Kem Chuối is way more than just a common Vietnamese street food dessert. It’s a masterclass in “without.” It’s one of the few healthy, dairy-free ice cream desserts you can make without an ice cream maker or special molds, without much time, and without any unhealthy ingredients. Picture this: a velvety coconut cream base infused with the aromatic essence of pandan leaves, cradling delicate banana slices.
"Kem" translates to ice cream, while "Chuối" signifies the star ingredient - bananas. Like other easy Southeast Asian banana desserts like cekodok pisang banana donuts from Malaysia, and Pisang Goreng from Indonesia, these don’t require much additional sweetener, because bananas are so naturally candy-like.
The creamy, slightly nutty undertones of coconut cream blend harmoniously with the gentle sweetness of bananas and the crunch of lightly salted peanuts. Kem Chuoi will blow you away with how simple and fast it is to make your dream-come-true ice cream bars at home!
🥰Why you are going to adore the ever-loving heck outta this recipe
🥥 Creamy Coconut Bliss: My secret? Full-fat canned coconut cream gives these bad boys an ultra-creamy and rich texture without the need for gums or stabilizers found in commercial ice cream products.
🍦 No Special Equipment Needed: You don't need an ice cream maker, or ice pop molds to whip up these ice cream bars. Heck, you don't even need a blender! Just a regular square pan from your kitchen will do the trick. It's ice cream perfection without the fuss!
✅ Tested and Approved Worldwide: Like all of the recipes I share, I have made these over and over until perfect, and then had the recipes tested by a huge group of testers I work with from all over the world. No matter where you are on the planet, rest assured that these Vegan Banana Coconut Ice Cream Bars will turn out beautifully with varying ingredient brands and kitchen equipment.
🥥 Notable ingredients and substitutions
Unsalted, Dry Roasted Peanuts (Đậu Phộng Hấp)
Salted peanuts come in such a wide range of saltiness. So, to give everyone the most consistent results, I call for unsalted dry roasted peanuts that I am gonna have you roast and salt in a pan before using. Of course, if you have salted peanuts you are happy with, or a different nut you prefer, go ahead and use them. Just don't add MORE salt if you start with pre-salted nuts.
Unsweetened Desiccated Coconut (Dừa Sấy Không Đường)
Unsweetened shredded coconut adds a delightful tropical essence and a slightly chewy texture. You can also freshly grate mature coconut meat in place of the dried stuff, which is what I also recommend for topping Chè Khoai Môn with (that's glutinous rice pudding with taro, that is SO good!).
Barely Ripe Bananas
Choosing just-ripe bananas is crucial. This recipe works best when the bananas are just yellow, not green or brown. They contribute natural sweetness and a firm, creamy texture to the ice cream bars. Overripe bananas can be too soft, and underripe ones might not provide enough sweetness.
Canned Coconut Cream (Kem Dừa Lon)
Use an unsweetened canned coconut cream to get a luscious, dairy-free base. The extra fat in coconut cream (that regular coconut milk doesn’t have) helps these freeze without becoming rock hard.
Pandan Leaves (Lá Dứa)
These aromatic leaves are a hallmark of Southeast Asian cooking, lending a subtle, sweet fragrance to everything from kuih ketayap, to klepon and bandrek. If you can't find pandan leaves, a drop of pandan extract works as a substitute, or you can just “leave” them out.
Your choice of sugar adds sweetness and depth to the coconut cream mixture. Palm or coconut sugar (which also makes the best bánh flan) is the traditional choice. Regular granulated sugar or brown sugar works fine in the recipe too.
Tapioca Starch (Bột Năng)
This ingredient thickens the coconut cream mixture, creating the perfect ice cream bar texture. This is an essential ingredient to make many Southeast Asian desserts like Biji Salak, Bubur Cha Cha, and bubur sum sum. Cornstarch, or even potato starch can be substituted.
*See the recipe card at the bottom of the page for exact quantities, nutritional info, and detailed cooking directions.
I-Tim Kluay is a Thai variation of this same kind of recipe, but with a pinch of salt in the coconut cream, and candied fruits or beans for extra texture and flavor. I know. Beans in dessert?!? Trust me, it’s actually bangin’! Make my Che Ba Mau sometime, which shows how beans are not just the musical fruit…
🍌 How to make perfect Kim Chuoi
Nail these vegan ice cream bars 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.
Stir-fry unsalted, dry roasted peanuts over medium heat in a lightly oiled skillet or wok until they become fragrant and acquire a slight golden-brown hue. Sprinkle lightly with salt and set these aside for later.
In the same pan, toast unsweetened desiccated coconut until it reaches a light golden color. Stir frequently while these toast for a few minutes to prevent uneven browning. Once achieved, promptly remove it from the pan.
Thinly slice your barely ripe bananas into either rounds or long thin slices.
The Creamy Stuff:
In a separate saucepan over medium heat, combine the coconut cream, knotted pandan leaves, your chosen sugar, and vanilla. Warm this mixture for about 4 minutes until it's piping hot and well-infused. Remove the pandan leaves.
Slurry in a Hurry:
Use a fork to create a smooth and lump-free slurry in a small bowl by mixing tapioca starch and water.
