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Seriously Soft Filipino Pan de Coco

by Paula

Today’s recipe is for another local bakery standby – the Pan de Coco. Pan de Coco is a soft, coconut-filled bun that is a popular snack in the Philippines. Like most Filipino breads, its name comes from Spanish and literally translates to coconut bread.

It’s cool to note that other former Spanish territories also boast their own version of pan de coco. The Dominican Republic and the Honduras have bread recipes that use coconut extensively. Coconut milk and freshly grated coconut meat are added to the flour to make the dough.

Filipino Pan de Coco

Unlike its Central American and Caribbean cousins, the local Filipino pan de coco incorporates coconut (or strictly speaking, sweetened coconut) as a filling for sweet buns. Freshly grated coconut is highly preferred when cooking the filling. I find using desiccated coconut necessitates more milk (and water, if using) and sugar in the recipe and frankly, for the amount of liquid it uses up, the texture was still on the dry and rough side.

But that’s not to say that you totally can’t use desiccated coconut. Living abroad where tropical ingredients such as freshly grated coconut is scarce, desiccated coconut is a decent substitute for the real deal. But if you’re able to get your hands on some coconut flakes, use this instead. Just be wary about the type of coconut flakes you’re buying; if you buy a bag of sweetened coconut flakes, you might have to dial back on the amount of sugar you use for the filling.

Filipino Pan de Coco

If you’ve browsed through a couple of pan de coco recipes or even some of the bread recipes that I posted before, you are in for a surprise today. I’m a fan of sweet and soft bread. No crusty, artisan bread for me if I can help it.  One of the secrets of Asian bakers for pillowy soft bread that’s steadily gaining recognition among Western bakers is tangzhong.

Filipino Pan de Coco

What is tangzhong?

Tangzhong (or water roux), is an awesome technique that helps to keep bread soft and fresh even after a few days. How cool is that? I came across this technique a few years back when I was looking through some Chinese blogs on a hunt for the fluffiest milk bread. While it’s been said to have originated from Japan (and is often the underlying technique for baking Hokkaido milk bread), it was catapulted to greater popularity among home bakers when a Chinese book called 65°C Bread Doctor came out. Interestingly, 65°C is the temperature used to prepare tangzhong.

Filipino Pan de Coco

Tangzhong is prepared by mixing a small amount of flour and a fair bit of liquid (usually milk or water) and heating the mixture over low medium heat until it forms into a paste like substance. It gives the dough more elasticity and locks in moisture so your bread is absolutely soft.

Filipino Pan de Coco

Ok, here are some pointers for those making tangzhong for the first time.

  1. Make sure your milk or water is at room temperature. We don’t want to heat the liquid longer than necessary.
  2. To avoid lumps of uncooked flour in the tangzhong, add the flour to the liquid (and not the other way around) and give this mixture a few swirls with a spoon or spatula before cooking it over the fire.
  3. Constantly stir the mixture during cooking to avoid burning the flour.
  4. Once the mixture is starting to get thick, turn down the heat. It cooks fairly quickly.
  5. Immediately remove from heat once the mixture is thick like cream.
  6. Cool it down to room temperature before adding it to the dough.

Filipino Pan de Coco

Now the next bit that I want to talk about is the coconut filling. This recipe uses freshly grated coconut and makes just enough for around 12 tablespoons of filling.  I tried using more than a tablespoon of filling but I had some problem sealing the dough balls afterwards so I stuck to a tablespoonful of filling for my subsequent baking. Of course, you can double the recipe for the filling and eat the extra too. ?

If you’re using desiccated coconut, I suggest doubling the amount of liquid and sugar used as the dry coconut absorbs more liquid than fresh ones do. Use the same amount of desiccated coconut as you would with the grated coconut.

Filipino Pan de Coco

I brushed some melted butter over the freshly baked buns and sprinkled toasted sesame seeds and sugar on top. The original pan de coco comes without these toppings but the buns are delicious either way.

