I have two words for you: vegan kaya. That’s right folks, I have a vegan kaya recipe that is just as delicious as any traditional kaya recipe. If you love this coconut jam spread and you’re looking for an eggless vegan version, then you’ve landed on the right blog post.
Along with teaching you how to make a vegan kaya (without just coconut milk and thickeners), here are a few other topics we’ll be covering:
If you’re ready to make the vegan kaya that will make all your dreams come true, kick up your feet and grab a cup of tea. But first, introductions are in order. Let’s answer the question, “what is kaya?”
What Is Kaya?
Kaya is a coconut jam or spread that can be found throughout Southeast Asia. It is made from coconut milk, eggs, and sugar. Occasionally, pandan juice, water, or extract is used to flavor this coconut spread.
Kaya is thick in texture and quite sweet. You can taste hints of coconut and egg. It’s very rich and I highly recommend never looking up kaya calories. This rich coconut spread is typically paired with carbs like bread, used as a filling in kaya buns (bao buns filled with kaya), or even kaya puffs.
Looking for a kaya puff recipe?:
Vegan Kaya Puff Recipe
I have a small confession. Sometimes, I hate the eggy aftertaste that kaya has. That’s why I love this coconut jam recipe. It’s more than just coconut milk, sugar, and thickeners. It tastes like the real deal and it doesn’t leave that -personally unpleasant- eggy aftertaste.
Now that we know what kaya is. Let’s have a look at how kaya is traditionally made.
How Kaya Is Traditionally Made
Any recipe for kaya will start with water, eggs, coconut milk, and sugar. Making kaya the traditional way can be labor intensive and honestly quite intimidating. Making kaya from scratch often starts with caramelizing raw white sugar and transforming it from a solid to a liquid.
After the sugar has caramelized, water is added to thin out the mixture. The eggs are beaten eggs and then added to the hot sugar. Now, this is where everything could go wrong. You could potentially end up with scrambled caramelized eggs if the heat is too high or if you’re not whisking the ingredients fast enough. Whisk too much? You risk the mixture separating.
Once you’ve successfully added the eggs, the coconut milk can be added to the pan. You would think that would be the end of it but nope. For about an hour, you must stand over the stove and continuously stir until the mixture reaches the proper consistency.
This is all fine and dandy if you’re a coconut jam kaya making professional but I am not. Living in Europe means I don’t always have access to ready-made kaya. I am also not dedicated or desperate enough to go through the painstaking process of making kaya from scratch.
Enter our vegan recipe for kaya jam! It’s easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy, can be made with a handful of ingredients, and unlike some vegan kaya recipes out there, it’s more than just coconut milk, sugar, and cornstarch. Wanna know what the secret ingredient is? You’ll find out in the next section: about this vegan kaya recipe.
About This Vegan Kaya Recipe
The secret ingredient in this vegan kaya recipe is pumpkin or squash. Well since I’ve told you, it’s no longer a secret. But hear me out. This vegan kaya recipe can be made with either pumpkin or silken tofu.
I opted for butternut squash because it’s what I had in the kitchen. Although I love silken tofu, it is winter and I did not want to cycle through the horrifying Dutch weather just to go to the Asian grocery store for 200 grams of silken tofu.
The tofu, pumpkin, or squash acts as an egg replacement and thickens the kaya coconut jam in a way that replicates a traditional kaya made with eggs. If you are only using cornstarch, flour, or tapioca flour in a kaya jam recipe to thicken it, then you will get a gloopy texture.
There’s nothing wrong with gloopy kaya! Don’t get me wrong but I find that the flavor is a bit flat and one-dimensional. Adding pumpkin, squash, or silken tofu will not change the flavor profile. It will only add richness and body to the vegan kaya.
But enough chit-chat! We’re finally going to get into the good stuff and learn how to make vegan kaya from scratch!
How To Make Vegan Kaya
Since you know all about the secret ingredient in this vegan version of kaya coconut jam, there’s really nothing else to do but make this recipe. Here’s an overview of the process:
- Preparing the pumpkin
- Using silken tofu
- Cooking the kaya: Timing
- Let it cool
So, let’s begin with the first step: preparing the pumpkin
Preparing The Pumpkin
Preparing the pumpkin or squash for this vegan kaya recipe is simple. But first, you’ll need a saucepan with some water. Bring that up to a boil and while you’re waiting, start by peeling your squash and cutting it into small-ish pieces. Place your cubed squash into a steamer basket.
