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Rose Sago + 9 Malaysian Desserts You’ll Love (With Recipes!)

December 9, 2021 (Last Updated: April 20, 2023)
malaysian desserts

Kuih Rose Sago

Malaysian desserts come in every shape, size, and color of the rainbow. These little Malaysian desserts are no exception. They’re a vibrant shade of hot pink, covered in savory coconut flakes, and have a subtle floral sweetness from the rose extract.

This Malaysian dessert is gluten-free, vegan and super easy to make. All you need is a steamer! Plus I’m sharing 9 Malaysian dessert recipes you can make at home!

These coconut-covered rose-flavored sago cakes turned out to be one of those happy coincidences where a childhood favorite happens to be classified as FODMAP friendly dessert.

Without further adieu, let’s get started on our journey through sago, coconuts, and get to making these Malaysian tea cakes. Malaysian desserts might seem hard to make but they’re actually alright if you know some tips and tricks. So, let’s kick off this post with how NOT to cook sago.

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How Not To Cook Sago: Mistakes To Avoid

There is no one way to cook sago when you’re making a traditional Malaysian dessert. Depending on the Malay dessert you’re trying to make, the method will vary but there is a wrong way to cook sago.

In our other sago recipe, we have a comprehensive list of things not to do when you’re cooking with sago in general but this recipe is a little different because of the structure of this dessert.

To avoid having gluey or starchy sago that basically disappears in your desserts, avoid making these mistakes:

  • Washing and or soaking sago
  • Using too little water
  • Adding sago to room temperature water
  • Clumpy sago
  • Over cooking sago

Washing And Or Soaking Sago

Sago is basically edible starch balls. When introduced to water before the cooking process, these little balls of starch will disintegrate into the water and vanish. Leaving you with no pearls and starchy water. 

Washing your sago prior to cooking or soaking it will not only remove starch but you will have a significantly smaller serving size and end up with misshapen lumps instead of perfectly round sago pearls. 

Using Too Little Water

In our Vegan Coconut Cream Mango recipe, we mentioned that sago is not like rice and if you use an equal measurement of sago to water, all you’ll end up with is a gooey mess. We aren’t looking for a gooey mess but in this case, you do want to use less water than traditionally called for when cooking sago.

Adding Sago To Room Temp Water

No soaking or washing sago, that was rule one in the list of mistakes to avoid. Adding sago pearls to room temperature water is essentially doing the same thing.

Only add sago to boiling water. Otherwise, you’re letting the pearls sit in the water while it comes to a boil. Therefore, resulting in gluey starchy water with barely any pearls in sight. 

When you add the sago to boiling water, the outermost layers of the pearls are cooked immediately upon contact with water. When that happens, a sort of protective seal is formed around the sago pearls and allows them to retain their texture and shape while cooking.

Clumpy Sago

Clumpy sago is bad for dishes that require the pearls to be beautiful singular balls floating in a pool of whatever delicious liquid that recipe calls for. This low fodmap dessert recipe depends on the sago clumping up to form the structure of these cakes. For the purpose of this recipe, do not rinse the sago after it is cooked.

Over Cooking Sago

Sago has a relatively short cook time of about 10-12 minutes. Usually, around this time, the pearls still have a white dot in the center. A common mistake that is made when cooking sago is to boil sago until the center is completely transparent.

Ideally, what you should do is boil the sago for 10-12 minutes -yes, the little white dot will still be there -and then, turn the heat off and place a lid over the pot. Let the sago sit covered in the pot for 3 minutes. This allows the sago to cook through in the residual heat.

For this recipe, we’ll be undercooking the sago and finishing it off in the steamer.

Don’t have a steamer? You can still make these Malaysian sweets with a DIY trick!

What To Do If You Don’t Have A Steamer

Steamers are pretty cheap and super handy to have. My favorite steamer is the traditional bamboo steamer. I use it to steam veggies, dumplings are make desserts like this. You can buy my favorite steamer here:

But just because you don’t have a steamer, doesn’t mean you can’t turn this into an easy DIY situation. If you want to make this easy Malaysian dessert but don’t have a steamer, here’s a hack for you.

And just to show you that it indeed does work, we put our steamer aside and made this dish using our DIY steamer.

Tip: Prepare boiling water before doing this and only add the water in the pan or pot once the trivet and dish have been securely placed in the pot.

