Coconut Cream Pie

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This Coconut Cream Pie is a favorite dessert at my home! It starts with a sweet graham cracker crust, is filled with smooth coconut custard, topped with homemade whipped cream, and finished off with toasted coconut flakes.

Overhead image of Coconut Cream Pie, ready to be served.

Coconut Cream Pie is A Coconut-Lovers Dream!

I’m obsessed with all things coconut, as evidenced by the archive of coconut recipes on the site. And when you pair a creamy custard coconut filling with a graham cracker crust, top it with sweetened whipped cream, and finish off with a generous dose of toasted coconut…well, there aren’t too many things better than that!

So let’s get talking about the ins and outs of this recipe for Coconut Cream Pie, starting with the incredible graham cracker pie crust.

Process shots: blending the graham crackers, adding sugar, butter and salt; mixing.

Graham Cracker Crust

The graham cracker crust is the perfect base for this pie. A lot of coconut cream pies start with a blind-baked pie crust, which is certainly an option here, but we prefer the graham cracker crust. (Plus, it’s easier!)

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What is blind baking? It’s the process of partially pre-baking the crust. Usually, that happens because the filling will be done long before the crust is done, so everything will be done at the same time. But you can’t just put the empty crust into the oven–the crust will develop pockets of steam and get puffy and soggy. To prevent this, we weigh down the crust to keep it flat. The weights can be dried beans wrapped in foil or even commercial metal pie weights. After the crust has been blind baked, remove the weights, add the filling and proceed with the recipe.

Here are a few tips for the perfect crust:

  • Let the melted butter cool. Once the butter is melted, it needs to cool back to room temperature. If the butter is hot, it will melt the sugar and crushed crackers, and cause a greasy crust. 
  • Blend the graham crackers thoroughly. To ensure there aren’t large chunks of graham cracker in the crust, which will affect how nicely this pie cuts out, thoroughly blend the graham crackers until they are fine crumbs. Add anything that didn’t blend completely back into the blender and blend again.
  • Tightly compress crumbs. When adding the crumbs to the pie tin, compress them tightly into the tin to ensure a cohesive crust.
  • Don’t skip the baking. We bake the crust to keep it from getting too soft when the filling is added. 
  • Let the crust cool fully before adding the filling. A hot filling will cause the crust to soften and get soggy.

Process shots: pressing crumbs into the pan; baking and cooling

Coconut Cream Pie filling

The filling is a custard/pudding consistency. It’s thick, rich, and luxuriously coconut flavored. Below I’ll share a quick breakdown of the ingredients that come together to make it.

  • We use egg yolks and cornstarch for thickness.
  • Next, full-fat coconut milk gives this pie that classic coconut flavor. See more on this ingredient below!
  • Along with the coconut milk we use heavy whipping cream, which contributes to the rich and thick consistency and flavor.
  • Vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract) and coconut extract further boost and enhance the flavor. I love using vanilla bean paste because of the slightly stronger flavor and the gorgeous vanilla bean specks throughout the pie.
  • Last but not least, a little bit of butter helps the mouthfeel and creaminess while also keeping the ingredients from separating.

Most coconut cream pies also have shredded coconut folded into the filling, but my family prefers toasted coconut on top instead. If you like coconut in the filling, feel free to fold some in.

Process shots: combine sugar, cornstarch and salt; whisk to combine; add cream and coconut milk; whisk again until smooth.

Are Cream of Coconut and Coconut Cream the Same Thing?

No, and they aren’t interchangeable in this Coconut Cream Pie Recipe! To give you a quick background…

  • Coconut milk has the liquid consistency of cow’s milk. It’s made by simmering 1 part shredded coconut to 1 part water.
  • Coconut cream has a much thicker and richer consistency than coconut milk. Coconut cream simmers 4 parts shredded coconut to 1 part water.
  • Cream of coconut is a sweetened version of coconut cream. It’s generally used in drinks or desserts. 

For this recipe, we use canned full-fat coconut milk. If you get lite or low-fat coconut milk, this pie won’t set up properly. This pie also won’t set up with refrigerated coconut milk, so make sure to get canned coconut milk.

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Canned (shelf-stable) coconut milk is generally in the Asian section of the grocery store. I highly recommend using full-fat coconut milk for the best flavor and texture in this pie. Lite coconut milk doesn’t thicken as nicely and won’t provide the rich full flavor that regular coconut milk provides.

