For most Filipinos, our holiday feasts have at least one kakanin like Kutsinta or a few trays of rice cake delicacies. Personally, it would feel like I was disappointing my ancestors if I didn’t have any rice-based treats at my table for dessert or meryenda snacks especially for the coming New Year’s when some Filipino households practice having “sticky” and “round-shaped” foods. It is a superstition as old as time. I follow it for good luck.
What is Kutsinta?
A favorite of ours at home is Kutsinta (say ‘kooh-chin-tah’). These are small, steamed round rice cakes which are reddish-brown colored, soft, chewy and have a jelly-like consistency. They are mildly sweet and taste even more flavorful when the top is sprinkled with coconut strings. A newer kutsinta variety is the Black Kutsinta and I have shared the recipe on this site in the past.
As far as I remember, this was a special-occasion kakanin which I often saw at home when we had guests coming for a merienda. Or it was served at breakfast or brunch, paired with the popular puto, a white-colored steamed rice cake.
Kutsinta is a popular snack treat that is easy to make. No need to haul out the mixer or the baking pans. The ingredients are mixed together by hand and the rice cakes are steamed stovetop. Most Filipino kakanins are cooked on the stove – steamed, stirred or boiled. Only a few are baked. This is because years ago, in earlier times, many households did not have ovens. Back then, during our grandmothers’ time, a community oven shared by the barrio or village would be used to cook or bake.
What ingredients does Kutsinta have?
As I always suggest, make sure to use newly-bought ingredients for any recipe.
My Kutsinta recipe calls for the following:
- Panocha discs – The panocha is a raw sugarcane round, solid cake, about 3 inches in diameter. It is reddish-brown in color. It is made from boiled molasses and shaped like a round coconut shell. I buy it at Asian markets here in the USA, or from online sources.
- Annatto (achuete/atsuete) powder
- Sweet Rice flour – like Mochiko.
- All-purpose flour
- Brown sugar
- Lye water – It is a clear liquid known as ‘lihiya’ in the Philippines. This is sodium hydroxide, an alkaline substance used in cooking to give a sticky, jelly-like texture and darker color to food. I purchase a bottle from Asian markets or online sources.
- Grated coconut meat – fresh or frozen
How does one cook Kutsinta?
I cooked Kutsinta by steaming it over briskly boiling water. After mixing the dry and wet ingredients by hand, I poured all of it into small, round molds – little tart pans, the same ones I used to make putong puti. Or you can use small muffin tins which fit into your steamer. On days when all the burners on the stove are in full use, I use the Instant Pot multicooker to steam the Kutsinta.
How to serve Kutsinta?
After the Kutsinta have cooked and cooled down, I carefully remove them from the tiny round pans. I refrigerate them for about an hour to firm up some more. Then I serve them chilled or at room temperature, sprinkled with grated coconut strings on top, for meryenda snacks or dessert. These are great served all year round, any occasion, for a party, family gathering or just because you feel like a wholesome, delightful kakanin snack.
Kutsinta – Instant Pot or Stovetop
- 1 Large multi-layered steamer
- 16 to 18 Small round muffin tins or tart pans; 2-inches in diameter
- 2 Mixing bowls
- 1 Wire whisk
- Immersion blender (optional)
- 1 Medium-sized sieve or strainer
- Instant Pot multicooker (6 to 8 quarts), if using
- steamer basket for Instant Pot – metal or silicone
- trivet with legs for the Instant pot
- 2 whole discs (4 ounces each) panocha
- 2 cups boiling water; for dissoloving panocha discs
- 1 teaspoon achuete (annatto) powder
- 1 cup sweet rice flour (like Mochiko)
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup dark brown sugar
- 3 teaspoons lye water
- 2 Tablespoons coconut oil, for greasing muffin tins; or use vegetable oil
- 1 cup grated coconut meat, fresh or frozen
- To cook on the stovetop (Option 1)In a medium-sized mixing bowl, place the panocha discs and pour the boiling water over it. Using a fork, mash the discs as they soften with the water. Make sure the solid discs melt thoroughly in the hot water until there are no more solid pieces. The liquid should be smooth and have a thick, syrup-like consistency.
- Add the achuete powder to the panocha liquid. Using a whisk, blend thoroughly till there are no more lumps and liquid is smooth. Set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the flours and brown sugar. Whisk the dry ingredients together.Slowly pour the panocha-achuete liquid mixture into the dry ingredients.Add the lye water. Blend ingredients well by hand, till there are no more lumps and liquid is smooth.*Tip: Use an immersion blender if it is more convenient.Set the mixture aside.
