Make Ahead

Perfect Coconut Cream Pie

May 21, 2012
4 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
Author Notes

Coconut cream pie is one of my all-time favorite desserts. The small Louisiana town in which I grew up had a real cafeteria, one of those old-fashioned joints where you grab a tray and head down the line, picking up pre-plated dishes as you go. I often got the "sides" plate -- smothered greens, fried okra, mac & cheese -- and a wedge of coconut cream pie or, when they had it, caramel custard in a cup (another favorite). My mom, sister, grandma and I spent so many happy lunches at that cafeteria, and even though it's not quite as good as it used to be, and caramel custard in a cup days are still too rare, I love the nostalgia of the dining-in experience, and I go back each time I visit home.

Recently, I thought about how long it'd been since I'd had coconut cream pie, especially a really good, homemade one that's ethereally light and a full-on tribute to the delicate, unique flavor that is coconut. What can one do in that instance but get busy making one?

Extremely long story short, I used my family pie crust recipe (which cannot be beat), made homemade sweetened, shredded coconut (a recipe I found on the Livestrong site) to avoid the chemicals sometimes found in commercially processed sweetened coconut, and adapted pastry cream and topping recipes from Epicurious. The result was perfection, and my hubby and I wiped the pie out in two days flat! This pie definitely wants a night in the fridge to set and let the flavors deepen, so make it a day in advance if you can. —em-i-lis

Test Kitchen Notes

This coconut cream pie is full of natural goodness. I love how it is full of coconut flavor, yet not too sweet, and the pie is really easy to make. Next time, I will cut the salt in the crust to perhaps 1/2 teaspoon only. The pie is delicious and has a great coconut flavor due to the canned coconut milk and the homemade sweetened coconut. I will definitely make this again! —Robin Burton Fenner

  • Makes 1 pie
  • For the pie crust and sweetened coconut
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 cups shredded, unsweetened, dried coconut
  • 4 tablespoons powdered sugar, sifted
  • 6 teaspoons canola oil
  • 8 teaspoons water
  • For the pastry cream and topping
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
  • 2 large eggs plus 1 large egg yolk
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 can full-fat coconut milk, divided
  • One batch sweetened coconut, divided
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chilled whipping cream
In This Recipe
  1. For the pie crust and sweetened coconut
  2. Preheat the oven to 350. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the sifted flour and salt. Pour in the oil and milk, and using a fork, stir to combine. When the dough comes together, roll it out between two sheets of waxed paper, peel off the top sheet, and invert the crust over and into a deep-dish pie plate. Press the crust in and all the way up the sides, and trim off the excess.
  3. Fill with pie weights or line with foil topped with dried beans, and bake until golden and set, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool completely.
  4. While the pie crust is cooking and cooling, make the sweetened coconut: In a medium mixing bowl, toss together the shredded coconut and the sifted powdered sugar until well combined. In a separate small bowl, stir together the oil and water until well combined and then pour over the sugared coconut. Stir gently to coat the coconut completely. Let sit for about 10 minutes, stirring and fluffing occasionally. The original amount will expand slightly in size. Refrigerate the sweetened coconut until you need it.
  1. For the pastry cream and topping
  2. Toast 2/3 cups of your sweetened coconut in a small, heavy skillet over medium heat until lightly browned, stirring occasionally, about 3 minutes. Let cool completely while you make the pastry cream.
  3. Whisk together 1/2 cup of sugar, the eggs, egg yolk, and flour in a medium bowl and set aside (but near the stove). In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, bring 1 1/2 cups of coconut milk and 1 1/2 cups of your sweetened coconut to a simmer. Gradually add this hot milk mixture to your egg mixture, whisking constantly.
  4. Return everything to the same saucepan; cook until pastry cream thickens and boils, stirring constantly, about 4 minutes.
  5. Remove from heat. Mix in the vanilla extract. Transfer pastry cream to a medium bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing it directly onto the surface to prevent formation of skin. Chill until cold, at least 2 hours.
  6. When cold, transfer the filling to your prebaked, now-cool crust. Cover and chill while you make the topping.
  7. Using an electric hand mixer, beat the cream, the remaining 1/4 cup coconut milk, and the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar in a medium bowl until peaks form. Spread whipped cream all over the top of pastry cream filling. Sprinkle evenly with cooled toasted coconut. Cover and refrigerate at least four hours, but preferably overnight.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Nicole Christina Hild-e
    Nicole Christina Hild-e
  • catalinalacruz
  • luvcookbooks
  • monacake
  • JanetFL

