Coconut Cream Pie
Silky smooth, this homemade Coconut Cream Pie is packed full of triple coconut flavor and a heaping pile of whipped cream. Just like the old-fashioned classic diner pie, made in your very own kitchen!
Let’s talk about pie today. If you know me, you know that pie is, universally, one of my favorite desserts. I love pie so much, in fact, that I did a yearlong series about pie in 2018.
So of course, I’m delighted as we move into fall and what. is unofficially pie season. We have all the fall fruit pies (like this caramel pear pie and classic apple pies), the Thanksgiving staples (pumpkin pie, pecan pie), and the not-quite-staple-but-should-be fall Thanksgiving pies (flourless brownie pie, bourbon buttermilk pie, chocolate buttermilk pie, cranberry curd pie).
Today, we’re further expanding on the not exactly traditional but really quite delicious in fall pies, with this Coconut Cream Pie. I know coconut is commonly thought of as a spring or summer ingredient but it’s really a fantastic year-round flavor. We can get all the ingredients for this pie easily any time of year, and sometimes a lighter, fluffier cream pie is exactly what you need after all those heavy fall flavors at Thanksgiving!
Whether you’re making this for a spring holiday, a summer picnic, or for your Thanksgiving dessert table, I promise you’ll love this classic coconut cream pie!
A thick, rich custard, packed full of triple coconut (coconut milk, coconut extract, and flaked coconut). Homemade whipped cream with an extra little coconut boost. And crispy, toasted coconut on top to provide the perfect texture contrast to the silky-smooth custard and whipped cream.
The hardest part of making this pie? You have to wait for it to chill before you dig in, and boy is it hard to be patient!
Ingredients and Substitutions
- Pie Crust: Learn all the best tips to make a perfect pie crust with my No Fail Pie Crust recipe!
- Egg Yolks
- Coconut Milk: Use full-fat coconut milk. Arroy-D or Trader Joe’s Organic Coconut Milk are my favorite brands to use.
- Half and Half: Half-and-half is an exact mixture of whole milk and light cream and you can make your own this way. It’s more common to have heavy cream/whipping cream on hand, however, so in this case, use a ratio of 3/4 whole milk to 1/4 heavy cream as a substitute.
- Vanilla Extract
- Coconut Extract: Coconut milk and shredded coconut provide lots of flavor, but the custard needs just a little more boost – a little coconut extract really takes this pie to the next level!
- Sweetened Flaked Coconut
- Heavy Cream
Pre-Baked Pie Crust
The base of this pie is the easiest homemade coconut custard! But first, we need to start with a pie crust.
You’ll find everything you need to make a perfect pie crust every time on my No Fail Pie Crust page. Once your pie crust is rolled out and pressed into your pie plate, we need to bake the crust first.
Poke holes in the bottom of the crust with a fork, then cover it with aluminum foil and add pie weight or dried beans on top of the foil. Bake the pie for 20 minutes, remove the pie weights and foil, and continue to bake until the pie is golden and flaky.
Easy Coconut Custard
While your pie cools, it’s time to make the custard! This happens in four easy steps:
- Whisk together the egg yolks, coconut milk, half-and-half, sugar, and cornstarch in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan.
- Cook the custard over medium heat until just starting to boil, then turn down the heat to medium-low and cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture is thickened.
- Remove from the heat and add vanilla extract, coconut extract, butter, and coconut.
- Stir to combine until the butter is melted into the custard and set aside to cool.
While the custard cools, make the whipped cream, which is as simple as beating together the heavy cream, sugar, and coconut extract with the whisk attachment of a mixer until medium-soft peaks form.
Pour the custard into the crust, chill to cool the custard completely, and top with the homemade whipped cream.
Cornstarch for the Best Custard
Several thickeners can be used for thickening custards, like tapioca, flour, or arrowroot. Cornstarch is my favorite, however, because it’s a pure starch with a neutral flavor. It’s also gluten-free, meaning the filling for this pie is entirely gluten-free. (Just substitute in your favorite gluten-free pie crust!)
Cornstarch also doesn’t require as much cooking as flour to reach its full thickening potential, so the coconut flavor in the pie isn’t overwhelmed by a floury taste.
How does cornstarch work to thicken our pie? It’s time for my favorite subject… kitchen chemistry!
Cornstarch consists mainly of starch granules made of long chains of glucose molecules. When these granules are mixed with liquid (in this case, coconut milk and milk/cream), they absorb the liquid and swell. This swelling process, called gelatinization, is essential for the thickening effect. When the mixture is heated, the starch molecules start to unravel and absorb even more liquid, forming a network that traps any excess water molecules and creates the thickened consistency of the custard filling.
Semi-Homemade Coconut Cream Pie
Like all my pies, I made this one entirely from scratch, because that’s my favorite kind of baking. But I often get a lot of emails and questions about substituting in pre-made ingredients to make things easier.
Cream pies, like this coconut cream pie, are a perfect opportunity. Don’t want to make your own custard? Make some instant pudding instead (and mix in the shredded coconut before it sets). Use a store-bought crust. Pile on the Cool Whip instead of homemade whipped cream.
