How to Make Fresh Pandan Extract

  • 01 of 05

    Pandan Leaves in Southeast Asian Cooking

    Pandan Leaves
    Ben Fink/Dorling Kindersley/Getty Images

    Pandanus amaryllifolius is one of the many varieties of pandan (screw pine). Known in the culinary world as pandan leaves, they have a characteristically fresh fragrance that is highly-prized in Southeast Asian cooking. 

    Pandan leaves are used in a variety of ways in Southeast Asian cooking. A leaf is tied into a knot and added to rice and stews during cooking. Diced marinated chicken is wrapped in pandan leaves then fried to make the very popular Thai chicken pandan dish which can be fried or...MORE baked. Pandan leaves are chopped and pressed to squeeze out the color and flavor to make drinks, breads, cakes and a host of sweet delicacies.

    While pandan leaves are cheap and widely available in Southeast Asia (it is also so easy to grow them in a pot), finding fresh pandan leaves can be a challenge in other parts of the world. An article in Serious Eats says that dried pandan leaves, concentrated gels, and canned extracts are available although nothing beats fresh.

    If you have access to fresh pandan leaves and you want to make the most of them to bring out the flavor in breads, cakes, and sweets, here is a step-by-step guide on how to make fresh pandan extract.

    Continue to 2 of 5 below.
  • 02 of 05

    Prepare the Pandan Leaves

    Cut pandan leaves
    Connie Veneracion

    Rinse the pandan leaves and cut off the root ends. 

    Cut the leaves into smaller pieces. How small depends on the tool you will use to grind them. If using a mortar and pestle, cut the leaves as finely as you can. If using a blender or a food processor, cutting them into two-inch lengths should be sufficient.

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  • 03 of 05

    Finely Grind the Pandan Leaves

    Mashing pandan leaves
    Connie Veneracion

    In this tutorial, a food processor was used to make pandan extract. 

    Place the leaves in the food processor and add just enough water to cover them. Process until the leaves turn into really small bits and the water becomes green.

    Follow the same procedure if using a blender.

    If using a mortar and pestle, grind the leaves (circular motions with the wrist) until fine, add a little water, continue grinding then add more water and stir.

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  • 04 of 05

    Strain the Pandan Water

    Strained pandan water
    Connie Veneracion

    Strain the pandan water. An ordinary strainer is usually sufficient but if your food processor turned the pandan leaves into smithereens, you might want to use a double layer of cheesecloth.

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  • 05 of 05

    Squeeze Out the Juices

    Squeezing pandan leaves
    Connie Veneracion

    Squeeze the ground leaves to get as much of the flavor and color. If using a strainer, use the back of a spoon to press down the leaves. If using cheesecloth, wring the cheesecloth as hard as you can. 

    The strained pandan water is ready to use. It recommended that you use it immediately while the aroma is at its most potent. You can keep the pandan water in the refrigerator in a tightly covered jar for a day or two, but don't expect it to be as good as when you first squeezed it.