Make it thiccc:
Pour the tapioca mixture into the coconut cream, stirring continuously until it thickens. Remove it from the heat once the desired consistency is reached. Allow the contents of the pot to cool for ten minutes.
Layer It Up:
Pour half of the contents of the saucepan into a 9-inch square pan. Scatter the toasted coconut, place the banana slices into the pan and then cover with the remaining coconut cream. Garnish with the crushed peanuts.
Place the pan in your freezer on a level surface for 30 minutes. Afterward, sprinkle the toasted peanuts on top and allow the contents to freeze solid for a minimum of 4 hours, or leave it in overnight.
Slice and Serve:
To serve, cut the frozen dessert into rectangles (I do 2x3 inch or 5X7.5 cm bars) using a sharp metal spatula. If they're difficult to remove from the pan, let them thaw for a few minutes to make it easier.
For longer-term storage, once cut and removed from the pan, store the bars in an airtight container or bag in your freezer. But keep in mind: the longer they stay frozen, the stiffer they will become because of the absence of gums or stabilizers in the recipe.
These banana coconut cream pops make an easy dessert to have on hand to finish up almost any Southeast Asian feast!
Treat yourself to a post-meal healthy indulgence after a bowl of Mee Rebus, Ketoprak, sambal goreng, or Vietnamese Rice Paper Salad adorned with Yuba and homemade seitan. The cool, tropical notes of this Vietnamese banana dessert serve as a refreshing contrast to the bold, savory profiles of these dishes.
- Choose the Right ‘Naners: Opt for barely ripe bananas, as they strike the perfect balance of firmness and natural sweetness. Overripe bananas can turn too mushy and will freeze stiffer, while underripe ones may lack sweetness.
- Toast the Coconut with Care: When toasting the desiccated coconut, keep a close eye on it and stir regularly. The goal is a light golden color, not burnt or unevenly toasted. Remove it promptly to stop the cooking and prevent any bitterness.
- Even Freezing: While setting in the freezer, ensure the pan is on a level surface. This helps achieve evenly frozen ice cream bars, ensuring a consistent texture and thickness throughout.
- Patience with Pan Removal: When removing the bars from the pan, be patient. Use a sharp metal spatula, or thin metal bench scraper. If they're stubborn, allow a few minutes of thawing to make the process smoother.
They can be stored in the freezer for up to 2-3 weeks, maintaining their flavor and texture.
After initially freezing the bars, carefully remove them from the pan. Next, wrap each bar individually in reusable, food-safe wraps or silicone food storage bags. These options are washable and reusable, reducing waste. (That's why I don't opt for plastic wrap). Then, put the wrapped bars in a sealed container in your freezer.
The longer they are frozen, the harder they will become. Thaw them for a few minutes before eating them if they feel very stiff.
It's pronounced "kem chwee-oy.”
Yes, a few drops of pandan extract can be used instead of fresh pandan leaves to achieve the desired aroma. Try to find an extract that doesn’t have artificial colors and other unnatural ingredients.
✌️A few of my other fave desserts that go with this:
❤️Love this recipe? It helps me out greatly if you leave a 5-star 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟rating in the recipe card below and maybe even leave me a lovey-dovey comment too!
Kem Chuối (Vegan Banana Coconut Ice Cream Bars)
- ½ teaspoon canola oil peanut oil, or vegetable oil
- ½ cup unsalted dry roasted peanuts
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ⅓ cup unsweetened desiccated coconut
- 3 large barely ripe bananas (peels discarded)
- 13.5 oz. 400 ml. canned coconut cream
- 2 pandan leaves knotted
- 3 tablespoons palm sugar coconut sugar, or brown sugar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon vanilla powder (or ½ teaspoon vanilla extract)
- 4 teaspoons tapioca starch
- ¼ cup water
- Heat up a non-stick pan with your choice of canola, peanut, or vegetable oil over medium heat. Stir-fry unsalted, dry roasted peanuts in the heated pan until fragrant and slightly browned. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and set aside.
- In the same pan, toast unsweetened desiccated coconut until it's lightly golden, then remove it.
- Slice barely ripe bananas into thin rounds or long thin slices.
- In a separate saucepan over medium heat, warm coconut cream with pandan leaves and your choice of sugar, salt and vanilla for 4 minutes until hot.
- In a small bowl, using the tines of a fork, mix together the tapioca starch and water to make a smooth, thin slurry.
- Pour the tapioca mixture into the coconut cream, stirring continuously until it thickens. Remove from heat when it becomes thick and glossy. Allow the contents of the pot to cool for ten minutes.
- To make it easier to remove the bars later, line a 9-inch square baking pan with a little parchment paper.
- Pour half of the contents of the saucepan into the 9-inch square pan. Scatter the toasted coconut, place the banana slices into the pan and then cover with the remaining coconut cream. Garnish with the roasted peanuts.
- Place the pan on a level surface inside your freezer for at least 4 hours or overnight.
- Cut the contents of the pan into 2X3 inch bars, using a sharp metal spatula to remove them from the pan. If they are hard to cut, or get out of the pan, allow it to thaw for a few minutes to let the ice cream soften a little which will make it easier.