Coconut Agar-Agar Jellies

Now I’ve made (and eaten) a lot of Asian-style jelly desserts in my day, but I think I have to declare these Burmese Kyauk Kyaw as my new favorite.  Not only do they have that delicate, lightly-sweetened coconut thing going on, but they’re one of the most striking desserts I’ve ever seen.   When cooling, the jelly separates into two distinct layers: an opaque coconut layer and a translucent agar-agar layer.

And did I mention that they’re just about as easy to make as jello?

I finally mustered the courage to experiment with the agar-agar that’s been sitting in my pantry for the last 8-10 months.  Most recipes I saw used the agar-agar in its strand form, but the powder is much more readily available, at least around these parts.   Although I couldn’t find a straightforward explanation as to how to substitute one for the other, I finally came up with a exactly the texture I was going for (which is a bit softer than some of the other agar-agar desserts, like Vietnamese rau cau, that I’ve had in the past) after a bit of trial and error.

If you’re set on recapturing the fun of the Jello jigglers of your youth, these can easily be set in silicone molds or you can do it old school-style and just use cookie cutters.  And although I used rose water, because that seemed to be the most traditional, feel free play around with different extracts and flavorings.

These heart-shaped molds were the only ones I had without a Christmas theme, so I decided to make this batch extra saccharine sweet by adding a drop or two of red food coloring.  Be warned, however, that I found that the different layers weren’t quite as striking and obvious when food coloring was used.


Coconut Agar-Agar Jellies

I've seen agar-agar sold in health food stores like Whole Foods for outrageous amounts. You should be able to find small packets, which have enough for several batches of these jellies, for $1-$2 at an Asian grocery store.

Yield: 8-10 servings

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour


* 2-1/2 cups water
* 2-1/4 teaspoons agar-agar powder (Gold Cup and Telephone are two popular brands)
* 1/4 cup plus 1 Tablespoon sugar
* 1 cup coconut milk
* pinch salt
* 1 Tablespoon rose water (or add a 1/4-1/2 teaspoon of your favorite extract)
* 1-2 drops food coloring (optional)


Combine the water, agar-agar, sugar, coconut milk and salt in a medium saucepan. Stir and let sit for 10 minutes. Set the saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool 5 minutes. Stir in the rose water and food coloring, if using, and pour into a special silicone molds or a loaf pan or a square 8-inch by 8-inch pan.

Let the mixture cool for 30-40 minutes to set. Cut into pieces and serve.

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13 Responses to “Coconut Agar-Agar Jellies”

  1. #
    MadTeenCook — August 17, 2013 at 10:17 pm

    I made these yesterday with my little sister who always eats gluten-free.
    Undescribably amazing. It was so mellow yet flavorful at the same time. I also really liked the two layer thing, it was really cool since we used big molds: the base was the agar agar layer and the top, which was a flower, was the opaque coconut layer. Delicious! But I added an extra teaspoon of agar agar because last time I used it, the treats didn’t become like gel.
    Thanks for sharing this recipe!


    • Cate — August 20th, 2013 @ 9:50 pm

      So so glad you guys liked them! They’re definitely one of my favorite Asian desserts :)


  2. #
    Preetha — August 25, 2013 at 2:22 am

    Hi Cate..
    i tried this recipe today… this was the first time i am trying out something out of india… i was good and flavourful…but i didnt get the two layers as its shown in the pic… i dont know wat went wrong…also the sugar was less . so i added a little.. i used tinned coconut milk .
    Thanks for sharing the recipe..


  3. #
    Layla Falcon — October 27, 2013 at 4:21 pm

    PREP TIME: 10 minutes COOK TIME: 10 minutes TOTAL TIME: 1 hour?
    Is this a mistake?
    Aside from this, WOW! Great recipe! My agar is cooling right now!
    And Preetha, you probably over mixed. Don’t worry I suspect I did this too!


    • Cate — October 28th, 2013 @ 9:36 pm

      Hey Layla… I ~think~ I did that total time as an hour to make it clear that there was a lot of resting/cooling time. I didn’t want anybody looking at a total time of 20 minutes and thinking they could be ready to eat in 20 minutes :) Hope you enjoyed them!


  4. #
    oumbil — May 8, 2014 at 8:42 am

    I love that sweeties :-)


  5. #
    A. — August 21, 2014 at 9:39 am

    Do these have to cool in the fridge, or countertop?


  6. #
    Maria — December 23, 2014 at 7:26 am

    Ah, they look good, I’m going to try to make them, my DH loves Asian food, so Do I we had Asian food at our wedding Reception, but I’m going to use the food coloring out of beets instead of the artificial food coloring..I well let you know how it turned out.Thanks for Recipe.


  7. #
    Chel — December 3, 2015 at 9:56 am

    Do you know why whenever I make the jello it never has two layer?


  8. #
    Tina Dawson | Love is in my Tummy — May 15, 2016 at 10:04 am

    Love Love Love this, but quick question: Did you use coconut milk from a can or freshly pressed from a coconut? In my experience, the canned coconut milk doesn’t seem to separate as yours did. Thanks!


  9. #
    Mary McSweeney — May 3, 2017 at 1:01 am

    Can I substitute coconut sugar or honey do you think?
    I have to refrain from eating sugar.


  10. #
    Stephanie — January 5, 2018 at 10:55 am

    My son has severe food allergies, but coconut milk and agar agar powder are safe. Can the salt and rose water/extract be omitted? I know the flavor will differ, but are they needed for the recipe to set properly?


    • Cate — January 6th, 2018 @ 4:28 pm

      I don’t see why it would be a problem for the salt and rose water/extract to be omitted- good luck!


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