baked oats green chile chicken enchiladas chow mein bakery-style butter cookies

copyright jennifer yu © 2004-2023 all rights reserved: no photos or content may be reproduced without prior written consent

p is for…

Recipe: pandan ice cream

[Today is the last day to get the early bird registration discount of $50 for the Food and Light food photography and styling workshop in Boulder, Colorado this summer. We are so looking forward to working with you!]

P is for party! In my case, a dosa party hosted by my favorite little blogger down the road, Manisha. She has ruined me, ruined me. I dare not set foot into an Indian restaurant lest I be disappointed that it’s not as good as Manisha’s cooking. [I’m sorry, I don’t have good photos of the dosas because I was too busy EATING them… Priorities, man.]

manisha tops the little papads (which i kept sneaking)

mango panna cotta with cardamom and pistachios

Did I mention that I love having friends who cook? It seems to be a problem that plagues many of my food blog friends who happen to be phenomenal cooks – none of their friends cook. Sure, people eat, but few people actually know and prepare their food at a fundamental level these days. I’m guessing this readership is in the minority when we consider our society of convenience and junk and corporate-mystery-crap-peddled-as-nourishment. But back to friends who cook… Just the other day I was having a pleasant catch-up with Lisa over breakfast and she bemoaned that all too familiar plight of the avid cook: no one invites you over for dinner. Foodies (I know some people hate that word – so call them food enthusiasts or whatever, I really don’t care) are always told “I can’t cook like you.” That’s not really the point. Both Lisa and I agreed that being invited over for take out pizza would be terrific because it’s about spending the time together, not going head to head to outdo or impress. At least, that’s not what my friendships are based on.

(from left to right) great cooks: kitt, manisha, birthday girl dana, and teri (not pictured: kathya)

I was lucky in grad school because I had two girlfriends who were great cooks and we took turns inviting each other (and partners) over for big bash meals – something to take your mind off the grind of research for an evening. I bond with people over food. My dad had a rule in our house: we all sat down to dinner together as a family and the television was turned OFF. And you know what? It was nice (except when the topic turned to SAT scores, college admissions, and why the heck I insisted on playing field hockey). It took a while, but after a couple of years in Colorado I have found a great gaggle of gal pals who love to cook and love to feed one another. We go to ethnic grocery stores together like fifth graders on a field trip. So it was a few weeks ago that Kathya and I were cruising around H-Mart in Denver.

p is also for pandan


Truth be told, I didn’t know what pandan leaves were. I just knew that southeast Asian bloggers loved the stuff and made pretty green desserts with it. I held the bag in my hand… a mere two dollars or such. “What is it?” I asked Kathya. Her face melted into a big smile and she told me she loves the stuff and it’s a little nutty, a little floral. I put the packet in my cart thinking I would enlist the help of the interwebs later to figure out what to do with the leaves.

tie into a knot for ease of retrieval

milk, sugar, cream, and a pinch of salt

steep the leaves in the hot cream

Pandan is screwpine leaf and the flavor is nutty, floral, and a tad piny, if that makes sense. It’s subtle and lovely. I was always drawn to it because it’s green and I’m a sucker for green foods. What I learned was that the green color comes from pandan extract, which I didn’t have. So I chanced a visit to my local Asian grocer and found it. I picked up a bottle for myself and another for Kathya.

pandan extract

This stuff is green on steroids. It is GREEN. You don’t need much of it, which may explain why the bottles are so tiny. I looked on the label and saw that it is not naturally this green, it has food coloring in it. Kathya and I had discussed this dilemma with Asian groceries when we were at H-Mart. We both prefer to purchase organic, sustainable, and locally produced foods when we can. At the same time, we both crave and make the Asian foods of our youth. If you noodle about an Asian grocery store, you’ll notice that there isn’t a whole lot of organic anything going on. I worry about food safety and quality control practices of countries like… China (you know, the country that is home to tons of copyright violators who steal your photos off the web? I guess we have those in the US too). I know the sliced beef short ribs for galbi at the Asian markets are likely harvested from different cattle than say the beef short ribs at Whole Foods which cost an order of magnitude more per unit weight. I don’t have a solution. I just try my best.


