Onde onde are little balls of pandan flavoured dough that explode in your mouth with the sweet, aromatic caramel flavours of gula melaka.
Estimated reading time: 10 minutes
Table of contents
A Childhood Recipe
This is another one of those kuihs that we used to sell when we were little. My granny had a menu of different local foods that we regularly made. Some, like goreng pisang (banana fritters) and nasi lemak, were made on a daily basis.
Others, like jemput jemput and today’s onde onde we’d make on alternate days, to allow us to sell a variety of goodies over the course of the week. So there are so many local recipes that are just imprinted on my mind, never to be forgotten, and this is one of them.
These little green balls of chewy goodness are commonly found at food stalls selling tea time treats. They are also especially popular during Ramadan for Iftar, the breaking of one’s fast.
It’s not too difficult a recipe, it just requires a few steps. There are also a couple of different varieties out there, mainly in the starch used. The traditional onde onde recipe in Singapore is made with mashed sweet potato and glutinous rice flour.
But the more modern variety, probably an influence from the Japanese mochi and especially popular in Malaysia, only uses glutinous rice flour to make the dough. In Malaysia, onde onde is also called buah Melaka, which is also the name of the Indian gooseberry, amla. Perhaps because of the colour and the fact that it has gula melaka (palm sugar).
Oh, and they are called klepon in Indonesia.
These days, you’ll also see these little guys in a variety of colours. Using buterfly pea flowers will give you blue onde onde and using purple sweet potato gives you purple ones.
We’re making onde onde with sweet potato, my granny’s recipe and just the way I’ve made them a gazillion times, growing up in Singapore.
Incidentally, if you see it spelt with an h, as in ondeh ondeh, and are wondering why, that’s the old Malay spelling. The letter h is now redundant in so many Malay words.
How do you pronounce Onde Onde?
own – day, repeat!
Making Onde Onde at Home
The recipe requires only a few ingredients, which we’ll look at in a bit. To give you an idea of what it takes, and how long, I’ve laid down the steps, accompanied by the rough times. To cook onde onde, this is what we’ll be doing:
- Peel, chop and cook the sweet potato in boiling water for 10 minutes.
- Make the pandan juice (takes 5 minutes).
- Chop the gula melaka (5 minutes).
- Zap the grated coconut with a little salt in the microwave oven for 15-20 seconds (to “perk it up”).
- Make the dough. (5 minutes).
- Roll and fill our onde onde with gula melaka. This is the longest part, and depending on how fast you are, can take between 30 – 45 minutes. Or less, once you get the hang of it. Or if you’re making half the recipe.
- Cook the filled dough balls in 3-4 batches, then immediately roll in grated coconut (each batch will take about 4-5 minutes).
That’s it. Still with me?
Let’s take a look at the ingredients we need to make onde onde, shall we?
- Sweet Potato
- Glutinous Rice Flour
- Gula Melaka
- Pandan Leaves
- Grated Coconut
- A little Salt
- Pot of Water – for cooking the filled dough balls
As mentioned earlier, using sweet potato in making onde onde is the traditional method, especially in Singapore, and to me, gives the best flavour. Using just glutinous rice flour is a quicker method (perhaps that’s why it came about?) but the end result tastes just like kuih kochi or the Japanese mochi, and not really how traditional onde onde should taste.
I tend to use either white sweet potato or the orange variety. The latter is more readily available to me, and gives you onde onde that lean on the side of khaki once cooked. But still green. In the video (should be out in 24 hours), you see me making onde onde with 2 different varieties of sweet potato, white and orange.
If you use purple sweet potato, you’ll end up with purple coloured little balls. You could do that, if you want, for something different. The addition of pandan juice (which is not optional) will give you a lilac-ish coloured dough.
Sweet potatoes should be easily available in supermarkets and grocers.
Glutinous Rice Flour
This is different from regular rice flour. Glutinous rice flour is made from glutinous rice, or sticky rice. Unlike the grainy rice flour, glutinous rice flour has a smooth texture, akin to cornflour (cornstarch) and is sticky when mixed with liquid.
It is used to make sticky type desserts, like the Japanese mochi and our kuih kochi (recipe soon).
Glutinous rice flour will be found in East Asian type stores and most definitely online. I get it from my local Korean, but here’s my Amazon affiliate link for the brand I use, if you want to get it online.
That means, onde onde are gluten free!
Gula melaka is the palm sugar that’s commonly used in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. It’s more often than not, made from the flower buds of the coconut palm.
Gula melaka is very dark and hard. It is intensely rich and sweet with toasty, caramel flavours.
To use gula melaka, you either chop it up into little pieces or grate it, the latter is much easier to do. For our onde onde, we chop it up into little cubes to stuff the dough with.
