Friends, I am really excited to bring you this coconut custard pie recipe. It’s about as old-school as old-school pie recipes get.
Simple ingredients bake up into a wonderfully custardy and delicious pie with just a hint of lemon. And here’s a secret: this is really an egg custard pie that happens to have coconut in it, so if you leave out the coconut, you’ll have a whole new pie!
If you like this traditional pie, you may also enjoy my chocolate chess pie and my sugar cream pie recipes.
This post was originally sponsored by my client, Dover Publications.
What’s So Great About This Recipe?
This recipe has definitely stood the test of time. By that, I mean it originally was published in a cookbook, The Epicurean, written in 1893. It doesn’t get much more traditional than that!
Other things to love:
- The ingredient list is short
- The mixing method is straightforward
- The hint of lemon brings a bit of zing to an otherwise mellow pie (and yes, you can use lime if you’d rather
I made both the pastry dough and the custard from recipes in The Epicurean. The results?
- A super-buttery, very sturdy-but-not-tough pastry
- rich, silky-smooth, lightly lemon-scented custard
- a thick layer of coconut
- The pie divides into layers, so you get creamy smooth, topped with coconutty-crunchy-chewy. For such a simple pie, it packs a lot in the flavor and texture departments!
Before I share the conventional recipes, I’m going to let you see the recipes as I followed them in The Epicurean.
First, the pastry, or “Foundation Paste.” Ranhofer offers three versions in The Epicurean, and I chose to make Foundation Paste, Fine for the base of my traditional coconut pie. Incidentally, coconut is spelled “cocoanut” in this book. Which I kind of love.
And here’s the recipe for the coconut pie as written out in The Epicurean:
I just love that these recipes are written out just like you would tell someone how to make your famous chicken salad if they asked.
“First you take a chicken, cover it with water, and poach until done. Then let it cool and shred the meat….” I can almost guarantee you that, if you asked me how to make a cake, I wouldn’t start by spouting off a list of ingredients.
Conventional recipe writing makes it easier to make a shopping list, but it’s not really how we cook. The recipes in The Epicurean are written just as we’d do them. I love it.
Can I Really Make This Pie Based on the Directions in The Photos?
Yes, you really can. I did.
You will probably want to read the rules through a couple of times. And note that everything is expressed in weights, so you will need an accurate kitchen scale (which you totally should already own). You will also have to trust the “feel,” especially of the dough.
I ended up only using about 3/4 of the flour and maybe half the water, and it worked out perfectly.
But, if you are not really familiar with making pie crust, you may be better off using a recipe that is written out conventionally and has been exhaustively tested, just to make sure you are successful.
I recommend my friend and pie guru Kate McDermott’s book, Art of the Pie. You will find truly foolproof recipes for pie crust between those covers.
For an online recipe, my friend Beth has a great tutorial all about the ins and outs of making pie crust.
How Long Does It Take to Make?
The “foundation paste” took me about 10 minutes to make, and then it rests in the fridge for about 15 minutes.
Once it rested, you roll it out (it is super easy to roll–I really loved this dough!), line the pie pan and make some sort of decorative edge.
In Ranhofer’s words, you “raise up the edges, pinch all around, and leave stand in a cool place for twenty minutes in a cool place.”
While the dough was standing in a cool place (the fridge), I mixed up the custard, which literally took maybe 5 minutes.
It baked about 45 minutes at 350F, and then it took awhile to cool. But I think serving it warm–not hot–is an excellent plan.
So, from start to finish without breaks (which you are allowed to take), plan on about 1 1/2-2 hours from no dough to pie out of the oven. Then add on cooling time.
How to Tell When It’s Done
Coconut custard–or any other filling really–will continue to cook once you remove it from the oven, so use an instant read thermometer to pull it from the oven when the center reads 160F or when there is about a silver dollar-sized bit in the center that is still a little jiggly.
Any egg-based pie should be fine for a week, but my Serve Safe rules say to ditch any egg-based foods after 3 days to be on the safe side.
Some of the liquid caught up in the denatured egg proteins can start to leak out after 2-3 days, so you may end up with a bit of watery syrup in your pie pan, and that will make your crust soggy.
