Bubur Cha Cha (Malaysian Sweet Potato and Coconut Milk Dessert)

If you love South East Asian desserts with coconut, then you absolutely must try Bubur Cha Cha. A lot of Asian countries have their own rendition of this dessert but today we’re making it Malaysian style and the way I grew up eating it. My mum’s from Malaysia and this probably the dessert she makes most often. It’s incredibly easy to make – you just need a little time. There is always a big pot of Bubur Cha Cha at my family gatherings – it’s the perfect dessert for a crowd. It’s naturally vegan, dairy-free and gluten-free.


It’s a Malaysian coconut milk dessert that can be served warm or cold with a medley of taro and sweet potatoes in a lightly pandan-flavoured coconut milk base. It’s incredibly fragrant and delicious and popular additions include tapioca sago, colourful tapioca jellies, black eyed peas, banana, canned sweet jackfruit and lychees. 

Special Ingredients in Bubur Cha Cha

  • Coconut Milk: try to use a full-fat canned/tinned Asian brand of Coconut Milk with no additives for the richest coconut flavour (I recommend Chef’s Choice)
  • Pandan Leaves: I call this the Asian Vanilla – it’s a leaf which has the most amazing aroma and fragrance. 
  • Palm Sugar: is coconut palm sugar, not the palm where palm oil comes from, and can vary from Light to Dark. It has a stunning flavour to it that processed sugar doesn’t. I recommend a light Palm Sugar for this recipe – grate it before using as this natural sugar usually come in disks or cylinders.
  • Taro and Sweet Potato: these root vegetables make the bulk of the dessert and are just so delicious paired with coconut milk. Taro can be found at asian grocery stores.
  • Pearl Sago: Tiny little tapioca balls that have a bouncy texture and stud this dessert.
  • Tapioca Jellies: Chewy, colourful jewel jellies which add texture and also just make your Bubur Cha Cha beautiful!  We make them from tapioca flour and hot water in this recipe..


Cut and steam your starchy vegetables 

A mix of taro and sweet potato is non-negotiable – the taro just adds another layer of flavour so don’t skip it if you can help it! I like to use a mix of orange and purple sweet potatoes for colour, but that’s optional. Chop your sweet potatoes and steam them for about 20 mins. 


Boil the Pearl Sago

The tapioca pearl sago takes about 15-20 minutes to cook so I like to start cooking them before I start my jellies (next step). They’re tiny chewy pearls which are a little slippery and a popular addition to a lot of south east asian desserts. Boil, stirring frequently. Once cooked they look translucent and you should strain them and keep them in cold water so they don’t stick together.

Prepare the Tapioca Jellies

My mum never made the jellies but they are so beautiful (and easy – made with only 2 ingredients!) – so it’s not that much of a stretch to make them if you’ve got the time. They add a textural element to the Bubur Cha Cha as they are super chewy and provide some variation, but if you’re short on time feel free to skip this part. Make a dough with tapioca flour and boiling hot water (the water must be very hot or you might end up with white clumps in your dough). Once the dough starts coming together, you can use your hands to knead it – taking care as the dough is hot. Use a little extra tapioca starch to dust if it starts getting too sticky. Simply divide the dough into two, add food colouring to each to make different colours (pink and green are the usual colours!), knead til the dough is fully evenly coloured and then roll the dough out into sausages and cut little shapes. Dust with a little extra tapioca starch so they don’t stick together.

Cook the Tapioca Jellies

Simply boil the jellies in hot water, I like to put them in one by one just to make sure they don’t stick together. Stir regularly and they will start to float and be translucent when you take them out. About 5-7 mins to cook depending on how thick you’ve cut your jellies. Once cooked, set them straight in a bowl of water so they don’t stick together.

Make the Coconut Soup

Boil together light palm sugar, water and pandan leaves until the sugar has dissolved. Take out the pandan leaves and turn the heat down before adding coconut milk! 