    53 Reviews

    Mcswain27 September 21, 2020
    I’m not sure what wrong for me - the filling came out more like a paste then a pastry cream. I think it needed a lot more liquid then just a can of coconut milk. If I did it again I’d probably add a cup of milk as well.
    Author Comment
    em-i-lis September 21, 2020
    How odd! I've never had that happen before!
    Jocelyn August 29, 2020
    I am excited to try making this pie. F52 is my go-to for recipes. Love the reviews with different suggestions. I have never made a homemade crust nor a Coconut Pie. My Mom is turning 80 years old on September 2nd. We will be celebrating my Mom's birthday Labor Day weekend. I will take a picture and let you know how it went to make the pie. Thank you for sharing.
    LKT May 16, 2018
    Custard was a little stiff, maybe use the whole can of coconut milk next time and have just plain whipped cream on top. The crust was crispy, very savory, and easy to roll out (used plastic wrap instead of wax paper as I didn’t have any on hand) but ultimately I prefer a regular butter or butter/crisco crust. The vegetable oil version was a little dense.
    Nicole September 4, 2017
    This is a beautiful recipe and easy to follow. I've made it twice and on the second attempt used low fat coconut milk - not worth it. Follow the instructions and use full fat. While the flavor was good, the custard and whipped cream was not nearly as luscious as my first attempt.
    Author Comment
    em-i-lis September 4, 2017
    I'm so glad you like this pie, Nicole. It's one of my very favorites. I fully agree that low fat coconut milk is not the way to go here!! Have a great day!
    Robbie June 27, 2017
    I have been making this crust for over 50 years and it is my grandmother's recipe so our family has been making it over for over 75 years only we use pure vegetable oil (Crisco). This is the first time I have ever seen this recipe in print. I am very excited to try the rest of the recipe.
    Author Comment
    em-i-lis June 27, 2017
    Hi Robbie,
    So nice to hear this crust is part of your family traditions too. My grandparents owned a restaurant, and just after the war years came across this crust recipe at a restaurant convention. Written by Wesson, it was marketed as the crust you could make when butter was rationed. I myself much prefer it to butter crusts (for dessert pies anyway). :) Take good care! Emily
    judy March 31, 2017
    Wonderful--even the crust. I chose not to sweeten the coconut. And it worked great. The pie was sweet enough without sweetening the coconut as well. I've been looking for a great coconut pie recipe using coconut milk. Thanks a bunch.
    Author Comment
    em-i-lis March 31, 2017
    Hi Judy, I'm so happy you enjoyed this pie. It's one of my very favorites. Definitely a labor of love but, I think, worth it. :) Thank you so much for trying it and for letting me know you enjoyed it!! All best, Emily
    alaparc November 26, 2016
    I made this pie for Thanksgiving as a request. It is truly outstanding - great coconut flavor without being cloyingly sweet. Crust worked well with the pie. I almost used a butter crus and glad I didn't.
    Author Comment
    em-i-lis November 26, 2016
    Hi alaparc, I'm SO happy you made and loved this pie. Thanks so much for letting me know. Hope you had a great TG!
    Nicole C. June 18, 2016
    Any tips for better crust? I'm having a heck of a time rolling the dough out, as it is crumbling every which way. I've even added more oil and milk, but nothing is working!
    Author Comment
    em-i-lis June 18, 2016
    Hi Nicole, This crust is simply but finicky and can really be rolled out no more than 2-3 times. I'm sorry you're having a rough go of it. You might want to start over, mix the ingredients very gently and only until just combined and then roll out between waxed paper. You should not need additional liquid as that can impair the texture. Good luck!!!!
