Dulce de Coco is a popular dessert and sweet around the Caribbean. It varies slightly from country to country, but here in Colombia it is almost like a coconut fudge. It is also fairly easy to make. Read on to learn how to make dulce de coco at home in this recipe for Colombian dulce de coco.
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What is Dulce de Coco?
Put simply, it’s pretty much what the direct translation is, coconut sweet or coconut candy. While not exactly alike, it is very similar to the coconut patties known as cocadas you often see sold on the street or at the beach here in Cartagena.
*Cocadas are on our list of the best street foods in Cartagena. See other must try street foods in Cartagena here.
You’ll see stands selling it along with other traditional sweets made from fruits and vegetables around Easter Week, aka Semana Santa here in Cartagena. However, if you want it a different time of year, it’s fairly easy to make at home.
This is one of a handful of recipes my wife Susana has been putting up on the site of traditional Cartagena and Colombian food. You can see her original Spanish recipe here.
Dulce de Coco Recipe
- 1 coconut (it is best to use a ripe brown one, which has more meat).
- 1/2 liter milk (about equal to 1/2 quart, 1 pint, or 2 cups)
- 1/2 cup sugar
- Cinnamon to taste
- Condensed milk to taste
This will make about 8-12 small servings depending on the size of your coconut and your serving size.
Mission Possible: Getting the Coconut Meat Out
The first step in making dulce de coco at home is undoubtedly the most difficult, and a bit daunting. It is breaking open the coconut and getting the meat out.
Don’t worry though. One way or another, you’ll be able to manage getting it open!
Of course, you could pick up a handy coconut opener kit that will make this stop a whole lot easier. It would come in handy if you want to make your own piña coladas in a coconut at home yourself with younger coconuts too!
We don’t have one of those though, and you don’t really need one. Susana just uses a meat tenderizer, holding the coconut in her hand and hitting it until she cracks a hole in it.
You could always go for a regular hammer as well. If you want to soften the blow and make sure you don’t hurt yourself, wrap the coconut in a towel.
Finally, if worse comes to worse, you can always bang it on a hard surface (be prepared for the water inside to spill out though!).
Once you have managed to get a hole or crack in your coconut, drain out the water inside. Coconut water is very hydrating, so you can just drink it, set it aside to drink later, or even add some back in to your dulce later if you’d like it a more liquid consistency.
Regardless of how you manage to get your coconut open, once you do, you’re ready to move on in this recipe for dulce de coco.
Continue opening your coconut until you have opened it up completely. It’s best to get it into quarters or several small pieces to facilitate getting the meat out at a good angle.
Once you have the coconut open, you’ll need to get the meat out. If you picked up a kit like this one mentioned above, you should have a tool to scrape the meat out. If you don’t have a kit like this, you can also pick up a special coconut meat removal knife.
Susana just uses a normal kitchen knife and a spoon to get all the meat out. Around the edges, there is a sort of brown skin (separate from the shell itself). This is edible, but some prefer to peel it off to keep their coconut white. It is totally up to you and your preference.
After getting all the meat out, you’ll want to grate it into flakes. You can just use your standard box grater or hand grater. You can do this as fine as you like. If you think you’re going to do this a lot, you can just combine these last two steps and pick up a hand cranked coconut scraper.
Now you should have a nice big bowl of beautiful shredded coconut. The hardest part is now definitely out of the way, and you are ready to move on to the actual preparation of your dulce de coco at home.
Preparation of Your Dulce de Coco
First, you’ll want to add the milk and sugar into a large pot or sauce pan over medium heat. Stir to dissolve the sugar and once it starts to boil, add in the shredded coconut.
Now add in the condensed milk and cinnamon. You can also add in other ingredients like pineapple, strawberry, or caramel at this step if you would like.
Be sure to stir constantly to keep anything from sticking while the liquid boils down. After 30-40 minutes, the mixture should be good and thickened up. At this point, you should remove it from the heat.
Now you’ll want to transfer it to a serving dish and refrigerate it for a while before serving.
Once chilled, you’re ready to enjoy your homemade Colombian dulce de coco! If you like, eat it with a saltine.
There you have it, an easy recipe for dulce de coco, a favorite traditional Cartagena sweet. If you like, you can print it below, and most importantly, if you do make it, I hope you enjoy it!
If you’d like to learn more about Colombian Caribbean cooking, check out this other recipe from Susana for tasty, garlicy, shrimp and calamari al ajillo.
If you’d like to learn even more Colombian recipes and support a great cause, check out this pdf bilingual cookbook La Cocina de Sofi. A compilation of all the best recipes of a Colombian chef currently out of work due to the Covid pandemic, all the proceeds go directly to Sofi and supporting her grandchildren.
You might also be interested in the following cookbooks on Amazon.com:
Cheers and Happy Eating!
- 1 Coconut
- 1/2 liter milk (roughly equal to 1/2 quart, 1 pint, or 2 cups)
- 1/2 cup sugar
- Cinnamon to taste
- Condensed Milk to taste
- *You can add other ingredients such as fruits or caramel if you like
- Break open the coconut and drain the water.
- Remove and shred the coconut meat.
- Add the milk and sugar to a large pot or sauce pan over medium and bring to a roiling boil.
- Stir in the shredded coconut.
- Add in the cinnamon and condensed milk (and other ingredients if you want to add them).
- Stir frequently for 30-40 minutes until mixture has solidified.
- Remove from heat and transfer to another dish.
- Refigerate for 1-2 hours until cool and solidified.
You'll get more meat from a ripe, brown coconut.
This produces a consistency almost like a fudge, you can adjust the amount of milk for a creamier or more solid version.
Save the coconut water for a refreshing drink later.