Gula Melaka Substitute
Coconut sugar is a great substitute for gula melaka if you can get it. Otherwise, your best substitute for gula melaka is brown sugar (light or dark). Don’t use Thai palm sugar, it’s not sweet enough.
Here’s my Amazon affiliate link for one of the brands I use. The image below is an old one of gula melaka that one of my sisters got me, from Malaysia.
Click here to read more on LinsFood.
Pandan flavour is non negotiable in making authentic and traditional onde onde. It’s not optional, so you really, really want to get your hands on it.
The pandan leaf has a wonderfully, sweet aroma with dashes of freshly cut grass, and is a very common ingredient in South East Asian cooking, for flavouring both sweet and savoury dishes.
The aroma of pandan leaves is activated by heat. At room temperature, all you get is the smell of grass. So don’t worry if that’s all you’re getting from it initially.
If you’re in the UK, frozen pandan leaves can be found in many local Chinese grocers. I assume the same must be the case in many other countries. And if you do Amazon UK, you can get fresh pandan leaves via Prime if you need it urgently! There are a few sellers, but this is the one I’ve bought on numerous occasions (affiliate link).
To extract pandan juice from the leaves, we cut the leaves with a pair of scissors, and blend them with some water in a blender.
Then you strain it into a bowl or jug with a fine sieve, squeezing the pulp to get every last drop.
If you can’t get pandan leaves, the Indian kewra makes a pretty good substitute.
As a last resort, you’ll have to make do with pandan extract, available in the baking aisle and most certainly online. I’m not a fan of its artificial aroma, but thankfully, I’ve always been able to get pandan leaves. I even used to grow them.
As you can see from the images, the cooked onde onde balls are coated with freshly grated coconut.
If you can get it fresh, lucky you! I have to depend on the frozen kind from my local Pakistani shop. There is only one small downside to this, the grate isn’t as fine as I’d like it to be, but in every other aspect, it’s perfect. I usually pulse it in a chopper just to get it a little finer.
If you can’t get fresh or frozen grated coconut, desiccated coconut will work too, but we have to plump it up with a little coconut milk. I’ll tell you how to do it in the recipe card below, just as we did with sambal goreng.
How long will they Keep?
Onde onde are best eaten on the same day that they are made. However, leftovers can be kept in an airtight container, in the fridge and eaten within 24 hours. Reheat gently in the microwave for10 – 20 seconds, depending on how many you have. If it’s only a couple, 10 seconds is more than enough. Don’t burn your tongue with that hot filling!
You can also freeze cooked onde onde and consume within a month. Defrost on the kitchen counter for an hour, then gently reheat in the microwave for 10 -20 seconds. Keep an eye on them.
How to store Uncooked Onde Onde?
You can dust them with a little glutinous rice flour and store in an airtight container. They are best cooked within 24 hours as the dough starts weeping.
Cook as in the instructions below, straight from the fridge.
You can also freeze them. Open freeze on a baking tray for an hour, making sure they’re not touching each other. Then place them in an airtight container or in a zip lock bag and freeze for up to a month, squeezing out excess air.
You can cook them straight from frozen.
And that’s it! Ready to get cooking?
If you enjoy the recipe, drop me a comment and let me know. Feeling like a star? Don’t forget that 5-star rating!😉
If you make this recipe, post it on Instagram and tag me @azlinbloor and hashtag it #linsfood.
More Kuih Recipes on SMR
Onde Onde Recipe (with Sweet Potato)
- chopping board
- large bowl
- large plate
- spoons as needed
- wooden spoon
- 8 pandan leaves
- 250 ml water
Onde Onde Dough
- 200 g sweet potato pre peeled weight about 250g/8.8oz
- 200 g glutinous rice flour
- 200 g gula melaka you'll probably not need all
- 200 g grated/shredded coconut only the white part
- ¼ + ⅛ tsp fine salt
- water to fill a large saucepan I'm using a 20cm/8" saucepan
If using desiccated coconut
- 100 g desiccated coconut
- 50 g coconut milk
Extract the Pandan Juice
- I've provided a few pictures here, there'll be a video coming within 24 hours. Rinse the pandan leaves and using a pair of scissors, cut 7 leaves up into 2.5/1" lengths straight into a blender or food chopper.
- Pour in half of the 1 cup of water and blend until the leaves are all shredded. Add more water as necessary. I used up a whole cup. This will depend on the width of your blender.
- Strain the pandan juice through a fine sieve. At the end, squeeze the pulp with your hands to get every last drop. Set aside.
