If you’re a coconut fan, you’ll love these Belizean-inspired vegan coconut tarts. Shortcrust pastry is filled with a mixture of shredded coconut and condensed coconut milk and baked in the oven to golden. A delicious, healthy dessert from Belize!
Country Number 17: Belize
We’ve made it to country number 17… Can you belize it? Sorry, couldn’t resist the pun. If you’ve been following our journey up until now, you may have noticed our penchant for lame puns and dad jokes. We’ve been slightly holding back as to not scare too many people off reading our blog, but chances are they are only going to get worst from here.
Anyway, enough about our lame puns and back to Belize. Belize is located in Central America along the Caribbean shoreline, nestled between Mexico and Guatemala. We expected Belizean cuisine to be along the same lines as some of the countries we’ve recently cooked from- namely, Antigua, the Bahamas and Barbados.
Unsurprisingly, the first dish that popped up during our research was beans and rice. Given how often this dish has been coming up during our research of typical vegetarian dishes, you’d think we would have made it by now. To be honest, we have been avoiding this dish like the plague. After spending three weeks in Guatemala and having beans and rice for nearly every meal, I (Nicola), have been a little scared off the combination.
History of Belize Cuisine
Given Belize is a melting pot of cultures, its food is equally as diverse. The cuisine has been shaped by a mix of Caribbean, African and Mayan influence. Cuisine also varies in different parts of the country. For instance, in coastal towns, you’ll find a lot of seafood. In rural regions, you’ll find simpler dishes featuring corn and maize, influenced by the Maya. Fresh ingredients, particularly local fruit, is common throughout the country. With the prominence of beans as a protein source, Belizean cuisine is fairly vegetarian-friendly.
Popular Belizean Vegetarian Dishes
- Fryjacks– This is the national dish of Belize, and is essentially deep-fried dough pieces. It’s commonly eaten for breakfast with either savoury items such as beans, eggs and cheese, or is made sweet by topping with sugar, jam or honey.
- Rice and beans– This Caribbean classic consists of red beans which are cooked with coconut rice and flavoured with local spices and hot sauce.
- Garnache– Crunchy, fried tortillas are topped with a variety of ingredients including beans, cheese, and onions.
- Johnnycakes– This soft roll is another staple for Belizean breakfasts, and served with either sweet or savory accompaniments (like fryjacks).
- Tamale- A typical Mayan dish, tamales are made up of corn dough, often containing various fillings, which is wrapped in a corn husk or banana leaf before being steamed.
- Coconut tart– This sweet Belizean treat consists of sweet shredded coconut inside a pastry shell that is baked until golden.
Vegetarian rating of Belizean Cuisine:
Making Belizean Vegan Coconut Tarts
We are big users of coconut in our household. No, seriously. Once, we counted ten different forms of coconut in our house. Desiccated, shredded, flaked, milk, cream, oil, sugar, flour, butter and yogurt. We are literally loco for the coco. Why wouldn’t we be? It’s wildly versatile. It’s a fruit, a nut and a seed all at the same time. Oh, and it’s packed with nutritional benefits. Is there anything coconut can’t do?
When we came across Belizean coconut tarts, we couldn’t resist choosing this sweet treat as our dish to make. Typically, Belizean coconut tarts are made by combining shredded coconut with either condensed milk or an egg custard. Just for fun, we decided to create our own recipe to see how many forms of coconut we could squeeze into these tarts. Different forms of coconut tend to work very well as vegan substitutes in baking. For the pastry, we replaced butter with coconut oil. For the filling, we replaced regular condensed milk with condensed coconut milk, and sweetened the whole thing using coconut sugar as opposed to white sugar.
The result was truly a coconut sensation.
How to make coconut tarts
These vegan coconut tarts do take a couple of steps to come together, but each step pretty straightforward and there are some shortcuts.
- Make condensed coconut milk by simmering coconut milk and sugar for 30 minutes (or buy store-bought)
- Make tart pastry and refrigerate for 15 minutes (or take a shortcut and buy shortcrust, ready-made)
- Combine cooled condensed coconut milk and shredded coconut other ingredients
- Press piece of dough into tin then fill with coconut mixture and bake in the oven for 30 minutes
Ingredient notes for coconut tarts
- Condensed coconut milk– In this recipe, we made condensed coconut milk from scratch by boiling a can of coconut milk with coconut sugar. However, if you find a tin of condensed coconut milk feel free to use this and save the time.
- Shredded coconut– We used fresh shredded coconut (as we had some leftover from our spiced coconut porridge) but you can also use shredded coconut from the packet.
- Flour- We used whole-wheat flour for the tart pastry to add a nutty flavour and make the pastry a little healthier, but regular flour also works. We haven’t tested with any other types of flour, but if you are gluten-free you could try sub with this pastry recipe.
Serving suggestions for coconut tarts
We made mini, bite-sized coconut tarts using a 24-slot mini muffin tin. However, you could also use a 12-slot muffin tin for regular-sized tarts, or even a large pie tin for one big tart. These are delicious on their own, but you could also serve them with a bit of coconut yogurt (in case you haven’t already got your coconut fix).
Other sweet vegan recipes to try:
Coconut condensed milk
- 1 can of coconut milk (full fat)
- 1/4 cup coconut sugar
- 1/2 cup coconut oil (softened but not liquid)
- 1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
- 1 tbsp coconut sugar
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 6-8 tbsp ice water
- Coconut condensed milk (sub
- 1/4 cup coconut sugar
- 1 tbsp vanilla essence
- 2 tsp lemon zest
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 1/2 cups shredded coconut
Make coconut condensed milk:
- Put coconut milk in saucepan on medium-high heat and wait for it to boil. As soon as it starts bubbling, reduce to a simmer and whisk in coconut sugar. Simmer on stove for 30 minutes, until liquid reduces to half, whisking regularly. Remove from heat and allow to cool before using.
Make vegan pastry:
- In a food processor, pulse to combine flour, coconut sugar and salt. Add in spoonfuls of coconut oil at a time, pulsing to combine with mixture. Slowly add in ice cold water, pulsing between each tablespoon, until dough sticks together when pinched. Use as much/ little water as you need to get this consistency.
- Take dough from food processor and gently knead it before placing it onto well-floured surface and forming into disc shape with hands. Cover and put in refrigerator for a minimum of 15 minutes.
Make coconut tarts:
- Preheat oven to 190˚C (375˚ F) and grease a 12-slot tart tin or a 24-slot mini tart tin.
- Combine cooled coconut condensed milk in a bowl with coconut sugar, vanilla essence, lemon zest, nutmeg and cinnamon. Gently fold in shredded coconut.
- Take tart dough out of the fridge. Divide dough between slots in tart tin (approx. 1 tablespoon of dough for a 12-slot tin or 1/2 tablespoon of dough for 24-slot mini tart tin). Press dough evenly to cover bottom and sides of each slot. Spoon coconut filling evenly into the tarts.
- Bake for 30 minutes at 190˚C (375˚ F), covering with foil towards the end if the tops are getting too golden. Allow to cool fully before serving.