Hibiscus Rhubarb + Haupia {Coconut Milk Pudding}

Few people are more supportive of this blog thing than my parents, who subscribe to and read every post. This has its ups and downs. Never mind that they’re both psychologists, my parents still enjoy giving me advice on everything from blogging to recipes to food photography.

On a visit back home to LA recently, my mom advised me that people like quick and easy recipes with few ingredients that are easy to find. “Yeah,” I said, “…that’s not really what I do.” (Someone who does do this well? Minimalist Baker.) My dad often emails a response to my latest post saying something along the lines of, “This looks great, but I would never make it. It’s really complicated!” This from the man who taught me how to make pizza dough and fresh pasta.

I’m sure they’re right. But figuring out how to use an uncommon ingredient, like bergamot or smoked cardamom, is what I enjoy doing. And I like making recipes the best they can be, even if it means making my own croissants over a period of three days, or using five different types of flour in gluten-free pie dough.

This, however, is a quick and easy recipe that uses few ingredients. If you can find rhubarb, hibiscus, and a vanilla bean that you don’t have to mortgage your house to buy (you can order a quarter pound of organic beans for $30 here, for the record) you’re set. The pudding is simply canned coconut milk steeped with vanilla and cooked with cornstarch until thickened. The topping – rhubarb simmered in hibiscus-infused syrup – comes together quickly. Both components can be prepared up to three days ahead, making this an excellent candidate for a dinner party. As a bonus, the whole thing is vegan and grain-free, meaning that most people can and will eat it.

I first learned about haupia from a song written by a Hawaiian band called The Hula Honeys. Robin and Ginger are ladies after my own heart, and many of the songs they write and perform are about food. My all-time favorite, Life Just Got Sweeter (which you can see them perform here), likens the subject’s disposition to comestibles: lilikoi, sugarcane, and creamy haupia. After studying ukulele with Robin at a music camp one summer, I came home looking for a haupia recipe. I found one in Mani Niall’s Sweet!, where he explains that the pudding is usually cooked on the stove, chilled until firm, then cut into squares and served with tropical fruit.

I whipped up a batch, but must have undercooked it since, even after hours in the fridge, it refused to set. My haupia was more of a coconut cream soup (that still got eaten, though with spoons rather than fingers). But I liked the soft texture, so I’ve since adapted the recipe into a scoopable pudding flecked with vanilla. (For the record, puddings consist of milk thickened with starch, whereas custards contain eggs. I had to look that up.) This haupia tastes clean and light like a panna cotta, but without the fuss and non-vegetarian-ness of gelatin; its creaminess belies its status as a vegan dessert.

I adapted the rhubarb cooking technique from a recipe in Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook, (shown here by the Amateur Gourmet). The original recipe calls for a sliced red beet to color the rhubarb, but I like using hibiscus blossoms, which not only tint the rhubarb a deep red, they also add a tangy, floral flavor that blends seamlessly with the rhubarb. Minimal cooking keeps the rhubarb firm, yet tender, and the remaining syrup gets reduced to a thick sauce which coats the rhubarb and mingles with the pudding.

I like the way the creamy pudding smooths the edges of puckery rhubarb. But if you want to make this dessert even quicker and easier, simply top the puddings with berries or mango cubes tossed with a bit of sugar and lime juice.

Thanks for reading! For more Bojon Gourmet in your life, follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Bloglovin’Pinterest or subscribe to receive posts via email.


Strawberry Rhubarb Bourbon Cobbler with Ginger Oat Scones
Plum, Rhubarb, and Raspberry Cardamom Crisp
Ginger Rhubarb Bee’s Knees

One year ago:

Rhubarb Bourbon Brown Butter Tart with Almond Crust

Hibiscus Rhubarb + Haupia {Coconut Milk Pudding}

I found hibiscus blossoms (also called Jamaica) in the bulk section of my awesome co-op; they can also be found at Latin-American markets. Alternatively, use a few bags of hibiscus tea. Be sure to make both components a few hours ahead to allow them to chill; both can be prepared up to three days before serving and stored, covered, in the refrigerator.

Makes 4-5 servings

For the haupia:
1 (13.5 ounce / 400 mL) can full-fat coconut milk
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and scraped
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
pinch salt

For the hibiscus rhubarb:
3 tablespoons dried hibiscus flowers
3/4 cup boiling water
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and scraped
2 cups rhubarb, sliced 1/2″ thick

Make the haupia:
Have ready 4-5 small (4 ounce), heat-proof glass jars or coffee/cappuccino cups or ramekins.

