Pandan is a herbaceous tropical plant in the Pandanus genus which is seen abundantly in South East Asia and is widely used as flavouring in Asian cuisines because of its fragrant leaves. Pandan originated from the Moluccas, where the only known flowering specimen was found. It was first described as seen from specimens from the Maluku Islands and the presence of male flowers in these specimens may indicate that it is the origin of the species. No other wild specimens have been found. Pandan is also sold as a paste, extract and powder, which is used to flavour desserts.

The cultivated plant, which resembles a palm, is erect and has long, thin, spiky leaves that are brilliant green. It only produces offspring vegetatively when suckers or cuttings are used. Being a tropical plant, pandan doesn’t need a lot of light or wind and performs best in a sheltered, part-shade environment. Its growth is best in an area with direct early sun and a little diffused noon light. It is a tall, green plant with woody aerial roots and fan-shaped sprays of long, thin, blade-like leaves. The plant is infertile, and flowers seldom ever appear on it. The male inflorescence, which is only present in this species’ tree form, is extremely uncommon and has not yet been observed. Male inflorescence (obviously incredibly unusual), up to 60 cm long, 90 cm long, with lower ones having green foliaceous tips and white tips and many oblong spikes that are 35 cm long or more.

The reddish-brown fruit of the pandan plant has a diameter of 1 to 2 inches. The fruit, which resembles a cone more than a typical fruit, can be consumed raw or turned into marmalade. Leaves, anthers, tops, and seeds are among the plant components utilized. The lifespan of Pandan is over 50 years, and some individual plants even survive for a century or more. On the basis of the chlorophyll content and mesophyll size, it was inferred that mature pandan leaves are the best source of chlorophyll and contain chlorophyll of 623.08 mg/100 g dry weight (DW). It has been calculated that the scent in fragrant pandan leaves is not an essential oil but a volatile product of oxidative degradation of a yellow carotenoid pigment.

Pandan leaves have a unique fragrance and this characteristic aroma is caused by the aroma compound 2-acetyl-1-pyrroline. It is found in the lower epidermal papillae; the compound gives white bread, jasmine rice and basmati rice their typical smell. While still on the plant, the leaves have little fragrance. Once extracted and crushed, the soothing scents are released. Pandan is sometimes called “the vanilla of Southeast Asian cooking.” This aroma is of a unique and distinctive quality.

The taste of pandan is described as floral, sweet, grassy and possesses a similar taste to that of vanilla. It often has a subtle flavour or scent. Pandan leaves have a naturally sweet taste and soft aroma. Its extract tastes bitter because it is concentrated.

Culinary Use

Pandan leaf is fibrous and stringy and hence can’t be consumed directly. Therefore, the leaves are usually ground into a powder or paste or infused into water to make a paste or extract.

Pandan leaves are widely used in cuisines. In India, it is called Annapurna leaves; In Odisha, Annapurna leaves are used to lend aroma to rice and pithas, while they are known as pulao pata in Bangladesh. In the Maldives, they are called as ran’baa along with the other variety of pandan there (Pandanus fascicularis) and it is used to enhance the flavour of pulao, biryani and sweet coconut rice pudding or payesh. It acts as a cheap substitute for basmati fragrance, as one can use normal, non-fragrant rice and by adding pandan leaf, the dish tastes and smells like when basmati is used. In Sri Lanka, it is called as rampé and is grown in almost every household. Most of the Sri Lankan dishes use these leaves for enhancing the aroma along with curry leaves.

Crispy Thai Pandan Chicken
Crispy Thai Pandan Chicken

In Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines, it is commonly called pandan or pandan wangi (fragrant pandan). The green juice acquired from its leaf is extensively used in Malaysian cuisine and Indonesian cuisine as a green colouring and flavouring agent, which gives a pleasant aroma to kue, which is made from tapioca flour or glutinous rice-based traditional cakes; including klepon, kue putu, dadar gulung, lapis legit, pandan cake, buko pandan salad and buko pandan cake. The bruised pandan leaf is tied into a knot and added to fragrant coconut rice to enhance the aroma. Filipino cuisine uses pandan as a flavouring agent in some coconut milk-based dishes as well as desserts like buko pandan. It is also widely used in rice-based pastries such as suman and numerous sweet drinks and desserts.

The leaves are used either as fresh or dried and are also available in frozen form in Asian grocery stores of nations where the plant does not grow. They have a nutty, botanical fragrance that is used to enhance the flavour in many Asian cuisines, especially in rice dishes, desserts and cakes. The leaves are sometimes put in coconut milk, which is then added to the dish. They may be tied in a bunch and cooked with the food. Pandan chicken is a dish of chicken parts wrapped in pandan leaves and fried. The leaves are also used as flavouring for desserts, such as pandan cake and sweet beverages. Pandan blends very well with the flavours of glutinous rice, coconut milk and coconut palm sugar. The leaves may also be woven into a basket which is used as a pot for cooking rice.

The nutrition content present in 3.5 ounces or 100 grams of Pandan Paste is as follows:

• 321 calories;
• 2.2 grams of protein;
• 78 grams of carbs;
• 0 grams of fat;
• 11% of the DV (daily value) of fibre;
• 32% DV of Iron;
• 10% DV of calcium;
• 9% DV of Phosphorous.

Some recipes that can be tried with Pandan leaves are Pandan Steamed rice, Pandan Coconut Butter Cake, Pandan tea, Pandan pudding, etc.