tempering with hot cream

I settled on making pandan ice cream because I had the ingredients on hand. Most of the recipes that I found online said they just converted their standard vanilla ice cream recipe by substituting the pandan leaves for vanilla bean and the pandan extract for vanilla extract. I know for a fact that my vanilla ice cream go-to recipe kicks ass because it’s The Lebovitz’s recipe and David is all kinds of awesome.

cooking the custard

strain through a sieve

a little extract (it goes a long way)

Having no idea how much extract to use, I guessed about a half a teaspoon. I couldn’t even add it to taste because I had never tasted pandan ice cream (or pandan anything) before. I judged on color. This green puts the Shamrock Shake to shame!

pour the custard into the ice cream machine

make ice cream

Luckily, Kathya came up to visit with me shortly after I made the ice cream and I asked her to try it along with some passion fruit ice cream. She gave it the nod and uttered several “mmm mmm”s along with that. The flavor is mellow and subtle, but distinctly nutty. It’s a nice way to feel tropical when we are in the depths of Colorado winter.

pretty green

just a taste

Pandan Ice Cream
[print recipe]
converted from this vanilla ice cream recipe by David Lebovitz

1 cup whole milk
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups cream
pinch salt
4 pandan leaves, each tied in a knot
6 egg yolks
1/2 tsp pandan extract

Heat the milk, sugar, 1 cup of the cream, and salt over medium-high flame in a medium saucepan. Stir to dissolve the sugar. When the milk begins to steam, remove from heat and place the pandan leaves in the cream. Cover and steep for 30 minutes. Place remaining cup of cream in a large bowl and set aside. Whisk the egg yolks in a medium bowl. Slowly pour the cream mixture (with the pandan leaves) into the egg yolks while whisking (to temper so the eggs don’t curdle). Scrape everything back into the saucepan and set over medium heat. Constantly stir the custard, scraping the sides and bottom until it thickens. Remove from heat and strain into the cream. Stir in the pandan extract until well-blended. Let the custard cool and then refrigerate (covered) until it is completely chilled. Churn in your ice cream machine per the manufacturer’s instructions.

35 nibbles at “p is for…”

  1. Rosa says:

    I love pandan! That ice cream must be delightful.



  2. Ronine says:

    I had to stop when scrolling over the photo of the egg yolks, Jen! You really make something rather mundane look absolutely fantastic.

  3. Nadia says:

    Hi Jen! I have never tried pandan before myself. But seeing green beautiful things around food blogs I couldn’t resist and bought a can of padant juice from the Asian store. It’s in a can, like corn or peas. Haven’t opened it yet, since need to decide what exactly I’m going to be using it for. Do you think I can substitute this juice for leaves and take out the amount of milk/cream equally?
    thank you for your website!
    p.s. your cream scones are the best, made them multiple times before and never fails.

  4. sam says:

    I have the same issiues you described when it comes to ethnic (and asian) supermarkets. Meat in particular, we only eat meat that is traditionally slaughtered (halal or kosjer) but it is impossible to find that organic or something that comes even close to that. I think becuase there is simply no demand, most people go for cheap and cheerful and that is just not the way you should be thinking when it comes to food (especially meat!), your ice cream looks great, I do know pandan it is often used in indonesian cooking, have you ever tried pandan chiffon cake?

  5. Katie says:

    I live in Singapore and I am constantly surrounded by pandan anything! Now, as a New Jersey- born and bred girl, I had no idea what this green leaf stuff was until I moved here, either. But ever since I tried a pandan chiffon cake at a local bakery, I’ve been obsessed. Every grocery store here sells pandan leaves and extract in bulk so this is such a perfect recipe for me to embrace while living here. Oh and I just recieved my ice cream machine 3 days ago so this (and your passion fruit ice cream) are on the top of my “to make, taste, and decide not to share” list. Wonderful photos, as always, Jen!

  6. sonia says:

    Wow..this ice cream is looking awesome, loved the nice green shade. I have never tried this ice cream but am sure would love to try my hands on this novel and refreshing ice cream. I’ve book marked this recipe and will give it a shot soon !

