Come Let's Kau Kau at the Vegan Luau!

By Zel Allen

Without boarding a plane or packing a suitcase, you can easily create the island ambience of an enjoyable evening at a Hawaiian luau, complete with luscious foods and traditional music, in your own backyard or living room. Consider making your next summer gathering a vegan luau with all the colorful island trimmings and just a little advance planning.

The ancient Hawaiians celebrated special life events by feasting with friends and family. During King Kamahameha's reign in the early 1800s, he named the feast "luau" and made the occasion more festive by lifting many of the aboriginal religious taboos that prevented men and women from attending together. The ancient Polynesians held their luaus in lush outdoor settings in warm evening breezes and provided food and entertainment consisting of traditional Polynesian songs, chants, dances, and hula, the Polynesian dance that tells a picturesque story with the hands.

Following in the steps of King Kamahameha, who knew how to enjoy a party, you can create a fun guest list and send out invitations early in the season so your guests can set the date aside. While many people choose the ease of computer e-vites, your own handmade invitations are much more appealing. If you're crafty, you can create an imitation tapa cloth from crumpled brown paper bags or visit the local party store to find paper versions of typical tapa cloth designs, a traditional island craft made from the bark of trees and shrubs. Your unique invitation tells guests they can expect something special when they arrive.

Creating the Island Flavor

A few things to consider when planning your luau include tables and chairs, Hawaiian music, live entertainment vs. home entertainment, games and prizes, a hula contest, and, of course, irresistible island foods and beverages. Will you prepare all the food, or is a potluck more to your liking?

Become the attentive island decorator and watch the backyard and patio transform into a seductively romantic island paradise. The secret lies in the décor — lots of it can be found inexpensively at dollar stores and party shops. To help set the scene, consider a few tiki torches, colorful votive candles, nets, extra leis, shells, and Hawaiian music.

Try finding fresh banana leaves at Hispanic or Asian markets. They make attractive and authentic table décor or appealing placemats. Fresh banana leaves have very special appeal but a short lifespan; left unwrapped, they will deteriorate quickly. But if the fresh leaves are tightly wrapped in plastic film and placed in the freezer, they will keep for a month or two. Thaw them about an hour before use, and they'll look fresh and inviting.

As the party host, you'll want to adopt the look of a typical islander complete with aloha shirt or dress, a flower lei, and possibly a flowered head garland. Or will it be an imitation grass skirt, a muu muu, and flip-flops? The fun begins at the door as you welcome each guest by draping a flower lei around his or her neck and include a gentle aloha kiss on the cheek.

Here's an old island tradition that adds to the fun: A single flower worn behind the ear announces your marital status. Singles wear the flower behind the right ear, while the married folk tuck the flower behind the left ear.

Games to Ramp up the Fun

There's nothing like a few lively party games to boost the fun and add a touch of laughter to the scene. Start with something easy, like Pass the Coconut, the tropical version of musical chairs. Bowling for Coconuts involves setting up two stakes about 1 to 1 ½ feet apart. Participants bowl with coconuts in an attempt to roll them between the stakes. The winner is the one who scores the most.

The Silly Tourist Relay Race involves two teams. Create two piles of typical tourist items about 30 to 40 feet away from the teams. Items to include in the piles include the following: sunglasses, leis, hula skirts, aloha shirts, sun hats, cameras with strap, flip-flops, pails, and shovels. One member of each team runs to the pile and puts all the items on, one at a time, then runs back to the next person in line. As he removes each item, he puts it on the next person. That person runs the distance and takes off each item, one at a time, and runs back to the team. Participants are either putting on or taking off the items. The first team to finish wins prizes.

Now, Let's Kau Kau at the Luau!

Kau kau means to eat, and you can bet there are plenty of tasty vegan recipes that re-create typical luau fare. While the early Polynesians relied heavily on meat and fish dishes, newer foods introduced by Southeast Asian cultures during the early 1900s plantation era add more colorful fruits and vegetables to the menu.

As guests arrive, offer them a tall Waikiki Wahini Cooler and start them nibbling on Lomi Lomi Jackfruit, a tasty appetizer or side dish that turns proudly vegan with jackfruit replacing the salmon. Poke, pronounced po-kay or po-kee, is a well-seasoned side dish similar to ceviche that also turns to jackfruit. The luau is famously known for its traditional pit-roasted pig, but we vegans much prefer to plunge our forks into some Passionate Hawaiian Tempeh and feast on succulent Island Tofu Paté.

