Klepon (Sticky Rice Balls with Palm Sugar and Coconut)

My friend Melvin taught me how to make this dessert from Indonesia. They look great and when you bite into them, there is a nice surprise of melted palm sugar inside.

First a dough is made of glutinous rice flour, a pinch of salt and water mixed with pandan paste (for the nice green color and enhancing the rice flavor). Then little balls are made and stuffed with chopped palm sugar. The balls are cooked in simmering water and like gnocchi they are done about 30 seconds after they start floating. The balls are then rolled in dessicated coconut that is steamed first to soften it and release the flavor.

These klepon were served as the dessert of the Asian-themed food & wine evenings I’ve been organizing lately. I’ve been quite busy with those, which is why I had less time left to be cooking other stuff and blogging about it. The Asian dinners also include homemade sushi,  thai fish cakes, thai green curry with shrimp, Japanese chicken loaf with ginger and eggplant, babi pangang, and rendang. These were paired with different wines. I will write more about this soon. But first here’s how to make klepon.

There are a few things to remember when making klepon. First, it is better to use a block of palm sugar rather than granulated. When using granulated sugar, there will be less sugar in each klepon and the balance between the sticky rice and the sweetness will be off. Second, the amount of liquid is approximate. The dough should be smooth so it won’t tear, but not too sticky either. Third, and most importantly, klepon have to be cooked soon after they are made. Otherwise, the moisture from the dough will melt the sugar and the sugar will leak out. (I have learned that the hard way.) Fourth, steaming the coconut is optional. Fifth, klepon are best when the outside has cooled a bit but the sugar inside is still warm. If you eat them too soon, the sugar inside will be burning hot.


For about 40 klepon

400 grams (about 3 1/2 cups) glutinous rice flour

360 ml (1 1/2 cups) water

block of palm sugar, chopped

pandan paste

dessicated grated coconut

pinch of salt


Add a teaspoon or so of the pandan paste to the water and stir to mix.

Put the rice flour in a bowl and add a pinch of salt.

Slowly add the green water to the rice flour while you stir with a spoon.

Keep adding water and stirring until the dough comes together.

The dough should be smooth and pliable.

Take about a tablespoon of the dough and roll it into a ball with your hands.

Put your finger into the ball to make an indentation.

Put about 1/2 teaspoon of chopped palm sugar in it.

Carefully close it (so the dough won’t break) and roll it until you have a ball again. If the dough breaks all the time, you may have to add a bit more water to the dough, or use a bit less palm sugar sugar.

Repeat until you have used up all of the dough. Arrange the klepon on a surface sprinkled with rice flour to prevent sticking.

Steam the dessicated grated coconut for about 5 minutes to soften it and make it stick better.

Bring a pan of water to a boil, lower the heat to a gentle boil, and drop in the klepon.

Cook them until they start to float. Then cook them for about 30 seconds longer.

Once the klepon are done, take them out of the simmering water with a slotted spoon…

…and transfer them to the steamed coconut.

Carefully stir the klepon to cover them completely with coconut.

Allow them to cool a bit before serving.

Wine pairing

We’ve tried these with Sauternes, Vin Santo, Moscato d’Asti and Mosel Riesling Spätlese. The Sauternes and Vin Santo were a bit too strong for the delicate flavor of the klepon. The Moscato d’Asti was a bit too fresh. The Spätlese was nice as it was not as sweet as the others, but still not a match made in heaven. I’ll keep trying other wines and will update this page when I find a better match.

Note added August 20, 2022: I’ve finally found a wine that pairs very well with klepon! It’s Verduzzo Friulano, also known as Ramandolo DOCG, a dessert wine from dried grapes of the Verduzzo variety from the North-Eastern region of Friuli in Italy. This wine has caramel notes from the aging in oak that goes well with the Indonesian caramelized palm sugar, and has just the right sweetness.