  7. Sherry says:

    My sister is obsessed with pandan and though I’ve made her pandan cakes and cupcakes, she’s always clamoring for more. I think she would tackle someone for a taste of this ice cream…

  8. kathy says:

    That ice cream looks wonderful. The color is cooling to my palate.

  9. Anh says:

    I love pandan ice-cream! It is in my to-do list as well :) There’s an Italian ice-cream shop here in Melbourne which sells pandan coconut ice-cream. Very nice!

  10. Kate says:

    Mmmm, pandan! I tried a cake recipe with pandan flavoring last year and now I am hooked. The site I saw the recipe on showed how to make pandan “extract” from the leaves. It is just intense kelly green and used as coloring as well as flavoring. I’m lucky to live where I can buy meat and eggs from those who raise the animals. With the recent changes to labeling in the US organics aren’t always organic. And thanks to M*nsant* even organic soy beans test positive for GM. But, back to delicious…I know you don’t do too much with sweets but have you tried Red Bean Chiffon Cake yet?

  11. Kristin says:

    Lovely, lovely ice cream! I have 2 David Lebovitz recipes in the freezer right now, waiting for our evening celebration of my birthday. The power went out for a few hours yesterday, & the kids said that, if it didn’t come back on soon, we were going to have to eat the ice cream for fear that it would be ruined. Thankfully, the power came back on…I want the treat TODAY!

  12. TheKitchenWitch says:

    Jen, you are such an inspiration–I always learn something when I come here. I’d never heard of pandan, nor would I know what to do with it, but through you, I can experience and (virtually) taste.

    It was great to see you and the lovely ladies; and of course, eat Manisha’s awesome food!

  13. Anita says:

    We’re lucky enough to get pandan leaves in the Asian groceries here too Jen! I am also uber suspicious of the pandan extract, but in my experience if you just use the leaves, sometimes the flavor isn’t strong enough, or veers more to the grassy side to my liking. The extract does pull it back more to the nutty, sweet side – plus adds that awesome green color. So glad you enjoyed playing around with it!

  14. Kathya says:

    Yum! So now it’s time to make pandan chiffon cake, right? :) xo

  15. Jun says:

    We use pandan all the time for dessert, and we have one big bunch growing on our front yard. They are literally unstoppable. When we don’t have the pandan extract (or paste) around, we pound a bunch of leaves into paste and strain it using fine muslin cloth after adding drips of water to make it watery. That would give us the extract. But the color would be slightly lighter than store-bought extract. Great recipe, Jen

  16. carine says:

    I love everything Pandan! so fragrant…I really love the natural ”green-ness” of the ice cream comes from the pandan leaves…

  17. TripleScoop says:

    That ice cream would be great for St Patrick’s day a very nice looking green color.

  18. Nicole says:

    I’m so excited, I was able to get a spot for Food and Light. I was afraid it would be full by the time I was able to sign up last Friday.
    Also, this post is perfect timing. We have finally been able to pull together what we are calling “Supper Club” here in Fairbanks. Our first “meeting” is coming up on March 12 and we chose Indian Food for our first event. I make Indian Food at home all the time, although never dessert. I wanted to challenge myself so I signed on for dessert. I see this ice cream in my very near future. Since I never tasted Pandan I am wondering how it would pair with Cardamom cake?

  19. noëlle {simmer down!} says:

    I totally know what you mean re: never getting invited places because your friends feel intimidated that you’re going to somehow be “judging” their cooking! Luckily I have made friends with a small group of women who take turns having dinner parties. There are different skill levels in the group but we all enjoy and appreciate each other’s contributions.

  20. Charissa says:

    This is so sweet…I would love to try this with matcha powder. I`m a big green tea fan!

  21. melanie says:

    Beeyootifull !!! As always. Thank-you, Jen !

  22. Sharlene says:

    Adore pandan – most of our ordered birthday cakes for larger parties are pandan! I can’t wait to make this for my family.

  23. Joy says:

    Oh my, I wish I could find fresh pandan leaves. It looks wonderful.

