Pan de coco is a soft and sweet Filipino bread roll that’s filled with sweetened coconut then baked until golden brown. So good! Check out the easy recipe with tips, FAQs and more.
Like a lot of Filipino dishes, pan de coco (or coconut bread) has Spanish roots.
Over the years though, this soft bread roll has become as Filipino as they come.
They can be found in local bakeries or panaderias all over the country.
Note that this pan de coco recipe is different from the Honduran pan de coco, which is usually served with savoury dishes like stew or used in sandwiches.
The Filipino version is sweet, with a sticky coconut filling, and typically eaten on its own.
Why you’ll love making this at home
- I’ve found that in North America (at least, where I am) pan de coco is not as easily available as pandesal or ensaymada in Asian supermarkets. Happily, this recipe is easy and simple to follow so you can make it at home any time.
- If and when you do find pan de coco in the stores, the filling is either too sweet, not enough, or tastes more like fillers than coconut. Here, we use pure coconut and you can control how much filling you put in each bun.
- Finally, it tastes just like the pan de coco we grew up eating. So good!
How to make
This recipe is easy and straightforward. There are lots of steps but each one is small and manageable.
First, gather your ingredients. You’ll need pantry staples like milk, sugar and all-purpose flour. A few key things to remember:
- Dry yeast – in this recipe, I use active dry yeast as opposed to instant yeast — more on that below.
- Coconut milk – we use this for the filling. Make sure you’re getting milk, and not coconut cream.
- Shredded coconut (or desiccated coconut / grated coconut) – I’ve used both sweetened and unsweetened coconut for the filling and didn’t see that much of a difference. Use whatever you have on hand.
When baking bread, I find the following very useful:
- Instant read thermometer — this helps me get my warm milk or warm water to the right temperature every time
- Kitchen scale – I always weigh my ingredients when baking for consistent results. And when dividing dough, I weigh it so each piece comes out the same size
- Silicone pastry rolling mat – I really love this! It makes kneading easier and clean-up a breeze
- French rolling pin – I find the french rolling pin easier to use than a regular rolling pin but that’s mostly personal preference
- Bench scraper — I’d say this nifty little bench scraper is one of the most used gadget in my kitchen. Scrape, cut, scoop. It’s very handy
Other than these, you’ll need mixing bowls, measuring cups and spoons, and baking pans.
How to make the buns
(1) In a small bowl or measuring cup, stir warm milk, sugar and yeast until combined.
(2) Let stand until bubbly (about 10 minutes).
(3) In a large bowl if mixing by hand, or using the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, stir yeast mixture, flour, sugar, salt and egg until combined, the dough sticks together in a ball and becomes smooth and elastic. Add more flour a little at time if your dough is too sticky, but no more than ¼ cup.
(4) Take the dough from the bowl and gently shape into a ball. Transfer into another bowl that’s been greased with canola oil. Cover and allow to rise until double in size (about 1 hour).
(5) When ready, punch air out of the dough and turn into a lightly oiled surface.
(6) Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces.
(7) Roll each piece into a ball.
(8) Then flatten no thinner than 2mm.
(9) Place a heaping tablespoonful of coconut filing.
(10) Fold dough over filling and pinch to seal. Reshape if needed.
(11) Place each roll, seam side down, on a lightly greased 9×13 inch baking pan and allow to rise a second time (about 30m).
(12) Preheat oven to 350F, brush the pan de coco with egg wash and bake for 20 minutes or until the tops are golden brown. Best served warm.
How to make the filling
I usually make the filling while my dough is rising.
(1) Bring coconut milk to a simmer.
(2) Add brown sugar and stir until dissolved.
(3) Add shredded coconut and salt and cook on medium heat.
(4) Cook until thickened considerably (10-15m). Stir so it doesn’t burn. Also remember that the coconut filling will thicken as it cools so you don’t want to overdo it.
Expert baking tips
Making pan de coco, or any bread, is a lot of steps but each step is really simple. And the end result is so rewarding!
Here are more baking tips to make bread making a breeze.
Working with yeast when baking bread
You know that lovely freshly baked bread smell? That’s yeast! In addition to making dough rise, yeast also gives bread its “bready” smell.
There are two main kinds of yeast you’ll find in stores — active dry or instant rise (sometimes also called quick rise or rapid rise).
Active dry yeast needs to be bloomed in lukewarm/warm water (about 100 to 110F) ; instant dry yeast can be added directly to dry ingredients like as flour.
I almost always use active dry yeast. I like how by blooming it in water I can guarantee that the yeast is still active.
Here’s more information about yeast that’s very helpful especially if you want to substitute one for the other.
How to proof yeast without a thermometer
If you don’t have a thermometer, you can tell if the milk (or water, if your recipe calls for that) is warm enough for the yeast by dabbing some of it on your wrist.
