Pandan is a popular Southeast Asian ingredient, with a subtle vanilla flavour and bright green colour! Find out all about how to use pandan leaves, extract or paste in this collection of amazing sweet and savoury pandan recipes.
What is Pandan?
Pandan (also known as pandanus amaryllifolius or screwpine) is a tropical plant valued for its intense green colour and grassy vanilla flavour. It’s a common ingredient in many Asian cuisines, especially Indonesian, Malaysian and Filipino.
Fresh pandan juice and extract are deep green in colour, with an aroma similar to vanilla essence, but a little more on the earthier side.
Pandan paste on the other hand, is responsible for the vibrant, bright green you see in sweets like dadar gulung or klepon. It tends to be more concentrated and potent than fresh pandan, but is made from artificial ingredients and preservatives.
Fresh Pandan Leaves
Fresh pandan leaves are often used whole, as a wrapper for grilled, steamed or fried meats like pandan chicken, or tied in a knot to add flavour and colour while cooking rice.
- Pros: Fresh natural flavour and colour! Leaves only last a few days unless frozen.
- Cons: Fresh leaves can be hard to source depending on where you live.
Pandan Juice and Extract
Pandan extract and juice are extracted from fresh pandan leaves blended with water. It’s used in many Southeast Asian dishes; desserts in particular. It’s easy to extract at home using a blender.
- Pros: Freshest flavour and free from artificial ingredients and preservatives.
- Cons: Not readily available store-bought.
Pandan Flavouring / Essence (Pasta Pandan)
The most popular and widely available brand is Koepoe Koepoe. Look for it at Asian grocery stores or import stores, or buy pasta pandan online from Amazon or ebay.
- Pros: Quickest and easiest to use. Concentrated colour and flavour – a little goes a long way!
- Cons: Contains sugar (glucose), artificial ingredients, colours and preservatives.
Wash and dry your fresh pandan leaves, then wrap them in damp paper towel and store in the fridge for around 4 days. You may like to fold them to save space.
To freeze, spread them out on a baking tray and snap freeze for around 30 minutes, then transfer to an airtight container and freeze for around 6 months.
Fresh pandan juice will last for 2-3 days in a glass jar or container in the fridge. It tends to lose its potency very quickly, so we don’t recommend making a huge batch or freezing.
Yes you could! The flavour isn’t exactly the same, but will give that hint of floral warmth you get from vanilla extract with a touch more earthiness. Don’t forget though, it will also turn your recipe green! For something fun, try it in our strawberry muffins recipe, or use it to turn blancmange pudding green!