6 Malaysian Local Desserts That Are Actually Vegan

6 Malaysian Local Desserts That Are Actually Vegan

Malaysians are known for our insurmountable love of food, which doesn’t come as a surprise owing to our multicultural influences. Over time all these different cultures and culinary prowess meet and hence our palates have access to a wicked array of tantalising regional concoctions.

Malaysian cuisine boasts a variety of local cakes (locally known as “kuih” in Malay) and desserts, many of them painstakingly prepared in dainty bite-sized morsels and yet unbelievably cheap and easy to prepare with just a few ingredients. 

The main difference between intercontinental and local desserts are in the common key ingredients and cooking methods: 

  • Typically there are no leavening agent like yeast or baking powder involved;
  • Coconut milk (santan), screwpine leaves (pandan), and palm sugar (gula melaka), something you don’t usually find in cakes, are plant-based ingredients heavily favoured over dairy elements like milk and butter;
  • Kuih and puddings are usually cooked by steaming instead of conventional oven baking;
  • When called for, Agar-agar (a vegan gelling agent derived from seaweed) is used as a coagulant instead of gelatine which is bovine in origin.

Many of these local delicacies however may contain a smattering of eggs or even dried shrimp ‘belacan’. It is easy to believe we have to sweep away these well-beloved local delicacies upon adopting an ethical vegan lifestyle. We are here to tell you that you don’t have to bid farewell to most of them, as long as you know what ingredients go into preparing them, and most of them are actually vegan-safe! Following is a partial list of famous local delights that are actually vegan and widely available in Malaysia.  


Sago Gula Melaka Pudding 

Starting off with one of our all-time favourite tea time dessert, the Sago Gula Melaka Pudding is a refreshing and chewy pearl sago dessert drenched in a combination of sweet gula melaka syrup and fragrant santan, with the essence of pandan leaves lending an earthy nostalgic aroma. Pearl sago is a vegan starch from the sago palm, and this pudding can easily be made at home using a muffin tray as moulds.   

Pulut Inti 

This decadent Nyonya-style kuih is made by steaming glutinous rice with coconut milk, and topped with grated coconut filling that has been sweetened by gula melaka syrup. This sweet dessert is then thoughtfully wrapped in banana leaves in petite portions. A variety of the sticky rice is also often coloured a mild natural blue using butterfly pea flowers, or “bunga telang” in Malay. A dainty vegan snack sure to evoke happy childhood memories for many. 

Kuih Onde-Onde

 

These are cute little glutinous dough balls infused with juice of the pandan leaves, which gives them the signature grass-green colour. Chopped miniature chunks of palm sugar are then rolled into each ball before they are cooked in boiling water. To serve, roll and evenly coat the cooked chewy balls in a fluffy layer of steamed grated coconut. This kuih can be easily found in many local eateries, perfect for busy vegans looking for a midday snack. Kuih Onde-onde is also very simple to prepare at home, doubling as a fun activity to do on an idle afternoon with family and friends.

Kuih Keria

Photo from Davina Da Vegan

Craving for some doughnuts? You’re gonna want to keep an eye out for this local delicacy that is a dairy-free and egg-free vegan alternative to doughnuts, made from mashed sweet potatoes kneaded into a dough with the addition of all-purpose wheat flour and a little tapioca flour. Fried and coated in a crunchy sugary glaze, Kuih Keria is great to have as a snack at any time of the day, and the sweet potato imparts a natural sweetness and fluffy texture. If you love sweet potato fries, you are going to love this vegan doughnut. 

Kuih Sago Rose

As indicated by its name this kuih is made from sago pearls, steamed until it has the consistency of a chewy jello, and is usually coated with grated coconut. The ubiquitous pinkish-red colouring comes from the rose essence used, which also gives this dessert an indulgent whiff of fragrance and taste. A light and pleasantly chewy snack easily made with just a few ingredients, this rose-flavoured kuih is very much vegan-friendly and gentle on the palate, perfect to pair with your midday cuppa tea. 

Tau Foo Fah

Photo from EatwKriss

Chinese Tau Foo Fah, or soya pudding, is a silken sweet dessert made from -- you guessed it -- unsweetened soy milk. Most Malaysians will reminisce about days of buying this common street dessert by the dollops from the neighbourhood homemade soya milk truck, a well-loved snack that many of us still enjoy in adulthood. Typically it is paired with a sweet clear syrup infused with ginger or pandan. Fortunately for us, the recipe for Tau Foo Fah is vegan with no dairy or egg additives. Traditionally it is made with GDL, a vegan-friendly coagulant, though it can be easily replaced with agar-agar which is also vegan and more accessible for home cooks.

 

At Vegan Pantry, our personal and brand values are founded on animal compassion and cruelty-free practices. We have curated an inclusive space for vegan and vegan-curious folks to explore healthier, kinder, and more sustainable lifestyle options. Feel free to browse our pantry of vegan goodies, or learn more about vegan lifestyle by subscribing to our newsletter!


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