Conkie [Kankee, as it is pronounced in Guyana] is a sweet dish made with cornmeal, pumpkin, coconut, sugar, and warm spices steamed in a banana leaf. This Caribbean dessert has many variations but this Guyanese conkie recipe is a winner!
Guyanese Conkie is an Afro-Caribbean dish with West African roots. My conkie recipe is simple but delicious. The steamed cornmeal is moist, delicious, and enhanced with sugar and warm spices. You can enjoy it for breakfast with tea or serve it as a dessert with some ice cream.
Why You’ll Love This Conkie Recipe
- Easy: Simply combine the ingredients, tie them up in banana leave, and boil.
- Delicious: This steamed cornmeal dish is enhanced with sugar and warm spices so it’s rich, moist, and truly mouthwatering.
- Beautiful Presentation: Although the banana leaves are optional, it makes for a stunning presentation for this simple, yet tasty treat.
The Origin of Conkie
Conkie came to the Caribbean by way of enslaved Africans forced to work on sugar plantations. It is a little similar to Ghanian Kenkey and because Conkie and Kenkey sound so similar I often thought that they were connected. However, Kenkey is made from fermented cornmeal and is savory, not sweet.
- Guyanese Conkie
- Why You’ll Love This Conkie Recipe
- The Origin of Conkie
- Ingredients for Conkie
- How to Make Conkie
- Recipe Variations
- Tips for the Best Conkie
- Frequently Asked Questions
No spices are added to Kenkey, just a touch of salt if needed. My Ghanaian neighbor makes Kenkey often and serves it with steamed fish. When I explained to him what Conkie was he said it sounds more like Banku. I did some research and Ghanian Banku also includes fermented cornmeal.
As I continued my internet search I saw recipes for Nigerian Koki Corn. This looks closest to Conkie and although it was made savory, I can see similarities in Koki and Conkie. Even the names sound almost the same.
I love learning about dishes and their origins. The more time I spent reading up on steamed cornmeal dishes it seemed that every culture has one. Like this recipe for Pilipino Suman Mais. It is basically Conkie made on the other side of the world.
I love this about food. It transcends cultures and continents. It crosses rivers and oceans and connects people in an amazing way. For another African-inspired Guyanese recipe, try Metemgee.
Ingredients for Conkie
You need cornmeal, pumpkin, coconut, coconut milk, and sugar to make a simple conkie. Everything else added is based on personal preference so have fun making this recipe your own!
- Fine cornmeal: Use fine cornmeal or cornflour. When I tried this recipe with coarse cornmeal, it made the conkie dry and grainy. For gluten free option I like Bob’s Red Mill Corn Flour.
- Pureed pumpkin: Traditionally grated fresh pumpkin (calabaza squash) is used in conkie recipes. However I prefer to steam my pumpkin then puree it. As a last resort, I used canned pumpkin puree. It turned out to be my best batch. The texture was smooth and melted in my mouth. The flavors were rich and had an almost pumpkin pie taste (which I love). This version tastes almost like a smooth and creamy pumpkin pone and this is the recipe I am sharing today.
- Granulated sugar: You can substitute white sugar for coconut sugar.
- Grated coconuts: Freshly grated coconut is the traditional ingredient, but I bought frozen shredded and frozen grated coconut, defrosted both and added them separately to the food processor, and blended until almost paste-like. Surprisingly the shredded coconuts were the best. The texture was smooth and almost paste-like.
- Coconut oil: This adds to the rich coconut flavor of the conkie and compliments the delicate texture of the final dish. Use melted coconut oil.
- Full-fat coconut milk: This enriches the conkie, making it more creamy. I used a full-fat canned coconut milk and it really impacted the final product. My conkie batch that included coconut oil and coconut milk instead of dairy got two thumbs up from everyone. The texture and flavor were unmatched. Give it a try and see for yourself.
- Spices: I use freshly grated nutmeg, ground cloves, and ground cinnamon.
- Salt: This just makes the other flavors pop.
- Almond essence and Vanilla extract: This adds to the overall flavor of the dish.