It’s super important to use high quality tinned coconut milk as the flavour will be the richest. Chef’s Choice comes from Thailand (the land of the best coconuts) and I can highly recommend their coconut milk – ingredients are just coconut and water with no additives. They were actually the first company to start exporting coconut milk to Australia 44 years ago and have not changed their recipe since! 

You do not want to boil the coconut soup, keep it on a low simmer.


Add the sweet potato, taro, sago and jellies into the hot coconut soup and allow to simmer for 5-10 minutes before serving! You can also serve it cold – allow to come to room temperature before chilling. 
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Bubur Cha Cha (Malaysian Sweet Potato and Coconut Milk Dessert)

Bubur Cha Cha (Malaysian Coconut Milk Dessert)

A delicious Taro, Sweet Potato and Coconut Milk dessert that can be served hot or cold, great for entertaining a crowd!
Cook Time 50 minutes
Course Dessert
Cuisine Asian, Asian Dessert, Malaysian
Servings 6


  • 220 g Orange Sweet Potato
  • 220 g Purple Sweet Potato sub for any sweet potato
  • 330 g Taro

Tapioca Jewel Jellies

  • 100 g Tapioca starch
  • 80 ml Very Hot Boiling Water

Pearl Sago

  • 40 g Tapioca Pearl Sago
  • 2 cups water

Coconut Milk 'Soup'

  • 3 cups water
  • 120 g Light palm sugar grated
  • 4-6 Pandan Leaves
  • 400 ml Full-Fat Premium Coconut Milk


Steam Sweet Potatoes

  • Peel sweet potato and taro and chop into bite sized chunks. Steam for 20 minutes and set aside.

Boil the Tapioca Pearls

  • Tapioca Pearls must be added to already boiling water otherwise they will just dissolve. Bring a saucepan of water to the boil and add the tapioca pearls, cooking for about 10 mins, stirring occasionally until they turn translucent. Transfer to a bowl of water so they don't stick together and set aside

Make the Tapioca Jellies

  • In a bowl, add the boiling water to the tapioca starch and mix to create a dough. Once it comes together you can just work it knead it your kitchen bench – be careful as it may still be hot. Use an extra dusting of tapioca flour if it gets too sticky.
  • Divide dough into two and add 1-2 drops of pink food colouring to one, and 1-2 drops of green to the other. Knead until the doughs are evenly coloured. Use an extra dusting of tapioca flour if it gets too sticky. Roll into thin snakes and cut into little coins.
  • To cook, bring a pot of water to the boil and add your coloured jellies. They will begin to float as they cook and will be translucent when they're ready -about 7 mins. I like to scatter the jellies in separately so they don't stick together. Strain and leave jellies in a bowl of water so they don't stick and set aside.

Make the Pandan flavoured Coconut Millk

  • Lightly score your pandan leaves lengthways as this releases more flavour, and tie into tight knots. You can also scrunch them a little with your hands to release more flavour.
  • Place water, palm sugar, and pandan leaves into a large pot. Bring to the boil and cook until sugar has dissolved. Remove the pandan leaves and turn down the heat. Add your coconut milk and stir. Add the Taro, Sweet Potato, Jellies and Sago to the pot and allow to simmer (DO NOT BOIL) for 5-10 minutes. Serve! You can also chill it down and serve it cold.
Keyword Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Malaysian Food, Plant-Based, Vegan
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2 Responses

  1. This is so new to me! I’ve never heard of burbur cha cha, but it looks so amazing! I think it’d be an awesome surprise at a holiday dinner. It looks so cheerful, how could anyone not love seeing it on the table.

  2. Your recipe descriptions need to include NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION! That is an important iirnformations which your readers require.

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Hi, I'm Liz!

Welcome to my blog! We do vegan and plant-based food here. Delicious recipes that are tasty, easy and nourishing for the soul. Recipes that hit the spot, you know? I’ve been plant-based for over 8 years now and love sharing my recipes with you all. Follow along on instagram for more.

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