In a medium-sized, heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the coconut milk and vanilla pod and scrapings. Heat over a medium flame, stirring occasionally, until the milk is hot and steamy (don’t let it boil or it may scorch or separate). Cover and let steep 10 minutes or up to 1 hour to infuse with the vanilla.

Meanwhile, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a small bowl. When the coconut milk has steeped, whisk a few tablespoons of it into the cornstarch mixture to make a slurry, then whisk the slurry into the warm coconut milk. Cook the pudding over medium heat, stirring constantly with a heat-proof silicone spatula, until it comes to a boil. Still stirring, boil for 1 minute; it should be the texture of runny yogurt. Immediately strain the haupia through a mesh sieve and into a heatproof measuring pitcher, working it through with the spatula. (You can rinse and dry the vanilla pod and stick it in a jar of alcohol to make extract, or in a jar of sugar. Same with the other half, used below.) Divide the pudding evenly among the jars. Cover and chill until firm, at least 3 hours and up to 3 days.

Make the hibiscus rhubarb:
In a heat-proof measuring pitcher, combine the hibiscus with the boiling water. Let steep 10 minutes.

In a medium saucepan, rub the sugar with the vanilla pod and seeds to distribute the seeds evenly. When the hibiscus has steeped, strain the mixture through a mesh sieve and into the pot. Place the pot over medium heat and bring to a boil, swirling the pot occasionally to dissolve the sugar. When the mixture is at a rolling boil, add the rhubarb. Return the mixture to a simmer, then turn off the heat, cover the pot, and let sit until the rhubarb is tender when you pierce it with the tip of a sharp knife, about 10 minutes. (If the rhubarb is still too firm, repeat the simmering/steeping process once more.)

Gently strain the rhubarb, reserving the syrup and returning it to the pot. Simmer the syrup over medium heat until thick and reduced by half, swirling the pot frequently, about 5 minutes. Place the drained rhubarb in a heat-proof container, pour the hot syrup over it, let cool, and chill until cold, at least 2 hours and up to 3 days.

To serve, divide the rhubarb and syrup among the puddings and serve immediately.

63 thoughts on “Hibiscus Rhubarb + Haupia {Coconut Milk Pudding}”

  1. ALL respect and dignity to your parents – we love your complications and your irregular ingredients, that's why I keep coming back anyway. This is really beautiful in presentation and taste I'm sure.
    Thanks for sticking to your guns ♥

  2. Yum – I love coconut milk desserts and this sounds like a delicious combination. One of my favorite recipes is a Thai-influenced coconut milk tapioca pudding with bananas. Some day soon I'll get around to posting it on my blog! (I have similar little French yogurt jars, BTW. Aren't they great?)

    1. Yes! I love coconut tapioca pudding (I posted a chocolate version a while back that I still make regularly). That version sounds divine – I'll keep a lookout for it! I love those French yogurt pots; I was elated that some American yogurt makers finally started using them. Best reason to buy yogurt, I say.

  3. I'm a bit obsessed with hibiscus. This haupia sounds amazing.

    My parents read my site too, and it can be a bit awkward for me. I'm glad you have peace with it. I'd love to know what they think of you mentioning their suggestions, hehe :)

  4. I really do LOVE this recipe, and the photos are gorgeous (as always). It would be great to serve this dessert at Summer Party. :)

    P.S. I also feel for you about all the "advices." (hahaha)
    My mom still called me (internationally, no less) after seeing my picture on FB to tell me that my hair was too long.

  5. Oh my gosh, I LOVE haupia. Pairing it with something tart sounds absolutely perfect (plus hibiscus! Just amazing.) Simple or complicated, either way I love your recipes, Alanna :)

  6. Heya again!

    I saw your comment on my blog – thanks!! I've very little music out there at the moment. On youtube I'd say there's only "Fisherman" and "The Moon". Sometime this month or next I'll be releasing a single called Billy which I will post on soundcloud and let everyone know about! xx


  7. I live in the Pacific NW and I have a bonsai hibiscus that flowers quite frequently. Alas it's golden yellow. I have a little 6 inch start of a new hibiscus that is hot pink. So someday??? The bottom line is that it is an elegant pudding and exotic use of rhubarb, so I would serve it in a more deserving dish. Lol.