And after the hearty meal, invite guests to indulge their sweet tooth on haupia, a delicate coconut-milk dessert with a historic past. While it's now thickened with cornstarch, it was quite likely thickened with arrowroot that arrived in the islands with the ancient Polynesians. Fruit lovers will revel in servings of Tropical Paradise Pie topped with mangos, papayas, kiwis, grapes, pineapple chunks, and lychee, the sweet juicy fruits of today's Hawaii. And to all who feast at the luau, a sweet aloha.

Waikiki Wahini Cooler

(Serves 8-10)

Dressed in pastel Hawaiian pink, this refreshing, naturally sweet beverage is just what the lucky luau guests need to greet them with plenty of aloha. To prepare ahead, make several batches, pour them into pitchers, and chill until ready to serve. At serving time, give the beverage a brief whirl in the blender before pouring into glasses.

  • 4 cups ice cubes
  • 6 cups unsweetened coconut water
  • 4 bananas, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 4 cups fresh strawberries, trimmed and halved
  • ½-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
  • 2-4 Tablespoons maple syrup, or to taste

1 bunch fresh mint

To serve immediately, divide the ice cubes among the glasses and set aside.

Put the coconut water, bananas, strawberries, and ginger in the blender and process on high speed until smooth and creamy. Add the maple syrup, sweetening to taste. Pour the beverage over the ice cubes and garnish each glass with a sprig of mint.

Total calories per serving: 124 Fat: 1 gram
Carbohydrates: 29 grams Protein: 2 grams
Sodium: 191 milligrams Fiber: 5 grams

Island Tofu Paté

(Serves 4-6)

Adapted from a recipe for Southeast Asian fish paté, this delicious vegan version makes a tasty starter with all the zesty flavors of the original dish, incorporating the typical sweet, sour, salty seasonings popular throughout the Hawaiian Islands.

  • 8 ounces extra-firm tofu, well-drained and crumbled
  • 2 Tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon red miso
  • 1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon tamarind paste dissolved in 2 ounces of water
  • 1 Tablespoon water
  • 4 cloves garlic, very finely minced
  • 1 teaspoon organic brown sugar
  • ¼ cup coarsely ground peanuts
  • 1 cup lightly packed basil leaves, very finely minced
  • 3 green onions, finely minced


  • 1 Tablespoon sliced green onions
  • 2 teaspoons diced red bell pepper
  • 2 basil leaves

Vegetable Platter:

  • Lettuce leaves
  • Sliced cucumbers
  • Sliced jicama
  • Red bell pepper strips, cut 1 ½ inches wide
  • Sliced yellow or green zucchini

Put the tofu in a deep, medium-size bowl and pound it with a pestle to create a finely crumbled texture. Add the miso, tamarind paste, water, garlic, and brown sugar and mix well to distribute all the ingredients evenly. Add the peanuts, basil leaves, and green onions and mix well. The paté should be moist and hold together well enough to sit on a cucumber slice. Add 1 teaspoon of water if needed to moisten and bind the mixture.

Spoon the paté into an attractive serving bowl and garnish the top with the green onions, bell pepper, and basil leaves. Put the bowl on a large platter and surround it with the vegetables. Invite guests to spoon some of the paté onto the sliced vegetables or into a lettuce leaf.

Note: Chinese-style extra-firm tofu has all the water pressed out and is very dry. Add 1 or more Tablespoons of water as needed to keep the paté moist.

Total calories per serving: 144 Fat: 9 grams
Carbohydrates: 10 grams Protein: 10 grams
Sodium: 381 milligrams Fiber: 3 grams


(Serves 4-6)

Pronounced po-kay or po-kee, poke is the Hawaiian counterpart to Mexico's ceviche. Traditionally made with raw ahi tuna, this plant-based poke is made with green jackfruit that's cooked and marinated in bright and lively seasonings. For best results, marinate the mixture overnight. Enjoy it as a side dish or spoon it into green leaf lettuce leaves and serve as a delicious appetizer wrap.

