You can think of Bubur Sumsum as a porridge, because it’s great to have for breakfast, or you can think of it as Indonesian coconut milk rice pudding if you prefer. This kind of dessert is considered a “kolak” which is pretty much any dessert that you eat with coconut milk and palm sugar syrup. Whatever you want to call it, it amounts to bowls of silky coconut porridge infused with the fragrance of pandan leaves, and drizzled with a luscious dark palm sugar syrup. Some folks serve it with sweet potato dumplings called biji salak, so I am including directions for making this according to your preference.
Technically “Bubur” translates to porridge, and “Sum Sum” is white as a bone because of the sexy union of coconut milk and glutinous rice. This recipe is your cheat-code for mastering Bubur Sum Sum on your first attempt. Like my other Indonesian street food classics such as klepon, and kuih dadar, I’ve put together easy-to-follow instructions with step-by-step photos that remove the guesswork. And it’s completely vegan and gluten-free, making it accessible to just about everyone in the galaxy.
Without the sweet potato dumplings, this treat takes just minutes to put together. So grab your cutest apron, and let’s do the darn thing!
🥰Why you are going to adore the ever-loving heck outta this recipe
🥸 Fool-proof Method: With my step-by-step instructions, even kitchen novices, and utter goofballs (erm, like me…) will confidently create this dish on their first try.
😸 Quick as a Cat: Coming in at under 8 minutes of cook time, Bubur Sumsum is a gosh darn breeze to prepare, and there is so little clean up, you will have time to scrub your ceiling (if you want).
✅ Tested and Approved Worldwide: Like all of the recipes on my blog, this sweet coconut rice porridge has been meticulously perfected by me and then rigorously tested by recipe testers around the globe. The recipe works flawlessly, and you will not be the disgrace of the neighborhood with smoke alarms going off and children crying.
🥥 Notable ingredients and substitutions
Biji Salak, also known as candil in Indonesia, are sweet potato dumplings that add a chewy texture and pretty orange contrast to Bubur Sum Sum. I wrote a biji salak recipe you can follow for making them if you so choose, otherwise, just leave ‘em out.
Pandan leaves are the aromatic backbone of Bubur Sum Sum. They bring a lovely fragrance somewhat reminiscent of vanilla and green tea to everything from desserts like bubur cha cha to rice dishes such as nasi uduk betawi and nasi minyak. Fresh and frozen pandan leaves are available at most Asian grocery stores. If you can’t find them, pandan extract or essence can be used as a substitute, though many extracts are not completely natural.
Palm sugar (Gula Aren or Gula Melaka) is the sweetening agent that gives this glutinous rice and coconut pudding its signature caramel-like taste, and it’s also the sweetener of choice for the Sundanese spiced herbal tea Bandrek. You can substitute coconut sugar, brown sugar, or even maple syrup to achieve a similar mineral-rich sweetness.
Glutinous Rice Flour
Glutinous rice flour, or Tepung Ketan, is the key ingredient that provides a creamy, thick consistency to the porridge. Don’t let the name fool you; it contains no gluten. This flour is essential for achieving the desired texture. Please don’t use regular rice flour, as it will not work the same way.
*See the recipe card at the bottom of the page for exact quantities, nutritional info, and detailed cooking directions.
📖 How to make perfect bubur sum sum
Nail this like a pro on your first shot by following these step-by-step instructions with important tips. Or you can follow along with the easy-to-print recipe card towards the bottom of this page.
In a saucepan, set the heat to low and gently warm the coconut milk, vanilla extract, palm sugar, salt, and knotted pandan leaves. Allow it to simmer gently for approximately 4 minutes, infusing the flavors, then remove the pandan leaves.
Turn it into porridge:
Whisk the rice flour into the coconut milk mixture, which is still simmering. Continue cooking and stirring for about 3-4 minutes until the mixture thickens, forming bubbles.
✅ Whisk like mad! At first, it might look lumpy, but as you whisk, the porridge will become smooth.
