Let’s face it: the piña colada is a dessert masquerading as a cocktail. While I love the creamy, sweet drink, it often has me wishing I had a piece of cake or pie instead. There’s something about drinking your dessert that just isn’t quite as satisfying.
Enter the piña colada pie. I took all of my favorite things about coconut cream pie and added all of my favorite things about the tropical cocktail to make one truly memorable dessert. The easy cookie crust is made using vanilla wafer crumbs and coconut for a crunchy base. The filling is a classic coconut custard, made primarily with coconut milk and spiked with a little coconut rum, and a small mountain of coconut-infused whipped cream adorns the top. A thin but flavorful layer of pineapple with lime and a little more rum is sandwiched in between.
This is a dessert that takes some planning ahead, but there’s very little actual hands-on time. The real key to success is leaving plenty of time for chilling, but that also makes it an ideal make-ahead dessert. Serve it for a weekend get-together and watch everyone’s faces light up.
Tips for Silky Smooth Coconut Custard
Homemade custards and pastry creams can be intimidating, but this coconut filling is forgivingly easy—no tempering required. Here are a few tips and tricks to guarantee your success:
- Whisk the dry ingredients together first before adding the liquid ingredients. This helps the flour distribute properly, avoiding lumps.
- Use high-quality coconut milk for the best flavor and texture. Not all coconut milks are created equal—in general, you get what you pay for—so spend an extra dollar for a sure bet. Avoid low fat.
- Stir! Stir the custard constantly as it comes to a boil and then keep stirring as it boils and the remaining ingredients are added. This will help keep your eggs from scrambling and make the texture rich and creamy.
- Cook it for longer than you think. You want the custard to come to a full boil and then cook it for five minutes. Even though it’ll thicken about halfway through, keep cooking! It will help your custard set.
- Allow plenty of time for chilling. If possible, plan to serve this pie the next day and allow yourself plenty of chill time. The more time the custard has in the fridge, the more likely it is to properly set up for beautiful slices.
Add Coconut Cream to Your Whipped Cream
I considered topping this pie with coconut whipped cream for a coconut bonanza, but the texture isn’t as light and fluffy as you want for a classic cream pie. I also discovered that there is such a thing as too much coconut. Instead, I added a dose of coconut cream to the whipping cream. It adds a little extra coconut flavor and richness while keeping the topping light and airy. It’s optional but highly recommended.
Planning Ahead for Your Piña Colada Pie
The key to any successful cream pie is timing. In general, allow more time than you think you’ll need. Allowing components to cool and properly chill means a crisp crust, set fillings, and fluffy topping. There’s really no way to rush through this—trust me and allow at least eight hours. Don’t worry, all but about 30 minutes are hands-off chill time.
Here’s a timeline to help with planning:
- At least 9 hours before serving: Make the custard and stick it in the fridge to chill.
- At least 5 hours before serving: Make the pineapple filling, make the crust, and toast the coconut. Let all of these components cool to room temperature.
- At least 4 hours before serving: Assemble the pie minus the shredded coconut. Chill until serving time, topping with coconut before slicing.
Easy Variations on Piña Colada Pie
- No alcohol: Simply leave out the rum in the fillings. Replace the vanilla extract with coconut extract for a more tropical-forward flavor.
- Dark rum: If you don’t have coconut rum on hand, swap it for spiced rum. It adds a nice flavor and makes the coconut more subtle. You can amp up the coconut flavor by replacing the vanilla with coconut extract.
- Sweetened coconut: You can make this pie with sweetened coconut, just know that it will make the pie a bit sweeter. You can reduce the sugar in the whip by a tablespoon or to taste.
- Coconut flakes: Large coconut flakes make the pie look extra special on top and add a little crunch. Increase the topping amount to 1/3 cup and watch closely while toasting.
Decorating a Piña Colada Pie
Piña coladas are often garnished with an array of fruit and decorations, so feel free to make your pie extra festive. A simple topping of toasted coconut makes for a lovely pie or go a step further and top each slice with a maraschino cherry or even fancy cocktail cherries. Mini umbrellas are a fun touch, too.
How to Store Pina Colada Pie
Store the whole pie in the fridge, uncovered, for up to two days before serving. While it’ll technically keep for longer, it will be at its best in the first day or two (after chilling time). If you have some strong-smelling items in your fridge, you may want to cover it since the whipped cream can absorb some odors. Store a cut pie covered with a piece of parchment or waxed paper pressed against the cut layers. In total, the pie will keep for up to three days.
