Coconut cream pie. You either love it or you hate it. There is pretty much no in between when it comes to coconut anything…german chocolate cake? Most who hate it turn their nose at the coconut in the frosting. I am in the LOVE coconut side of the aisle. And nothing beats freshly toasted, unsweetened coconut folded into the most luxurious custard made, in part with coconut cream.
I have been making this coconut cream pie for years, and actually, I can’t believe it took me this long to share the recipe. For some reason cream pies scream spring and summer to me. I am always making banana cream or coconut cream or key lime when spring hits and throughout the summer. Coconut cream pie is simple to make and intensely coconut-y, kind of tropical flavors, I guess in a quintessentially American custard pie.
Making the custard
I think what makes this custard so wonderful is the coconut cream. I mean, for real, this custard is so smooth and velvety…it is unlike any other custard I make. All custards are made with:
- cornstarch/egg yolks
- heavy cream or half and half
The custard for this pie is made with the same basic ingredients but using unsweetened coconut cream in place of the milk. This fat in the coconut cream gives this particular custard a velvety smooth texture – it feels extra luxurious. While I have found that many recipes call for heavy cream, equally as many recipes call for half and half. For this pie I use half and half; for most other cream pies I use heavy cream. Finally, fold in some unsweetened shredded coconut for that extra oomph of coconut flavor and a little texture.
Meringue is the only way to top this pie in my opinion, I love the sweetness and light texture this gives to the pie. I think whip cream is too similar in texture to the custard and a little boring. This meringue is like a soft marshmallow and makes it interesting.
Coconut cream pie
- Pie crust
For the filling
- 4 large egg yolks
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 1 can cream of coconut
- 1 cup half and half
- 2/3 cup white sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
- 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
- 2 tablespoons vanilla bean paste alternatively you could use vanilla extract or one vanilla bean split with the seeds scraped
For the meringue
- 3 egg whites
- 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of white sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon of cream of tartar
- a pinch (and I mean a pincof kosher or sea salt
Whisk the egg yolks and cornstarch together in a bowl. In a medium saucepan combine the coconut cream, half-and-half, sugar, vanilla bean if using (if using extract or paste do not add yet), and salt and whisk together. Whisking occasionally, bring the cream mixture to a boil.When it begins boiling, pour (VERY SLOW AND IN A STEADY STREAM) about 1/2 cup of the cream mixture, while whisking the entire time, into the egg yolk and cornstarch mixture. Don't stop whisking or I promise you that you'll end up with scrambled egg yolks. Then in a slow stream, pour the egg yolk mixture into the pot while continuing to whisk and keep over medium/low heat.
Rather quickly, the custard will bubble and thicken. Keep whisking. Whisk and cook for 1 minute or so while it is bubbling . Remove from heat and stir in the unsweetened coconut, butter, vanilla, and coconut extract (if using).
Pour warm filling into cooled pie crust. Cover tightly with plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pudding (to prevent a skin from forminand refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight until chilled and thickened. Pie may be refrigerated for up to 1 day.
To make the meringue, fill a wide saucepan with water about 1/3 of the way. In a large stainless steel bowl of a stand mixer, put egg whites, sugar, salt and cream of tartar. Place the bowl over the simmering saucepan of water. Being whisking the egg white mixture and using a rubber spatula, scrape down the sides of the bowl. Do this until egg white mixture reaches 175 on a candy thermometer, about 12 minutes give or take. If you don't have a thermometer - don't worry, test the egg whites with you finger after about 10 minutes, if it is hot - but not so hot that you have to pull your finger back - then it is ready. If it is just warm, continue for another 2-3 minutes. Take the bowl off the sauce pan and attach to the stand mixer and using the whisk attachment, whip on high for about 8 minutes until the meringue is a light and fluffy ball.
To assemble the pie - take out your chilled pie and top with the meringue all the way to the crust. Using an offset spatula, pillow the meringue into multiple small peeks.
To toast the top, I use a kitchen torch because I have one. If you don't have one, this link will take you to instructions on alternative methods to toasting your meringue.