- Prepare the molds: Grease with coconut oil, the small (2-inch diameter) round muffin or tart pans (metal or silicone).
- Using a sieve or strainer, pour the mixture into the small muffin molds or tart pans, up to 3/4 full each.Arrange the muffin molds inside the steamer's layer with holes. Place this over the bottom pot of the steamer which contains the briskly boiling water.Cover and steam for about 45 to 50 minutes. Test for doneness by inserting a toothpick in the middle of one Kutsinta. If toothpick comes clean, then the rice cakes are cooked.
- Remove the Kutsinta from the steamer and cool on the counter for about 10 minutes.When the Kutsinta have cooled down, carefully remove from each tin and place on a dessert platter. Refrigerate the Kutsinta for about 1 hour to firm up some more.Serve chilled or at room temperature, sprinkled with grated coconut on top or on the side.
To cook in the Instant Pot multicooker (Option 2):
- In a medium-sized mixing bowl, place the panocha discs and pour the boiling water over it. With a fork, mash the discs till they melt and blend with the water to become liquid-like. There should be no solid pieces.Add the achuete powder to the panocha mixture. Blend till there are no lumps. Set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk the dry ingredients – the flours and brown sugar.Slowly pour the panocha-achuete liquid mixture over the dry ingredients. Whisk and combine ingredients. Add the lye water and mix well till there are no more lumps.
- Grease the small muffin molds or tart pans that can fit into a steamer basket inside the Instant Pot. Using a sieve or strainer, pour the liquid mixture into the molds. Arrange these molds in a silicone or metal basket (with holes in the bottom) which can fit in the inside pot of the multicooker.Place the steamer basket on top of a trivet (that comes with the appliance). This should fit in the inside pot.
- Pour about 4 cups of water along the sides of the inside pot. The water should reach between the trivet and halfway up the sides of the steamer basket.Secure the lid. Check that the cooking pressure is on High and release valve is set to Sealing.Select Manual on the keypad and cook at Steam for 40 minutes.When cooking is complete, do a quick release. Click Cancel on the keypad to turn off. Carefully unlock and open the lid – place on a dry counter.
- When Kutsinta have cooled to almost room temperature, turn the molds upside down to loosen and release the rice cakes on a dessert platter.Refrigerate for at least one hour to firm up. Serve with grated coconut on top or on the side.
- Panocha discs are raw, sugarcane cakes, reddish-brown in color and made from boiled molasses. They are round discs, shaped like small coconut shells. These can be purchased at Asian markets here in the USA. Also found on online sources.Lye water is known as lihiya to most Filipinos. It is sodium hydroxiden, a liquid alkaline, clear substance used in cooking to give a sticky, jelly-like texture. I purchase a bottle often at Asian markets or online sources.To store: Keep leftovers of Kutsinta and coconut meat in separate food containers, covered and refrigerated till ready to eat. Serve chilled or at room temperature. These keep in the refrigerator for 5 to 7 days. Freezing the Kutsinta does not work, it tends to get mushy and watery.Grated coconut meat can be purchased frozen in Asian markets. Keep leftovers in plastic resealable bags in the freezer, for about 1 month.
Instant Pot notes:
- Instant Pot is the brand name of a multicooker that cooks in High and Low Pressure. There are other multicooker brands, as well.Tip: It takes about 17 to 20 minutes for the Instant Pot to preheat before the High Pressure cooking time begins. For other brands of multicookers, please consult the product manual for cooking time and safety precautions.Disclosure: I was not paid by the brand to mention the appliance. My opinions are my own.
Copyright Notice: Hello, Friends! Please DO NOT LIFT OR PLAGIARIZE The Quirino Kitchen recipes on this blog, my original recipes, stories, photos or videos. All the images and content on this blog are COPYRIGHT PROTECTED and owned by my media company Besa-Quirino LLC by Elizabeth Ann Quirino. This means BY LAW you are NOT allowed to copy, scrape, lift, frame, plagiarize or use my photos, essays, stories and recipe content on your websites, books, films, television shows, videos, without my permission. If you wish to republish this recipe or content on media outlets mentioned above, please ASK MY PERMISSION, or re-write it in your own words and link back to my blog TheQuirinoKitchen.com to give proper attribution. It is the legal thing to do. Thank you. Email me at [email protected]