Watalappan Recipe – Traditional Sri Lankan Dessert Infused with Cardamom

Indulge in the delightful flavors of Sri Lanka with this traditional Watalappan recipe. Watalappan is a creamy and luscious dessert, made by steaming a rich mixture of coconut milk, jaggery or sugar, eggs, and spices. The warm and aromatic notes of cardamom add a special touch to this sweet treat, making it a truly unique and flavorful dessert.

If you’re a fan of custard or flan, you’ll love Watalappan. Its velvety texture and sweet flavors make it a perfect dessert for any occasion. Whether you want to impress your guests with a taste of Sri Lankan cuisine or simply satisfy your sweet tooth, this recipe is a must-try.

Experience the authentic flavors of Sri Lanka with the Watalappan recipe. Learn how to make this cardamom-infused dessert that will transport your taste buds to the vibrant food culture of Sri Lanka. Get ready to enjoy a creamy and aromatic delight that will leave you craving for more.

Watalappan Recipe

Key Takeaways:

  • Watalappan is a traditional Sri Lankan dessert that combines the richness of coconut milk, jaggery or sugar, eggs, and aromatic spices.
  • Cardamom adds a distinct and warm flavor to Watalappan, elevating its taste to a whole new level.
  • Steaming is the traditional method of cooking Watalappan, resulting in a smooth and velvety texture.
  • If you don’t have access to a steamer, you can also bake Watalappan for a slightly different texture.
  • Enjoy Watalappan chilled or at room temperature, topped with roasted cashew nuts for added crunch.

The Rich and Diverse Flavors of Sri Lankan Cuisine

Sri Lankan cuisine is a culinary delight, offering a tantalizing array of flavors and dishes that will leave your taste buds craving for more. Influenced by its proximity to India, Sri Lankan food has its own unique identity, boasting a fusion of vibrant flavors and aromatic spices.

One of the highlights of Sri Lankan cuisine is its diverse range of curries. From spicy chicken curry to tangy fish curry, each dish is bursting with layers of flavor that will transport you to the tropical paradise of Sri Lanka. The use of spices such as turmeric, cumin, coriander, and cinnamon gives these curries their distinct taste and aroma.

Vegetarians are also in for a treat with a variety of vegetable curries and lentil dishes that showcase the delicious flavors of Sri Lankan cuisine. Whether it’s the creamy and coconutty potato curry or the comforting lentil dhal, there is something to satisfy every palate.

When it comes to street food, Sri Lanka offers a vibrant culinary experience. Indulge in popular snacks like savory fish rolls, crispy vadais, and spicy cutlets that will tantalize your taste buds. Don’t forget to try the mouthwatering hopper, a bowl-shaped pancake made with fermented rice flour, often served with a spicy coconut sambal.

And let’s not forget about the incredible sweets and desserts that Sri Lanka has to offer. From the sticky and sweet jaggery-based sweets to the creamy and smooth coconut desserts, Sri Lankan sweets are a true indulgence.

“Sri Lankan cuisine is a harmonious blend of flavors, spices, and textures that will take your taste buds on a culinary adventure.”

Experience the flavors of Sri Lanka with dishes that combine the freshness of tropical ingredients, the boldness of spices, and the richness of coconut milk. Sri Lankan cuisine truly captures the essence of the island nation, showcasing its vibrant culture and diverse culinary heritage.

Discover the captivating flavors of Sri Lankan cuisine that will leave you craving for more. From traditional recipes to modern twists, Sri Lankan food offers a gastronomic journey that is sure to satisfy any food lover.

Explore the rich and diverse flavors of Sri Lankan cuisine, from aromatic curries to mouthwatering sweets. Embark on a culinary adventure and discover the unique tastes that make Sri Lankan food truly extraordinary.

Understanding Jaggery – The Key Ingredient in Watalappan

Jaggery plays a crucial role in creating the authentic flavors of Watalappan. In Sri Lanka, jaggery is made from the sap of a palm tree called “Kitul.” This special variety of jaggery offers a distinct flavor, darker color, and softer texture compared to jaggery made from cane sugar. Its unique characteristics add a delightful sweetness to the custard, perfectly complementing the other ingredients.