  8. Lovely sweet friend. I have been looking for a rhubarb recipe that didn't end in pie or crisp. This looks heavenly. As all your work does ;-)

  9. This is so gorgeous! I've recently discovered how much I like rhubarb, and I can't wait to try it like this. Beautiful photos as usual. Do you have a post about your photography somewhere on the site?

    1. Thanks, lady! Not yet, but I'm working one! Hope to have it up within the next few weeks. In the meantime, I'm happy to answer any questions. I've got another rhubarb post in the works, too. Can't seem to get enough of it.

  10. I love your approach to using unusual flavours + ingredients because it really inspires me to step outside my comfort zone and get cooking with something that's new to me. That said, you can't beat a simple and comforting recipe at times and this sounds just that.

  11. This is my dream dessert! Love all things pudding/panna cotta/custard. Also obsessed with hibiscus (fave is with tequila and limade). Will definitely be putting it in my dinner party repertoire. I saw you speak at the Feastly event a few weeks ago and have been enjoying your blog ever since! I'm even making your apricot & pistachio tart for an small event I'm catering tomorrow. I've also been researching cameras after hearing all the pro tips…someday I'll have a pretty blog, too! :)

    1. Hi, Sophie! I'm so glad you enjoyed the Feastly panel – that was super fun for me, too! Thanks for the sweet note – I'm really glad you're digging the blog. That apricot tart is a favorite of mine and I hope that it and the event went swimmingly. I could certainly go for a hibiscus limeade tequila right about now. Feel free to email me with any photo questions! (agoodie [at] gmail.com) Hope to make it to a supper club dinner soon – that sounds fantastic!

  12. You do special, rare kind of food, and you do it really, really well. There are plenty of simple recipes out there. I'd much rather see this haupia than a chocolate chip cookie!

  13. Hello – I wondered where your glass jars are from. I am looking for something similar for storing/serving baby food. Thanks in advance!

    1. Hi! I love those jars, too. They sell yogurt in them at my local co-op and also at Whole Foods. You could also try Weck jars, or small (4 ounce) mason jars which are all available through Amazon. Good luck!

  14. Coconut and rhubarb are my two hardcore flavor obsessions right now (well, they've been there for about 2 years, actually, but I seriously can't get enough of them). So this gorgeous and elegant recipe is totally happening in my house. Love the photos and creativity, as always!

  15. Well thank you not only for the recipe but for an ingredient search (hibiscus) that lead me to try out a new natural grocer where I found all sorts of interesting ingredients. Finally, two weeks later I decided to get down to it and whip up some Bojon Gourmet. I've never cooked with rhubarb or hibiscus or a fresh vanilla bean (shame on me for that last).

    And, as your unofficial recipe tester I have a question: for the haupia 3 T sugar are listed in the ingredients but in both steps of making the haupia sugar is mentioned. Should I have divided the sugar? After steeping the haupia and vanilla bean, I added the 3 T sugar / salt / starch slurry. I thought it tasted sweet and creamy enough to offset the hibiscus and rhubarb.

    Anyway everything is in the fridge chilling: we'll see how it all comes together.

    1. Hi Katherine! Thank you so much for giving this recipe a go! My apologies for the sugar confusion – I've rectified it in the recipe, but what you did was exactly what I meant. I'm so glad it inspired you to find a new natural grocer – how cool! I love exploring new foodie shops. :) Please let me know how you liked the finished product!

    2. Look at that – I never replied but I am back to make the recipe again if that says anything. The rhubarb in syrup was just enough tart, crunch and sweet combined. The haupia creamy and rich in contrast. Amazing.

      I don't have any vanilla beans so am going to have to cheat and make this with vanilla extract (just because I'm too lazy to drive down to the new grocer). But the good news is I am adding home grown raspberries this time.

      Not nearly as beautiful, thoughtful and creative as your original.

    3. I love the thought of raspberries here – perfect! Vanilla extract is a perfect substitute. I'm so glad you like this dessert – thank you very much for the kind note!

  16. This pudding and topping pairing was lovely. I turned it into a parfait with crumbled ginger cookies. Almond biscuits would have tasted better but ginger more visually pleasing. A big hit with my family.

  17. I have to agree with your take on less simple ingredients. We often dismiss simple recipes as having no flavor. What does it hurt to add a few spices that can be optional? Then again we like modifying recipes too. Already thinking Haupia would taste really good with cinnamon in the toasted coconut. Really appreciate this take on the recipe with rhubarb!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *