Carioca is a Filipino dessert – coconut mochi fritters made with glutinous rice balls and glazed with a coconut caramel. Crispy on the outside and chewy on inside, you’ll love this easy recipe!
I’ve been dreaming of my family lately. It started with a dream of my huge extended family all together, like the good old days, my mother alive and well, laughing and joking as always. Each night ever since has been filled with dreams of more relatives; the other night I spent my dreams with my grandmother, and last night, with my older cousin, who I haven’t seen since a family wedding years ago.
My husband thinks it is my way of spending time with loved ones in this isolated time, and perhaps he is right. They’re dreams that are warm and cozy, and I am content to stay in bed and let them run on forever.
But when I wake, there’s another thing. I find myself craving the food that reminds me of them. Like Carioca.
Honestly, I can’t remember where I was when I first tasted carioca, or how old I was, but I do remember my mother. I remember her handing me a sticky stick, and biting into a crispy exterior, giving way to a chewy, mochi-like interior, and falling in love. I suppose the details don’t matter, because clearly, I was focused on how I loved the fried glutinous rice balls and the coconut caramel glaze.
The best way to describe it is as a fritter — the exterior is far too crispy to call it a donut — and the interior is as chewy and stretchy as mochi. Making it is much simpler than you might think, and don’t require too many ingredients. All you need is some sweet rice flour, a can of coconut milk, some coconut, and brown sugar. My mother had a recipe for something she called “laughing donuts” and I use that as the base for this recipe.
Some recipes call for sweetened shredded coconut, but I prefer unsweetened coconut in this case. If you can find fine macaroon coconut, use it in this recipe, but if not, no worries, just give your shredded coconut a few blitzes in a food processor to give the carioca a finer texture.
A large cookie scoop makes easy work of dividing the dough into even portions. You will want to make the balls of dough about 1 1/2 inches in diameter.
Once the carioca are fried, let it drain on some paper towels, then evenly coat them with the coconut caramel glaze. Serving them on skewers is traditional, but certainly not necessary — either way, just make sure to enjoy them right away while they’re warm!
More Filipino Dessert Recipes
Carioca: Filipino Coconut Mochi Fritters
- 1 cup sweet glutinous rice flour
- 1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut see notes
- 1/2 cup coconut milk
- 1/4 cup water
Coconut Caramel Glaze
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup coconut milk
- Stir the sweet rice flour and shredded coconut in a bowl. If you have time, give the coconut a blitz in a food processor first so that it has a finer texture.
- Stir in the coconut milk and water and mix until you have an evenly incorporated dough.
- Use a cookie or ice cream scoop to form balls out of the dough, measuring about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Use your hands to make it smooth balls of dough. You should have 12 pieces.
- In a medium saucepan or deep sided skillet, or using a deep fryer, heat the oil to 350° F. Fry the balls of dough in small batches until golden brown, about 3-4 minutes per batch. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the carioca to drain onto a paper towel lined dish.
- While the carioca fry, stir the brown sugar and coconut milk in a small saucepan and heat over medium heat until it starts to bubble. Lower heat and let it simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until it becomes syrupy and thick.
- Drop the carioca into the glaze and coat on all sides. Skewer onto a wooden skewer if you wish. Serve immediately, while warm, with additional glaze.
Carioca Tips/FAQsCan the carioca be prepped in advance? Carioca is best eaten right after cooking, however there are things you can do in advance to make it easier.
- Prepare the churro dough in advance and form into balls. Refrigerate until ready to fry.
- Prepare the cherry chipotle sauce in advance and store in a sealed container in the refrigerator. Warm before serving.