Monday 22 February 2010

Homemade Kaya (Malaysian Coconut Egg Jam)

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*Also available made-to-order at $10 per 16 fl oz tub (1 lb/454g)

After several failed attempts trying to make kaya the lazy way (using the jam function of a breadmaker then blending it afterwards), I have resigned myself to the fact that there simply is no shortcut- 75-90 minutes of patience and manual labour are absolutely essential in achieving the right consistency, colour and flavour for this luscious glossy spread. Whilst blending a lumpy breadmaker-made jam may remove its watery scrambled-egg appearance and make it smoother, the texture usually ends up too thin and drippy (due to the excess moisture created by cooking in an enclosed space) or too matte-like and pasty (like peanut butter instead of a shiny curd).

Kaya translates literally to mean "rich" in Malay, and that is precisely what this delicious Malaysian staple is- a thick, sticky, luxurious blend of coconut cream, eggs, and sugar fragranced with the aroma of pandan (screwpine) leaves. The beautiful amber hue is achieved by adding a bit of melted caramelised sugar towards the end- if you prefer your kaya pale then by all means omit this step, and use a touch of pandan paste instead of leaves if desired (though your jam will be a green version).

It's easy but tedious- if you like kaya, have time on your hands and don't mind standing in front of the stove for over an hour (or pull up a chair to sit like I did), then I'd say you're in for a highly rewarding experience :) Happy stirring!

Homemade Kaya (Malaysian Coconut Egg Jam)
Yields 2 cups (16 fl oz/454 g)

Whisk together lightly:
3 whole eggs
2 egg yolks

Stir in 1 cup (200g) caster sugar until completely dissolved.

Stir in
300ml coconut milk, then pour entire mixture through a sieve into a large mixing bowl (to make sure all those lumpy eggy bits are removed).

Add 3-4 pandan leaves, knotted, then plonk your bowl above a pot of simmering water (the bottom of my bowl was submerged in the water) or use a double boiler if you have one.

Cook over low heat for about an hour, stirring continuously.

Stir stir stir stir stir.

Bring a book or laptop if you get bored, but make sure you continue stirring with the other hand.
If it starts getting lumpy, stir HARDER.

After 45 minutes- a teensy bit darker and thicker. I won't lie, as you can see
it takes AGES before any discernable change happens.

After about 75 minutes, dissolve 4 tbsp caster sugar with a bit of water in a separate pan over low heat until a dark golden caramel is formed. I would recommend you switch off the heat a few seconds before it becomes the colour you want, as it will continue browning. Be careful as caramel burns very fast!

Stir the caramel into the hot kaya (it should look golden brown like the picture). Don't worry
if the caramel hardens upon contact- continue cooking and it will eventually dissolve.
Add more darkened caramel if the colour isn't too your liking.

Cook another 10-15 mins until the desired consistency is achieved (remember
it will thicken once cooled). Remove the pandan leaves, scraping off
any kaya stuck to them (nobody likes wastage!)

Let cool, then pour into a jar and store refrigerated. Best enjoyed sandwiched roti bakar style with slabs of butter, or spread on your morning toast, or slathered on crackers or hot waffles or pancakes, or as an accompaniment to sweet sticky rice, or as a dip for breadsticks, or spooned directly into your mouth, or licked off your sticky fingers...


  1. i've never heard of anything like this jam before -- very interesting

  2. Hi Justin,

    Yes it's a distinctly Malaysian/Singaporean spread, with a completely incomparable flavour to Western fruit jams. Very hard to come by in non-South East Asian parts of the world hence me making it myself here in London :)

    Do give the recipe a go if you have the time!

    ps- I see you're a cookbook editor, sounds exciting!:)

  3. Just found your site! Love your photos and recipes, and just became a follower!

    I think you and I might be the only professional performers who are also devoted foodies - my husband and I do professional musical theater in LA currently, but are moving to NYC in May!

    I just started a blog of my own (but my photos pale in comparison - I can't wait to get a camera better than a 'point and shoot'!). Check it out at

    So glad to have found you! Best of luck with everything!

    1. No idea if you'll see this since this was posted over 3 years ago, but I love your site!!

    2. Yes I still see the comments, thanks Anna!:)

  4. Hey Kristin!

    Woo hoo, performing foodies unite! :) How exciting, great to meet you and thanks for checking my blog out. Have started following you too, love how you mix recipes and audition tips haha :) My professional non-food site is if you wanna check it out.

    I think your pics are pretty good! Personally I just use the Digital Macro setting on a simple camera, it makes food close-ups look delicious :)

    Looking forward to more food/arts exchange!