Make the Onde Onde Dough
- Bring a large saucepan of water to boil with ¼ tsp salt. Peel the sweet potato and cut into rough 5cm/2" cubes.
- Add to the boiling water and cook for 10 minutes, until a knife just glides through a cube. I know many people tell you to steam the sweet potato – I don't even know what that means! Do you steam potatoes to parboil them or do you dump them in boiling water?!
- Drain and leave to air dry for 5 minutes. That means leave them in the strainer, this is so they won't be too watery. Then tip out into a large bowl and mash until smooth and creamy. Leave for 5 – 10 minutes to cool down while you chop up the gula melaka (below).
- After chopping the gula melaka, when your sweet potato has cooled down, tip in ⅓ of the glutinous rice flour and mix with a wooden spoon.
- Add a little of the pandan juice (about 4 Tbsp) and mix again.
- Add the next ⅓ of the flour and repeat with mixing, then adding some pandan juice.
- Add the final ⅓ of the flour and mix with your spoon, adding a Tbsp of pandan juice at a time to make a dough. Bring it all together with your hands, only adding pandan juice as necessary to create a non sticky dough. The dough should come away from the bowl clean and resemble plasticine (or playdough) in its consistency. Video coming in a day or 2. Cover with a tea towel, while we get the coconut going.
Chopping the Gula Melaka
- Using a sharp knife, chop the gula melaka into little pieces. They won't be neat, don't worry about it. If it's too hard, give it 5-10 seconds in the microwave oven.
- Remember the last pandan leave? Cut it into 3 pieces and place on a large plate. Tip the shredded coconut onto the plate.
- Sprinkle the ⅛ tsp salt all over and warm in the microwave oven for 20 – 30 seconds, depending on your oven's wattage. Again, I know others tell you to steam the coconut. Why bring out the steamer when the microwave oven is just there and does the job perfectly?
- Fluff up the coconut with a fork and leave until needed. You could cover it to prevent it from drying out, but I don't bother.
- If using desiccated coconut, tip it out into a wide, shallow bowl and pour the coconut milk all over. Sprinkle the salt and mix well with a spoon. Slot in the pandan leaf pieces. Microwave in the oven in 20 second bursts, for about a 1-2 minutes, depending on you oven. What you want is for the coconut to absorb the milk, fluff up and take on the flavours. Make sure all the liquid has been absorbed. You could also do this on the stove in a frying pan or wok over very low heat.
Shape and Fill the Onde Onde
I find it best to form all the onde onde balls before cooking. They won't dry out as long as you cover them with a tea towel. The best way to ensure that you get fairly even sized balls is to keep dividing the dough as you see in the image. Cut the dough in half and place one half back in the bowl and cover. Cut the other half into half again. Then roll each one into a log and cut into equal small pieces. Each piece is 1 onde onde.
Grab one piece of dough and shape into a ball. Now we are going to fill it. The best way, is to create a deep hole in the dough by pushing your thumb through if you don't have long nails. Otherwise, like me, use the rounded end of any small utensil you have (like a pastry brush) and push down. Fill with gula melaka, ensuring that you have enough but not too much that you can't seal it. Be careful of long, sharp edges that may puncture your dough. Break them off. Seal the onde onde and gently roll into a ball. If you can see signs of gula melaka, just patch it up with the dough and roll to smooth out. Set aside while you do the same with the rest of the dough.
- Once you are done with say ¾ of the dough, bring a large saucepan of water to boil. Then continue forming the rest of the onde onde.
Cooking and Finishing the Onde Onde
- Depending on the size of your saucepan, cook about 8-10 balls at a time. have the heat on medium-high and gently drop the balls into the boiling water. Be careful not to burn yourself. I prefer to drop them one at a time.
- Leave the onde onde to cook on the same medium-high heat. They will soon float to the top. Once they do, cook them for a further 2 minutes. Be sure to have your coconut very close to the saucepan.
- Get a skimmer or slotted ladle and lift a few onde onde at a time, shake off excess water gently, then drop them carefully onto the coconut. They are very soft at this stage, so everything has to be done gently. Get the rest and place them on the coconut.
- Using your fingers, cover the onde onde with the coconut immediately. Don't roll them yet as they are soft.
- Cook the next batch. Now, go nack to the onde onde on the coconut and gently roll them to ensure they are fully coated. They are fairly sticky so this shouldn't be a problem.
- Lift your coconut covered onde onde onto a serving plate and get ready to coat the next batch. Arrange them in one layer, don't pile them up. Repeat this until all the onde onde balls are covered with coconut and serve immediately. They can be eaten while still warm or at room temperature. However, leave at least 10 minutes before biting into one, just in case the filling is still hot. This is just a precaution.