  • 1 pound frozen green jackfruit
  • 3 green onions, sliced
  • 5 Tablespoons diced red bell pepper
  • 3 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 2 Tablespoons minced fresh ginger
  • 1 Tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 Tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 sheet sushi nori, torn into tiny bits
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon low sodium soy sauce
  • Pinch cayenne


  • 1-2 Tablespoons chopped macadamia nuts
  • Sprigs of cilantro

Fill a 4-quart saucepan ⅓ full with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Unwrap the frozen jackfruit and plunge it into the boiling water. When it returns to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-high and boil for 20-40 minutes, or until tender but still fleshy to the tooth. Drain the jackfruit and pat it dry with paper towels. Cut the pieces into 3/8 -inch-wide strips about ½-inch in length.

Put the pieces into a bowl and add the onions, red bell pepper, lime juice, ginger, sesame seeds, sesame oil, nori, salt, soy sauce, and cayenne and mix well. Chill for 4-6 hours. Transfer the salad to a serving bowl and garnish with the macadamias and cilantro.

Total calories per serving: 177 Fat: 6 grams
Carbohydrates: 31 grams Protein: 3 grams
Sodium: 346 milligrams Fiber: 3 grams

Sweet Leilani Luau Salad

(Serves 6-8)

If the luau will be a potluck, your contribution might be this luscious luau salad blessed with the sweetness of fresh pineapple. Contrasted with the tang of lime juice and the savory splash of tamari, the salad blossoms as a kaleidoscope of compelling flavors and bright summer colors.

  • 1 ¾ cups water
  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 1 fresh pineapple, trimmed and cut into bite-size chunks; reserve the pineapple top for garnish
  • 1 pound zucchini, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, julienned 1 ½ inches long
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, julienned 1 ½ inches long
  • 1 cup minced parsley
  • ½ cup minced cilantro
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 2 Tablespoons tamari
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ½ cup julienne-cut sun-dried tomatoes, soaked and drained
  • ½ cup roasted macadamias
  • 2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil


  • 3 mini bell peppers cut into thin rings
  • Parsley

Combine water and quinoa in a 2-quart saucepan. Cover the pan and bring to a boil over high heat. Decrease the heat to low and steam for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and set aside for 10 minutes. Then, remove the cover and allow quinoa to cool.

While the quinoa is cooking, combine the pineapple, zucchini, red and yellow bell peppers, parsley, cilantro, fresh garlic, lime juice, tamari, garlic powder, onion powder, and paprika in a very large bowl. Toss well and set aside to marinate for 15 minutes.

Add the drained sun-dried tomatoes, macadamias, and olive oil, along with the cooled quinoa. Toss well to distribute the ingredients and flavors evenly. Spoon the salad onto a large serving platter, heaping it high into the center. Place the reserved pineapple top in the center and hang the mini pepper rings from the pineapple top to resemble Hawaiian leis. Decorate the platter with clusters of fresh parsley.

Total calories per serving: 315 Fat: 15 grams
Carbohydrates: 42 grams Protein: 8 grams
Sodium: 369 milligrams Fiber: 6 grams

Lomi Lomi Jackfruit

(Serves 4-6)

This is my vegan version of Lomi Lomi Salmon, a traditional luau dish made from salted fish. Standing in for the salted salmon is green jackfruit, a very versatile, unripe fruit with a fleshy texture receptive to a multitude of seasonings. In its unripe state, jackfruit is not sweet. Canned jackfruit is tender enough to use without cooking. Start the preparation a day or two in advance to infuse the jackfruit with salt. For the best flavor, after salting, assemble the salad and allow it to stand 2-3 hours to marinate before serving.

  • One 20-ounce can young green jackfruit in brine (10 ounces drained weight)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 4 Roma tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 small purple onion, diced
  • 1 Persian or pickling cucumber, chopped
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons organic sugar
  • Juice of 1 lime


  • Sprigs of fresh cilantro or parsley
  • 1 lime wedge

Drain the jackfruit thoroughly and discard any tough seeds embedded into the flesh. Chop the jackfruit into ½-inch chunks and put them into a medium bowl. Sprinkle with the salt and mix well with your hands to distribute it evenly. Put the jackfruit into a covered container and refrigerate it for 1-2 days.

