time I made taro sago. A quick search for Thai desserts using coconut milk yielded several recipes for a thick and creamy coconut tapioca pudding with either bananas or mangoes, which sounded divine to me. (The other option was coconut dulce de leche, which also sounds amazing and I bookmarked it for another time, yum.)
I have never made tapioca pudding on my own before, but there’s always a first time for everything! This recipe is super simple and makes for a surprisingly rich and velvety pudding that leads with its coconut flavor in every spoonful. If you are a coconut lover, I promise you will go nuts for this pudding. I combined ideas from several different recipes I saw online, adapting the pudding itself while adding mango chunks and toasted shredded coconut for a more sophisticated, Thai-inspired flavor. This coconut tapioca pudding is so easy to put together and yet has several components that come together for an elegant and tropical presentation, I’m sure you will impress your guests when you serve it as a finale to your Asian-themed dinner. For bonus style points, I also highly suggest serving it in classy martini glasses!
Coconut Tapioca Pudding with Mango and Toasted Coconut (serves 4)
- 1/3 cup dry mini tapioca
- 1 can (14 oz.) of unsweetened coconut milk (not coconut cream or cream of coconut)
- 1/2 cup milk (adjust amount as needed)
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 1/4 cup loosely packed light brown sugar (I would use even less next time)
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 2/3 cup cubed mango chunks
- Sweetened shredded coconut for garnish
1. Soak mini tapioca in lukewarm water for 15-20 minutes, stirring once or twice. Strain excess water and place tapioca in a medium saucepot.
2. Reserve 2-3 tbsp of coconut milk and set aside. Pour remaining coconut milk into the pot with the tapioca. Add salt, and gently stir contents while bringing them to a boil on high heat.
3. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 10-15 minutes until tapioca are completely translucent in the center and the pudding has thickened up, stirring occasionally. You may add the milk in small amounts until you reach a pudding consistency that you like. Halfway through the simmering process, stir in the brown sugar until dissolved. Note: you may use granulated sugar if you would like your coconut tapioca pudding to be a whiter color, otherwise the brown sugar will make the pudding a light caramel shade.
4. Meanwhile, cover a baking sheet with foil and spread a thin layer of sweetened shredded coconut on top. Toast in a 350 degree oven on the lower rack just until most of the coconut starts to turn a light brown (it took about 6 minutes for me). Toss briefly and then remove from oven to cool. Keep an eye on that coconut because it will burn fast if you don’t pay attention! (Also, I never knew that toasted sweetened shredded coconut could taste so good, it’s kind of like crack! Me and my friend who was helping me could not stop munching on it!)
4. Once your pudding is done cooking after you have adjusted for taste and consistency with the milk, remove pudding from heat and stir in vanilla extract.
5. Assemble your pudding when you are ready to serve it (it was delicious warm but you may also consider chilling it first also). Spoon the pudding into your bowl, top with toasted shredded coconut and chopped mango pieces. Finally, drizzle on your reserved coconut milk to finish it all off, and serve immediately. Enjoy!!