Place a trivet or rack in a pan or a pot -we used a pan.

Put the dish with the sago on top of the rack and then pour in pre-boiled water.

Use a lid, wok, pot, or any other pan that fits as a cover, and voila! You have yourself a steamer.

Make as many Malaysian desserts as you want with your handy DIY steamer.

How To Cook Sago For These Little Malaysian Desserts

Malaysian Desserts

A lot of people google, “how to cook small sago.” And we’ll be honest we’ve you, there are plenty of ways to answer that question. The right answer is, how you cook your sago depends on what kind of dessert you’ll be making.

For this coconut sago dessert we are going to cook the sago 3/4 of the way through and then transfer the pearls into a container or dish to steam to finish cooking.

If it looks like this, it is not ready:

Undercooked sago pearls

Once the water is boiling and you’ve added the rose extract, sugar, and pandan leaf, add the sago to the pot. Cook the pearls for 10 minutes or until it should look like this: 

3/4 cooked sago pearls

Transfer the mixture to a dish lined with banana leaf, baking paper, saran wrap, or any food-safe plastic. This will make it easier to remove for the cutting process. Steam the pearls for 20 minutes until the pearls are clear. You will know when they’re cooked when they look like this:

Let the sago cool for 40 minutes to an hour and then portion it out into small squares like so:

Coat the sago squares in the rehydrated desiccated coconut:

Repeat this step until all the sago bars are coated entirely in the rehydrated coconut flakes. Store covered at room temperature or in an air-tight container in the fridge.

Why stop at these amazing little sago desserts? We’ve got 8 more easy Malaysian dessert recipes for you in the next section!

9 More Malaysian Desserts You Can Make At Home

Malaysian Desserts
Malaysian Desserts

These little rose-flavored Malaysian cakes are just one of the many traditional Malaysian desserts that the country has to offer and by golly are some of them really interesting.

Looking for more sago desserts? Here are a few recipes that will transform how you view these humble little starch balls:

Coconut Cream Mango Sago Dessert (Vegan)

This rich creamy coconut mango sago dessert it one of our favorite easy Malaysian desserts because it’s so simple to make and perfect to make in advance. The best part? It’s a 4 ingredient dessert!

This mango sago dessert is traditionally not vegan but our recipe gives you the same refreshing rich mango flavor without any dairy!

Pandan Sago Pudding With Coconut Milk

Another simple sago dessert is this pandan sago pudding. It’s perfectly cooked sago cakes swimming in rich coconut milk and coconut sugar!

Looking for a Malaysian dessert recipe without sago?

Malaysian Pandan Coconut Sugar Mochi (Kuih Buah Melaka)

This is one of the first Malay desserts I learned how to make as a child. That’s how easy this dessert recipe. Kuih buah melaka is kind of like Malaysian mochi. It’s made with sticky rice flour and stuffed with a piece of coconut sugar and coated in coconut flakes.

It’s sweet, rich, coconutty and chewy!

Pandan Coconut Custard Sticky Rice Bars (Kuih Seri Muka)

Another pandan coconut dessert on this list, kuih seri muka is one of the most traditional Malaysian dessert recipes. It’s a steamed pandan coconut custard on top of sticky rice.

Malaysian Banana Bread (Vegan +Without Baking Soda)

Didn’t expect banana bread to be on this list of Malaysian desserts right? This is my take on one of the Malaysian cakes called bingka pisang.

Kaya Puff Recipe (Vegan & Air Fryer Recipe Available) + How To Make Eggless Kaya

A time old favorite dessert in Malaysia is kaya puff. Kaya is basically coconut jam that’s sometimes pandan flavored. Kaya puffs are fried crispy pastries filled with coconut jam.

The recipe below shows you how to make kaya puffs fried or in an air fryer! There’s also an eggless soy-free vegan kaya recipe that tastes just like the real thing!

Basque Pandan Burnt Cheesecake Recipe

This is definitely not under tradition Malaysian cakes and desserts but it’s definitely one of the most popular Malaysian cakes recipes. Basque burnt cheesecakes are all the rage in Malaysia and this is my take on the perfect pandan burnt cheesecake recipe.

It works every time and I’ve never had a cheesecake fail with this recipe EVER.

pandan burnt cheesecake
Burnt (basque) Pandan Cheesecake

Pandan Cheesecake With Coconut Crust (Gluten Free)

Malaysia desserts are known for taking classics and giving them a Southeast Asian twist. This pandan cheesecake is exactly the kind of Asian cheesecake you need.

