Pandan Leaves Substitutes: 10 Unique Alternatives For Different Recipes

Pandan leaves substitutes are essential for those who enjoy a distinct spice in their meals.

It is a popular herb and spice in Thailand, Malaysia, and Southeast Asia. Recently, it has also become a popular choice in North America due to the distinct aroma and flavor it adds to food.

However, this cooking spice is not always easy to come by. That is why you should be aware of other good pandan leaves substitutes you can use in a recipe.

Consequently, this article covers everything you need to know about pandan, including its uses and alternatives.

What is pandan?

pandan leaves - millenora

Pandan is a plant valued primarily for its tall, blade-like leaves. It’s used in a variety of Sri Lankan, Thai, and other South Asian cuisines. Pandan is available locally and in specialty markets all over the world.

Depending on the variety, its leaves range in size from 12 to 20 inches (30 to 51 cm) and are either frozen or fresh.

There are more than 600 species, but not all of their leaves are edible; it varies based on the subtype. They can be steamed into rice dishes for flavor or used in extracts or infusions.

Pandan leaves substitutes

You may have some of these alternatives in your kitchen or pantry. If you don’t, they are really available in your local stores.

1. Kewra essence

kewra essence - millenora

Kewra may sound exotic, but you can find it at any Indian market in your area. This is an extract with a water or oil base regularly used in desserts.

The same pandanus plant that produces pandan leaves also yields this essence. Kewra, however, comes from the blossom rather than the leaf.

The water-based extract is typically milder, whereas the oil-based extract is more concentrated. Both are frequently mixed with green food coloring to give your food a similar tint. This makes it a good substitute for pandan leaves.

2. Pandan essence

pandan essence - millenora

Another simple way to substitute pandan leaves in your cooking is using pandan essence.

Pandan essence is what you need if you want to achieve a scent that is identical to that of pandan leaves. This product’s flavor combines coconut and walnuts and is simple to adapt to your cooking.

3. Vanilla bean

vanilla bean - millenora

Vanilla bean extract, paste, and pods may impart flavors like the sweet and floral notes found in pandan leaves.

4. Banana leaves

banana leaves as pandan substitute - millenora

Banana leaves are not meant to be used in place of pandan leaves as a spice. If you love to wrap food in pandan but don’t have any, banana leaves will work just as well.

In many traditional foods in Southeast Asia, banana and pandan leaves are used to wrap food. They are also visually appealing and add flavor to the dish.

Banana and pandan leaves help to keep food temperatures stable – whether hot or cold – and preserve it from contamination.

5. Collard greens

collard greens - millenora

You can substitute pandan leaves with collard greens. To do this, ensure you remove the tough stems from these cabbage-related greens before using them in your recipes. It also has leaves that can mimic pandan leaves and will enhance food flavor.

6. Green tea

green tea as pandan leaves substitute - millenora

Even though it seems unlikely that green tea will be a good substitute for pandan leaves, you should know that pandan is often sold as a tea after being dried because of its hints of tea flavor.

Therefore, you can use jasmine or green tea in place of pandan. One has floral undertones, while the other has a more earthy taste.

7. Ginger

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Ginger can also be used in place of pandan leaves. The sweet and peppery flavors of fresh ginger can simply substitute for the leaves in about all recipes. Use young, fresh ginger to ensure a very similar taste.

8. Matcha tea

matcha tea - millenora

The best healthy alternative to pandan leaves is matcha. It is a highly concentrated green tea made from finely ground, specially grown green tea leaves in East Asia.

Matcha tea can give your food a green color like pandan leaves, but it also adds caffeine. This means it’ll taste bitter, so you must be careful with how much you add.

9. Cilantro

cilantro as substitute for pandan leaves - millenora

Cilantro is a member of the parsley family and can be used to replace pandan leaves. It is an annual plant native to southern Europe and some parts of Asia. Cilantro is a common ingredient in Thai and Mexican cuisine.

Cilantro leaves are shiny and flat and are commonly used in salads, salsas, and soups, which is why you can use them in any recipe that requires pandan leaves.

10. Celery leaves

celery as substitute for pandan leaves  - millenora

Another alternative to pandan leaves is this native Mediterranean herb called celery. Celery leaves can be substituted for pandan leaves in different recipes because of their distinct flavor. They are also a similar shade of dark green to pandan leaves.

Additionally, you can use them in any recipe that requires pandan leaves, such as making soups, risotto, or salads.

Health benefits of pandan leaves

Although there isn’t much scientific evidence to support the health benefits of pandan, non-Western traditional medicine has long used its leaves, fruit, flowers, roots, and oil.

Some of its wonderful benefits are:

  • It helps to lessen arthritis and joint pains.
  • It may facilitate and support blood sugar control.
  • When you regularly chew pandan leaves, it may improve oral health and help to maintain fresh breath.
  • It contains a lot of vitamin A, which is crucial for maintaining eye health and may even help prevent cancer.
  • Pandan leaves help lower the risk of heart disease because they contain carotenoids and antioxidants.
  • They are well known for lowering the risk of atherosclerosis, which is the narrowing of the heart’s arteries due to plaque accumulation.
  • Crushed pandan leaves are frequently applied topically to treat minor burns, sunburns, and other skin issues.
  • The inclusion of nutrients like beta-carotene, vitamin C, thiamin, riboflavin, and niacin is known to be aided by the vitamins and antioxidants found in pandan.

Pandan side effects

More research is required to determine the precise dosages, but pandan may have a mild laxative impact that could result in diarrhea if consumed in large amounts.

Additionally, processed foods, candy, and desserts with pandan flavors are high in sugar and offer few (if any) health benefits.

Although pandan has no negative side effects when consumed in moderation, those with kidney issues should avoid regularly consuming pandan because it irritates the stomach and causes nausea, which is bad for the kidneys.

Where can you buy pandan leaves?

Pandan leaves can be found at any Asian spice store. You might also try ordering your spice from an online store.


Can you use vanilla extract instead of pandan leaves?

Yes, you can.

If you cannot locate pandan leaves, use an equivalent amount of vanilla extract to replace the other flavoring.

What do pandan leaves taste like?

Pandan leaves have a mild aroma and a naturally sweet flavor. It has a potent flavor that has been compared to grassy with hints of rose, almond, and vanilla and a coconut-like undertone.

Are pandan leaves the same as banana leaves?

No, they are not.

Banana leaves and pandan leaves are often confused with each other.

While the two are similar and can be used to wrap and present food in place of banana leaves, the main distinction is that pandan leaves are narrower and a little more delicate.

Are pandan leaves edible?

No, not all pandan leaves are edible.

Southeast Asia only uses one type of pandan, the edible variety. Therefore, if you must buy pandan leaves, specifically request for edible pandan leaves.


Many Southeast Asia countries use the pandan plant for culinary and medicinal purposes. It has numerous health benefits with only minor side effects that can be managed.

However, pandan leaves are not widely available in other parts of the world, necessitating the search for pandan leaf substitutes.

If you need to use pandan leaves in your cooking, you should get them ahead of time or look for substitutes as a replacement if they are not available.

You will also love this list of fennel seed substitutes that can work with almost every recipe you need fennel seeds for.

Thanks for reading.