If you can’t find Kitul jaggery, don’t worry! You can easily substitute it with unrefined brown sugar that has a high molasses content. While it may not provide the exact same taste as Kitul jaggery, it will still contribute to the overall flavor profile of the dish.

Jaggery Description
Kitul Jaggery Made from the sap of the Kitul palm tree in Sri Lanka
Sri Lankan Jaggery A distinct flavor, darker color, and softer texture than cane sugar jaggery

By using either Kitul jaggery or a suitable substitute, your Watalappan will retain its authentic taste and capture the essence of Sri Lankan cuisine.

If you want to visualize the jaggery and its unique properties, take a look at this image:

Now that you understand the significance of jaggery in Watalappan, let’s delve into the traditional methods of preparing this delectable dessert.

The Traditional Method of Making Watalappan

Traditionally, Watalappan is made by steaming the custard mixture in individual ramekins or a larger dish. The steam gently cooks the custard, resulting in a smooth and velvety texture. Steaming can be done in a large pot with a tight-fitting lid or using an Instant Pot for convenience. The cooking time may vary depending on the size of the dishes used and the type of steaming method chosen.

Steaming Method Cooking Time
Large pot with lid Approximately 45-60 minutes
Instant Pot High pressure for 15-20 minutes

Steaming Watalappan ensures the custard is cooked evenly and retains its creamy consistency. The gentle heat from the steam prevents the custard from curdling or drying out. This traditional method has been passed down through generations and is favored for its foolproof results. The aroma of the steaming custard fills the kitchen, whetting your appetite for the delectable dessert that awaits.

Steaming Watalappan allows the flavors to meld together and develop a harmonious taste. The slow and gentle cooking process ensures that the custard sets perfectly, resulting in a rich and indulgent treat.

Baking Watalappan – A Modern Twist on the Traditional Recipe

While the traditional method of steaming is preferred, you can also bake Watalappan in the oven for a slightly different texture. Baking is a simpler technique that involves placing the ramekins or a large dish in a water bath in the oven. This method produces a custard that is set but still slightly wobbly in the center. Baking is a convenient option for those who may not have access to a steaming apparatus.

If you’re looking to try the modern version of Watalappan, follow these simple steps:

  1. Preheat your oven to 325°F (163°C).
  2. Prepare the Watalappan custard mixture according to the traditional recipe.
  3. Pour the custard mixture into individual ramekins or a large baking dish.
  4. Place the ramekins or baking dish in a larger pan and fill it with water, creating a water bath that reaches halfway up the sides of the ramekins or dish.
  5. Carefully transfer the pan with the water bath and custard to the preheated oven.
  6. Bake for approximately 45-50 minutes or until the custard is set around the edges but still slightly jiggly in the center.
  7. Remove the pan from the oven and let the Watalappan cool completely in the water bath.
  8. Once cooled, remove the ramekins or slice the baked custard in the dish.
  9. Chill the Watalappan in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight before serving.

Baking Watalappan gives it a slightly firmer texture compared to the steamed version. The custard will be delicately set, offering a beautiful contrast between the velvety interior and the slightly firm edges. It’s a delightful twist on the traditional recipe that adds a touch of novelty to this beloved Sri Lankan dessert.

Try baking Watalappan for a modern take on the classic recipe. The result is a custard that is set, yet still retains its signature wobble in the center.

