How to make Trinidad style coconut tart

3.5.16 | Recipe by Renz

A delectable pastry dough pocket filled with sweetened shredded coconut and "stewed" with additional spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. A Caribbean snack that is a favorite across the board.

A stack of Trinidad coconut tarts, on a printed plaid napkin on top of a brown wicker tray.

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Baking is such an important part of Caribbean culture. Walk into a local bakery, and you're met with a colorful array of freshly baked bread, pastries, cakes, and cookies.

You may think this is for commercial use. But nope. On Saturdays, households are known to bake up their batch of goodies.

Coconut tarts use one of our staple Caribbean ingredients: coconut.

To say that coconut isn't an important part of our cooking I would be lying. Cooking and baking are not complete without using some part of the coconut.


What is Trinidad-style coconut tart?

Trinidad-style tarts vary from a Jamaican coconut tart, which is also known as gizzada.

The TnT version is a closed dough with a sweet coconut filling. Using desiccated coconut, we sweeten it with sugar and spices like nutmeg and cinnamon fill our dough and bake it till golden brown.

My fondest memories of coconut tarts are seeing my aunt, who had a bakery, making these. By the time she was done, she would be covered in flour from head to toe. Rolling, sealing, and making these in batches.

Notes on ingredients for coconut tart

  • Sugar - I prefer to use brown sugar for this recipe but if you have granulated sugar, it can also be used.
  • Coconut - Get a fresh dry coconut from the store. I would only use pre-packaged desiccated coconut for this if it is the last resort. See the note below on using it.
  • Ginger - Trying using fresh ginger that you grate or even ginger powder can be the replacement.
  • Flour - All-purpose flour needs to be used. Avoid using self-rising or cake flour.

The full list of ingredients and quantities are listed in the recipe card below.

How to make coconut tart Caribbean-style

This is a two-part process. I'm going to break down the process so that you get the maximum time and minimum stress in putting this together.

How to make coconut tart filling

Having made sure you got a good coconut from the store, we want to get the coconut shredded. Take the meat of the coconut out of the shell and wash it out of all debris. Cut it up into smaller pieces then just throw the fresh meat into your food processor and get it shredded.

If you happen to use pre-packaged coconut, I would still give it a few pulses in the processor because they are usually long pieces.

In a shallow medium-size pot, on medium heat, combine coconut, cinnamon, nutmeg, bay leaf, and ginger. Do this for about 10 minutes until the coconut is tender and the flavors are combined.

With the packaged coconut, you might need to add a little water to help make it soft. I honestly would just go with a good dry coconut as my option.

How to make the dough

Combine your dry ingredients: sugar, yeast, and flour in a large bowl. Then take your Crisco and incorporate it well into the batter.

Add water in parts to the flour mixture until you get a nice smooth texture with your dough.

Let that dough rest covered with plastic wrap or a towel for about 30 minutes.

When ready, make that dough into about 16 small balls. Then cover these with a damp towel and let them sit for about 20 minutes.

Combining the tart

Filling the tart is a pretty easy process. It's like any hand pie. I did the same process to make the curry crab-stuffed dumplings. Roll out, add the filling, and fold.

Set your oven to heat at 350 degrees and also take your baking sheet and grease it lightly.

Roll out each dough ball on a lightly floured surface.

Take about 2 tablespoons of your coconut mixture and place it on one-half of the dough. Then using some water, dampen the edges of the dough circle with water.

Fold over the other half closing the tart. Then with a fork, seal the edges of the tart to seal everything.

Do this process till all your dough balls are filled.

A pic of the step by step process to fill coconut tarts.

Place each tart on your greased baking sheet. Place the baking tray into your preheated oven and bake for 20 minutes.

Then we have to make it look pretty, so we give it a wash with a sugar bath. I know sometimes people like to do an egg wash, but I love seeing a glaze on a tart.

Remove from oven and apply glaze on tarts then return them to the oven for another five minutes.

A picture of a hand adding glaze to some coconut tarts.

Remove and set on a wire rack and cool.

The smell of this is amazing. OMG.

And as much as I would love to tell you to grab one of these as they come out of the oven, I really should warn you to wait for a little. Hot-flaked coconut is not your friend. I've learned that the hard way.

Give it a little time to cool down.

So that when you bite into that and get a nice big clump of seasoned coconut with a bunch of spices, you won't have to spit it out doing the "too hot to handle" dance.

Cause I would hate for you to waste such a great snack.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use pre-packaged coconut?

You can use fresh coconut or desiccated pre-packaged coconut. I know fresh coconut is sometimes hard to find or expensive and sometimes tricky to pick. You can check out my coconut milk post on the best way to choose a fresh coconut.

If using packaged, get the unsweetened coconut flakes. I always run this on the pulse in my processor for a few pulses to make the pieces a little smaller.

A pile of coconut tarts with a spoon of sweetened coconut.

The best way to store coconut tarts

These coconut tarts must be stored properly from early on. They can be left out on the counter in an airtight container for about a day or two. After that, I would wrap them in plastic individually and store them in the fridge.

You can then eat them cold, take them out of the fridge get them to room temperature, and then put them in the oven for 5-7 minutes to warm up.

A coconut tart cut opened with the coconut showing.

I'm curious though, do you use dry coconut in any of your dishes?

Check out these other Caribbean Treats:

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