Dessert Comes First

An obsession with dessert and other unabashed opinions of a food writer

Magnum White King

Back In The Kitchen with a Buko

posted by in Recipes


I’ve just finished reading “Memories of Philippine Kitchens” by Amy Besa and Romy Dorotan (Stewart, Tabori and Chang, 2006); as well as “Philippine Markets” a project of the Centro Escolar University (CEU, 2004). Both are coffee table books, large, lavish volumes with luscious photos and thick, beautiful-smelling paper. Both books leave me feeling extreme reverence and awe at the complexity and vibrance of Philippine cuisine.

So inspired am I by the books that I leave the house, intent on buying something I can cook or bake with. On my way, I come across some buko at a roadside stall and on impulse, buy four of them. Compelled into the kitchen, I set about making a buko pie.

The only time I ever get to eat buko pie is when I’m driving through Laguna to get to Tagaytay. Laguna is buko pie central, and come to think of it, so is Tagaytay. There are plenty of familiar names like Colette’s, The Original Buko Pie, etc. whose stores and stalls dot the landscape, each brand commanding their own fan base.

These buko pies, save for each brand’s inimitable differences, consist of a crust made with shortening, slivers or scoops of buko meat cooked in its own juice and condensed milk, its top covered with either a lattice or whole crust. It’s simple food, not even dessert really, that seems more suited for breakfast or a snack. It cuts cleanly too, and is even easier to eat when the slice is eaten out of hand rather than with a fork.

I like the rusticity of a buko pie, its homely appearance and taste a paean to days gone by. Buko (BOO-ko) is of course, the young coconut that we Filipinos use to maximum advantage. We utilize the coconut’s leaves, fruit, pith, trunk, and roots that result in everything from food to baskets.

getting ready to hack the buko

slowly hacking off the buko's outer covering

At the center of a buko lies its precious treasure, the sweet juice and its meat. Here, we use a machete that’s about a foot and a half long (scary thing) to hack away its thick outer covering and husk. Working from the outside in, strategic whacks whittle away the tough exterior.

the peeled buko

Here’s the coconut stripped bare. I’m dismayed to see that this is a more mature coconut than I’d like; any older and I’d have to use this buko for niyog (grated coconut used to make coconut cream [gata]). My buko pie calls for young coconut meat (malakanin texture) that’s almost translucent and soft enough to scoop out of the shell.

buko juice

splitting open the buko

Still, I’ve come this far. With one determined whack, the shell is pried open and its juice collected. Each buko contains about one and a half cups of sweet liquid, refreshing when served with ice.

mature buko

You can see how mature (hard) the meat is. I have my work cut out for me as I scrape, slice, pry and prod the meat out of its shell. In the end, I have a combination of strips, scoops, and scrapes. A traditional buko pie this is not.

buko strips, scrapes, and scoops

My pie crusts are usually made with both shortening and butter – the former for flakiness, the latter for flavor. But in keeping with the rustic and old-fashioned nature of this pie, I’m sticking with just shortening. It’ll prevent my crust from browning too much, and that’s all right since a buko pie is a pretty pale pie.

buko pie

With the crust done, I cook the buko meat with sugar, two kinds of milk (evaporated and condensed), sugar, the buko juice, and cornstarch to thicken the filling. Further deviating from tradition, I make a simple custard and layer it on top of the filling. A simple lattice top improperly done (!) and I pop the pie in the oven. It’s baked just till the crust is golden, about 20 minutes.

This isn’t very sweet as far as pies go, and is ideal for those who don’t like sugary pastries (an oxymoron, really). My crust lacks liquid, which explains its extreme bordering-on-crumbly texture. But it satisfies me on a basic level and finally, I can have a buko pie that’s warm from the oven, instead of one that’s been sitting by the road for only goodness knows how long. After a long absence, it feels good to be back in the kitchen making something again.

slice of buko pie (1)

27 Responses to “Back In The Kitchen with a Buko”

  • Mmmm… my sister just brought home some buko pie from Tagaytay. I think the brand was Rowena’s. Though it was exceedingly delicious, I’d give anything for a pie freshly baked from the oven.