Put the salted jackfruit into a colander and rinse it thoroughly under running water for a full minute. Drain it well and put it into a large bowl. Add the tomatoes, onion, cucumber, green onions, sugar, and lime juice and mix well. Transfer the salad to an attractive serving bowl and garnish with the herbs and lime wedge.

Note: Green jackfruit is also available in 1-pound frozen packages and needs to be cooked until tender. Open the package and plunge the frozen jackfruit into boiling water for about 20-40 minutes, or until it reaches desired tenderness. Look for it in well-stocked Asian markets.

Total calories per serving: 57 Fat: <1 gram
Carbohydrates: 13 grams Protein: 2 grams
Sodium: 720 milligrams Fiber: 5 grams

Pineapple Fire Sauce

(Makes 2½ cups)

This zingy pineapple-based sauce is not for those with a timid palate—it's quite spicy, but it can easily be tamed by eliminating the crushed red pepper. Quick to assemble, this sweet, zesty topping adds a lively touch when served over tempeh, grains, tofu, and bean dishes. Serve the sauce on the side as an accompaniment to the Passionate Hawaiian Tempeh (see page 14 for recipe).

  • One 1-pound 4-ounce can unsweetened crushed pineapple in natural juice
  • ¼ cup vegan Worcestershire Sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon fresh lemon or lime juice
  • 1 Tablespoon maple syrup
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano leaves
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
  • 1-2 Tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1-2 Tablespoons cold water


  • Sprig of parsley or cilantro

Combine the undrained crushed pineapple, vegan Worchestershire Sauce, lemon juice, maple syrup, oregano, thyme, salt, and crushed red pepper in a 2-quart saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Decrease the heat to medium and simmer gently for 1-2 minutes.

Beginning with 1 Tablespoon each, combine the cornstarch and water in a small bowl or cup and stir to form a thin paste. Add the paste, a little at a time, to the gently bubbling sauce, stirring constantly for about 1 minute, until lightly thickened. If you want a thicker sauce, repeat the process with the remaining 1 Tablespoon of cornstarch and water. Transfer to a serving bowl, add the garnish, and serve with a ladle.

Note: Makes enough for 1 ½ pounds of tempeh.

Calculated as serving size = 2 Tablespoons

Total calories per serving: 25 Fat: <1 gram
Carbohydrates: 6 grams Protein: <1 gram
Sodium: 137 milligrams Fiber: <1 gram

Passionate Hawaiian Tempeh

(Serves 7-8)

With its pungent and zesty teriyaki-style flavor so typical of island foods, this marinated tempeh dish is one you can pan-fry or put on the grill without the veggies. Easy to prepare, the tempeh will quietly marinate for up to 2 hours while you take a nap or assemble other recipes for the festivities. After the tempeh has marinated, you'll notice the marinade has diminished somewhat. Don't worry, the missing marinade has actually become absorbed into the tempeh. If time does not permit long marinating, you can marinate for only 1 hour, then pan-fry the tempeh, adding all the marinade to the pan and cooking over medium-high heat to reduce the liquid. You can also grill the tempeh using the marinade as a sauce while grilling. For extra-special flavor burst, serve the tempeh with the lively Pineapple Fire Sauce on the side!

  • ½ cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • ¼ cup plus 2 Tablespoons maple syrup
  • ¼ cup lime juice
  • ¼ cup water
  • 2-inch piece of gingerroot, peeled and minced
  • 6 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 teaspoons rice vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 ½ pounds tempeh
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and cut into inch-long matchsticks
  • ½ green bell pepper, diced
  • 4 cups lightly packed baby spinach


  • Cluster of cilantro or parsley
  • ½ purple onion, sliced vertically into half moons

In a deep bowl or 8x8-inch baking dish, combine the soy sauce, maple syrup, lime juice, water, ginger, garlic, vinegar, sesame oil, and black pepper. Mix well and set aside.

Score the tempeh on both sides, making diagonal cuts ¼-inch apart and ¼-inch deep. Continue scoring by making crisscross cuts in the opposite direction, forming a diamond pattern. Scoring helps the tempeh to absorb the marinade. Cut the tempeh in 1-inch squares and put them in the marinade, turning to coat them evenly. Cover the bowl and marinate for 1-2 hours, turning frequently.

