For many Southeast Asians, the thought of pulut hitam evokes feelings of warmth, comfort…and unfortunately, some guilt. After all, pulut hitam is a dessert – and a rich, sweet one at that. But today we have for you a guilt-free, healthy pulut hitam recipe – read on to find out how to make it!

Healthy Pulut Hitam 1 - Bowl of pulut hitam drizzled with coconut milk with knotted pandan leaves

Image source: Nyonya Cooking

Try explaining what pulut hitam is to a foreigner and you’ll usually be faced with some uncertainty. After all, “black glutinous rice porridge”? Not the most appetizing name for a dessert.

But those familiar with pulut hitam will defend its deliciousness with pride. This dessert dates back to the Nyonya and Peranakan communities of Malaysia, Indonesia, and Singapore, although it can be found widely throughout Southeast Asia today. Made with black glutinous rice boiled into a soft, porridge consistency with flavourful Gula Melaka (palm sugar) and santan (thick coconut cream) mixed in, this dessert is hearty, slightly chewy, and fragrantly sweet.

Healthy Pulut Hitam - White bowl of pulut hitam and coconut milk with metal spoon on wooden table

Image source: Delishar

So, it may be delicious, but is it healthy? Yes..and no. Black glutinous rice itself is a whole grain, which means it has all the fiber and nutrients that other whole grains (e.g. brown rice, wholemeal bread, etc) have. In addition, black glutinous rice is also packed full of anthocyanins, the colour pigments which give the rice its beautiful dark purple-black colour. Anthocyanins are valuable antioxidants that can fight oxidative damage in the body.

Healthy Pulut Hitam - measuring cup full of raw black glutinous rice grains

Image source: Msihua

While it has its health benefits, cooking pulut hitam into a dessert adds sugar and an abundance of santan, which is high in calories and saturated fat.

So, how do we make a healthy pulut hitam?

This recipe substitutes the santan with regular coconut milk (the kind sold as a beverage or a milk alternative), which can be found in most grocery stores (check the refrigerated aisle). Regular coconut milk still has good coconutty flavour while being much lighter on the fat and calorie content.

In addition, the recipe replaces half of the Gula Melaka with a natural sweetener, Stevia. While Gula Melaka is a healthier alternative as far as sugar options go, it is still a sugar and can raise blood sugar levels rapidly when taken in excess. Stevia maintains the overall sweetness of the dessert, while cutting calories and simple sugar content.

The result? Pulut hitam with 42% less calories and 87% less fat than the original!

Excited to get started? Here’s the recipe!

Healthy Pulut Hitam - Bowl of pulut hitam with white spoon lifting the grains of black glutinous rice

Image source: Iron Chef Shellie

Healthy Pulut Hitam

400 g black glutinous rice
120 g Gula Melaka (palm sugar)
1 tbsp Stevia powder (or to taste)
10 cups water
6 pandan leaves, knotted

2 cups coconut milk
¼ tsp salt
2 pandan leaves, knotted

Method

Rinse glutinous rice and soak in large pot of water overnight (you can omit this step, but you’ll have to cook the rice for longer instead). Drain after soaking.

Bring the rice and 10 cups of water to a boil. Add pandan leaves and reduce heat to a simmer.

Simmer until rice has expanded and is soft but still chewy (about 1 hour), then add Gula Melaka and Stevia. Stir until melted.

Remove from heat and take out pandan leaves.

In a separate pan, heat coconut milk with pandan leaves and salt (do not allow to boil). Once warm and salt has dissolved, remove from heat and take out pandan leaves.

Ladle pulut hitam in a bowl, and drizzle coconut milk over the top to serve!

Healthy Pulut Hitam - Porcelain bowl of pulut hitam drizzled with coconut milk with black glutinous rice grains, pandan leaves, and sugar in the background

Image source: New Malaysian Kitchen

And there it is – a healthy pulut hitam recipe you (and your friends) are sure to love!

Want another healthy and effortless alternative to pulut hitam? Try our Pulut Hitam Cookies – delicious coconutty cookies that are completely free of butter and refined sugar! Find them in the “Shop” tab above!