So, for aesthetic reasons as well as food safety reasons, you really should plan on finishing the pie off in just a couple of days.
Is There a Difference Between Coconut Custard and Coconut Cream Pie?
In short, yes.
I’ll tell you the steps in making each, and you will be able to see the difference.
To Make Custard Pie
- Line pan with pie dough
- Pour in the custard filling (eggs, sugar, flavorings, maybe some starch, etc)
- Bake until the crust is golden brown and the filling has set.
- Chill in the fridge.
To Make Cream Pie
- Line pan with pie dough and blind bake. (Fill with weights and bake until done)
- Cook your filling (eggs, sugar, flavorings, starch, etc) on the stove.
- Cool your filling to room temperature.
- Fill pie crust and top with whipped cream.
- Chill in the fridge.
The main difference between custard pie and cream pie is that custard pie filling is baked in the shell while cream pie filling is cooked on the stove and then used to fill a pre-baked crust.
I’m not going to write the foundation paste recipe up, because there is just too much variability in flour and humidity and whatnot.
Know that, if you are well-versed in pie dough making, you can rely on the photo of the recipe above and then just go by feel.
The pie itself can absolutely be made with a conventional recipe, and I have written it up for you here.
You’re going to love it. The pie is as silky as it is chewy, and vice versa. And the custard mixture can be scaled up or down–you can even bake it in a pan without a crust and cut it into squares.
This is the custard of my school childhood that the cafeteria ladies used to make and sprinkle with a bit of nutmeg. Smooth, creamy, not-too-sweet, a bit eggy, and so very comforting.
A Note About Measurements
NOTE: Most of my recipes are written by weight and not volume, even the liquids.
Even though I try to provide you with volume measurements as well, I encourage you to buy a kitchen scale for ease of measuring, accuracy, and consistency.
This is the scale I use, love, and recommend.
If you have any other questions about this recipe or any other, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
You can leave a comment here, and I will be back in touch in about 24 hours.
If your question in more urgent, you can email me and I answer within about 4 hours.
Either way, I promise to help!
I really hope you love this recipe, you guys!
I’d also love to have you join my PCO newsletter, The Inbox Pastry Chef!
Thanks, and enjoy!
- 1 single crust pie crust, store bought or homemade
- 3-4 oz desiccated (unsweetened) coconut
- 4 large eggs
- 4 oz granulated sugar (a generous 1/2 cup)
- zest of 1 lemon
- 1 pint milk or half and half, (2 cups)
- Heat the oven to 350F and place a rack in the center.
- Line a standard pie pan with the pastry dough and crimp edges. The pie will be very full, so make sure the edge is nice and raised so the custard doesn't leak out.
- Spread a thick layer of coconut in the bottom of your lined pie pan.
- Whisk together the eggs, sugar, and lemon zest until nice and creamy. Whisk in the milk or half and half. ***The original recipe did not call for salt. I added about 1/4 teaspoon to my mixture. You can also add a bit of vanilla if you like, even though it isn't called for.***
- Strain the custard into the pie pan. The coconut will float. Use a spatula to press it down just enough to make sure it is all coated with the custard.
- Bake until set, fairly firm, and lightly golden brown on top, about 40-50 minutes.
- Let cool on a rack until barely warm before serving. Or cool completely and then chill before slicing and serving. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes or so for best texture and flavor.
What I would do differently: the recipe did not call for blind baking the crust, but if I were on my own, I'd have given it a good blind bake to make sure the bottom crust was crisp. I also would've applied an egg wash to the crust to make it more golden brown and shiny. These are two nitpicky details though. The pie is delicious. Enjoy!
Nutritionals calculated based on using 2 cups of whole milk as the dairy. Feel free to sub in half and half for half or all the whole milk for a richer custard, realizing that the swap will have a change on the calories and calories from fat.
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Nutrition InformationYield 8
Amount Per Serving Calories 289Saturated Fat 9gCholesterol 87mgSodium 147mgCarbohydrates 30gFiber 2gSugar 17gProtein 6g
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