Piña Colada Pie
For the coconut custard
1/4 (32g) cup all-purpose flour
1/2 (100g) cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 (13.5 ounce) can full fat coconut milk
1/2 cup milk
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon coconut rum (optional)
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
For the pineapple layer
10 ounces crushed pineapple in juice (half a large can)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons lime juice
1 tablespoon coconut rum (optional)
For the crust
35 (4.2 ounces/120g) vanilla wafer cookies
3/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes, divided
1 tablespoon light or dark brown sugar, packed
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
For the whipped cream
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup coconut cream, shaken, room temperature (optional)
8 maraschino cherries with stems, drained (optional)
- Standard (9-inch) pie pan
Make the coconut custard:
In a medium saucepan, combine the flour, sugar, and salt and whisk to combine. Add the coconut milk, milk, and eggs and whisk well to thoroughly combine.
Place the pan over medium heat. Bring the mixture to a boil while stirring. Bubbles should be popping up all over the pan, including the center. Boil, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes. The mixture will thicken less than halfway through the cook time but keep cooking for the full 5 minutes.
Remove from the heat and add the butter, rum (if using), and vanilla. Stir until the butter is melted and the mixture is creamy and thick, similar to pudding.
Chill the custard:
Pour the custard into a bowl and press a piece of greased plastic wrap directly against the surface. This will keep it from forming a skin.
Chill in the fridge for at least 4 hours. The custard should be nice and thick once chilled.
Make the pineapple layer and chill:
Once the custard has been chilling for at least a few hours, make the pineapple filling. In a small saucepan over medium heat combine the crushed pineapple, sugar, cornstarch, and lime juice and stir. Bring to a boil. Boil, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thickened and glossy, similar to a compote, about 3 minutes.
Remove from the heat and add the rum. Add the mixture to a container and place in the fridge to cool while you make the crust.
Preheat the oven:
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Prepare the pie crust:
Add the vanilla wafers to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse several times, until the cookies are all broken into pieces the size of chocolate chips or smaller. Add 1/2 cup of coconut flakes, brown sugar, and salt and pulse until the cookies are finely ground.
Pour the mixture into a large bowl and combine with the melted butter. Mix until all of the crumbs are well-saturated.
Dump the mixture into a standard (9-inch) pie pan and spread out into an even layer. Press the cookie crumbs into the bottom and sides of the pan, going up close to the edge and making the layer as even as possible.
Bake the pie crust:
Bake the crust until it is golden brown and smells like coconut, 10 to 12 minutes. Cool to room temperature.
Toast the coconut:
While the oven is hot, add the remaining 1/4 cup coconut flakes to a small pan or oven-safe skillet and spread into a single layer. Toast, tossing once, for about 5 minutes, until the coconut flakes are golden brown but not burnt. Set aside to cool and then store until ready to assemble the pie.
Meanwhile, stick an empty mixing bowl in the fridge for whipping the cream.
Whip the cream:
Once the custard has chilled, the pineapple filling has cooled, and the crust has cooled, make the whipped cream. Add the chilled cream to a cold mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Use an electric mixer to whip at medium-high speed until doubled in volume and beginning to thicken up.
Gradually add the sugar while mixing followed by the vanilla. Beat until soft peaks form (when you lift the beater, it should make a short peak and then flop over, melting back into the rest of the cream). Add the coconut cream.
Continue beating until medium-stiff peaks form. When you pull a beater out of the cream, it should form peaks that largely hold their shape.
Assemble the pie:
Pour the chilled coconut custard into the cooled pie crust. Use a rubber spatula to spread out and make level.
Dollop the cooled pineapple filling all over the coconut filling, then carefully spread to make a layer on top.
Top with the whipped cream, gently spreading with a rubber spatula.
Chill the pie, uncovered, for at least 4 hours before serving or up to 24 hours.
Decorate and serve:
When ready to serve, top the pie with the toasted coconut. You can also decorate with maraschino cherries, placing one on each slice.
Leftover pie will keep in the fridge, covered, for up to 3 days. Press plastic wrap or waxed paper up against the cut sides of the pie to keep the custard from weeping.
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|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 37g||47%|
|Saturated Fat 25g||127%|
|Total Carbohydrate 39g||14%|
|Dietary Fiber 2g||6%|
|Total Sugars 27g|
|Vitamin C 4mg||21%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|