Pandan is a bright green plant with aromatic leaves that are perfect to flavor dishes, such as desserts, rice and curries.
This being said pandan leaf isn’t readily available in grocery stores, so you may need to look for the pandan substitutes.
Pandanus leaves are popular in Asian cuisine where they add a distinctive aroma to a variety of recipes. You can even wrap your food in pandan before cooking to create a unique flavor.
Here are our 10 best pandan substitutes to create an experience for the senses.
What Is Pandan (Pandanus Leaf)?
Native to Southeast Asian, pandan is a plant that grows in the tropical regions of Asia. Also known as screwpine, pandan produces thin, long leaves that have a strong aroma.
Pandanus leaves release a natural smell that resembles almonds and vanilla pods. They also have a slightly nutty and sweet taste.
Thanks to its strong fragrance and flavor, pandan is a popular ingredient in Asian dishes. You can add them to soups or wrap fish in the whole leaves.
As pandan leaves contain a large amount of essential oils, you can easily create oils that you can include in your baked goods.
If you want to create an authentic pandan flavor, then it is best to use fresh pandan.
The 10 Best Pandan Substitutes
Pandan leaf can be difficult to find, especially if you don’t have an Asian store nearby. Luckily, there are some fantastic pandan alternatives that you can try.
1. Pandanus Extract
The best alternative to pandan leaf is pandanus extract. Made from the juice of pandan fruit, it resembles the aroma and taste of pandan leaves.
You can whisk together a wide range of traditional recipes with pandanus extract, including cakes and ice cream.
If you are looking for the same flavor as pandanus leaf, then pandan extract is the best option. Just a few drops create the typical pandan flavor.
It is important to keep in mind that pandanus extract is highly concentrated, so you don’t need to add as much of it as you would with traditional pandan leaf.
2. Pandan Tea
If you can’t find pandan leaves or pandan extract, then pandan is also available in powdered form or as a tea.
Pandan tea in stores is simply finely ground pandan leaves that were dried. The powder preserves the aroma and taste of pandan.
If you want to make a moist recipe that requires moist ingredients, then pandan tea is a fantastic alternative to pandanus leaves.
3. Matcha Tea
If you want to bring out the earthy notes that pandan adds to dishes, then green tea is a fantastic alternative.
Matcha is produced from ground green tea leaves which gives it not just a bright green color but also a distinctive flavor.
Matcha fully dissolves in water which means that you can use this powdered green tea in various forms.
Matcha tea is delicious on its own but you can also turn it into a matcha latte or green tea smoothie with vibrant color.
If you want to replace pandan extract with matcha tea, then keep in mind that the matcha will change the color of your dish.
Ginger is not just a healthy pandan leaf substitute but it is also packed with plenty of peppery and sweet flavors.
Fresh, young ginger is very similar to the taste of pandan. This being said, you can also cook ginger making the flavor more subtle.
It is important to ensure that you don’t cook ginger for too long as it can produce bitter notes when it burns.
Ginger also has a great variety of health benefits. It supports the immune system and you can grab a cup of ginger and lemon tea to soothe a tickly cough.
5. Vanilla Beans
Vanilla beans aren’t just perfect for smoothies, cocktails and desserts. You can use the seed pod of this type of orchid also for your savory recipes.
The strong vanilla aroma creates a sweet but mellow flavor that has similar floral notes to pandan leaf.
Keep in mind that you usually only scrape out the vanilla bean pods to get to extract the tasty nectar. Alternatively, you can also chop or grind the beans to create a smooth texture.
If you struggle to find pandan leaves or pandan extract for your favorite meal, then vanilla beans are the perfect alternative choice.
6. Rose Essence
Rose essence has so many practical uses that you will find yourself adding it to your cooking, baking and even a hot bath.
Rose essence, also known as rose extract, is an easy way to replace pandan leaves. It has the same botanical notes as pandan. Plus, it’s also slightly sweet.
Just keep in mind that rose essence is concentrated rose water, so you may need to add a lot less than pandan to your recipe.
7. Celery Leaves
Celery leaves don’t seem to be the most obvious pandan substitute but they taste surprisingly similar to pandanus leaves.
The celery plant has various edible parts, including seeds, stalks and leaves. They are perfect for a crunchy texture and a mildly bitter flavor in your salad.
You can either cook celery leaves in stir-fries or soups, or add them to your smoothies. They can also create a strong aroma when you eat celery leaves raw.
In fact, celery leaves are one of the most popular pandan leaf replacements in Southeast Asian cuisine.
If you can’t get pandan, then just take a few celery leaves and add them to your recipe. You can leave them in your soup or stew and enjoy these healthy greens.
8. Vanilla Extract
Similar to vanilla beans, you can also use vanilla extract as a quick pandan leaf replacement. This extract typically comes in liquid form, so it is easy to add to any type of recipe.
Vanilla extract is concentrated vanilla, so you need to be careful with how much you want to add to your dish.
Just a few drops are often enough to create the subtle floral flavor that resembles pandanus leaf. Vanilla extract also works for both sweet and savory dishes.
Cilantro is the stem and leaves of the coriander plant. As part of the parsley family, cilantro is popular in Middle Eastern cooking.
While this fragrant herb has a spicy note, you can easily use some of it to replace pandan, especially if you want to add a little bit of green to your dish.
One thing to keep in mind with cilantro is that it doesn’t cook. It is typically used as a garnish, similar to parsley.
However, you need to leave cilantro leaves in your dish for a while to ensure that it picks up the flavors from the cilantro leaves.
10. Banana Leaves
If you want to use pandan leaves to wrap chicken, fish or other meat, then you can use banana leaves as a quick wrapping option for your food.
Plus, banana leaves are also popular in different cuisines throughout Asia. Banana leaves have a relatively neutral taste, although they can adopt a mildly sweet aroma.
One great benefit of banana leaves as pandan leaf replacements is that they have the same texture and behave in a similar way when grilling or steaming dishes.
Banana leaves retain the moisture inside the leaf, keeping your food fresh and tasty. In addition, you can also use the leaves as bowls or plates.
Although banana leaves aren’t great for stews and soups, they are the perfect alternative to pandan if you want to make dumplings or steamed fish.
This being said, banana leaves can be found in grocery stores all over Asia but they aren’t easy to find in stores elsewhere in the world.
There are a number of fantastic pandan substitutes that are readily available at grocery stores.
The 10 Best Pandan SubstitutesCourse: Substitutes
Pandan creates a fantastic flavor in Asian dishes but what if you don’t have pandan at hand? Save your favorite meal with these 10 best pandan substitutes.
- Decide on what substitute you need
- Pick a substitute from the list above
- Read what you need to substitute with
- Create the recipe and enjoy
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