Tips for Making the Perfect Watalappan

Making Watalappan is an art that requires attention to detail to achieve the perfect texture and flavor. Follow these tips to ensure success:

  1. Choose quality ingredients: Use fresh coconut milk, high-quality jaggery or kitul jaggery, and aromatic spices like cardamom and nutmeg. The quality of your ingredients will greatly impact the final taste of your Watalappan.
  2. Balance the sweetness: Adjust the amount of jaggery or sugar to achieve the desired level of sweetness. Remember that jaggery is typically less sweet than refined sugar, so you may need to add more if using sugar as a substitute.
  3. Grind the spices: For enhanced flavor, grind the cardamom and nutmeg before adding them to the custard mixture. This will release their aromatic oils and ensure they are evenly distributed throughout the dessert.
  4. Strain the custard: To achieve a smooth and creamy texture, strain the custard mixture before steaming or baking. This will remove any lumps or clumps and result in a velvety Watalappan.
  5. Steam with care: When steaming Watalappan, make sure to place a lid or aluminum foil over the ramekins or dish to prevent water from seeping into the custard. This will help maintain the desired consistency.
  6. Test for doneness: To check if Watalappan is cooked, insert a toothpick or skewer into the center. If it comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs, it is ready. Avoid overcooking, as it may result in a rubbery texture.

“The key to making the perfect Watalappan lies in the careful selection of ingredients and precise cooking techniques. The quality and balance of flavors are what make this traditional Sri Lankan dessert truly exceptional.” – Chef Romesh Fernando

Common Watalappan Troubleshooting:

  • Curdling: If your custard curdles during the cooking process, it may be due to high heat or overmixing. To prevent this, cook the custard over low heat and avoid vigorous stirring.
  • Too sweet: If your Watalappan turns out too sweet, adjust the amount of jaggery or sugar in the recipe. Gradually reduce the sweetener until you achieve the desired level of sweetness.
  • Runny texture: If your Watalappan has a runny or watery texture, it may be due to undercooking or adding too much liquid. Ensure that the custard is cooked through and follow the recipe measurements accurately.
  • Dry texture: If your Watalappan has a dry or grainy texture, it may be due to overcooking or using low-fat coconut milk. Cook the custard until it is just set and use full-fat coconut milk for a creamy texture.

By following these tips and troubleshooting suggestions, you can master the art of making the perfect Watalappan every time. With practice, you’ll become more confident in creating this delightful Sri Lankan dessert that will impress your family and friends.

Preserving the Authentic Watalappan Recipe

Preserving the traditional recipe for Watalappan is essential to retain its authentic flavors and techniques. While there may be variations and modern twists on the recipe, the original method remains true to its roots, using whole spices like cardamom and nutmeg, and jaggery or kitul jaggery for sweetness.

By adhering to the authentic recipe, you can truly experience the rich and distinct flavors of Sri Lanka. Let’s take a closer look at these key ingredients and techniques that make Watalappan a beloved Sri Lankan dessert.

The Key Ingredients:

Watalappan embraces the aromatic spices and unique sweetness of jaggery or kitul jaggery. These ingredients contribute to its unmistakable flavor profile. Here’s a breakdown of their importance:

  • Cardamom: This fragrant spice adds a hint of warmth and sweetness to the dessert, elevating the overall taste.
  • Nutmeg: A subtle but essential spice, nutmeg lends a delicate and slightly nutty flavor to the custard.
  • Jaggery or Kitul Jaggery: Traditional jaggery, especially the Kitul variety in Sri Lanka, provides a rich, deep sweetness that complements the spices and coconut milk beautifully.

Using these authentic ingredients ensures that your Watalappan captures the true essence of Sri Lankan cuisine.

The Steaming Process:

One of the key steps in making Watalappan is the steaming process, which is integral to achieving the desired texture. Steaming allows the custard to cook gently and evenly, resulting in a smooth and velvety consistency. This traditional cooking method preserves the delicate balance of flavors while imparting a lightness to the dessert.

By steaming your Watalappan, you create a dessert that is rich, creamy, and indulgent—truly capturing the essence of this traditional Sri Lankan treat.

The Authentic Watalappan Recipe:

Here is a summarized version of the authentic Watalappan recipe:

  1. In a bowl, whisk together eggs, coconut milk, jaggery or kitul jaggery, and spices like cardamom and nutmeg.
  2. Pour the mixture into individual ramekins or a larger dish.
  3. Steam the custard for the recommended time until it sets and achieves its desired consistency.
  4. Allow the Watalappan to cool before serving, or refrigerate for a chilled option.

By following this traditional recipe, you can embark on a sensory journey and experience the true flavors of Sri Lankan cuisine.