    Lovely post once again Lori! :)


  • oh My its so tempting..
    wish i could have it .. nyumnyum
    do u mind to pass me the complete recipe?


  • Great rustic-style baking there, Lori! Reminds me of those halcyon days when I would spend hours in my aunt’s kitchen just plain ogling at her make her comfort food pies, crude crusts and all. Heck, with pies as good as hers were, I couldn’t care less for picture-pretty crusts as long as they are as flaky and buttery good!
    Just in case you haven’t tried out this technique for tenderizing near-tough buko meat for pastries, you can always cook the shredded buko with white sugar (1 to 1/2 cup ratio) over medium-low heat with constant stirring just until the mixture is sticky-dry. It will give your buko meat that opaque tenderness that is almost akin to sweetened macapuno, believe you me. With this cooking tip, I don’t bother anymore to look for the “malakanin” buko when I want to have my homemade buko pie fix.
    As the now-cliche goes, lovely post as usual, Lori!


  • That is one of the best looking buko pie’s I have ever seen! :) Love it Lori!


  • really, your buko pie looks lovely!
    in fact, it’s tempting me. is there anywhere outside of the philippines that has it?


  • hi lori.your buko pie looks really delicious.i hope you could share w/ me your recipe..pls pls.i really love buko pie.thanks


  • That looks wonderful! And it brings back memories of living on Maui with my own coconut tree in the back yard. I, too, loved the young coconuts!


  • Teddycapz- Thanks for sharing that tip about softening the buko. It’s encouraging to know that I don’t have to hold my breath every time I cut open a buko for pie.


  • That looks delicious! I really love that picture of the buko split open and bathed in sunlight – so rustic and fresh all at once.


  • wow! your buco pie is definitely more beautiful than the roadside versions. hehe! my girlfriend just came from tagaytay as well, but no buco pie for me. =( will it be okay to pass the recipe? oh, and thanks to teddy for the awesome tip! i didn’t know that was even possible!


  • Hello Sofia,

    If you live in the United States, you can order nice buco pie in Long Beach, Ca.

    Roll and Bake tel # in Long Beach, Ca. It is 562-984-3777.


  • hi i’m really craving for buko pie now.i hope you could share w/me your recipe.thanks


  • Lori,
    You mentioned two books at the beginning of this post. Would you tell me the complete titles of both, the authors, where I can get those and how much they cost. I am a lover of coffee table books and would love to get some when I go there in November. Thanks so much…


  • Anna May – You can actually get the first book, Memories of Philippine Kitchens on Amazon. The other book, Philippine Markets, is only available locally at Fully Booked Bookstore.


  • wow!! parang super sarap ng buko pie mo lori :)


  • I love buko pie. Lori, can you share me your complete buko pie recipe? Thanks


  • Hi, I recently found Memories of Philippine Kitchens locally at Fully Booked at Powerplant Mall. Yippee!!!


  • Hi Lori, by the way, I discovered your blog long ago from my brother-in-law in San Diego, CA. Funny how someone in the US was the one who linked me to your then blog, now very own website. He, you, and I are from the same school too. More power to you!!!


  • Sorry I’m so late commenting on this topic, but I just found your blog. I too talk about “Memories o Philippine Kitchens” here:

    I’m curious, as a native to the Philippines, what do you think of the book overall?


  • Your buco pie looks great! My husband love buko pie. I want to try to cook for him. Lori, can you please share me your complete buko pie recipe? Thanks a lot!


  • I love buko pie! We’d always drop by ROWENA’S whenever were in Tagaytay just to buy a couple of boxes of buko tarts. For me, they have the best buko tarts in town. Yummm! :D


  • helow! im a third year college student!..i’m preparing my feasibility study and my topic is all bout buko pie..i read ur blog about your buko pie..can u help me doing my feasibility study by simply forwarding me the recipe of that buko pie. i think it is the most beautiful buko pie huh!.i have to defense that feasibility..and i have to explain what is the advantage of that buko pie to another pie in the streets..i saw your buko looks so delicious..pls help me….thanks a lot…God bless you!


  • I love coconut. It has lots of health benefits too like being an anti viral.


  • im droolin’, wats up wid dat?…would’ve been better if we got da recipe! =)


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