Pandan leaves (also known as screwpine) are ubiquitous in SouthEast Asian cooking due to their colour and fragrance- pandan is often called Asian vanilla but the 2 flavours are not interchangeable. (It probably helps that pandan grows so readily in the hot SouthEast Asian climate too! If you want to find out more about the pandan plant, check out this Michelin Guide Thailand article.) Unlike artificial pandan juice or extract which is a bright, almost neon green, homemade pandan juice is a much more pleasing colour and, of course, the aromas of the 2 cannot be compared, so I’m sharing my homemade pandan juice recipe.
This homemade pandan juice recipe only requires 2 ingredients, 20 minutes and is super easy to make. Oh and when we say juice, it’s not drinking juice! The taste on its own isn’t very pleasant- if you really want to drink pandan water, boil a couple of (washed) pandan leaves with water to make a pandan tea. Some other ways to use pandan include:
- Use pandan juice to make a pandan crepe- you can then use it to wrap grated coconut that has been fried in gula melaka (palm sugar), otherwise known as kueh dadar or kueh tayap
- Use pandan juice to make a pandan chiffon cake
- Wrap chicken in pandan leaves before cooking
- Use pandan juice to make pandan flavoured mantou (or other types of bread)
- Add a few pandan leaves to curries
- Cook your white rice with pandan leaves- add some coconut milk, a few aromatics and you get nasi lemak coconut rice
- Add the pandan juice to konnyaku jelly along with nata de coco to make a cooling and delicious dessert (You can find more informaiton on konnyaku jelly here)
Tips for making pandan juice
Use a good blender, with a tamper
Pandan leaves are very fibrous and thus very difficult to break down. The first time I made it, I borrowed a friend’s blender which, let’s just say has seen better days- the leaves just wouldn’t blitz and I didn’t get much juice.
As the leaves are light, they will fly to the top of the blender mid-blitz, so use the tamper (the stick-shaped part the comes with the blender and fits through the whole at the top) to push the leaves down throughout the blending process. Alternatively, scrape the sides down with a spatula.
2. Cut the leaves with a scissors
As the pandan leaves are fibrous, they can be hard to cut with a knife- use a pair of scissors instead.
3. Reuse the pandan pulp
As any traditional SouthEast Asian household knows, waste not, want not! After sieving the pandan juice, you will be left with pandan pulp (which sort of looks like alfafa sprouts!)- this pulp can be blended with water a few more times. However, I would recommend using only the first batch of pandan juice to flavour foods as the successive batches will be weaker in flavour- use the later batches for food colouring instead. (I am also experimenting on using the leftover pandan pulp in baking, so as to reduce my addition to landfill.)
Homemade pandan juice recipe
- Colander/ sieve or cheesecloth
- 25 g pandan leaves About 22-23 small pandan leaves from an indoor homegrown pandan plant. You can also use shopbought/ frozen leaves if you don't have your own plant- these tend to be much longer so you will need fewer leaves.
- 1 C water You may use less than this, depending on how concentrated you want the pandan juice to be
- Wash the pandan leaves carefully, getting rid of all dirt and sediment. (Soil tends to collect at the base of the leaves due to the structure of the plant)
- Cut the leaves into small pieces, about 2cm long.
- Add the leaves and a bit of water to the blender to blitz. Gradually add more water till the pandan juice is the colour/ concentration you want it to be. This will take a while as the pandan leaves are tough and hard to break down. You will also need to scrape down the sides of the blender several times (the leaves will keep flying to the top as they are light)
- Sieve the pandan juice (or squeeze it through a cheesecloth). After sieving, you will get a ball of pandan pulp- use your hands to squeeze this ball again and you will be surprised by how much juice comes out! The green water that passes through the sieve is pandan juice, which may be kept in the fridge for up to 7 days (or till it smells bad).
Note: the juice will separate after a while, with the top being light green and the bottom a darker green. It smells grassy after blending, but will make your cakes and bakes very fragrant!
I used the homemade pandan juice (from all 3 rounds of blitzing) to make vegan kueh dadar for a friend, using flaxseed as an egg substitute (the downside is that there will be some brown specks in the green pandan crepe due to the flaxseed so I’m going to experiment with other egg replacements once my pandan plant regenerates). If you want the recipe I used for the egg-free kueh dadar, it’s on my instagram @greedygirlgourmet.