- Raisins: If you add this optional ingredient, be sure to rinse them before adding to the mixture.
- Banana leaves: This optional ingredient is used to wrap the conkie.
See recipe card for quantities.
How to Make Conkie
While recording the steps for this conkie recipe post, I experimented with different combinations of ingredients and how they impacted the final results. The steps outlined below highlight the best methods for making Guyanese conkie. Scroll down to the recipe card for variations.
Combine all the ingredients (except the raisins) in a large mixing bowl and mix together well until the mixture has a smooth paste-like consistency. Then add the raisins and continue to combine until fully incorporated.
Wrap Cornmeal Mixture in Banana Leaves
Cut banana leaves into 8-10 inch pieces, ensuring that there are no tears or holes in the pieces selected. Carefully wash the banana release removing any cobwebs or other insect residues.
To soften my banana leaves, I washed them then while still wet put each individual piece into the microwave for 30 seconds. Then remove them from the microwave and wipe them dry with a towel. Once softened, the banana leaf is perfect for wrapping conkie.
Next place the banana leaf on a flat surface then add about 1/2 cup of the conkie mixture to the center of the leaf.
Then fold over concealing the mixture inside the leaf and tie it with kitchen twine.
Once softened, the banana leaf is perfect for wrapping Conkie. I used baker’s twine (all I had on hand) to tie my conkie packets, but kitchen twine or any kind of string.
You may even cut and use this part of the banana leaf as shown above. However, depending on how many conkies you make and how many banana leaves you have available you may not have enough of this “string” for all of them.
Cook the Conkie
Add enough water to a large saucepan on high heat and bring to a roaring boil. Add some reserved banana leaves to the bottom of the pot, then add the wrapped conkies. Then cover, reduce the heat to medium and steam for 15 minutes.
Be sure to check on the conkies to ensure the water doesn’t cook down before the cooking time is up. Keep a pot of boiling water going so that you can add hot water at any point if needed.
Steaming the Conkie
In Cynthia Nelson’s beautiful cookbook Tastes Like Home she shares some traditional methods for steaming conkie, such as using the hard part of the banana leaves to make a steamer. My banana leaves didn’t come with those hard veins so I used leftover leaves in the bottom of the pot. This is my favorite method for steaming the conkie.
For the aluminum foil and parchment version I used sheets of aluminum foil to prevent the packets from sinking to the bottom. You can also buy a steamer pot like this one for easy steaming. And as a last resort, you can add the conkie directly to some boiling water for a shallow boil, as pictured below.
After 15 minute of steaming, my conkie was perfection.
Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to one week. For longer storage, freeze them in a Ziploc bag for up to 3 months. Defrost them overnight in the fridge before consuming them. Enjoy them cold or reheat them in the microwave.
I made 6 batches over the course of a few days while testing different variations. Here are some notes.
- Some variations include adding wheat flour and sweet potatoes to the dough.
- Fresh pumpkin: When I grated fresh pumpkin you could see the tiny shreds of the pumpkin and the conkie retained a yellow color. This however didn’t impact the taste of the conkie and was quite time consuming to prepare.
- Frozen Pumpkin (pureed in the food processor): When using frozen pumpkin, I steamed them in the microwave, following instructions on the package then pureed in my food processor. The taste was not compromised with this ingredient. The color however was richer than the pale yellow of the conkie using fresh pumpkin
- Freshly Grated Coconut: This labor intensive process was thought to be a must try for conkie making. My Aunt scolded me that conkie needs that really smooth coconut that only grating can provide but it wasn’t worth the effort. I achieved the same consistency with my food processor. Sorry, Aunty.
- Wrappers: I tried making it in parchment paper and aluminum foil. It was much easier than the banana leaf but the taste was slightly different. The texture of the aluminum foil conkies were drier. I think the banana leaf is a perfect vessel and keeps it moist and creamy, but if you don’t have banana leaves use corn husks (used for tamales), or as a last resort use the foil. If you use foil and parchment paper, I highly recommend eating it fresh.