Filipino Pan de Coco

I pinched off a bit to eat. Can you see how the edge just stays pinched? That’s how soft it is.

Filipino Pan de Coco

Filipino Pan de Coco

Filipino Pan de Coco

Ready to bake some seriously addicting pan de coco? Let me know your thoughts!

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Filipino Pan de Coco

Seriously Soft Filipino Pan de Coco (using Tangzhong method)

  • Author: Paula (Gobble The Cook)
  • Total Time: 3 hours
  • Yield: 12 Buns 1x


Pan de Coco is a soft, coconut-filled bun that’s a popular snack in the Philippines. Like most Filipino breads, its name comes from Spanish and literally translates to coconut bread.



For the Tangzhong:

2 tbsps bread flour

120 ml (1/2 cup) milk

For the Dough:

360 grams (3 cups) bread flour, sifted

2 tsps instant yeast

1 tsp salt

73 grams (1/3 cup) sugar

120 ml (1/2 cup) milk

1 large egg, beaten

56 grams (1/4 stick) butter, softened

For the Filling:

110 grams grated coconut (1 cup)

120 ml (1/2 cup) milk

110 grams (1/2 cup) brown sugar

27 grams butter (1/8 stick)

1/2 tsp vanilla

For the Egg Wash:

1 large egg, beaten

1 tbsp milk


For the Tangzhong:

  1. In a small saucepan, mix the milk and the flour until combined.
  2. Cook over low medium heat while stirring constantly until a thick paste is formed. Remove from the heat immediately and cool down.

For the Dough:

  1. Meanwhile, combine the flour, instant yeast, salt, and sugar in the bowl.
  2. Add the cooled tangzhong, milk, and egg to the flour mixture. Using a dough hook and the lower setting of a mixer, knead the ingredients until a shaggy dough forms, around 5 minutes. Cover the dough and let it rest for 15 minutes.
  3. After resting, continue kneading the dough on low speed while continuously adding the butter. Knead for 10 minutes or until the dough is elastic. The dough will be sticky.
  4. Form into a ball and transfer to a lightly oiled bowl. Cover the bowl and let the dough rest for 1-2 hours or until the dough doubles in size.

For the Filling:

  1. Combine all the ingredients for the filling and cook over medium heat. Stir every once in a while.
  2. Cook until the mixture has thickened and the coconut has absorbed all the liquid.
  3. Remove it from heat and let it cool.

Forming the buns:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C (350F).
  2. Punch down the dough to remove the air and divide into 12 pieces.
  3. Form each piece into a ball and flatten it. Put a tablespoon of coconut filling in the middle of the dough and seal it in by rolling the dough into a ball. Repeat for the rest.
  4. Let the dough balls rest for 15 minutes.
  5. Mix the egg and milk for the egg wash. Lightly brush the tops of the dough with the egg wash before baking for 15-20 minutes or until the buns turn golden brown.
  6. Remove from the oven and brush melted butter. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and sugar before serving.


  • If you’re using active dry yeast instead of instant yeast, use lukewarm milk instead. Mix the sugar with the milk and sprinkle the yeast on top of the milk. Let it stand for 5-10 minutes or until it blooms. Follow the recipe after this.
  • If you’re using desiccated coconut or coconut flakes, double the amount of sugar and milk in the recipe. For coconut flakes, you may need to adjust the sugar in the filling if you’re using sweetened coconut flakes.
  • Sesame seeds and sugar are optional toppings.
  • The buns keep fresh for a few days especially if they are stored in an airtight container. Toast the buns for a few minutes or reheat them for a minute in a microwave.
  • Cook Time: 15-20 minutes
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: Filipino

Keywords: Pan De Coco, pan de coco, Filipino bread

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Geri Oct 5, 2020 - 2:38 PM

Can i use all purpose flour instead of bread flour,?

Paula Oct 8, 2020 - 10:05 AM

Hi Geri, yes, you can use all purpose flour instead. There may be some difference in the consistency of the dough but it shouldn’t be a big of a problem.


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