Kaya is a coconut jam that is made of pandan leaves, sugar, coconut milk, and eggs. It’s the favorite spread among Southeast Asian foodies particularly in Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Thailand.

The coconut jam is known by various names. In Malay and Indonesian, the jam is either known as kaya, srikaya or seri kaya. In Thai, it’s called sangkhaya. In Filipino, it’s known as matamis sa bao. The name ‘kaya’ was derived from the jam’s rich and thick texture.

If you want to shop for kaya spread, there are different types of kaya in the market to choose from:1

  • NYONYA KAYA This type of jam has a lighter-green color and normally has thick, sticky texture with a strong smell of pandan. There are different levels of sugar content and you can choose the one according to your preference. It’s widely sold in Malaysia and Singapore.2
  • HAINANESE KAYA Hainanese kaya tends to be much sweeter compared to nyonya kaya due to its high content of caramelized sugar added with honey. It comes in darker brown color with smooth creamy texture. This kaya type is also often used to make Chinese crullers, glutinous rice, and puffs. It’s widely sold in Malaysia and Singapore.
  • PHILIPPINES COCONUT JAM The jam is made from cane sugar extract, grated coconut and coconut cream. It’s usually eaten with pandesal (Filipino bread roll) or white toast. The jam is also used to make kalamay, a sticky and sweet Filipino delicacy. The jam is creamy in texture.3
  • THAILAND SANGKHAYA There are two versions of kaya in Thailand. One comes in the form of liquid while the other is similar to the ones enjoyed in Malaysia and Singapore. These sangkhayas are often sold by street vendors.

In Malaysia and Singapore where kaya spread is a must-have jam to be enjoyed during breakfast or snack time, the spread is widely sold at supermarkets and grocery stores with its very own dedicated shelves. A huge range of the spread is displayed, with various types and flavors. From kaya without pandan to kaya mixed with honey, there’s plenty to choose from. In non-Asian countries, kaya spreads are often sold at Asian grocery stores in either jars or tins.

While kaya is often served on a toast, it’s also enjoyed in a variety of ways such as kaya balls (sweet dumplings with kaya filling) and kaya cupcakes. In Malaysia and Singapore, it’s often eaten along with boiled eggs and coffee. The best tasting ones are often served at kopitiams or Chinese coffee shops.