Cooking for Ken

Desserts — Haupia

Haupia is a Hawai’ian coconut milk pudding or custard.  We first discovered it at the Seattle restaurant Buddha Bruddah, pleased to find something non-dairy that Ken could have.  I have since made several variations on the basic dish.

There are several types of coconut milk you can get: cartons of thinned coconut milk for drinking, and cans of regular or lowfat coconut milk, and thicker coconut cream — I always use the regular canned coconut milk, because you want the higher fat content.   Try the Asian section at a mainstream supermarket, or an Asian market, or get 6 cans to the box at Costco.


6–7 tbsp cornstarch
6 tbsp white sugar
3/4 cup water
1 can (13–14 oz) coconut milk (regular, not low fat)
1/2 tsp vanilla


  • More cornstarch will make a firmer custard, less will make more of a pudding
  • Shake the can of coconut milk up before opening, to mix the contents up for a smoother pour


In a medium saucepan, combine the cornstarch and sugar, then stir in the water.  Add the coconut milk and vanilla, and stir.

Cook over medium-low heat (4 on a dial that goes to 10), stirring regularly, until the mixture thickens to a pudding consistency.

Pour or spoon into a pan (8x8, 9x6, etc.), probably 3/4" deep, and lightly shake back and forth to settle it flat.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours; the original recipe says 8–24 hours, but we usually make this ahead of dinner and have it as dessert later.



  • Fruit Haupia
    Put fresh fruit at the bottom of the pan — fresh peaches or blackberries are favorites — before pouring in the haupia.
  • Lemon Custard
    Replace the water with 3/4 cup of lemon juice (or some combination of water and lemon juice, to make it less tart).  This can then be used to replace the egg-based custard in a lemon meringue pie.
  • Pumpkin Custard
    Add a can of pumpkin purée and appropriate spices (2 tsp of pumpkin pie spice, or 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp nutmeg, 1/2 tsp giner, 1/4 tsp ground cloves).   This can be used to replace the egg and dairy-custard in a pumpkin pie.


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