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Tru Bahamian Must Eat: Coconut Tart

Bahamian confections are aplenty for those with a robust sweet tooth! From Sweet Breads to Guava Duff and island-inspired ice creams using mango, soursop, and sapodilla, you’ll never run out of desserts and candies to nibble on when visiting our islands. One of our all-time favourite Bahamian treats is the revered Coconut Tart- a staple dessert that is easy to make, easy to love, and easy to find when in Nassau…

Origins Of Coconut Tart

a close up of a coconut tart

Credit: Foodsmiths Foodie

Coconut Tart (or some variation of this treat) is a very popular baked good throughout the entire Caribbean region. As was customary for our West African ancestors, we use coconuts here in the islands in a variety of ways. The “milk” is a natural sweetening agent in curries, stews, rice dishes, and breads while the coconut “flesh” is commonly added to baking dishes for desserts or even some beverages.

Interestingly, coconuts are not indigenous to The Bahamas-  they were brought to the archipelago 500 years ago via marine currents and seafaring migrants from South America, the continent on which the fruit is thought to have originated. Once here, coconuts thrived in our sandy soil and humid climate, faring well even during strong hurricanes due to their high tolerance of salt water and buoyant trunks. For that reason, coconuts grow on nearly every island and cay here in The Bahamas and became a popular additive to tarts for British settlers during the 1600’s and the centuries to follow.

The natural appeal of the Coconut Tart is that it requires far less work to prepare than a traditional pie since it uses only basic ingredients but still results in an irresistible dessert or snack. It’s no surprise that this specialty quickly became a unique treat of its own here in The Bahamas.

What Is Bahamian Coconut Tart?

a close up of a piece of bread

Credit: Swiss Pastry Shop

Bahamian Coconut tart is very unlike traditional tarts. Our Coconut Tart does not employ a flaky crust base, but instead resembles a very doughy (almost bread like) cake covered with a thick layer of fruit filling. This cake is made with flour, shortening, butter, eggs, milk, vanilla, and baking powder, sweetened only lightly with sugar. The fruit filling contains fresh, blended coconut along with simple syrup and nutmeg to highlight the saccharine nutty and earthy taste of the fruit. Thick and chunky, the hearty filling is slathered on top of the sweet dough- the two textures perfectly complementing each other- and then baked until you have a golden brown outside and delicious gooey center.

Variations Of Coconut Tart

a close up of a coconut tart

Credit: Tru Bahamian Food Tours

Since our version of a “tart” is relatively easy to make, we commonly use many different types of fruit fillings besides coconut, including local tropical fruits such as: pineapple, tamarind, and guava. As mentioned earlier, we prefer to use a cake/dough base rather than a flaky crust here in the Caribbean, but Bahamian Coconut Tart differs greatly from other varieties found throughout the West Indies. In many parts of the Caribbean, Coconut Tart retains the appearance of a traditional English tart and adds thin strips of dough to the top of the filling in a crisscross pattern to replicate a pie. In The Bahamas, however, we mostly prefer to add a second layer of sweet dough to the tart so that the fruit filling is sandwiched between the layers. This stretches the batch further, as each slice is much more filling with an extra layer of cake on top!

Where To Find Coconut Tart In Nassau

a sandwich sitting on top of a paper plate

Credit: Lovely Bay Development

Whether you’re planning to serve Coconut Tart at home or satisfy your hankering at a local restaurant, we wholeheartedly recommend trying this Bahamian favourite whenever you next come across it. Some of Nassau’s best bakeries, confectioneries, and dessert menus can be found at:

Mortimer Candies – East Hill Street
Phone: (242) 322-5230
Mon-Fri, 9:00am – 6:00pm
Sat, 9:00am – 5:30pm
Sun, 9:00am – 5:00pm

Swiss Pastry Shop – West Bay Street
Phone: (242) 327-7601
Mon-Sat, 9:00am – 6:00pm

Beth’s Kitchen – Festival Place
Phone: (242) 327-7738
Mon-Sun, 9:00am – 5:00pm

The Poop Deck at Sandyport – West Bay Street
Phone: (242) 327-3325
Tues-Sun, 11:30am – 10:30pm

Café Martinique – Atlantis, Paradise Island
Phone: (242) 363-2000 ext. 63830
Sun-Mon, 6:00pm – 10:00pm

Ridge Farms
Phone: (242) 327-6319
Products can be found at Craft Cottage on Village Road,  Bahamas Sol Downtown on Bay Street, and at Saturday Farmers’ Markets in Nassau

 How To Make Bahamian Coconut Tart

a bowl of coconut shreds

Credit: In and Around Town

The best thing about Coconut Tart is that it is a very satisfying stand-alone dish, incorporating smooth, creamy coconut flavor with dense cake pastry. More often than not, you’ll find Coconut Tart served as an afternoon snack with tea or coffee. If you are serving it for dessert, however, you can dress up your plate by adding vanilla ice-cream on top of a thick, hot slice, a dollop of whipped cream or even fresh coconut shavings for garnish.

For making your own decadent batch at home, here’s a Coconut Tart recipe from Grandma Tookie in Long Island, where she still enjoys tea and tart under the coconut tree!

Sweet Dough Ingredients
¼ cup vegetable shortening
¼ cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ cup milk
1 ½ cups flour
3 tablespoons water

Coconut Tart Filling
3 cups fresh coconut, finely grated
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 teaspoons nutmeg

Begin by preparing the coconut filling, combining all ingredients in a sauce pan over medium heat. Bring mixture to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer for about 10 minutes or until the liquid evaporates. Let cool while preparing the dough.

To prepare the dough, combine shortening and butter until blended. Add sugar, eggs, milk, and vanilla and mix well. Next, add the dry ingredients, including baking powder and flour, and mix until the dough becomes sticky. Knead the dough until it is stiff enough to roll. Divide the dough into two balls, one for the bottom layer and one for the top. Roll out one piece into a 9×9 casserole dish. Fill the dish layered with dough with the coconut filling, and then roll the remaining dough piece on top.

Bake at 350℉ for about 40 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Let cool for 15 minutes.

Alternative Preparation
If you prefer using another fruit instead of coconut, try pineapple! Just substitute the Coconut Tart Filling with four cups of fresh crushed pineapple OR two cans crushed pineapple simmered with two cups of sugar for a decadent Pineapple Tart.