- Microwaved Conkie: I placed frozen raw conkie into a bowl with some water (about 1/2 cup of water) and microwaved it for 3 minutes. Not as smooth and creamy as steaming, but good enough to satisfy my instant craving.
Tips for the Best Conkie
- Don’t wrap the twine too tightly when tying the banana leaves. Otherwise, it will make indentations on the conkie.
- Prep conkie and freeze to make later. I portioned out the raw conkie dough/batter/mixture and wrapped in parchment paper and froze them.
- Please don’t overcook your conkie or it will be dry and not as tasty. I noticed that the longer I cooked it, the dryer it became no matter what method of steaming I used.
Frequently Asked Questions
Traditional conkie is made with cornmeal, coconut, pumpkin, sugar, and warm spices.
Yes. Enslaved Africans brought the tradition of making it to Guyana.
Other Caribbean islands have similar versions. In Trinidad, it is called Paime, in Barbados, Conkies and in Jamaica Duckanoo, Tie-a-leaf, or “Blue Draws.”
- Banana Leaves optional
- Parchment Paper optional
- Aluminum Foil optional
- Twine optional
- Steamer Pot
- 1/2 cup fine cornmeal or corn flour
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar may substitute for coconut sugar
- 1 cup pumpkin (calabaza squash) steamed then pureed (may use canned pumpkin)
- 1 cup grated coconuts
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil melted
- 1/4 cup full fat coconut milk
- 1 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon almond essence
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup raisins rinsed (optional)
- Combine all the ingredients (except the raisins) in a large mixing bowl and mix together well until mixture has a smooth paste-like consistency. If mixture is loose let it sit for a few minutes to thicken.
- Then add the raisins and continue to combine until fully incorporated.
Using Banana leaves
- Cut banana leaves into 8-10 inch pieces, ensuring that there are no tears or holes in the pieces selected. Carefully wash the banana release removing any cob webs or other insect residues. Dry the banana leaves then run them over an open flame for a few seconds to soften.
- Alternatively you may place each piece of damn banana leaf in the microwave and microwave for 30 seconds then remove from the microwave and wipe dry with a towel. You may also run the leaves over an induction burner for a few seconds to soften.
- Next place the banana leaf on a flat surface then add about 1/2 cup of the conkie mixture to the center of the leaf.
- Then fold over (see video) concealing the mixture inside the leaf and tie with kitchen twine.
Using Parchment Paper and Aluminum Foil
- Cut parchment paper and aluminum foil into 8-10 inch pieces. Then add the conkie mixture to the center of the parchment paper and fold to conceal the mixture within the parchment paper.
- Next securely wrap the folded parchment paper in aluminum foil ensuring that there are no openings for water to get to the conkie.
Cooking the Conkie
- Add enough water to a large saucepan on high heat and bring to a roaring boil.
- If you are using banana leavesadd some reserved banana leaves to the bottom of the pot, then add the wrapped conkies. Then cover, reduce the heat to medium and steam for 15 minutes. Be sure to check on the conkies to ensure the water doesn't cook down before the cooking time is up. Keep a pot of boiling water going so that you can add hot water at any point if needed.
- If using parchment paper and foil add a few sheets of aluminum foil to the bottom of the pot, then add the foil wrapped conkies. Then cover, reduce the heat to medium and steam for 15 minutes. Be sure to check on the conkies to ensure the water doesn’t cook down before the cooking time is up. Keep a pot of boiling water going so that you can add hot water at any point if needed.
- As a last resort you can add the conkie directly to the pot of boiling water, making sure that the water does not come more than half way up the conkie. Cover the conkies and steam for 15 minutes. And just like with the other two options check often to ensure that the water does cook off before the conkies are ready.
The information listed in the recipe card is an estimate provided by an online nutrition tool. The tool evaluates ingredient names and amounts then makes calculations based on the number of servings listed for the recipe. It is provided as a general guideline and not as a precise calculation. For precise nutrition information please feel free to add the ingredients to your preferred nutrition calculator or consult a doctor or licensed nutritionist.