  24. Margie says:

    Another tempting, and oh so inviting, recipe. I’m guilty of having never heard of the panda leaf, just one more reason to discover it!

  25. Josh says:

    I made pandan ice cream a long time ago. I didn’t have extract at hand (but we do grow them in our front yard!) so I made two batches of custard: one using whole leaves and the other with ground up leaves (used a blender and a little water) in an attempt to squeeze out every last ounce of flavor out of them. The first one had only a very subtle hint of pandan flavor but the second one tasted great! Just don’t forget to strain the leaves out, you don’t want those little fibers to get stuck in your teeth :)

  26. heather says:

    Must. Find. Ice Cream Machine!

  27. Zee says:

    Hey, that ice cream look soo deliciuos. I grew up eating various Pandan flavored desserts and haven’t had any in a long time! However, that mango panna cotta looks even more amazing! Any chance you could write a recipe for that? PLEASSEEEE :)

  28. lisbet diemer says:

    I love Pandan to, but I use it for giving “this something special” that nobody knows what is to savory cooking, a few leaves in a stew, poaching, in soup, with beef, chicken you just get started and it’s almost like magic..

  29. amalina says:

    I would suggest you to pound or blend the leaves and then strain the extract. it is much better than the artificial one.

  30. An invariant | Subliminal aesthetics says:

    […] extracts are amazingly fragrant and can work well in sweets as well as […]

  31. jenyu says:

    Ronine – aw shucks. It’s easy really – just don’t pop the yolks ;)

    Nadia – Oooh, I’ve never seen that before. I think you can add it without having to remove much if any of the cream or milk. Definitely taste it before adding to see how strong it is. You may even find some recipes online that use that juice instead of the leaves?

    sam – yeah, that’s a tough one and you’re right – it’s because Asians want CHEAP. Period. Although it’s changing ever so slowly. I’ve never had pandan chiffon cake, but I’ve seen it everywhere and it looks so tempting! Maybe when I find some time, but this spring is full of travel and projects.

    Anh – mmm, I can see how coconut and pandan pair well together. Sounds delightful!

    Kate – I haven’t tried red bean chiffon yet. Someday, I hope to! And yeah, I share your frustrations over the poisoning of our food supply by mega agri-businesses.

    TKW – big smoochie kisses and hugs to you, birthday beauty!! xo

    Anita – that’s what I read too and yes, you’re absolutely right about the extract making the flavor a little more nutty. If anyone knows anything about Pandan and baking, I know it will be YOU!! :)

    Kathya – uh… yeah ;)

    Jun – oh wowowowow! That’s so amazing to me that you have it growing in your yard. That’s also a lot of work to get the extract. I’ll have to check your blog for more pandan recipes :)

    Nicole – that I don’t really know. It would probably be fine. I’d ask Kathya who has more experience with both cuisines than I do.

    Joy – we can’t get fresh pandan leaves here in the states. We only get frozen (but that works fine). I bet if you looked around in Asian markets you could find some.

    Josh – wow, where do you live?? That’s so awesome!

    Zee – you’ll have to ask Manisha for the mango panna cotta recipe :)

  32. Aelia says:

    I live behind a gelato shop which makes pandan gelato periodically (and durian, taro, black sesame, and perhaps red bean) and I tried it once. Not my favorite flavor in ice cream, though you’re right, there is something attractive about green ice cream.

  33. Mrs Ergül says:

    For something that we can get so easily in Singapore and seeing that you have to get them frozen, I feel that I have taken pandan leaves for granted! I’m going to try my hand at growing some!

  34. Nate @ House of Annie says:

    We actually have a big stand of pandan growing in our backyard:

    And we do use it in a few different dishes besides the barley drink. This post so makes me wish we had an ice cream maker.

    I’m wondering if you could add a little mint extract or maybe even infuse some peppermint into the cream along with the pandan leaves. Seems like it would work!

  35. Pandan Cake Ice-cream | Pause for Thought says:

    […] Cream? My google search came up with 2 recipes for Pandan Ice Cream, of which I decided to follow Use Real Butter’s.(Simply because her ice cream was such a delightful green.) Pandan Cake Ice Cream (Recipe modified […]

leave a reply