Updated: Jul 12, 2021
Pandanus leaf is known as Screw Pine leaf in the West and is widely used in Southeast Asia in various applications.
When making Pandanus juice and extract, the leaves are blended with some water where the juice and concentrate are then extracted from the leaves. The juice itself smells like any fresh grass but when cooked and added to desserts, they give a sensational sweet aromatic that I find resembles the combination of sweet almond and vanilla. To those that are unfamiliar with the usage of this leaf, Pandanus Leaf is actually quite versatile and unlike most elements of dessert, these leaves are often used in different applications in the type of desserts rather than as a compliment to other flavour or element because of its own distinctive aroma. In Malaysia, Pandanus leaf is used widely in many desserts and to name a few, they are such as jellies, chiffon cakes, glutinous rice desserts, sweet drinks, mochi, ice creams, Nyonya Kuihs, jams and so much more. Some of the most common flavour often used alongside Pandanus Leaves are such as coconut, ginger and lychee.
Since I have moved to Australia 16 years ago, I find it hard to get fresh pandanus leaves but nevertheless, I am still able to locate them in most Asian groceries in the frozen section.
To make your own Pandan juice and extract is actually really simple with the downside that once extracted, the juice and extract do not retain a good shelf life and needs to be utilised within 5 to 7 days and stored in the fridge before the aroma starts to deteriorate. In saying this, home made extract and Pandan juice bypass premade artificial Pandan extract that you get in small bottles by a million miles.
Type of liquid that you can use to blend with the Pandan Leaves
If you try to blend the pandanus leaves on its own, you may be disappointed to find that the leaves themselves do not contain much or any liquid at all. The only way to get pandan juice is to blend the leaves with some type of liquid, typically water, and bruising them by breaking the leaves apart with the water in a blender to release its fibrous aroma to the liquid.
Typically, Pandan juice and extract are made from blending the leaves with water. However, if you are making traditional Malaysian desserts that has the element of coconut in them, you can concentrate the flavour even more by substitute the water with coconut milk or even almond milk.
Pandan Juice and Pandan Extract
When the leaves are extracted from the liquid after blending, you get a green liquid and this is typically the pandan juice. If you want a deep concentrated extract, you need to leave the juice to rest in the fridge overnight ideally for at least 18 hours. After the resting period, you will start to realise a small layer of thick dark green extract sunk to the bottom of your jug or jar. This sediment at the bottom is your pandan extract.
Depending on what your preference of application is, you can tilt your jug/jar side ways to pour out the juice for other application and reserve the extract for another, or you can simply shake the jar to use them together.
Liquid and Pandan Leave Ratios
The amount of liquid used for making the juice and extract depends on how concentrated you want them to be. For a 200 g amount of pandan leaves, the amount of water can be from 130 ml - 300 ml. I like to make mine with the 1:1 ratio.
How many times to extract the Pandan Leave
The blended pandan leaves can be added back into the the blender with the same amount of water again and blended for a second extraction. This process can be done over again for the second and third time. The latter extractions will have a less concentrated aroma and fragrance compared to the first.
When blending the leaves, you need to cut them into smaller pieces. Because of its texture, the leaves do not break down well at all in the blender and can get tangled up if not cut in to individual smaller pieces.
Fresh blended pandan juice and extract should be stored in the fridge no longer than 7 days. You will find that old Pandan juice will start to lose its beautiful aroma and turn pungent or "off" if left unused for too long.
It is not recommended to freeze the pandan juice as frozen pandan juice loses a lot of its aroma during its time in the freezer. You can, however freeze pandan extract in a well sealed container and simply defrost them in the fridge and use as soon as you can. I have freeze pandan extract many times and the quality is not that noticeable.
200 g Pandanus Leaves - Fresh or frozen
400 g Water/ Coconut milk
Cut the pandanus leaves into smaller pieces then place them together with the water into a blender and blend for 3 to 5 minutes.
Place a cheese cloth over a jug then pour the blended pandanus leave and the water into the cloth. Squeeze out as much of the water as you can. The green water that you get from squeezing is the combination of the pandan juice and extract.
If you want to get the extract, cover the pandan juice and leave in the fridge for at least 18 hours. The next day, you will see the extract sediments sunk to the base of the jug. Without agitating the jug too much or this can cause the extract to mix back together with the juice, slowly tilt the jug to pour out the pandan juice in a contrainer. Store the extract in a separate jug.
If you want an even more concentrated extract. Leave the strained extract to sit for another day and repeat the same process by slowly tilting out the water.
Note: The blended leaves can be placed back into the blender and blended again with the addition of the same amount of liquid. The second extraction and so forth will have a less profound flavour compared to the first extractions.