It’s rich and creamy with hints of pandan and instead of a regular biscuit crust, it’s made with a toasted coconut crust.

Coconut Crusted Pandan Cheesecake

Malaysian Desserts FAQ

What Are The Famous Dessert in Malaysia?

There are so many famous Malaysian desserts to count but here are some of you can find on every corner:

  1. Ais Kacang or ABC: A shaved ice dessert with jellies, sweet syrup, coconut sugar and evaporated milk. 
  2. Cendol: Iced coconut milk, coconut sugar and pandan jelly noodles! 
  3. Kaya Puff: Fried crispy dough filled with kaya (coconut jam).
  4. Pisang Goreng: Deep fried crispy bananas. Now you can get them covered in chocolate, cheese and condensed milk.
  5. Fried Potato Donuts: They’re chewy, delicious and super crispy.
  6. Pulut Hitam: This is a sweet rice porridge made with black sticky rice.
  7. Kuih lapis: layered steamed pudding cake made with coconut milk.
  8. Bubur Cha Cha: Bubur cha cha is banana filled coconut milk soup with sago, sweet potatoes and assorted jellies.
  9. Seri Muka: Steamed pandan coconut custard on top of sticky rice.
  10. Apam Balik: Malaysian pancakes filled with peanuts, corn and sometimes chocolate!
  11. Kuih Dadar: Thin pandan crepes that are filled with sweetened coconut flakes and rolled into cigars
  12. Bingka pisang or ubi: This is a thick cake usually made from bananas or sweet potatoes.

What Is Traditional Dessert in Malaysia?

We’d be here all day if I listed all the traditional Malaysian desserts that existed but most traditional Malaysian desserts are pandan flavored and have something to do with coconut milk:

  1. Kuih Buah Melaka
  2. Seri Muka
  3. Kuih Dadar
  4. Kuih Pelita
  5. Sago Gula Melaka
  6. Kuih Rose sago
  7. Bingka Pisang
  8. Bingka Ubi
  9. Agar-agar (jellies)
  10. Apam
  11. Putu Mayam
  12. Kuih lapis
  13. Bubur cha cha

I’m going to stop here and get on with some Malaysian cakes.

What Are Malaysian Cakes?

The most famous Malaysian cake has to be chiffon sponge cake. It’s a light airy sponge cake that’s soft and usually pandan or vanilla flavored. This is thanks to whipped egg whites. 

There’s also banana cakes or sweet potato cakes but those are denser. 

What Is The Green Dessert in Malaysia?

Most Malaysian desserts are green because of pandan leaves. Here are a few green Malaysian desserts:

  1. Kuih pelita
  2. Seri muka
  3. Kuih buah melaka or ondeh-ondeh
  4. Kuih lapis
  5. Dadar gulung
  6. Cendol
  7. Ang ku kueh
  8. Kuih talam
  9. Kuih ketayap
  10. Apam

What Is Sago And Is It Low FODMAP?

What you’ll need: sago, rose extract, sugar, desiccated coconut, and a lined dish.

This Malaysian coconut dessert base is made from Sago. Sago comes from a palm plant called Metroxylon sagu. It is a tropical plant native to Asia, among other islands in Southeast Asia. 

In a lot of cultures, sago is a staple food. However, in Malaysia, sago is often incorporated into desserts. When not cooked, sago resembles little white pearls.

These little white balls are essentially edible starch and because of that, sago is a low FODMAP and is a fantastic ingredient for IBS desserts.

Are Coconuts Low FODMAP?

One of us loves desserts and we mean absolutely obsessed with them but making a low fodmap cake or low fodmap desserts is not a walk in the park. Easy low fodmap desserts are hard to come by because a lot of ingredients have either not been tested, have precise serving sizes, or are not ibs-friendly.

Coconuts are one of those ingredients that come in many variations -milk, cream, canned, dried, fresh, etc.- and because of this, each kind comes with different serving sizes and recommendations for a low fodmap diet.

This coconut rose cake requires dried desiccated coconut or if you can manage to get your hands on it; fresh coconut flesh. If you do have access to fresh coconuts, you can also use a grater and do it manually. Don’t worry if you can’t find any, because we’ll show you how to add moisture back into dried desiccated coconut right after we talk about fodmaps.