Authentic Watalappan Recipe Ingredients Authentic Watalappan Recipe Instructions
Eggs Whisk together with coconut milk.
Coconut Milk Combine with whisked eggs.
Jaggery or Kitul Jaggery Add to the egg and coconut milk mixture.
Cardamom and Nutmeg Incorporate these aromatic spices into the mixture.
Pour the mixture into ramekins or a dish.
Steam until the custard sets and reaches the desired consistency.
Cool before serving or refrigerate for a chilled option.

Following the authentic recipe ensures that your Watalappan retains its cultural integrity and delivers a truly memorable dessert experience.

Serving and Enjoying Watalappan

Once your homemade Watalappan is ready, it’s time to serve and enjoy this delectable Sri Lankan dessert. There are a few ways to savor the flavors of Watalappan:

Serving Options:

  • Serve Watalappan as is, straight from the refrigerator, for a cool and refreshing treat.

  • Prefer a milder temperature? Allow Watalappan to come to room temperature before serving.

Enhancements for Extra Delight:

For a delightful textural contrast, sprinkle some roasted cashew nuts on top of your Watalappan. The crunch of the nuts complements the creamy custard perfectly.

If you’re looking to embrace traditional variations of Watalappan, you can add raisins and additional cashew nuts to the custard itself. These ingredients not only add a burst of flavor but also create interesting textures.

For an authentic touch, serve slices of ripe banana on the side. The combination of creamy, aromatic Watalappan and the natural sweetness of bananas is truly heavenly.

Whether enjoyed on its own as a delightful dessert or as a special treat after a meal, Watalappan is guaranteed to delight your taste buds with its creamy, coconut-infused richness and aromatic flavors.


In conclusion, Watalappan is a delightful and traditional Sri Lankan dessert that showcases the rich and diverse flavors of Sri Lankan cuisine. This creamy and luscious dessert, made with coconut milk, jaggery or sugar, eggs, and fragrant spices like cardamom and nutmeg, offers a unique taste experience that is both comforting and indulgent.

Whether you choose to steam or bake your Watalappan, the result is a velvety smooth custard that melts in your mouth. The use of authentic Sri Lankan ingredients like jaggery and traditional cooking methods adds to the depth of flavors and makes this dessert an essential part of Sri Lankan culinary heritage.

Watalappan can be enjoyed on special occasions, shared with loved ones, or simply savored as a sweet treat. Its versatility and exotic flavors make it a favorite among dessert lovers and a memorable addition to any meal.

If you want to take a culinary journey to Sri Lanka and experience the authentic flavors of this amazing dessert, try making Watalappan at home. You’ll be rewarded with a truly delicious and satisfying treat that will transport you to the vibrant and enchanting world of Sri Lankan cuisine.

More Sri Lankan Desserts to Explore

Watalappan is just one example of the delicious sweets you can find in Sri Lankan cuisine. If you enjoyed this recipe, you may also want to explore other traditional Sri Lankan desserts. Here are a few mouthwatering options that are sure to satisfy your sweet tooth:

Milk Toffee

Milk toffee is a popular Sri Lankan sweet made with condensed milk, sugar, and butter. It has a smooth and creamy texture with a caramel-like flavor. This sweet treat is often enjoyed during festive occasions and is loved by both children and adults.

Pineapple Pudding

Pineapple pudding is a refreshing and fruity dessert that combines the sweetness of pineapples with the creaminess of custard. This chilled dessert is perfect for hot summer days and can be enjoyed as a light and satisfying end to a meal.

Baked Caramel Pudding

Baked caramel pudding, also known as caramel custard, is a classic dessert in Sri Lanka. It consists of a silky smooth custard topped with a layer of rich caramel. The contrast between the creamy custard and the sweet caramel creates a delightful flavor combination.

Sri Lankan Butter Cake

Sri Lankan butter cake is a soft and buttery cake that is a favorite among locals. It is often enjoyed with a cup of tea or coffee and is perfect as an afternoon snack. The buttery flavor and moist texture make this cake hard to resist.