Pandan leaves and their extract have also been used as a food preservative, owing to their anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties. Bottled pandan extract is available in shops and often contains green food colouring. Pandan leaves are a suitable source of 2-AP and therefore, can be used in cooking of rice, in order to enhance the flavour of cooked rice, particularly in increasing the concentration of 2-AP. Pandan leaf tea helps reduce uric acid levels in the body and alleviate gout symptoms. Drinking this home-brewed tea regularly can also be helpful in removing kidney stones from the body and to also reduce body heat.

In October 2017, Celebrity Chef Nigella Lawson had predicted that pandan would displace popular matcha and avocado toast. According to research, carotenoids and norisoprenoids were detected in Pandan leaves. They have dual function as natural colourants and add natural flavour to foods.

Health Benefits

Pandan leaves contain plenty of health benefits. It helps in lowering blood pressure, controlling blood sugar, treating pain and cramping and more. Being a natural cockroach and mosquito repellent, pandan leaves can be used for treating gout. They also possess anti-carcinogenic properties and are good for skin and hair health. Further, it helps boost and increase appetite, lowers fever, improves body stamina, suppresses anxiety and stress, relieves rheumatism, insomnia and headaches, treats skin fungal infections, avoids constipation, detoxifies the liver and body and treats dental gum pains.

Natural tannin and essential oils found in pandan leaves are very effective in reducing pain and inflammation. It is believed to help strengthen the immune system and fend off diseases, including cancer, heart disease and diabetes and is a great source of vitamins and antioxidants. Carotenoids, a group of antioxidants are also present in abundance. These are well recognized for lowering the risk of atherosclerosis, which is the narrowing of the heart’s arteries as a result of plaque build-up.

Some of the vitamins and antioxidants that are seen in pandan include:

• Beta-carotene;
• Vitamin C;
• Thiamin;
• Riboflavin;
• Niacin.

Pandan leaves that have been dried and crushed are frequently used in South East Asia to treat small burns, sunburns and other skin issues. When it comes to the health of our nervous system, pandan leaves are renowned for being quite healthy. Cramping might result from weak nerves. Reduced nerve stimulation is often the cause of weak nerves. The nervous system in our bodies will benefit from the use of pandan leaves. Owing to the presence of anti-fungal characteristics in abundance, pandan leaves are highly effective in preventing dandruff and other scalp diseases, which soothes the hair and lessens the itchy sensation. Pandanus (Pandanus odoratissimus) contains a compound known as eugenol and it helps in curing oral inflammation, while also acting as a mouth freshener.

As per Ayurveda, Pandan leaves help in curing headaches, earaches and rheumatic pains as well. It contains many favourable biological properties, such as anti-viral, anti-allergy, anti-platelet, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant and anti-tumour. Owing to its fragrant smell and aroma, it is used in the production of mouthwash and breath fresheners. It is also a potential source of bioactive compounds that act as natural antioxidants.

The presence of Pandanus Amaryllifolius, which acts as a natural fragrance agent repels rats from such places. They are used in aromatherapy. Pandan leaves extract contains essential oils, tocopherols, tocotrienols, alkaloids, fatty acids, esters, nonspecific lipid transfer proteins, carotenoids, flavonoids and phenolic compounds that act as a natural antioxidant and anti-diabetic agents. The leaves produce catechin, naringin, kaempferol, rutin and epicatechin and these are well-known for their anti-cancerous properties. The leaves of P. amaryllifolius had isolated the piperidine (1 and 2) and pyrrolidine (3 and 4) type alkaloids and these alkaloids act as anti-bacterial agents against three organisms Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli and Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

Side Effects

In most instances, pandan leaves don’t show any side effects when taken in moderate doses. People with kidney problems must not ingest pandan leaves regularly, as it causes nausea and indigestion and hampers renal health. If it is consumed in large quantities, it might also cause diarrhoea because of its mild laxative effect. The pandan fruit paste contains large amounts of sugar and must be consumed within limits.


The Pandan leaves in general are used for a variety of purposes and they are as under:
• In Culinary;
• The aromatic leaves are used for perfume;
• The leaves are woven into small baskets;
• They are used in making containers for desserts;
• The leaves are used to make mats for sleeping on;
• They are used as a deodorant and masking agent;
• They are used to treat many health problems.

In short, Pandan leaves are widely used as flavouring agents and also find greater usage in the Food Industry for various purposes. It has great health benefits, as it is rich in vitamins and antioxidants and can cure a lot of health problems. Pandan leaves can be easily grown in suitable conditions. Greater usage of pandan leaves in the Food Industry can open up more opportunities for research in this sector, in terms of product development as well as in food packaging.


1. Ningrum, A., & Schreiner, M. 81. Pandan leaves’ Vanilla of The East’as potential natural colorants and flavorants.

2. Mangundayao, K. L. (2017). A Review of Biological Activity of Thai Turmeric and and Pandan Leaves and its Implications to Human Health. Organized by Dusit Thani College 29 November–2 December 2017 Bangkok, Thailand, 9.

3. JAAFAR, F., & JUSOH, S. S. (2020). Capabilities of Aroma Pandanus Amaryllifolius Evicting Pests. International Journal of Research and Innovation Management, 6(1), 127-136.

4. Bhuyan, B., & Sonowal, R. (2021). An overview of Pandanus amaryllifolius Roxb. ex Lindl. and its potential impact on health. Current Trends in Pharmaceutical Research, 8(1), 138-157.

5. Sinaga, A., Siregar, S., Rizky, V. A., & Topia, R. (2021). Antifungal effectiveness test fragrant leaf ethanol extract (Pandanus Amaryllifolium Robx) against fungus Pityrosporum Ovale in vitro. ITEGAM-JETIA, 7(31), 42-46.

About the Authors:
Panoth Abhirami & Gayathri K


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An editor by day & dreamer at night; passionately involved with both print and digital media; Pet lover; Solo traveller.

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