This kaya coconut jam recipe makes the sweet spread for kaya toast just like you’d find in a traditional Singaporean or Malaysian kopitiam. A simple recipe with just a few ingredients – eggs, sugar, coconut milk, and pandan leaves – it’s nevertheless slow-going for a smooth, creamy spread, but it’s worth it.
Like many of you, we are missing our travels, particularly around our neighbourhood here in Southeast Asia. Once upon a time it was so easy to hop on a plane to Bangkok or Saigon, Singapore or Kuala Lumpur. Now, those days seem like a distance dream.
It’s the latter two cities that we have been reminiscing about recently, particularly their food scenes, and one thing we’ve been getting nostalgic about is the quintessential breakfast in Singapore and Malaysia that is kopi (coffee) and kaya toast served with half-boiled or soft-boiled eggs.
As there are few things that transport us to faraway places like food, Terence decided he’d share a recipe for kopitiam-style half-boiled eggs for his Weekend Eggs series of breakfast eggs dishes around the world (look out for that on Friday) and as he needed some kaya toast to go with that, we decided to make some and share a kaya coconut jam recipe.
Before I tell you about this kaya coconut jam recipe I have a favour to ask. Grantourismo is reader-supported, which means we rely on income generated from readers of this site to continue to share recipes and food stories. If you’ve cooked any of our recipes and enjoyed them, please do consider supporting Grantourismo if you can.
Click through to this post for ways to support Grantourismo, such as clicking through to links to purchase travel insurance, hire cars and rent campervans, make accommodation bookings, or buy books, kitchen utensils or ingredients. You can also purchase something from our online shop (we’ve got everything from gifts for foodies to food-themed face masks featuring Terence’s images) or you can support our Cambodian culinary history and cookbook on Patreon, which in turn supports us to do this work.
Now let me tell you about this kaya coconut jam recipe.
Kaya Coconut Jam Recipe for Kaya Toast Just Like in a Singaporean or Malaysian Kopitiam
This kaya coconut jam recipe will make you the sweet, creamy coconut, sugar and egg spread that’s slathered on white-bread toast and typically served with soft-boiled eggs, soy sauce and white pepper, and syrupy coffee at traditional kopitiams (coffee shops) in Singapore and Malaysia.
Terence will share the eggs recipe on Friday for this week’s Weekend Eggs. If you haven’t dropped by to see us in a while, we recently revived our decade-old series of quintessential breakfast eggs dishes from around the world, which we introduced when we launched Grantourismo with our global grand tour back in 2010.
We recently re-booted Weekend Eggs with Calabria’s take on ‘eggs in purgatory’ from Southern Italy, which was followed by Thailand’s son-in-law eggs for kai look keuy (fried soft-boiled eggs), the puffy Thai omelette kai jiaw, and last week I posted a Cambodian steamed eggs recipe for a Siem Reap street food favourite.
This week we’ll share a Malaysian and Singaporean recipe for soft-boiled eggs, sometimes called half-boiled eggs, which are typically eaten with toast spread with kaya coconut jam, all of which is washed down with syrupy coffee.
So that you’re set for a Singaporean-Malaysian kopitiam style breakfast this coming weekend, here’s a homemade kaya coconut jam recipe. Better put some white bread on the shopping list for tomorrow.
Tips for Making this Kaya Coconut Jam Recipe
This kaya coconut jam recipe is relatively straightforward, with just a few ingredients – eggs, sugar, coconut cream, and pandan leaves – however, it can be time-consuming to make properly as you have to temper the eggs and stir the coconut cream, sugar and egg mixture slowly over low heat to achieve a thick creamy spread.
Traditional kaya recipes will specify that it can take up to two hours to make kaya – and anyone with a Singaporean or Malaysian grandmother will probably have memories of their grandma slowly stirring the coconut spread in a pot, double boiler or wok for what seemed like an eternity.
While you’ll see easy kaya coconut jam recipes promising you that it won’t take more than ten minutes to make kaya the “easy way”, we’d be very surprised if you were able to make a perfect kaya spread in less than 20-30 minutes and manage to get a creamy consistency without any lumps.
We tested this kaya jam recipe in both a pot sitting directly on the stove and in a double boiler of sorts, ie. a ceramic mixing bowl on top of a pot of boiling water. You can also pop the bowl in a flat bottomed wok and of course use a proper double boiler if you have one. The beauty of the double boiler – or the bowl on a pot or in a wok – is that the heat is more evenly distributed.
If you’re using a double boiler for the first time, note that you will need to fill the base of the double boiler with water, which you’ll need to bring to the boil, and then you’ll pour the kaya mixture into the top unit. You won’t need any other special kitchen tools, just a good whisk and silicon spatula.
As far as ingredients go, let’s start with the coconut cream. If at all possible, buy fresh coconut cream from the market. If not, use a quality canned coconut cream such as Ayam from Malaysia or Chaokoh from Thailand. If you only use the creamy part of the coconut cream which rises to the top (so whatever you do, don’t shake the can before opening it), then you’ll achieve a creamier consistency faster.
If you want to use the clear liquid in the tinned coconut cream as well (then you’ll need to shake it) or you prefer to use coconut milk, then know that the kaya spread is going to take a lot longer to thicken up and make sure you’re wearing comfy shoes and have a podcast on.
