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It’s often said that pandan is to Asia what vanilla is to the Western world. Though it does not taste like vanilla, but it can be used in similar applications (reference). The flavour profile of pandan is usually sweet & slightly nutty. Depending on the leaves used, how it is processed & filtered, a pandan extract can have a variety of green & coconut notes. The flavour can be described as being subtle & tropical. In many Asian households, a pandan flavor is used vs. utilizing a home-made pandan extract. 

We have created a few typical formulations for traditional applications, such as baked products, rice & beverages. Many other profiles have also been created for a variety of other foods & beverages (see table).

What Does It Taste Like (from various sources)?

  • Pandan leaves have a naturally sweet taste and soft aroma. Its flavor is strong, described as grassy with hints of rose, almond, and vanilla, verging on coconut. Pandan shares an aroma compound with basmati rice, so some cooks looking to save money will flavor plain rice with pandan (reference).
  • However, it should also be noted that Pandan tastes nothing like vanilla. Some say that the aroma and flavor of Pandan is similar to that of coconuts–which is strange considering that the two ingredients are usually paired together. To me though, the flavor of Pandan is wholly unique but tastes kinda banana leafy, sorta grassy, a little bit nutty, and a lot like Jasmine rice–all at the same time. Despite my best efforts at pinning down a flavor description, the taste of Pandan is almost indescribable (reference).
  • The best word to characterize the flavor of the Pandan is “tropical.” Naturally, the pandan leaves have a sweet taste and soft aroma. Its taste is strong, with hints of rose, almond, and vanilla on the verges of the coconut, defined as grassy. Basmati rice has a similar scent to pandan by adding a small quantity of pandan to the white rice. It smelled fantastic and soon made you hungry to think about all the pandan-filled-up food. Be cautious when using a concentrate of commercial pandan extract. The taste is quite bitter and can overtake any food if it is used too much (reference).
  • The tropical leaf has been characterized as the vanilla of Southeast Asia, but the two are only similar in their pervasiveness as dessert ingredients—not so much in how they actually taste. When trying to describe an ingredient, we often try to simplify and contextualize it by comparing it to familiar foods, but pandan’s flavor profile is wholly unique. Fresh leaves embody an herbaceous aroma that’s slightly grassy, and are pleasantly fragrant without being harshly cloying. All over Southeast Asia, it is most commonly infused with coconut milk to create all types of bite-sized rice cakes, chewy jellies for shaved ice, and spreads, amping up those delicate notes with a staunchly tropical taste (reference).
  • Pandan leaves have a sweet and mild vanilla-like flavor with a subtle undertone of rose and almond. Its taste has a tropical feel to it, with hints of white rice, coconut, and a grassy, floral aroma. The pandan leaf should not be eaten raw as it has no taste and is fibrous. Instead, it should be pounded, boiled, bruised, or even raked with a fork to release the aroma. Dried leaves don’t have any flavor either until processed. Also known as the “vanilla of Asia”, pandan is used in Asian cuisine much the same way that western cooks use vanilla. Its profile pairs well with other tropical flavors, especially coconut, lemongrass, and turmeric. Possibly its most popular companion in cooking is glutinous rice, which is delicious when infused for a subtle hint of pandan (reference).