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pandan is such a delicate flavour that artificial ones don't quite taste the same as homemade pandan flavour (foods that use artificial pandan extract also tend to look fluorescent!)- luckily, making your own pandan juice is super simple! Besides flavouring food, it can also be used as a natural green colouring
Pandan leaves (also known as screwpine leaves or pandanus amaryllifolius) are ubiquitous in South East Asian cooking and baking 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 South East Asia thanks to the tropical climate!
What is it?
Pandan juice is simply water that has been blended with pandan leaves. If you allow it to settle, it will separate into a darker pandan extract at the bottom and a lighter green liquid on top. The pandan fragrance is stronger in the extract and it's a natural food flavouring whilst the "pandan water" on top can be used to color foods green naturally.
To find out more about the pandan plant, check out this Michelin Guide Thailand article. For ways to use pandan in food, click this link. Unlike artificial pandan juice which is a bright, almost neon green, natural pandan flavor is a much more pleasing colour and, of course, the aromas of the 2 cannot be compared, so I'm sharing my homemade pandan extract and juice recipe that is made from fresh leaves of the pandan plant.
If, like me, you are interested in edible gardening, click here for edible garden workshops in Singapore (as well as 10 other non-eating food activities). For other recipes for produce that is easy to grow in the tropics, click these links:
- - Asian lemongrass recipes
- - international curry leaf recipes
- - Assam/ tamarind recipes
- - Kaffir lime leaf (makrut lime) recipes
- - Asian Pumpkin recipes
- - Taiwanese Papaya milk
This homemade pandan extract and juice recipe only requires 2 ingredients, 20 minutes and is super easy to make. (Add 1-2 days of passive time- you just leave the juice in the fridge- to make pandan extract.) Oh and when we say juice, it's not drinking juice! The taste on its own isn't very pleasant- if you really want a pandan drink, boil a couple of (washed) whole pandan leaves with water on medium heat to make pandan tea, which is a refreshing drink on a hot day.
How to use
- 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
- To color & flavor sweet Asian snacks such as tang yuan (glutinous rice ball dumplings)
- Or pandan chiffon cake- 1 of the most popular southeast asian cakes
- Add to jelly along with nata de coco to make a cooling and delicious dessert (You can find more information on konnyaku jelly here) Alternatively, add a few spoonfuls to this no-sugar agar agar as young coconut and pandan are best buds
- Or cold desserts such as pandan ice cream
- In coconut jam, also called kaya- traditionally pandan leaves are used but I add a few drops of pandan juice if I have some on hand (It doesn't last long in the fridge)
- To flavor Asian drinks such as barley water
- In pandan flavoured mantou (or other types of bread)
- Add a few drops to flavour Asian dishes such as curries
- Cook with white or sticky rice. If you also add some coconut milk and a few aromatics to the white rice, you get nasi lemak coconut rice. (Use fresh pandan leaves instead if you don't want the rice to be green)
1. use a good blender, with a tamper
Pandan, or screw pine, leaves are very fibrous and thus very difficult to break down. The first time I made it, I borrowed a blender from 1 of my best friends who is from Sri Lanka (they use a lot of pandan there too)- let's just say the blender had seen better days and the green leaves just wouldn't blitz so I didn't get much juice. We ended up giving up and going to the asian grocery stores in London to buy artificial pandan syrup
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 pair of scissors
As the pandan leaves are fibrous, they can be hard to cut with a knife- an easy way is to use a sharp scissors instead. (Make each a 1-inch piece or even smaller pieces, if you can)
3. reuse the pandan pulp
As any traditional South East Asian household knows, waste not, want not! After sieving 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 natural coloring instead. (I am also experimenting on using the leftover pandan pulp in baking, so as to reduce my addition to landfill. Will update if successful.)
Note: the fresh juice will separate after a while, with the top being light green and the bottom darker (as all the dark green sediment will settle at the bottom). It smells grassy after blending, but will make your cakes and bakes very fragrant!
4. Use a fine strainer
After you've blitzed a few times and are happy with the concentration of your homemade pandan juice, sieve the water several times with the finest strainer you have as the pulp is very small and poky- you don't want any of it in your juice!
5. How to make pandan extract
Let the pandan juice settle in the fridge for 1-2 days, then carefully pour the pandan water (on top) into another container (it can be used as natural green colouring)- the darker bit at the bottom is the natural pandan extract which has a more concentrated pandan taste.
If you can't don't have any pandan/ screwpine leaf, you can use these instead which are readily available at Asian supermarkets:
- - artificial pandan paste
- - artificial pandan essence
- Just note that anything you make will have a very vibrant green color.
How to store
Fresh pandan extract and juice doesn't last long before it starts smelling bad- I would keep it for no more than 5 days in the fridge. You can freeze it but it will gradually lose its fragrance in a few weeks.
Other Pandan recipes
Homemade pandan juice recipe and extract
- Sharp scissors
- Colander/ sieve/ fine strainer or cheesecloth
- 0.06 lb pandan leaves (25g) 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 5 days (or till it smells bad).
To make pandan extract
- Let the pandan juice sit in the fridge for 1-2 days, then carefully pour the pandan water into another container (it can be used as natural green colouring). The darker portion at the bottom is natural pandan extract which will have a more concentrated pandan taste.
I used the homemade pandan juice (from all 3 rounds of blitzing) to make vegan kueh dadar for a friend- I'd love to hear how you used yours! Tag me on social media with your creations! (@greedygirlgourmet)