Pandan leaves is Malaysian favourite natural flavouring; it imparts fragrance into dessert and rice. It’s also used as a natural green colouring in Malaysian desserts.
Some call is Asian vanilla, but it is a lot more versatile.
- English name: Screwpine leaves/ Pandan leaves
- Malay name: Daun pandan (pandan wangi)
- Chinese name: Pan Dan Yip (班兰叶)/ 七葉蘭
- Scientific name: Pandanus amaryllifolius Roxb.
Smell and taste
I grew up eating food made from pandan. The smell is distinct and I cannot compare it to something else. Some people described it as ‘nutty, botanical’ (source: Wikipedia)
Some says it has a hint or rose, almond, and vanilla flavour (source:
How to use
Tear the leaves to allow more aroma to be released during cooking. The leaves are normally tied into a knot; it’s easier to handle when it’s shorter and in one clump.
If you have a few leaves, put them together and tie everything into one big knot.
Other uses of pandan leaves
Pandan leaves are also use to perfume the car or cabinet, or repel pests (Read: 5 Alternative Uses of Pandan Leaves).
When I explain how multipurpose this plant is to my French guest, she told me that it’s like lavender to French.
Pandan leaves as food flavouring
Malaysian use pandan leaves to flavour our rice. In our nasi lemak (coconut rice) or chicken rice, we will put knotted pandan leaves for its distinct fragrance.
Pandan leaves are used in making aromatic chicken rice
Pandan leaves as food colouring
A lot of Malaysian local cakes such as kuih talam is made from the extract of green pandan juice.
How to make pandan juice?
- Cut pandan leaves into small pieces
- Blend pandan leaves and water in a blender
- Pour pandan juice into a bowl through a sieve
Pandan as food wrap
It’s also used to wrap food for frying, grilling, or steaming.
For example, Kuih Tako is made in a pandan casing and Pandan Chicken is wrapped in the leaves before frying.
Other uses of pandan leaves
Pandan leaves are not just for culinary use. It’s also use as air fresher to perfume the car or cabinet. (Read: 5 Alternative Uses of Pandan Leaves)
In Malaysia, it’s common to see these leaves in a taxi. It’s an inexpensive way to freshen the car and repel insects.
‘In traditional medicine for Malaysia and Singapore, pandan leaves were used as a medicinal bath for women after childbirth’ (source: 100 Useful Herbs of Malaysia and Singapore)
In Thailand the leaves are used to treat diabetes and in Philippines for sore throat.
Where to get it?
In Malaysia and Singapore, it’s available at every supermarket and wet market.
In other countries, it’s available frozen at Asian grocery stores.
If you want it to last, you can store the pandan leaves along with its roots in a jug with water. It can last up more than a week.
Otherwise, you can wrap it in paper and keep in the fridge.
- Bubur Pulut Hitam (Black Glutinous Rice Dessert)
- Thai Pandan Chicken
- Gula Melaka Agar-Agar (Palm Sugar & Coconut Jelly)