Pan-fry the tempeh by putting it and all the marinade into a large deep skillet. Add the carrots and bell pepper and cook over medium-high heat for 1-2 minutes. Turn the pieces gently with a wooden spoon and cook another minute or two, or until heated through. Turn off the heat and add the spinach, tossing well for about 1 minute until the leaves are just wilted. Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with the cilantro and onions.

Total calories per serving: 274 Fat: 12 grams
Carbohydrates: 27 grams Protein: 20 grams
Sodium: 638 milligrams Fiber: 1 gram

Kona Coconut Stir-Fry

(Serves 4)

During a lovely vacation in Hawaii, my husband and I enjoyed a tasty meal at a café inside a health food market on the sunny Kona coast. We ordered a delicious Asian-style entrée that featured tofu and coconut milk with a generous garnish of roasted peanuts. The rich blend of flavors left such a pleasant memory that I attempted to recreate the dish shortly after we returned from the islands. For a dramatic presentation and appealing color contrast, serve over any of the many varieties of dark brown rice available in natural foods markets and some Asian groceries.

  • 2 medium broccoli crowns, cut into florets, stems sliced
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and cut into thin julienne, about 2 inches long
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, cut vertically into strips 3/8 -inch wide
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut vertically into strips 3/8 -inch wide
  • 1-2 Tablespoons water
  • ½ pound extra firm tofu, cubed
  • 1 ¼ cups lite coconut milk
  • ⅔ cup dried shredded coconut
  • 2 Tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 2-3 dashes hot sauce
  • Pepper to taste


  • 2 Tablespoons roasted unsalted peanuts, coarsely chopped
  • 1-2 Tablespoons chopped cilantro

Combine the broccoli, carrots, bell peppers, and water in a large, deep skillet and water-sauté over high heat until softened, about 4-6 minutes, stirring frequently. Add 1 or more Tablespoons of water if needed to cook the vegetables and prevent burning.

Decrease the heat to medium-high and add the tofu cubes, coconut milk, shredded coconut, soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, and hot sauce. Mix well and season with salt and pepper. Transfer the mixture to an attractive serving dish, and sprinkle with roasted peanuts and cilantro.

Total calories per serving: 297 Fat: 21 grams
Carbohydrates: 19 grams Protein: 11 grams
Sodium: 356 milligrams Fiber: 7 grams

Taro and Okinawan

(Sweet Potato Salad)

(Serves 4-5)

A dazzling rainbow in a bowl, this color-infused potato salad is an exceptional treat with the unique addition of Okinawan sweet potatoes and coconut cream. While this deliciously sweet variety of sweet potato is available in many Asian markets, it may be challenging to recognize it because it hides its gorgeous purple color under an ivory-hued potato skin. Even more special is the delicate sweetness these potatoes bring to this appealing salad. Taro, a native Hawaiian cuisine staple, is a potato-like starchy vegetable. It is also available in Asian markets and some supermarkets. You are looking for the tuberous stem, not the leaves. Its natural sugars bring a sweet, nutty flavor to this dish. Take care not to overcook the taro and sweet potatoes; you don't want them to become mushy.

  • 1 pound Okinawan sweet potatoes
  • ¾ pound taro
  • 3 ½ cups water
  • 1 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • ½ purple onion, diced
  • 3 green onions, sliced
  • ⅓ cup coconut cream
  • 3-4 Tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro


  • Cluster of cilantro
  • 3 strips red bell pepper

Have a large bowl filled halfway with cold water standing by. Peel the sweet potatoes and taro, cut them into bite- size pieces, and put them into the cold water as you cut them. When all the potatoes and taro are cut, drain and discard the water and put them into a 4-quart saucepan. Add water and ½ teaspoon salt. Cover the pan and bring to a boil over high heat. Immediately decrease the heat to medium and simmer for 3-4 minutes, or just until fork tender. Drain in a colander and transfer to a large bowl.

Add the vinegar and mix well. Add the bell pepper, purple onion, green onions, coconut cream, cilantro, and the remaining salt and mix gently with a wooden spoon. Transfer the salad to an attractive serving bowl and garnish with the cilantro and red bell pepper.