Process shots: add egg yolks and whisk until thickened; add butter and continue to whisk.

How to make Coconut Cream Pie

The full recipe card is below, so here I’ll share the top tips for making the custard part of this pie:

  • Use a good, sturdy, heavy-bottomed nonstick pan for best results. We need the custard to thicken nicely without burning.
  • Thoroughly whisk together the custard ingredients before adding the pot to the heat.
  • When mixing the custard, we’re looking for large bubbles to begin forming in the center of the pot. Once you see these bubbles, you must whisk briskly and constantly. The mixture should be very thick at this point.
  • Keep in mind the custard will thicken a bit as it cools, but it should be quite thick before adding it to the crust. The consistency should be like a thick prepared pudding snack cup.
  • As the pie filling is setting up in the fridge, add plastic wrap onto the surface of the filling. We do this whenever making a custard or curd (like this lemon curd) to keep the layers from separating or to keep a film from developing.

Process shots: add in the extracts and whisk until smooth; pour into the crust; wrap in plastic and chill.

Coconut Cream Pie Topping

After the filling sets, it’s time to make the whipped cream and toasted coconut. I share a tutorial on how to make whipped cream here. 

If you’ve never toasted coconut before, don’t fret–it’s very easy to do! The toasted coconut not only tastes better, but it also makes for a gorgeous presentation. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to toast coconut.

Process shots making whipped cream: combine cream, sugar, vanilla and salt; whip together to form thick peaks; remove plastic wrap from the chilled pie; top with whipped cream.

What Is Coconut Extract?

Coconut extract is a flavor enhancer (just like vanilla extract) that gives this pie a more pronounced coconut flavor. Coconut extract can usually be found near other baking extracts and spices in the grocery store.

Add coconut extract gradually. Not all coconut extracts are made the same, so start with a little and add slowly, remembering it does intensify after sitting. (We use McCormick® coconut extract in this Coconut Cream Pie recipe and enjoy a full 1 teaspoon.)

Process shot-- image of the coconut being toasted for this amazing Coconut Cream Pie.

STORAGE

Does Coconut Cream Pie need to be refrigerated?

Yes! This pie needs to be refrigerated to properly set up. Additionally, any leftovers should be promptly returned to the fridge. Make sure to cover the pie tightly to keep it as fresh as possible.

Leftover pie will last 5-7 days in the fridge, but keep in mind the crust continues to soften every day it is stored.

Can You Freeze Coconut Cream Pie?

Unfortunately, this pie does not freeze and thaw well. The crust gets too soft and the custard can break or seep.

Image of a Coconut Cream Pie slice on a plate, ready to be served.

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Leave ample time for preparing this Coconut Cream Pie. Heads-up — it needs at least 8 hours to set up fully.

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Coconut Cream Pie

5 from 6 votes
This Coconut Cream Pie is a favorite dessert at my home! This pie starts with a sweet graham cracker crust, filled with smooth coconut custard, topped with homemade whipped cream, and finished off with toasted coconut flakes.
Print Recipe

Coconut Cream Pie

5 from 6 votes
This Coconut Cream Pie is a favorite dessert at my home! This pie starts with a sweet graham cracker crust, filled with smooth coconut custard, topped with homemade whipped cream, and finished off with toasted coconut flakes.
Course Dessert, treat
Cuisine American, Vegetarian
Keyword coconut cream pie, coconut cream pie recipe
Prep Time 35 minutes
Chilling Time 8 hours
Total Time 8 hours 35 minutes
Servings 10 -12 slices
Calories 513kcal
Author Chelsea Lords

Ingredients

Crust

  • 1-3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs (~12-13 full sheets)
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup white granulated sugar or light brown sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt

Filling

  • 3/4 cup white granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 4 large egg yolks (discard the whites or save for a different recipe)
  • 1 can (13.66 oz.) full-fat coconut milk (canned; in Asian section of grocery store)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract)
  • 1/4 to 1 full teaspoon coconut extract (Note 1)

Topping

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2-4 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract)
  • 1 cup sweetened shredded coconut, optional

