Sri Lankan Spiced Custard


I’ll admit, growing up I did not like this dessert compared to the (then) superior caramel pudding (which is a Sri Lankan upside-down version of a caramel flan). But now, I find that it is too sweet, and this spiced custard is where it’s at. And hello? Cardamom and nutmeg – some of my favourite spices!

In Sri Lanka, this is called watalappan. Don’t try and pronounce it. Sri Lankans would joke and call it “what’ll happen” dessert. Traditionally, it’s made with jaggery, which is an unrefined cane sugar from the date tree, mixed with nutmeg, cardamom, and coconut milk, you get this dark molasses-y amazing custard. While I did have access to jaggery (thanks, mom), it’s in a block form, and no one has time to grate away the chunk.


Coconut sugar. Coconut sugar is very similar to the taste of jaggery, and since it is available in granulated form, it is much easier to work with, and I thought it would work in a pinch. I was right! Even my mom gave it the stamp of approval. She was surprised at how it tasted essentially the same.

You must try this – it’s super simple and dairy-free!


  • 1.5 cups coconut sugar
  • 2 tbsp hot water
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 yolks
  • 1/4 tsp cardamom
  • just over 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 2 cups coconut milk


Preheat the oven to 320 degrees F.

In a mixing bowl, add the hot water to the sugar and stir to form a paste so that sugar is not lumpy. Add the salt and eggs and whisk to combine. Try to avoid making it frothy. Stir in the coconut milk.

Fill an 8×8 dish or individual ramekins. Place on a tray and fill with water (bain-marie).


Place in oven and let cook for about an hour (40-45 minutes if using individual ramekins). The custard should still be slightly wobbly in the centre once cooked. Remove from oven and let cool. Wrap with plastic and let it sit in the fridge overnight.



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