Total calories per serving: 258 Fat: 5 grams
Carbohydrates: 51 grams Protein: 4 grams
Sodium: 668 milligrams Fiber: 9 grams


(Serves 9-12)

Coconut lovers will delight in this long-standing, easy-to-prepare favorite Hawaiian treat. With its super-light texture, haupia is a dessert with a consistency between a pudding and an agar gel. Typically, the dessert is served only as the white layer. I've taken liberties and turned it into a two-tone dessert with a chocolate layer on the bottom. The dessert keeps well up to two days ahead and makes a delightful conclusion to a tasty meal. For an eye-appealing island touch, garnish each serving with a fresh baby orchid.

Chocolate Layer:

  • One 13.5-ounce can lite coconut milk
  • ¾ cup water
  • ½ cup organic sugar, or to taste
  • 6 Tablespoons cornstarch
  • 3 Tablespoons cocoa powder
  • ¾ teaspoon coconut extract

White Layer:

  • One 13.5-ounce can lite coconut milk
  • ¾ cup water
  • ½ cup organic sugar, or to taste
  • 6 Tablespoons cornstarch
  • ¾ teaspoon coconut extract


  • One 8-ounce can pineapple chunks
  • ¼ to ½ cup shredded coconut or coconut flakes, toasted
  • Mint leaves

To make the chocolate layer, put the coconut milk in a 2-quart saucepan and have an 8-inch square baking pan ready. Combine the water, sugar, cornstarch, and cocoa powder in a blender; process until well blended. Pour the chocolate mixture into the saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens to a pudding-like consistency and begins to boil, about 2-3 minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in the coconut extract, mixing well. Pour the mixture into the baking pan, cool slightly, and chill until firm, about 2 hours.

To make the white layer, repeat the process without the chocolate and pour over the chilled chocolate layer. Chill until firm, about 2 hours.

To serve, drain the pineapple chunks on paper towels. Cut the haupia into squares and place them on individual dessert dishes. Garnish each with a sprinkle of toasted coconut and place a pineapple chunk in the center. Add one or more mint leaves to finish.

Total calories per serving: 215 Fat: 7 grams
Carbohydrates: 38 grams Protein: 1 gram
Sodium: 8 milligrams Fiber: 1 gram

Tropical Paradise Pie

(Serves 10)

A festive summertime luau deserves a gorgeous and decadent dessert to top off the celebration with festive flair. This ravishing dessert can be prepared a day ahead, covered, and refrigerated until ready to serve.


  • 1 ⅓ cups raw almonds
  • 15 pitted dates
  • ½ teaspoon coconut extract
  • 1-3 Tablespoons water


  • ⅔ cup raw cashews
  • One 12-ounce package soft silken tofu
  • 23 pitted dates
  • 2 Tablespoons coconut milk
  • ½ teaspoon coconut extract
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups unsweetened flaked coconut, divided


  • Fresh fruit of your choice: mangos, papayas, kiwi, berries, etc.

Line a 12x15-inch cutting board or tray with cooking parchment. Tape it to the bottom and set aside.

To make the crust, process almonds in the food processor into a fine meal, while still retaining a little nutty texture. Add the dates, coconut extract, and enough water to process until all the ingredients are well incorporated. Spoon the mixture onto the parchment-lined board. Using your fingers, press the mixture into a rectangle 10x7 dish, keeping edges even. Set aside.

To make the filling, grind cashews into a fine powder in the blender. Add the tofu, dates, coconut milk, coconut extract, and vanilla extract and blend on low speed until thick and creamy. Stop the machine often to scrape down the sides of the workbowl and redistribute the ingredients. Transfer the filling to a medium bowl, add 1 cup of the flaked coconut, and mix well. Spread the filling mixture over the date-nut crust, spreading to the edges to cover the crust completely. Top with the remaining 1 cup of flaked coconut.

To make the topping, slice and arrange the fruits to form tropical shapes, like palm trees on a desert island, grass hut, hula girl, etc. Chill or serve immediately. To serve, cut into squares or rectangles and use a pie server to transfer each serving to a dish.

Total calories per serving: 543 Fat: 24 grams
Carbohydrates: 83 grams Protein: 10 grams
Sodium: 15 milligrams Fiber: 11 grams

Zel Allen is a frequent Vegetarian Journal contributor. She lives in California.