Instructions

  • CRUST: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease a 9-inch pie pan with cooking spray. Melt 6 tbsp. butter in a microwave-safe bowl. Once melted, set aside to cool for 5 minutes. (Hot butter will cause a greasy crust.) In a blender or food processor, add broken graham crackers and process until they are all fine crumbs (re-blend any large chunks). Measure to get a level 1 and 3/4 cups of crumbs and add to a large bowl. Add 1/4 cup sugar and 1/8 tsp salt to the bowl. Use a spatula to scrape in every bit of butter and mix until well combined.
  • FINISH CRUST: Empty the crumb mixture into the prepared pan. Using your fingers, press the crumbs along the sides of the pan and then press into the bottom of the pan. Use the bottom of a flat 1-cup measuring cup to thoroughly compress the crumbs into a firm crust. Bake for 10 minutes then remove and set aside to fully cool. (You can prepare and bake the crust 24 hours in advance. Cover with plastic wrap & store at room temp!)
  • FILLING: In a medium-sized pot off the heat, add 3/4 cup sugar, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/4 cup cornstarch; whisk to combine. Add in all 4 egg yolks. While whisking constantly, add in the can of coconut milk and then 1 cup of heavy cream. Whisk until all ingredients are completely integrated. Now add the pot to the heat and turn to just below medium. Whisk occasionally as the mixture warms up and alternate between whisking and using a rubber spatula to scrape around the sides and bottom of the pot to ensure no pockets of cornstarch get stuck.
  • FILLING, CONTINUED: Once you see the mixture begin to thicken, start whisking constantly. Then, as soon as you see big bubbles in the center of the mixture, set a timer for 1 minute and whisk constantly (reduce heat slightly if it's bubbling up too intensely). Mixture should be thickened substantially (consistency like a cup of pudding!) After 1 minute, remove from the heat. (See Note 2). Whisk for another full minute off the heat. Then add in the 2 tbsp. butter and whisk until the butter is completely melted. Once butter is melted, add in 1 tsp vanilla and coconut extract (add to taste preference; we add 1 teaspoon) and whisk again until completely smooth.
  • FINISH FILLING: Use a spatula to scrape everything from the pot into the cooled crust, smoothing the top with the spatula. Gently place a piece of plastic wrap on the surface, pressing along the top of the pie to create a seal. (The plastic will prevent a skin from forming on the surface of the pudding.) Refrigerate for at least 8 hours or until the filling is fully set.
  • WHIPPED CREAM AND TOASTED COCONUT:
    WHIPPED CREAM: Pour 1 cup heavy whipping cream, powdered sugar (add to sweetness preference; start with 2 tablespoons and add an additional 2 if you like it sweeter), and 1/2 tsp vanilla into a bowl attached to a stand mixer. Whisk on low speed to combine. Gradually increase to high speed until medium-to-stiff peaks form, about 2-4 minutes. Watch carefully to avoid over-beating. Smooth cream over the pie.
    TOASTED COCONUT: Add the 1 cup unsweetened coconut to a large skillet. Cook over low to medium heat, stirring frequently until the flakes are mostly golden brown, about 3-6 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer to a plate immediately. Let cool completely before sprinkling evenly over the pie.
  • STORAGE: Any leftovers should be promptly returned to the fridge. Make sure to cover the pie tightly to keep it as fresh as possible. Leftover pie will last 5-7 days in the fridge, but keep in mind the crust continues to soften every day it is stored.

Recipe Notes

Note 1: Coconut Extract: add to taste; intensity will vary depending on the brand you use. We use McCormick and enjoy a full 1 teaspoon.
Note 2: Custard Notes:
  • When mixing the custard, we're looking for big bubbles to begin forming in the center of the pot. Once you see these big bubbles, it's important to whisk briskly and constantly. The mixture should be very thick at this point.
  • Keep in mind the custard will thicken a bit as it cools, but it should be very thick before adding it to the crust. The consistency should be like a thick prepared pudding snack cup.

Nutrition Facts

Calories: 513kcal | Carbohydrates: 40g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 39g | Saturated Fat: 20g | Cholesterol: 161mg | Sodium: 114mg | Potassium: 133mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 30g | Vitamin A: 1052IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 59mg | Iron: 1mg

We do our best to provide accurate nutritional analysis for our recipes. Our nutritional data is calculated using a third-party algorithm and may vary, based on individual cooking styles, measurements, and ingredient sizes. Please use this information for comparison purposes and consult a health professional for nutrition guidance as needed.

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9 Comments

  1. Hi! I’m thinking of making this for Thanksgiving! If I’m making it before, should I keep the whipped topping separate until just before serving? Or can I completely assemble the pie the day before?

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