Will a “semi-homemade” pie taste the same as a made from scratch pie? No, of course not.
But baking (or non-baking, as is the case with this pie) is about enjoying the process, and if making custard stresses you out? It’s totally not worth it.
Recommended Tools to Make Coconut Cream Pie
- Pie Plate: Use a 9-inch pie plate to make a thick pie.
- Rolling Pin: This is my FAVORITE rolling pin – the guards make sure your dough is always the right thickness!
- Pie Weights: Dried beans work well, but if you bake a lot of pies, I like having actual pie weights.
- Large Saucepan: A 3 quart saucepan is a good size to make the custard.
- Whisk: This is my favorite sturdy, heavy whisk!
- Stand Mixer: A stand mixer or hand mixer with the whisk attachment is the best way to make whipped cream.
Tips and Tricks for the Best Coconut Cream Pie
- Chill Ingredients for a Smooth Filling: Before starting, refrigerate the coconut milk and half-and-half. Cold ingredients help achieve a smoother, lump-free filling when heated and combined.
- Patience with the Filling: While cooking the filling, maintain a medium heat and be patient while constantly stirring. Rushing this step may lead to lumps, so take your time for that velvety texture.
- Cover the Pie When Chilling: To avoid a film forming on the pie’s surface while it chills, cover it with plastic wrap. This prevents moisture loss and keeps the pie smooth and delectable.
- Prevent Soggy Crust: If using a homemade pie crust, ensure it’s completely cooled before pouring in the filling. Alternatively, if using a store-bought crust, pre-bake it for a few minutes to maintain its crispness.
- Experiment with Toasted Coconut: For an extra layer of flavor and texture, toast additional shredded coconut before using it as a topping.
- Thoroughly Cool Before Serving: Allow the pie to cool and set completely in the refrigerator for at least four hours, or ideally overnight. This time ensures a firm and stable pie structure for cutting and serving.
- Fresh Whipped Cream: For the ultimate finish, whip your cream fresh just before serving the pie. This preserves its texture and taste, enhancing the overall experience of your delightful coconut cream pie.
- Pie Storage: Coconut cream pie is best served the day the whipped cream is added, but leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
More Coconut Recipes
- Coconut Bundt Cake
- Chocolate Dipped Coconut Macaroons
- Coconut Panna Cotta with Blood Orange Curd
- Coconut Braised Chickpeas and Spinach
For the Crust:
- 12 tablespoons (170 grams) unsalted butter, frozen for at least 2 hours
- 3 cups (360 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1/3 cup (62 grams) vegetable shortening, frozen for at least 2 hours
- 6 tablespoons very cold water
For the Coconut Custard:
- 4 egg yolks
- 1 (14-ounce) can full-fat coconut milk, well stirred
- 1 1/2 cups (340 grams) half and half
- 3/4 cup (148 grams) granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup (37 grams) cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon coconut extract
- 3 tablespoons (42 grams) unsalted butter
- 1 cup (85 grams) sweetened flaked coconut
For the Whipped Cream:
- 2 cups (454 grams) heavy cream
- 1/3 cup (66 grams) granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon coconut extract
- 1/2 cup (42 grams) sweetened flaked coconut, for topping
- Make the pie crust. Prepare pie crust according to the No Fail Pie Crust recipe. Preheat oven to 350 °F. Poke the bottom of the crust several times with a fork, then line it with aluminum foil and fill it with pie weights. Bake for 20 minutes, remove weights and foil, and bake an additional 10 minutes until golden and fully set. Cool completely before filling.
- Make the coconut custard. In a large saucepan, whisk together the egg yolks, coconut milk, half and half, sugar, and cornstarch until well blended. Cook the custard over medium heat just until boiling, whisking constantly. As soon as the mixture starts to boil, turn the heat down to medium-low and cook an additional 5 minutes more, continuing to whisk.
- Remove the custard from heat and stir in the vanilla extract, coconut extract, butter, and coconut. Set filling aside to cool slightly, 15 to 20 minutes.
- Pour the slightly cooled filling into the prepared crust. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, ideally overnight.
- Make the whipped cream. On the day of serving the pie, make the whipped cream. Combine the heavy cream, sugar, and coconut extract in a medium bowl and beat using an electric mixer with the whisk attachment on medium speed until medium-soft peaks form. Spread the whipped cream on top of the custard filling.
- Top with the additional flaked coconut before serving. (For a toasted coconut topping, spread coconut on a sheet pan and bake at 350 °F for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring every 2 minutes to prevent the coconut from browning. Cool completely.)
- If you don't have half-and-half, substitute in a mixture of 1/2 whole milk and 1/2 light cream or 3/4 whole milk and 1/4 heavy cream.
- To avoid a film forming on the surface of the pie, keep a layer of plastic wrap on top while the pie chills in the refrigerator.
- Allow the pie to cool and set completely in the refrigerator for several hours, preferably overnight.
- Coconut cream pie is best served the day the whipped cream is added, but leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.