Coconut burfi | coconut barfi is a popular Indian dessert. In the following recipe, we make a lighter, yet tasty version lower in calories and sugar compared to the traditional recipe.
Coconut is beloved by low carb dieters and paleo / keto dieters. The reason is because of its composition. Food writer Harold Mcgee, explains that the composition of coconut meat is 45% water, 35% fat, 10% carbohydrate, 5% protein.
Why is Coconut | Nariyal | Kobbari- a great dessert ingredient?
Compare coconut (a nut) with just 10% carbohydrate to typical grains like wheat at 67% carbs to rice with a whopping 80% carbs. So, coconut is a great low-carb option.
But, of course, if one macro-nutrient is low, it automatically means, something else is high – fat. Compare coconut has 35% fat to wheat and rice that has less than 2% and 1% fat inherent in them.
Thus, coconut makes a good candidate for a dessert, especially for us Indians – who primarily eat grains and pulses. Our meal is already high in carbs as it is. If you top it off with a grain based dessert like kesari or sweet pongal, your sugar levels will sky-rocket. Coconut, being low in carb, and naturally high in fat, is a much better option.
What are the problems with the traditional version?
If you buy burfi’s from outside or google coconut barfi recipes, you will find all types of options with high sugar, condensed milk or dessicated coconut. Here are some typical dense versions out there:
- Excessive sugar: Coconut does not have the stickiness like a grain and so a large amount of sugar is boiled to the hard candy stage and coconut is stirred in. The coconut, thus, is basically suspended in the sugar solution, so, it is often 1:1 proportion of sugar needed or more.
- Burfis that use dry, dessicated coconut. Consider this – Freshly shredded coconut contains 283 calories in 1 cup. Compare that to dessicated coconut that contains 400 calories in 1 cup. The difference is in the water levels, obviously. But, using dessicated coconut, and then adding some milk or cream to re-hydrate them seems to be a rather twisted way of doing things. Might as well use frozen coconut, which is convenient, and retains the original water content.
- Burfis that use sweetened condensed milk. This is a touchy area. We, Indians, love our sweetened condensed milk. But, consider this – 40% of a can of condensed milk is sugar. If you sweeten the burfi with just condensed milk, that’s ok, but often it is used in addition to the sugar. This creamy ingredient then attaches itself to every nook and cranny of the dessert and increases its sugar levels dramatically.
Try my ‘upgraded’ version that’s easy to make and lesser in sugar and calories compared to traditional varieties. My version uses simple ingredients that are not refined, but you end up with a wonderful taste – rich and satisfying!!
Step by step Pictures
Create a jaggery syrup (Indian molasses) by boiling jaggery and water, strain it and keep it aside.
Measure 2 cups of shredded coconut. This is available in most Indian grocery stores. I used the frozen variety.
Blend all ingredients (coconut, jaggery and elaichi)..
Pour into pan
Bake at 325F for 45 min, cool well and then flip
Cut into pieces and serve…
This recipe is very forgiving. When I was busy tinkering with the oven settings in earlier trial batches, I got a few crumbs that I just shaped into laddus.
But when I landed at the right time/temp settings, it held up its bar shape very well. Just remember to cool it before cutting. Once the temperature of coconut cools to 74°F (24°c), the coconut oil/fat solidifies, that helps harden the burfi.
This Indian Coconut dessert bar a.k.a Burfi | Barfi is a low carb dessert. This recipe uses only 4 ingredients, and has less sugar and less calories than the traditional version. The Indian molasses, jaggery, adds a complex layer of sweetness to this dessert.
- 2 cups Shredded Coconut
- 1/4 cup Thick Jaggery syrup (or any other liquid sweetener)
- 1/2 tsp Elaichi Powder
- Coconut oil (to brush sides of pan)
Roast 2 cups of coconut on a medium flame for about 5 minutes. You should get a nice, toasted smell. Stir well throughout and don't let the bottom burn.
Take 3-4 large cubes of jaggery, heat with a little water and strain the thick syrup in a container.
Add toasted coconut, 1/4 cup of jaggery syrup, elaichi powder and blend in a high powered blender. Do not add any water, just use the blender stick to thoroughly push down the mix until well grinded. If you have a traditional mixie, open the jar a few times, stir, blend again until well combined.
Using a silicone brush or your hands, oil the sides of a loaf pan with coconut oil.
Pour the thick batter/paste into a loaf pan and push it against the walls of the pan until you reach the desired thickness of burfi. You do not have to use the entire surface area of the pan.
Flatten the burfi with a flat spatula. You can also brush some oil on the top of the burfi if you wish. Place the pan in a 325°F heated oven* for about 45 minutes.
Leave the pan out to cool for 30 minutes or use a freezer to speed up the cooling. Only after it is completely cool, try to flip the burfi.
Cut into pieces and serve.
- *350°F is too high for the burfi -you end up with the crust burning and insides still a little wet. 300°F is too low, since it does not brown the edges for the lovely caramel flavor. I found 325°F to be the best setting for this burfi.
- Jaggery is unrefined Indian molasses. You can substitute with regular molasses instead.
This recipe gives soft, chewy, delicious burfis. Because I have not made it with dehydrated items – like dry coconut or sugar, it is best stored in the refrigerator. It should easily last a week in the refrigerator or freeze it for longer use.
I hope you give these thengai aka coconut burfis a try this festival season. I hope this post inspires you to “healthify” and upgrade your dessert to the next level. Share your comments down below. As always, I love hearing from you!!