Coconut Cream Pie

Coconut Cream Pie

I tried my hand at making a coconut cream pie over the weekend.

This was my first time making (and tasting!) a coconut cream pie so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I suppose I thought it would have a denser silken texture like custard pie but the actual texture was softer and more pudding-like.

The filling had excellent coconut flavor but I couldn’t really taste it once the pie was topped with whipped cream. Don’t get me wrong, I love whipped cream but all of that cream really diluted the coconut flavor. Next time, I’ll reduce the amount of whipped cream and instead of topping the entire pie with it I’ll just spoon a small dollop of it next to each slice of pie.

One other issue I had was with the crust. It also had good flavor but it needed more melted butter to hold together because it basically crumbled when I tried to slice the pie. Maybe the brand of animal crackers makes a difference. I used Stauffer’s animal crackers because I’ve always like the drier, cracker-like texture and subtle nutmeg and mace flavor. Maybe if I had used Nabisco’s Barnum’s animal crackers the crust would’ve held together better. I’ve heard Barnum’s crackers are softer and not as dry/cracker-like as Stauffer’s.

Coconut Cream Pie

Coconut Cream Pie from Cook’s Illustrated

Why this recipe works:

A great coconut cream pie recipe ought to highlight the exotic and elusive flavor of tropical coconut. We used not-too-sweet animal crackers to create a delicate crust that wouldn’t overshadow the coconut filling. For added coconut flavor, we ground a couple of tablespoons of shredded coconut in the food processor along with the crackers. For the filling itself, we used a combination of coconut milk, whole milk, and unsweetened coconut, which softened up as it cooked.

Makes one 9-inch pie, serving 8 to 10

Light coconut milk lacks rich coconut flavor, so skip it in favor of regular coconut milk.


6 ounces animal crackers
2 tablespoons unsweetened shredded coconut
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 (13 1/2-ounce) can coconut milk
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
3/8 teaspoon table salt
5 large egg yolks
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 2 pieces
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Whipped Cream and Garnish
1 1/2 cups heavy cream (cold)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon unsweetened shredded coconut, toasted in a small dry skillet until golden brown


1. For the crust: Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. In food processor, pulse animal crackers, coconut, and sugar to fine crumbs, eighteen to twenty 1-second pulses; then process until powdery, about 5 seconds. Transfer crumbs to medium bowl and add butter; stir to combine until crumbs are evenly moistened. Empty crumbs into 9-inch glass pie plate; using bottom of ramekin or 1/2 cup dry measuring cup, press crumbs evenly into bottom and up sides of pie plate. Bake until fragrant and medium brown, about 15 minutes, rotating pie shell halfway through baking time. Set on wire rack and cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.

2. For the filling: Bring coconut milk, whole milk, shredded coconut, 1/2 cup sugar, and salt to simmer over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally to ensure that sugar dissolves. Following illustrations 1 through 6, whisk yolks, cornstarch, and remaining 1 tablespoon sugar in medium bowl until thoroughly combined. Whisking constantly, gradually ladle about 1 cup hot milk mixture over yolk mixture; whisk well to combine. Whisking constantly, gradually add remaining milk mixture to yolk mixture in 3 or 4 additions; whisk well to combine. Return mixture to saucepan and cook until thickened and mixture reaches boil, whisking constantly, about 1 minute; filling must boil in order to fully thicken. (To determine whether filling has reached boil, stop whisking; large bubbles should quickly burst on surface.) Off heat, whisk in butter and vanilla until butter is fully incorporated. Pour hot filling into cooled pie shell and smooth surface with rubber spatula; press plastic wrap directly against surface of filling and refrigerate until firm, at least 3 hours and up to 12 hours.

3. For the whipped cream: Just before serving, beat cream, sugar, and vanilla with electric mixer until soft peaks form, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Top pie with whipped cream and then sprinkle with coconut. Cut pie into wedges and serve.


2 thoughts on “Coconut Cream Pie

  1. OMG!!!! I LOVE coconut cream pie. Perfect dessert for Spring/Summer. Last year I tried to make one, but couldn’t find shredded Coconut anywhere…and trust me I looked. Great post Carol!

    • Yeah, I had a hard time finding shredded coconut too…especially shredded *unsweetened* coconut. Finally found some at a health food store of all places. It was worth it though! 😀

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