  5. I will have to try this in the Thermomix. Why? Because the Thermomix can COOK and STIR at the same time. No tedium! I can set keep the heat at 80C degrees and tell it to stir gently for an hour. (Can keep it closed or allow the air to escape.) Will have to try this for you and let you know. Only thing is I doubt that I can get the Pandan leaves here in Canada on Vancouver Island... Is there such a thing as dried Pandan leaves and would these work? I look forward to this new experiment!


  6. Hi Helene,

    thanks for linking back to my blog on your post about peanut cookies :) Not sure where to find dried pandan leaves, you can omit it if you can't get your hands on some or add a few drops of pandan paste (which will turn your jam green) or clear pandan essence if you can find it.

    Your Thermomix sounds very handy, let me know if the kaya works out! :)

  7. Wow! Ive been looking for something like this for a very long time! I saw recipes but I was still unsure on how to go about it!Im so glad you posted the pictures!Thank you sooo much! hope you could share this recipe over at Foodista too :)

  8. I made this last night. I was worried that I was going to have to stand there for 90 minutes stirring continuously, but I found that stirring once every 5 minutes or so was sufficient. I just had it with butter on a slice of bread. Divine! This is definitely going into my Christmas baskets this year. Thank you!

  9. Hey! Wonderful post, I love hearing about new delicious things! I'd like to try the recipe, but pandan leaves are impossible to find here.
    Can you give me some advice?

  10. Hi Dessy,

    Thanks for visiting my blog :) As I mentioned to another reader above, some people prefer to make kaya without pandan leaves so you can omit them if they're nowhere to be found (they just give a mild fragrance). Alternatively, see if you can buy a small bottle of pandan essence or pandan paste in your Asian supermarket and add a few drops of that instead. Pandan paste will turn your kaya green though, which is fine and not any less authentic (both brown and green versions are sold in Malaysia).

    Happy cooking!

  11. Thank you so much for the quick response, I will make sure to share the result after I try it :)

  12. We discovered a vivid green version of this when in Burma at the start of the year. Eventually found the brown version in an Asian supermarket here in Bristol but it doesn't quite have the same taste. Maybe we need to make our own, in fact maybe the version we had in Burma was home made in the hotel. Great blog by the way.

  13. Thanks Tom! Have never tried a Burmese version, the green was probably colouring/pandan flavouring? Do give this a go when you have an hour or two to spare :)

  14. Sam! Guess what?! Tried this last night - and it worked! W00t! The time passed pretty quickly. Had some interesting developments w the caramel though - had some help fr a certain monsieur who ended up making his own version of "caramel" which had still crackly bits of sugar in it in the end, which we added to the mixture anyway, the result was thick creamy kaya with random crystally bits - sedap jugak!

    ps: Didn't have pandan leaves on hand, but had a bottle of pandan essence handy so that worked as well.

    Thanks for sharing this's being appreciated over in a household in the southwest of france. xoxoxoxoxoxox

  15. Yay Marie, glad it worked and went down well! Crunchy caramel bits sound like an EXCELLENT modification:)

    Hope life is going well with the monsieur in France!

  16. Guess what again?! Made kaya a THIRD time, this time doubling the recipe (someone's become a fan of it - particularly slathered over bananas) and when little lumpy bits formed and wouldn't disappear (we think the water in the bain marie might've been bubbling too much and lowered it and the lumpy bits stopped forming) M had a pretty awesome idea to use the strainer and strain the bits through there and then instead of waiting til the end and using a blender as recommended in some other websites....and it worked! Kaya strained back to silky sticky smoothness!

  17. Oh, wow, THANK YOU! I've been to Malaysia a few times and wondered what this stuff was, but didn't eat it--my girlfriend/traveling partner is pretty gluten and preservative, intolerant and I only saw this stuff as a spread for toast (which she really can't eat, though I'd tried to convince her some things are worth the intestinal distress...well, maybe not) so I never bothered trying it myself, and when I got back and found some kaya in NYC, we noticed most of the jarred brands (like many canned/jarred foods) have wheat flour in them, as thickening or preserving agents, or something. I tried some, and now I'm so happy to find this recipe so I can make it at home without wheat, preservatives and those sketchy food dies! This stuff is like crack in a jar.

  18. Fell in love with kaya in KL.

  19. Hi Sam, Hope you're still reading your commends. I have finally gotten around to making a version of your Kaya and it is the BEST recipe so far. I have converted it to a Thermomix recipe here Love your blog x

    1. Yes I still read my comments :) Thanks and very glad my recipe worked out for you!