Pineapple Dosi

Pineapple dosi is a unique and delicious Sri Lankan dessert made with fermented rice flour batter and pineapple. It has a slightly sour and tangy taste, which is balanced by the natural sweetness of the pineapple. This dessert is a must-try for those looking for something out of the ordinary.

Dessert Description
Milk Toffee A creamy and caramel-flavored sweet made with condensed milk, sugar, and butter.
Pineapple Pudding A refreshing and fruity dessert that combines the sweetness of pineapples with creamy custard.
Baked Caramel Pudding A classic dessert with a silky smooth custard and a layer of rich caramel on top.
Sri Lankan Butter Cake A soft and buttery cake that is perfect with a cup of tea or coffee.
Pineapple Dosi A unique dessert made with fermented rice flour batter and tangy pineapple.

Each of these desserts offers its own unique flavors and textures, showcasing the diverse range of sweet treats in Sri Lanka. Try them all and indulge in the delightful world of Sri Lankan desserts!

Get Inspired and Start Cooking With Watalappan Recipe

Now that you have learned about the traditional Watalappan recipe and the flavors of Sri Lankan cuisine, it’s time to get inspired and start cooking! Indulge in the rich and creamy flavors of this delightful dessert that will transport you to the vibrant food culture of Sri Lanka.

Creating Watalappan at home is a rewarding experience that allows you to savor the authentic flavors of this beloved Sri Lankan treat. From mixing together coconut milk, jaggery or sugar, eggs, and aromatic spices like cardamom, to the steaming or baking process, every step is a journey to be enjoyed.

Prepare Watalappan for family gatherings, festive celebrations, or simply as a sweet indulgence for yourself. Share the joy of this exquisite dessert with your loved ones and let them experience the unique flavors that make Sri Lankan cuisine so special.

So, roll up your sleeves, gather the ingredients, and embark on a culinary adventure with the Watalappan recipe. Let your taste buds rejoice as you discover the magic of Sri Lankan flavors. Get inspired, start cooking, and create a delicious masterpiece that will leave everyone craving for more!


What is Watalappan?

Watalappan is a classic Sri Lankan dessert made with coconut milk, jaggery or sugar, eggs, and spices. It has a luscious and creamy texture, similar to a custard or flan.

What flavors does Watalappan have?

Watalappan is infused with warm and aromatic notes of cardamom, giving it a distinct and flavorful taste.

What is jaggery?

Jaggery is a crucial ingredient in Watalappan. In Sri Lanka, jaggery is made from the sap of a palm tree called “Kitul.” It has a unique sweetness and can be substituted with unrefined brown sugar with a high molasses content.

How is Watalappan traditionally made?

Watalappan is traditionally made by steaming the custard mixture in individual ramekins or a larger dish. The steam gently cooks the custard, resulting in a smooth and velvety texture.

Can Watalappan be baked instead of steamed?

Yes, Watalappan can be baked in the oven by placing the ramekins or a large dish in a water bath. Baking produces a set but slightly wobbly custard in the center.

What are some tips for making the perfect Watalappan?

Some tips include using whole spices like cardamom and nutmeg, following the steaming or baking method carefully, and ensuring the custard is cooked to the desired texture.

How can the authentic Watalappan recipe be preserved?

Preserving the authentic recipe involves using traditional ingredients such as jaggery or kitul jaggery and following the steaming or baking method. The use of whole spices is also crucial for authentic flavors.

How should Watalappan be served and enjoyed?

Watalappan can be served chilled or at room temperature. It is often garnished with roasted cashew nuts and can be enjoyed on its own or alongside slices of ripe banana.

Are there other Sri Lankan desserts to explore?

Yes, Sri Lankan cuisine offers a variety of desserts, including milk toffee, pineapple pudding, baked caramel pudding, Sri Lankan butter cake, and pineapple dosi.

How can I get started cooking with the Watalappan recipe?

To get inspired and start cooking, follow the authentic Watalappan recipe provided and enjoy the process of creating this traditional Sri Lankan dessert. Happy cooking!

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