    Nicole C. June 18, 2016
    Thanks, I'll give it another shot!
    Michell H. June 16, 2016
    Why does the filling taste eggy?
    Author Comment
    em-i-lis June 18, 2016
    I've never had that experience- did you use full-fat coconut milk?
    Michell H. June 21, 2016
    Yes, I did
    Melissa R. July 4, 2016
    You most likely scalded the eggs a bit when transferring the mixtures. Try adding it a little slower next time. It took me a lot of practice!
    catalinalacruz May 4, 2014
    Why not use coconut oil in the pastry mix instead of canola oil, and have more coconut flavor?
    Author Comment
    em-i-lis May 4, 2014
    why not?! go for it.
    luvcookbooks November 30, 2013
    Made this w my daughter to take to a Thanksgiving dinner and it was divine!!
    Author Comment
    em-i-lis November 30, 2013
    Oh, awesome, Meg! Thanks for letting me know! I do love that recipe!!
    Ceege September 15, 2013
    I made this yesterday and it was simply divine. Thanks for a wonderful recipe. BTW, to make things easier, 6 tsps. equal 2 TBLS, so easier to measure it that way for the coconut mixture.
    Author Comment
    em-i-lis September 16, 2013
    Thanks so much, Ceege. I'm thrilled you enjoyed the pie so much, and yes, good shorthand for the coconut mixture!!!
    catalinalacruz August 28, 2013
    Oil pie crust is awesome when it is made with coconut oil -- the only way I make pie crusts now. As this is a coconut cream pie, try using coconut oil for an extra coconut flavor.
    Author Comment
    em-i-lis September 16, 2013
    Sounds like a great thing to try!
    Muse August 25, 2013
    Have been looking for a recipe for the perfect coconut creme pie....can't wait to make this! Yummy, yum, yum! Peace, Light and Love.
    Author Comment
    em-i-lis August 25, 2013
    Thanks so much, Muse! I hope you love it like we do!! Let me know. Best, Emily
    monacake August 23, 2013
    when a co-worker asked for coconut cream pie for her birthday this week, i knew right where to go. i trusted that this would be the perfect recipe and it did not fail. better than the dozens that have come before it. everything about it is perfect - thank you!
    Author Comment
    em-i-lis August 23, 2013
    Hi monacake, thank you so much for this lovely note! I'm thrilled the pie was such a birthday treat! And I appreciate you letting me know! All the best, Emily
    J M. June 16, 2013
    What am I doing wrong? I click on the Save button but when I look at my recipe box I see no recipes. I am signed in.
    Author Comment
    em-i-lis June 16, 2013
    have you tried logging out or shutting your browser and then logging back in? i sometimes have delayed responses on F52 too but generally the saves and edits ultimately are there...
    claude R. June 17, 2013
    check your account on the top right
    JanetFL June 15, 2013
    Yum, Emily! Somehow I missed this recipe. I definitely am trying this - thank you!
    Author Comment
    em-i-lis June 15, 2013
    Hi Janet, It's so lovely to hear from you and I'm glad you plan to try this!! Let me know what you think. :)
    Sugartoast June 15, 2013
    I'm going to make this soon, it looks amazing :). Thanks for another great recipe!
    Author Comment
    em-i-lis June 15, 2013
    thank you so much, sugartoast! i hope you love it!! :)
    Author Comment
    em-i-lis June 14, 2013
    Thanks so much for highlighting my pie, F52! I made one a few days back and we all gobbled it up!
    TS June 14, 2013
    I love coconut cream pie and this recipe looks delicious! Thanks for sharing, I cannot wait to try this.
    Author Comment
    em-i-lis June 14, 2013
    I hope you love it! Thanks, trena!