Place your steamer basket over the pot of boiling water and let the squash steam for 20 minutes. It’s done when you can pierce a piece with a fork easily.
After that, place the squash in a blender until completely smooth.
We’re going to have a short interlude for those using tofu. If you aren’t, simply skip the next section and move on to step 3: cooking the kaya. Here’s what to do if you’re using tofu.
Using Silken Tofu
If you have chosen to use silken tofu over squash, there’s no real prep work. All you need to do is add the silken tofu, salt, coconut milk, cornstarch, and pandan extract to a blender. Now, back on track with the recipe. Let’s continue with cooking the kaya.
Cooking The Kaya: Timing
The cooking process is where the magic happens. We’ll see this fragrant coconut mixture transform from thin and watery into a thick, luscious, and luxurious vegan kaya spread. Add your coconut milk, pandan extract, salt, sugar, and cornstarch to a wok or saucepan. Heat this mixture on a gentle heat until the sugar has dissolved.
Add the pureed pumpkin mix into this liquid and whisk everything together until it’s combined.
Let the mixture come to a boil. This will take about 5-7 minutes. The liquid will start to thicken and this is when you’ll need to keep an eye on it.
Timing and stirring regularly are key at this moment. Keep stirring the mixture to avoid lumps and cook for an additional 7-10 minutes. For looser kaya, cook it until the 15-minute mark . You will get a vegan kaya spread that is exactly the texture of a traditional kaya when you cook the coconut jam until the 20-minute mark.
Here’s a comparison between the two textures:
You can see that the kaya that’s cooked for 20 minutes is thicker in texture and holds its shape in the pan. Whereas the 15-minute kaya is looser.
Once the kaya is cooked to the desired consistency, turn off the heat and move on to the easiest step: letting it cool.
Let It Cool
If you want to bottle up the kaya, let it cool for about 30 minutes or an hour. This is important for the texture of the spread. Allowing the kaya to cool will allow the coconut jam to set properly.
After it’s cooled you can store it in a glass jar or air-tight container. This vegan kaya recipe can be made without the pandan extract too!
Be careful if you skip the cooling time! The kaya is piping hot. Not quite sure what to serve this luxurious vegan kaya with? Don’t worry, we’ve got some suggestions for you in the next section, ‘what to serve with kaya.’
What To Serve With Kaya?
How do you like your vegan kaya? Personally, my favorite way to eat kaya is on a thick piece of toasted bread, a generous spread of kaya, and a nice big slab of salted butter. If you’re feeling adventurous, you could use this vegan kaya filling to make and try making a kaya bun recipe!
Make this mantou bun recipe and make your own kaya buns from scratch. Don’t like steamed buns? We have just the recipe for you:
The kaya puff recipe features this simple vegan kaya recipe. It is a flaky, crispy, light, and crunchy puff pastry filled with kaya. The smell of fried dough and kaya will perfume your entire home. They’re absolutely delicious and addictive. You just can’t stop at one.
What do you eat your kaya with? Have you tried making kaya the traditional way? I bet you didn’t know you could make it without any eggs, eh? Looking for more vegan egg-free recipes? Try this amazing banana bread! It’s so amazing and easy to make:
Eggless Vegan Kaya
Kaya is a Malaysian coconut jam that is traditionally made with eggs. This vegan kaya recipe is eggless but tastes like the real thing.
- 300ml coconut milk
- 200g squash/pumpkin or silken tofu
- 1/2 tsp pandan extract
- 4 tbsp sugar (coconut sugar or white sugar)
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 tsp cornstarch
Prepare a pot with boiling water for your steamer.
Cut the pumpkin into cubes and place it in the steamer. Steam the pumpkin for 20 minutes or until fork-tender.
While the pumpkin is steaming, mix your coconut milk, pandan extract, sugar, salt, and cornstarch in a saucepan. Heat the mixture on low until the sugar and salt dissolves.
When the pumpkin is ready, place it in a blender until it is smooth.
Add the pumpkin puree into the pot and mix until incorporated.
Turn the heat to medium-low and cook the mixture for 15-20 minutes to your desired consistency *See notes. Make sure to keep stirring the mixture every so often.
Once the kaya is cooked, turn off the heat and allow it to cool.
If the mixture is lumpy, pass it through a sieve.
Serve on toasted bread with a healthy smearing of butter or make these delicious vegan kaya puffs!
Cooking the kaya until the 15-minute mark will give you a runnier kaya texture. If you cook it for 20 minutes, you will get a thicker textured kaya that is identical to the consistency of traditional kaya made with eggs.