Top 10 Indonesian Desserts

Spicy Adventures

When it comes to desserts, it doesn’t get better than the ones you find in Indonesia. Everyone seems to have a sweet tooth and it’s easy to see why. Cakes, puddings and treats encompass all kinds of shapes, textures and colours – a feast for the eyes and the tastebuds. The country’s abundance of tropical fruit is certainly taken advantage of, with coconut being a particularly popular ingredient, whether it’s coconut flesh or coconut milk. Interested in Indonesian cuisine? We’ve also written a blog post on the top 10 Indonesian dishes which you can read here. Now, here’s a taste of the best Indonesian desserts.

1. Martabak manis

Martabak manis is a very thick folded pancake with the consistency of a crumpet. It’s baked in a pan and is most commonly stuffed with crushed peanuts, bananas, chocolate sprinkles, condensed milk and cheese. Yes, you heard right. Chocolate and cheese is a very common pairing in Indonesian desserts. The cheese is much sweeter than cheese found in Europe and works better in sweet dishes. More recently, there are varieties of martabak manis like matcha, Oreo, Kit Kat and Nutella.

2. Pisang goreng

Pisang goreng means fried banana, and this is one of the simplest yet most popular snacks in Indonesia. Being a tropical country, Indonesia has a huge variety of bananas which are used in all kinds of desserts including pisang goreng. Sliced bananas are coated in a batter and fried until golden brown. When bought from street vendors, the fried bananas are sold as they are, but restaurants tend to serve them with powdered sugar, cinnamon or ice cream. This is a quick and easy dish that you can make at home – we’ve even written the recipe for you here.

3. Kue putu

Kue putu is a traditional dessert sold by street vendors. The cake is made using rice flour which is coloured and flavoured with pandan leaves. The centre of the cake is filled with palm sugar, and the mixture is then steamed in bamboo tubes. It’s then served with freshly grated coconut, resulting in a warm, soft, melt-in-the-middle cake. You can always hear the putu seller before you see him, as the steamer makes a high-pitch sound similar to that of a locomotive.

4. Klepon

Klepon is one of the most famous Indonesian desserts, found in traditional markets and local street vendors. These sweet, glutinous rice balls are stuffed with chunks of palm sugar and boiled. After cooking, they’re coated in grated coconut before serving. They’re fun to eat, because when you bite into them you can expect an exploding sensation in your mouth from the palm sugar which has melted in the centre. Like many other Indonesian desserts, these little cakes get their green colour from the pandan leaves used in the dough.

5. Lapis legit

Developed during colonial times in what was then the Dutch East Indies, lapis legit or thousand-layers cake, is an Indonesian cake also known as spekkoek in Dutch. This rich and tender cake is full of Indonesian spices like cardamom, cinnamon, clove, mace and anise. It’s served as a holiday treat for celebrations such as Eid, Chinese New Year and Christmas, and also served or presented as a gift for birthdays and weddings. As lapis legit commonly has over 18 layers, baking it is a time-consuming and labour-intensive process – this makes it an expensive delicacy.

6. Kue lapis

Kue lapis is a popular traditional snack of steamed, colourful layered rice flour pudding. ‘Lapis’ means layer in Indonesian, and kue lapis means layer cake. Despite being similar in name with lapis legit, they couldn’t be more different. Although they both have the appearance of layers, kue lapis uses different ingredients like rice flour mixed with coconut milk, giving it a sticky, jelly-like consistency. Kue lapis also uses food colouring to create different coloured layers, unlike lapis legit which just has light and dark layers. Lastly, kue lapis is steamed rather than baked like lapis legit.

7. Dadar gulung

Although it translates into ‘rolled omelette, dadar gulung is more accurately described as an Indonesian coconut pancake. The pancake usually has a green colour from the pandan leaves which is mixed into the batter of flour, salt, eggs and coconut milk. The filling is made from grated coconut, palm sugar, salt and cinnamon, with a little more pandan leaf for aroma. This is then placed inside the pancake and rolled like a tortilla. Dadar gulung is a simple and tasty snack which is commonly found in traditional markets and local bakeries.

8. Kolak

Kolak is a sweet, soup-like dessert whose base is made from palm sugar, coconut milk and pandan leaves. There are many variations of kolak which can include bananas, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, jackfruit, plantains, cassava, rice balls and tapioca pearls. This is a simple, refreshing dessert which can be served either hot or cold. Although it can be enjoyed throughout the year, it’s most commonly eaten during the month of Ramadan.

9. Nagasari

Nagasari is a traditional steamed cake made from a batter of rice flour and coconut milk, stuffed with a slice of banana in the centre. It’s then wrapped in banana leaves and steamed, resulting in a soft, creamy and fragrant treat with a pudding-like texture. Although it originated from central Java, this dessert is easy to find throughout Indonesia. It’s commonly found in food markets and served at cultural events or celebrations like weddings or birthdays.

10. Es campur

Es campur is a favourite Indonesian dessert, a delicious concoction best enjoyed on hot days. Translating to ‘mixed ice’, es campur is exactly that – a mix of chopped fruit, tapioca pearls and jellies served in coconut milk, sweet condensed milk, syrup and shaved ice. The ingredients can vary but most common toppings include diced papaya, melon, lychee, jackfruit and coconut. Es campur can also include basil seeds (a common ingredient in Indonesian desserts as they expand and become jelly-like when immersed in liquid), seaweed jelly and green rice flour jelly. Es campur is a popular snack during Ramadan, often sold in the evening before breaking the fast.

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