If there’s one thing that can be said about Malay desserts besides that they’re tasty, it’s that they look like art. So many Malaysian desserts do both of those things so well too, which is why it’s hard to narrow a list down to only a few. So, instead of a few, this list includes 12 desserts from Malaysia plus what makes them so special or worthy of being on this list.
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Malaysian Desserts To Try When Traveling
So, what makes Malaysian desserts worth trying anyway? One thing is how many different ways Malay desserts use the same ingredients. Pandan leaves, gula melaka (or palm sugar), coconut milk, and flours. It truly is amazing how many different dishes they’ve come up with.
That’s not to mention how beautiful those dishes are. From bubur cha cha to kuih seri maka, these are desserts that are as much art as they are food. They sport a variety of colors from earthy greens to deep oranges to almost a whole rainbow’s worth, and they sport a variety of presentations ranging from cones to cubes to salad mixes.
Then there are the street food options, of which there are plenty. Fried bananas, shaved ice, and many more. Malaysian desserts truly are a mix of gritty and elegant, and it’s worth going there to experience both.
The Best Malay Desserts You Must Eat
This is a Malay dessert you have to see to believe. Often sold by street vendors, coffee shops, food courts, ais kachang means “iced beans.” Also called ais batu campur, this is the dessert for those who want a sweeter, chunkier twist with their shaved ice.
Ais kachang delivers by adding in red beans plus a bit more. That includes sweet corn, condensed or evaporated milk, cendol (more on that below), and grass jelly. It’s a unique take on shaved ice that doesn’t just rely on sugars or syrups for its flavor.
Bubur Cha Cha
Malaysia has plenty of milk-based dishes, and bubur cha cha is no exception to this. Found in cafes, it’s a creamy dessert known for its colorful mix of coconut milk, sweet potatoes, sago pearls, taro, and tapioca jellies.
For those looking for something light but flavorful, this is an elegant, creative dessert to give a try. Just be sure to take a moment to enjoy the presentation before digging in.
Sago pudding is a refreshingly simple dish. Like many of the desserts on this list, it makes the most out of its ingredients.
It should come as no surprise then that this is one of many popular Malaysian sweets, and it’s made from sago, coconut milk, pandan leaves, and gula melaka (palm sugar). For a little more sweetness, try drizzling some extra gula melaka over this already sweet Malaysian pudding.
Most often served in Mamak stalls, this must-try Malay dessert is ultra-thin, pan-fried dough. It’s crispy, it’s sweet, and it’s shaped like a cone. It’s also called roti helikopter (helicopter bread). It’s served plain or you can find a version topped with chocolate sauce.
Give this a try for something fast, easy, and unique. You’ll get the experience of a Mamak stall plus the experience of a different kind of dessert. After all, not every day someone can say they’ve eaten helicopter bread.
Kuih Keria – Fried Doughnuts
Kuih keria is Malaysia’s successful take on doughnuts. They start by steaming and mashing kumara (sweet potatoes). Then, they add in some salt, flour, and tapioca flour, then deep-fry them. Toss on some sugar; these doughnuts are crisp outside and gooey on the inside.
This is a dish that proves right along with sago pudding that dishes don’t need to be complex. Sweet potato doughnuts are an interesting take on a classic. Like many of the desserts on this list, they’ll be sold by street vendors.
Kuih keria goes really well with anyone of these tasty Malay drinks, especially teh tarik.
There’s a reason the word, “kuih,” shows up on this list more than once. Kuih can stand for several things, one of which is cake. It comes from a Chinese word also meaning cake. These cakes are typically bite-sized and they come in all sorts of flavors and presentations.
These Malaysian cakes, made from rice and tapioca flour, are found in two colors: dark brown and green. The dark brown version gets its color from dark palm sugar, and the green version gets its color from pandan leaves. Both are sweet and traditionally shaped into teacups and topped with coconut flakes.
Kuih Seri Muka
Kuih seri muka is another great entry into the Malaysian cakes category. This is a two-layer Malay kuih with the first layer made from glutinous rice and the second layer made from pandan leaves. The bottom layer is steamed and the top layer is made into a nice, smooth custard.
The great thing about kuih seri muka is that it can be enjoyed as a traditional Malaysian dessert, or it can be eaten as an afternoon snack. This is something to look for in cafes.
Pisang goreng is another simple but great dish and easily our favorite Malay dessert. We ate this dessert a lot when living in nearby Indonesia.
Meaning “fried banana,” this popular street food takes bananas, usually pisang tanduk (banana horn), and fries them up nice and crispy. The ripe bananas add a little extra sweetness, and the longer bananas help them to hold their shape while being made.
This is one of those get-it-and-go kinds of options. The kind where you get to see how it’s made right there in the stall and then enjoy it once the show’s over. It’s a guilty pleasure, but it’s a good one.
Like Kuih Seri Muka, Cendol builds its flavor through layers. Unlike Kuih Seri Muka though, Cendol usually comes in a glass, cup, or bowl. Cendol also has the unique distinction of referring to one of its ingredients (the jellies that look like green beans) and the dessert as a whole.
As a whole, this incredibly popular dish is a layered concoction of coconut milk, shaved ice, gula melaka, and those green jellies which are made from rice or green bean flour and flavored with pandan. Its creamy, sweet, refreshing, and is sold by street vendors, hawker centers, and food courts. You can also have cendol as part of an ais kachang.
Cendol is one of our favorite foods to eat in Penang. The ice and combination of flavors are a great way to beat the heat in Penang.
This Malay dessert is known as the peanut pancake turnover, and it really does look like a folded-over pancake! These can be thick or thin depending on the chef’s preference. They also have a variety of fillings such as cream corn, peanuts, or chocolate.
Found in hawker stalls, this is a dish that can be eaten multiple times of the day. It can be eaten as a dessert or as a breakfast, for example. It’s fluffy and sweet, and it’s a great way to start or end the day.
Seeing rojak for the first time can make one wonder why this is on a dessert list. While rojak might look like street food dinner, it’s actually another solid win in any list of Malay desserts. Rojak is best described as a mix that a mad food scientist might come up with, and it’s one those who work in Mamak stalls are constantly putting their own spins on.
It’s a salad built on ingredients like tofu, fried dough fritters, cucumber, pineapple, and more. Plus, there’s the sauce, which will be a mixture of sweet and spicy. This is a dish to try for those who want something unusual and new, but still comes packed with a great and powerful taste.
Last but not least, there’s dodol, which is a popular Malaysian dish that looks simple to make but takes hours and hours to do right. Many describe it as similar to toffee, but this little dessert is its unique mix of coconut milk, glutinous rice, gula melaka, and a few more.
What’s most interesting about this little dessert is that it’s served during Hari Raya. Hari Raya is the end of Ramadan. It’s no wonder it’s celebrated with such a tasty dessert!