Sip, sip, sipping on some syzurp:
In a separate small saucepan, use high heat to combine palm sugar and water. Stir vigorously for 2-3 minutes until the sugar completely dissolves, resulting in a rich, dark palm sugar syrup.
Divide the creamy rice porridge into individual serving bowls. Optionally, place 3-4 biji salak in each bowl. Drizzle each portion with the palm sugar syrup, and if desired, add an extra drizzle of coconut milk. This Indonesian sweet ambrosia is ready for your hungry, hungry face!
Bubur Sum Sum makes a killer breakfast, or you can make it as a light dessert after a big juicy Indonesian or Malaysian meal.
I love a bowl of it after a meal of sayur lodeh, a hearty Indonesian vegetable stew with banana leaf compressed lontong. Smash a classic like Tahu goreng kecap, or sambal goreng tempeh, a spicy tempeh stir-fry over turmeric rice. The cool and creamy Bubur Sum Sum provides the perfect contrast to these flavor bombs, rounding out your meal with a touch of sweetness.
It’s kinda easy to over-do things with wheat because there are so many killer noodle dishes to choose from in Indonesian and Malaysian cuisine. My faves are mee rebus, mie goreng, bami goreng, bihun goreng, and ketoprak. So, having a dessert that doesn’t rely on wheat flour like this keeps things in balance.
Of course, you can also just make a fun Southeast Asian dessert spread and include ALL the classics. Complete the dessert buffet with treats like tupig (grilled glutinous rice sweets from the Philippines), che khoai mon and Vietnamese bành flan.
- Smooth Rice Flour Paste: When preparing the rice flour porridge, ensure it’s smooth and lump-free. Gradually adding the rice flour to the cooking coconut milk w helps to discourage a clumpy porridge.
- Gentle Heat: Maintain a gentle, low heat while cooking the coconut milk mixture. Avoid boiling it vigorously, as this can cause the coconut milk to curdle or separate. Slow and steady heat ensures a velvety consistency, rather than one with an oily sheen from the fat separating.
What is the difference between glutinous rice flour and regular rice flour?
Glutinous rice flour (aka sticky rice flour) is made from, you guessed it, sticky rice. Sticky rice has a higher starch content than regular rice. It’s essential for achieving the desired creamy consistency in Bubur Sum Sum.
Can I use canned pandan extract instead of fresh pandan leaves?
You can substitute fresh pandan leaves with pandan extract, but fresh leaves offer a more authentic aroma. Many extracts contain artificial colors and other unnatural ingredients, so I don’t recommend them. If you use an extract instead of the leaves, you will only need 3-4 drops.
Is there an alternative to palm sugar?
How should I store and reheat Bubur Sum Sum?
To store Bubur Sum Sum, transfer any leftovers to an airtight container. It’s best to store it in the refrigerator. Do not freeze this dish, as freezing can alter the texture.
🔥 Stovetop Reheating:
Place a saucepan with a few tablespoons of water on the stove over medium heat.
Slowly whisk the leftover rice porridge into the saucepan.
Stir gently as you reheat to prevent sticking to ensure even warming, and to discourage clumping.
Heat until it reaches your desired temperature. This usually takes about 3-4 minutes.
There is no need to heat the sugar syrup unless the sugars have started to recrystallize. Just drizzle it onto the hot porridge and serve.
✌️My faves to serve with bubur sumsum:
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Bubur Sumsum (Sweet Indonesian Coconut Porridge)
- In a saucepan over low heat, warm the coconut milk, vanilla extract, palm sugar, salt and pandan leaves. Cook for 4 minutes until just simmering, then remove the pandan leaves.
- Whisk the rice flour into the cooking coconut milk. Continue to cook for 3-4 minutes until thickened and bubbling.
- In a separate small saucepan over high heat, whisk together the palm sugar and water. Cook and stir for 2-3 minutes until the sugar dissolves, creating a dark palm sugar syrup.
- Portion the rice porridge into 4 separate bowls, optionally placing 3-4 biji salak in each, and drizzle with the palm sugar syrup, and optionally an extra drizzle of coconut milk.