If you’re researching kaya jam recipes you’ll see that different cooks use different sugars. Living in Cambodia, we love to use the local palm sugar, which we try to buy directly from a family we know who harvests their own palmyra palms and on the same day makes their creamy palm sugar paste, or we’ll buy palm sugar from the local market. It has a gorgeous golden caramel colour that’s similar in colour to our kaya spread, pictured above.
However, note that if you only use palm sugar, you risk your kaya jam ending up a dark brown colour if you cook it for too long, which isn’t nearly as attractive. A combination of white sugar and palm sugar results in this caramel colour. White sugar only will give you a paler brown. If you can’t get hold of palm sugar, then brown sugar or coconut sugar will work but will obviously have slightly different tastes.
If you’re wondering why kaya jam is sometimes green, that’s due to the use of pandan essence and pandan food colouring. We use a few pandan leaves in this recipe, which we’re able to buy easily from the market or supermarket here in Siem Reap. Look in your nearest Chinatown or Asian supermarket or grocery store. Pandan leaves give the kaya spread a lovely aroma and subtle pandan flavour that is so distinctly Southeast Asian, however, if you’re after that green colour, you’ll need to use pandan essence or colouring.
Kaya Coconut Jam Recipe for Kaya Toast
- 200 ml coconut cream see notes
- 4 egg yolks
- 50 g palm sugar
- 50 g white sugar
- 4 pandan leaves knotted
- Carefully separate the egg yolks from the egg whites so that the yolks remain intact then transfer to a strainer so that the whites drip through. Note: if you don’t do this and the whites remain attached to the yolk, you may end up with a lumpy kaya.
- Using a fork or whisk, beat the egg yolks until smooth. If you think there are still traces of white left, pour the yolks through a clean strainer into a clean mixing bowl.
- In a saucepan over medium heat, warm up the coconut cream, sugar and pandan leaves just until the sugar has dissolved, then remove from the heat.
- Next temper the egg yolks in the mixing bowl. Resume beating the yolks gently with a fork, then slowly add the coconut cream and sugar mixture a little at a time, ensuring that you don’t stop whisking the yolks.
- Once you’ve emptied all the coconut cream into the yolks and it’s all combined, pour the kaya mixture into a saucepan or double boiler (see notes), pop it back onto the stove on low-medium heat. Turn on a timer and using a spatula, start to stir continuously until the mixture starts to thicken up. Note: do not stir too vigorously or you’ll create air bubbles; too slowly and the kaya will take forever to thicken up.
- If at 15-20 minutes, the kaya mixture has not started to thicken, increase the heat ever so slightly, ensuring that you do not stop stirring. If lumps begin to form, turn the heat down and increase your pace of stirring to smooth the kaya out again.
- To test if the kaya is ready, lift the spatula out of the bowl: when there’s a thick coating of kaya that it’s starting to resemble a spread and no longer dripping off the spatula then it’s ready. You can check the temperature of the kaya, it should have reached at least 80˚C. Remove it from the heat and set it aside to cool because the kaya will continue to thicken up as it’s cooling down.
- When your kaya spread has completely cooled down, transfer it to a sterilised glass jar with a secure lid and store it in the fridge. It should last a week or two.
- Serve with plenty of toast and butter, and soft-boiled eggs with soy sauce and white pepper. Note: if the kaya is hard when you take it out of the fridge, leave the jar on the kitchen bench for thirty minutes or so until serving.
Please do let us know if you make this kaya coconut jam recipe in the comments below or on social media as we’d love to know how it turns out for you.
E Thai says
I was just telling a friend about this kaya jam. She had made dinner rolls using the Chinese TangZhong method (have you heard of it?). While it came out pretty and soft, it had no flavor. I suggested she spread jam or peanut butter on it.
I did not get a chance to eat kaya toast on my last trip home (Malaysia) last year (Jan 2020, lucky us!), but we did have something similar – dinner rolls with kaya jam from the 7Eleven in Bangkok.
Terence Carter says
We’re very familiar with the method of ‘tangzhong’ but for Japanese ‘milk bread’ or ‘Hokkaido milk bread’ where the method is called ‘yudane’. It’s the same as ‘tangzhong’, but I’ll let the culinary historians fight out which came first!
The bread should be sweet and soft, but anyone who makes it well deserves credit – it’s not as easy as you might think!
We use it for Tonkatsu sandwiches which we have for lunch the day after making a batch of pork cutlets. To me, this or chicken katsu sandwiches are the best way to use milk bread.
I had to learn to make it after the Japanese baker who made an excellent version of this bread in Siem Reap went back to Japan at the beginning of the pandemic…
To use it with kaya, I’d toast it a little first, just to firm up the surface of the bread so it’s not so crazy soft.
E Thai says
Thank you for the tip on using the milkbread. I have yet to make Tonkatsu!
Making bread using tangzhong “湯種” method became very popular after Taiwanese Yvonne Chen wrote the book “65°C 湯種麵包” (Bread Doctor) in 2007. While making this bread, I read this “In her book, tangzhong method is described as the “secret ingredient” which is originated from Japan.”
I found an interesting video that explains the difference between the Tangzhong and Yudane method:
Have a good weekend!
Terence Carter says
Hey E, I didn’t want to quote Yvonne Chen because I didn’t want to bias the potential origins of the different methods.
I saw that video from Kitchen Princess Bamboo in my research!
I’ve used both methods, but unless I have a serious craving for a tonkatsu sandwich I bake bread only with sourdough starter and no active dry yeast.
What I love about a tonkatsu sandwich is the sweet/soft texture and taste of the bread with the savory/crunchy taste and texture of the pork. Make some tonkatsu!