Fresh Coconut Flesh VS Dried Desiccated Coconut

It does not make a difference to this recipe whether you’re using dried desiccated coconut or fresh coconut flesh. What does change is the serving size based on fodmap levels.

We can only assume that shredded coconut fodmap is similar to desiccated coconut because they’re processed the same way. But according to Monash University and the food app they developed, the fodmap levels between fresh coconut flesh and dried shredded coconuts are different.

Fresh Coconut Flesh

Fresh coconut flesh is low to moderate fodmap when served in 3/4 cups. Anything more than 1 cup will be a moderate level of fodmaps (sorbitol). So, if you’re planning on using fresh shredded coconut, make sure to keep it under 3/4 cups.

Dried Desiccated Coconut

Desiccated coconut is made from the dried and shredded flesh of mature coconuts. According to Monash University, dried desiccated coconut fodmap is low when served in 1/2 cup portions. Anything above that serving size, namely large servings like 3/4 cups will be considered high fodmap (polyols).

How To Rehydrate Desiccated Coconut

If you’re using dried desiccated coconut for this recipe, it is crucial to steam the shredded coconut to reintroduce moisture. Start by adding salt to the coconut -this helps elevate the dessert- and add a teaspoon of water before steaming the coconut for 10 minutes.

Rehydrated desiccated coconut used in Malaysian desserts

Malaysian dessert recipes can be tricky since the whole country cooks with the “eye-ball measurement system,” or more commonly known as “agak-agak.” Which literally means guess. So, we’re happy to have come up with a full proof “kuih rose recipe” that works each time.

Have you had these kuihs or any other Malaysian dessert before? Let us know in the comments what your favorite tea time dessert is.

Rose Coconut Sago Cakes

Desserts, Snacks Malaysian, Singaporean
By Yummyble Serves: 6
Prep Time: 1 hour Cooking Time: 32 minutes Total Time: 1 hour 32 minutes

Learn how to make one of our traditional low FODMAP malaysian desserts with sago and learn how you can steam something without a steamer!


  • 150g sago
  • 3 cups of water (roughly 700 ml)
  • 70g sugar
  • 1 tbsp rose extract
  • 1 pandan leaf
  • 1/2 cup dried desiccated coconut or 3/4 fresh coconut *For low fodmap information see notes
  • 1 tsp water
  • A pinch of salt
  • Equipment needed: Steamer
  • If you don't have a steamer, look at our blog post to see how you can DIY one with things in your kitchen. We have a steamer but to demonstrate this technique we used our own DIY version of a steamer for this recipe and it came out perfectly.



In a pot, bring 3 cups of water to a boil. Add your pandan leaf, sugar, and rose extract to the water.


Important: Only add the sago once the water is boiling. When the water is boiling, add the sago and allow it to cook for 10 minutes. Remember to stir the sago every few minutes to avoid clumping.


The mixture should thicken up and be a little gloopy. Remove the pandan leaf and cook the sago until it is translucent or 3/4 cooked. There should still be a little white dot in the middle.


Transfer this mixture to a tin, bowl, or any container lined with banana leaf, heat-proof plastic, or baking paper. This will make the sago easier to remove later.


Set your steamer up and allow the water to boil. When the water is boiling, steam the sago for 20 minutes.


When the sago is finished steaming, place it aside and allow to cool for 40 minutes to an hour. You can speed up this process by storing it in your refrigerator.


While the sago is cooling, take your desiccated coconut, add a pinch of salt, and a teaspoon of water to it. Place the desiccated coconut into a steamer and steam for 10 minutes to rehydrate the coconut.


After the sago is completely cool, cut it into bars. This recipe yields 12 bars.


Place the sago bars onto the desiccated coconut and coat the bars in the coconut.


Repeat this step until all the sago bars are coated.


Voila, delicious rose-flavored sago coconut tea cakes, ready to eat!


  • Dried desiccated coconut is low fodmap at 1/2 cup serving size
  • Fresh coconut flesh has been tested by Monash University to be low fodmap at a serving size of 3/4 cups
  • Only add sago to boiling water
  • If you do not have a steamer, you can use a pan. Add a trivet or a cooling rack to your pan, place the sago on top of that and then add pre-boiled water into the pan. Use a lid or another pot on top of that to make your own steamer. Check out the blog post to see how we did it

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