Biji Salak: Sweet Potato & Palm Sugar Dessert (Vegan)

Biji Salak is a warm dessert soup recipe popular during Ramadan. Sweet potato balls soaked in palm sugar syrup, drizzled with coconut milk sauce.

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Nunuk Sri Rahayu
Nunuk Sri Rahayu
Nunuk hails from Solo, the historic royal capital and cultural centre of Java, Indonesia. She has been cooking since the age of 12, and also performs and teaches traditional Javanese dance. Her dream is to eventually write her own Indonesian cookbook.

Biji salak is a dessert of sweet potato balls in palm sugar syrup, drizzled with coconut milk sauce. Sweet and full of carbs, it’s a popular dish during the fasting month of Ramadan, when it is taken in the evenings to break the fast. It’s also served all year long as a traditional dessert or a snack.

Biji salak means “snake fruit’s seed”, and is named after the snake fruit (Salacca Zalacca), in spite of having absolutely nothing to do with the snake fruit. No part of the snake fruit is used in making this sweet dessert soup, not even the seed!

Biji salak’s sweet potato balls are soft, and slightly chewy from the tapioca starch needed to form the balls. Choose sweet potatoes with low water content, so that you can reduce the amount of starch needed to make cohesive, perfectly-formed balls. You can boil the sweet potatoes, but steaming them is preferable as it further reduces the water content. If available, use sweet potatoes with different colors, which will make it more visually-appealing. I love using yellow sweet potatoes as the color turns bright and beautiful, especially when contrasted with the palm sugar syrup. 


Making biji salak is relatively easy. I’ve divided this recipe into 3 main cooking parts, but it shouldn’t take longer than the stated time. The most efficient way to cook this is to steam the sweet potatoes first. While leaving it to cool, prepare and cook the soup. While the soup boils, make the sweet potato balls. That way, the cooking time will be much shorter. Happy cooking!

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Biji Salak: Sweet Potato and Palm Sugar Dessert

Biji Salak: Sweet Potato & Palm Sugar Dessert (Vegan)

  • Author: Nunuk Sri Rahayu
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 50 minutes
  • Yield: 4 1x
  • Category: Desserts
  • Method: Boiling
  • Cuisine: Indonesian
  • Diet: Vegan


Biji salak is a warm dessert soup that’s popular during Ramadan, but eaten throughout the year. It’s made of sweet potato balls soaked in palm sugar syrup, drizzled with rich coconut milk sauce.


  • For the sweet potato balls: 500 gr sweet potatoes
  • 130 gr tapioca starch
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • For the palm sugar soup: 200 gr palm sugar
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 2 pandan leaves
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 lt water
  • 20 gr tapioca starch
  • For the coconut milk sauce: 400 ml coconut milk
  • 0.5 tsp salt
  • 1 pandan leaf
  • 1 tsp tapioca starch
  • 2 tbsp water


  1. For the sweet potato balls: Steam the sweet potatoes with the skin until done, around 20 minutes.
  2. Peel the skin and mash the sweet potatoes.Mash the sweet potatoes
  3. Add the salt.
  4. Add the tapioca starch gradually while kneading, and continue kneading until the dough is not sticky.
  5. Form into small 2 cm balls.
  6. Set the balls aside while waiting for the sugar soup to be ready.Form into small 2 cm balls
  7. For the palm sugar soup: Put the water, palm sugar, sugar, salt and pandan leaves in a medium-sized pot.
  8. Cook until the sugar is dissolved and the aroma from the pandan leaves permeates the soup, around 30 minutes.
  9. When the syrup is done, sieve the mixture in a clean pot and discard the pandan leaves.
  10. Put back on the stove and add the sweet potato balls.
  11. Cook for around 15 minutes.
  12. Mix the tapioca starch with 3 tbsp of room temperature water and gradually pour into the soup.
  13. Stir the soup gently until it thickens, around 5 minutes.
  14. Turn off the heat.
  15. For the coconut milk sauce: Put coconut milk, salt and pandan leaves in a small saucepan.
  16. Cook over medium low heat.
  17. Mix the tapioca starch with the 2 tbsp of room temperature water.
  18. Slowly pour the tapioca starch into the coconut sauce until it thickens.
  19. Stir regularly until the sauce is done, around 10 minutes.
  20. Remove the pandan leaves.
  21. Serve biji salak in individual dessert bowls, drizzling the coconut milk sauce on each bowl.


  • Biji salak is best enjoyed while it’s still warm.

Keywords: Vegan, Non-spicy, Common ingredients

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  1. It’s a nice mixture of sweet syrup, chewy balls (which are not difficult to make!) and “gurih” coconut milk. Was worried i had made it too sweet (I’m very bad at measuring) but it all came together nicely.


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