It should be warmer than your body temperature but not hot.
Kneading bread dough
When making bread, I usually prefer mixing and kneading by hand because there’s less chance of overworking it.
However, when I’m making pan de coco, I start stirring by hand then switch to the dough hook attachment of my stand mixer because the dough is on the sticky side.
Pan de coco is supposed to be soft and fluffy so I watch my mixture like a hawk and stop as soon as I get that smooth and elastic texture. Over-kneading results to hard, dry or dense bread and we don’t want that.
Not sure what “kneading until smooth and elastic” means? Here’s a great resource that talks all about it.
Between you and me, I really don’t care all that much if bread and rolls are perfectly shaped. And so what if the filling flows over? They’re still delicious.
But if you want perfect rolls, here are some things you can do:
- Weigh your dough and divide into pieces of equal weight — this is when that kitchen scale comes in handy
- Measure each piece with a baking ruler as you flatten it to ensure they are of equal size
- Don’t flatten each piece too thinly (try not to go thinner than 2mm) or the filling will seep through
- Don’t get carried away with how much filling to put. You should be able to fold the dough over it and have enough space to pinch and seal.
Also, remember that practice makes perfect so the more bread you bake, the better you’ll get at it.
A lot of recipes say to allow the dough to rise until “double in size”.
Depending on the recipe, this can range from 30 minutes to 2 hours. Just check at the halfway mark so you can get an indication of how much longer you have to go.
For me, what’s important is finding the proper place to leave my dough.
It’s cold here most of the year so leaving my bowl on our not-so-warm counter is not exactly ideal.
So what I like to do is turn my oven on to its lowest setting for a few minutes, then turn it off so that it’ll be about 90F when I’m ready to put my dough in to rise.
Just remember to remove the dough from the oven when you’re ready to preheat for baking.
Pan de coco is best eaten freshly baked.
If you need to keep it for longer, just place the completely cool bread rolls in a large Ziploc bag and put the bag in the freezer. It should last up to a month.
To thaw, simply pop it in the microwave for about 20 seconds until the filling is heated through.
Other Filipino bread recipes
Looking to bake more Filipino breads and panaderia favorites? Check these out:
Here’s a delicious list of Filipino bread and bakery favorites so you can have them all in one place.
Filipino Pan de Coco Recipe
For the yeast mixture
For the Pan de Coco dough
For the egg wash
- 1 pc large egg
- 1 tbsp water
- In a small bowl or measuring cup, stir 1 cup warm milk, 2 tbsp sugar and 2¼ tsp yeast until combined. Let stand until foamy and bubbly (about 10 minutes).
- In a large bowl if mixing by hand, or using the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment (see notes), stir yeast mixture, 3 cups flour, ¼ cup sugar, ½ tsp salt and 1 egg until combined, the dough sticks together in a ball and becomes smooth and elastic. Add more flour a little at time if your dough is too sticky, but no more than ¼ cup in total.
- Take the dough from the bowl and gently shape into a ball. Transfer into another bowl that’s been greased with canola oil. Cover and allow to rise until double in size (about 1 hour).
- When ready, punch air out of the dough and turn into a lightly oiled surface.
- Divide into 12 equal pieces.
- Roll each piece into a ball then flatten no thinner than 2mm.
- Place a heaping tablespoonful of pan de coco filing (instructions below), fold dough over filling and pinch to seal. Reshape if needed.
- Place each roll, seam side down, on a lightly greased 9×13 inch baking pan and allow to rise a second time (about 30m).
- Preheat oven to 350F, brush the pan de coco with egg wash (1 egg combined with 1 tbsp water) and bake for 20 minutes or until the tops are golden brown. Best served warm.
- While you're waiting for your dough to rise, you can work on your filling. First, bring 1 cup coconut milk to a simmer.
- Add ½ cup brown sugar and stir until dissolved.
- Add 1 cup shredded coconut and ½ tsp salt and cook on medium heat until thickened considerably (10-15m). Stir often so it doesn’t burn (see notes). Set aside until you're ready to use.
- I’ve used both sweetened and unsweetened shredded coconut for the filling and didn’t notice a significant difference in taste. You can use whatever you have on hand. Or opt for unsweetened if you want to control the sugar content.
- When I’m making pan de coco, I start stirring by hand then switch to the dough hook attachment of my stand mixer to finish things up. If you’re stirring by hand, once the dough comes together in a ball, turn into a lightly oiled surface and knead until smooth and elastic.
- Remember that the coconut filling will thicken as it cools so you don’t want to overdo it. Otherwise, it will get very thick and very hard like candy.
- See post for more baking tips and suggestions.
Nutritional information are estimates only.