This banana ice cream is very easy to make if you have an ice maker, and so delicious. Unlike most other ice cream recipes, it does not require you to make a custard. Simply puree the bananas with sugar and cream in the food processor, with a bit of lemon juice and vanilla for additional flavor. The banana flavor is out of this world, and much better than anything store-bought.


14 thoughts on “Klepon (Sticky Rice Balls with Palm Sugar and Coconut)

  1. What neat flavors! Neat that Melvin shared his Indonesian recipe with you. Speaking of sharing, I hope you shared with your friends. 🙂 That’s a lot of yummy rice balls! I have never tried palm sugar, though I’ve read about its popularity in many Asian countries. It looks like maple sugar, which is delicious. I read that it is from the “date palm”… and dates are yummy. 😉


        1. Our regular dining table sits 8. Kees made one of the same size with removable legs that we store in our garage when we don’t need it. There is just enough space in my kitchen/living area to fit both tables, and so we can dine with 16. You’ve probably seen the photos on Facebook 🙂 The next wine & dine will be in November — let me know if I should save you a seat 😉


          1. I thought those photos were from a restaurant! Well-done! I would totally get a sitter and fly out. Alas, I’m due in early November. It might ruin the meal if I went into labor before dessert. 😉 Can’t wait to see the recipes and photos.


  2. What a great post – so different!! I live in Bali and have come to love klepon not only as a dessert, but as an anytime snack too. I am fortunate to have a roadside stall very close to home where I can buy delicious, ready made klepon wrapped in a banana leaf pyramid. You are right though, freshness is key, no longer than 30 minutes from pot to mouth or they start to taste a little stale, a bit like donuts, I suppose.I urge everyone who reads Stefan’s blog to give them a try – they are very very good!


    1. Thanks for visiting and taking the time to leave such a nice comment, Bev. Nice to have such a stall close to home. I can see why you like them as a snack, too.


  3. Hi Stefan! Just in case you didn’t know I’m half Indonesian, and wow this was one of my childhood things I loved, I haven’t had it in years and was actually thinking about them recently. Now I know where to look as a guide for making them.


    1. Thanks Sofia for visiting and taking the time to leave such a nice comment. I hope you’ll try making your own klepon, it is not that hard and they are so delicious.


  4. Stefan, thanks for posting this – It’s been ages since I had these. My local Asian supermarket sells them ready-made, but with the palm sugar inside of them having set, the most important part of the experience of eating these is lost.

    Also, finally, a use for the glutinous rice flour I had laying around my pantry! I started with fresh pandan leaves. I steamed them first, then processed them with boiling water. The resulting colour is a bit less intense but that shouldn’t spoil the fun and could be boosted with some green food colouring.

    Unlike making (nigiri) sushi, you want to keep your hands dry while shaping the klepon. A few drops of water is all it takes to have rice paste all over your hands instead of the intended ball shape.

    I roughly grated my palm sugar from a block of gula Jawa, which worked a treat.

    Steaming the dessicated coconut before coating the klewon in them helps bring the coconut flavour come back to life, and certainly gives a better result than using untreated dessicated coconut. Still, I think next time I’ll freshly grate some coconut instead.

    I’m not sure why a wine pairing would be a necessity for an informal snack like this, any more than it would be for a Mars bar or a bag of crisps – it feels a bit forced to me, and wine might not be the answer… for crisps I’d look at lagers. Then again, I don’t know the first thing about wine pairing apart from “the wine used in the dish will likely pair well with it”. Having said that, would a tuak rice wine work?


    1. Hi Marc, thanks for your extensive comments and glad you liked my post.
      As for the wine pairing, it is certainly not a necessity but something I try to provide with every recipe I post. As I’ve served the klepon as a dessert at a dinner party, I wanted to include wine. (For a Mars bar I would recommend a Spanish moscatel, by the way, but I would only recommend to serve it at a dinner party if you made your own from scratch…) I’ve never heard of tuak rice wine, is it sweet?


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