Food News

What Nigella is Calling Her New Favorite Ingredient

October 17, 2017

The Nigella Lawson effect is nothing to ignore: the televised release of her avocado toast recipe is rumored to have increased sales of the fruit by 30 percent. So it’s no surprise that a recent mention of pandan, a sweet-smelling green leaf native to southeast Asia, as her prediction for "the next food trend" is garnering considerable attention.

“I think it’s going to be the new matcha,” she told the Times. “I don’t know where it is in [England] yet. But I notice more and more people in America baking with pandan essence.”

The leaf emits a sweet, vanilla-like aroma and figures in many dishes across South and Southeast Asia. Its signature fragrance lends itself well to desserts. Pandan also takes the form of a paste or, like banana leaves or corn husks, can be used to wrap bundles of meat. Pandan’s sweetness lends itself particularly well to rice. Some chefs infuse water, ice creams, or cake doughs with an extract of its floral flavor.

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Since Lawson’s mention of the plant, British news outlets have reacted predictably, extensively covering her prediction, and declaring it the next food trend to watch.

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Top Comment:
“It's harder to find fresh pandan leaves , even frozen. So we often use pandan essence/extract. Look the fragrance and it's nice change from vanilla.”
— HalfPint

Why, however, pandan needs to be the new anything is quite beyond me. Avocados, matcha, and pandan are all their own ingredients; they each have their own particular histories, usages, and communities who cook with them. To compare one to another and place them on some imagined trajectory feels silly. So, here's to pandan and its multitude of uses. And even a couple of our site's recipes that call for it:

Have any of you ever tasted or cooked with pandan leaves? If so, let us know your experience in the comments.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Rizlan
  • Wood dragon
    Wood dragon
  • asbrink
  • Ces
  • Panfusine
Valerio is a freelance food writer, editor, researcher and cook. He grew up in his parent's Italian restaurants covered in pizza flour and drinking a Shirley Temple a day. Since, he's worked as a cheesemonger in New York City and a paella instructor in Barcelona. He now lives in Berlin, Germany where he's most likely to be found eating shawarma.


Rizlan October 23, 2017
Use the fresh stuff please... I find that the essence or artificial essence to "earthy"
Wood D. October 22, 2017
My mum was from Singapore and one of my favourite foods when we used to visit relatives there was a light-as-a-feather green Pandan chiffon cake.. been meaning to try to make it for years. Think it’s such a staple in Singapore, people would find it funny that it’s now a fashionable ingredient!!
asbrink October 22, 2017
Andy Ricker's PokPok restaurant serves pandan-infused water to start your meal. So simple but such a nice touch. I miss you, PokPokLA!
Ces October 22, 2017
In the Philippines we would wash the Pandan leaves carefully so as not to bruise and tuck it into an almost cooked batch of rice to give it a nice scent and taste.

You can also bundle it with a small amount of lemon grass leaves and stuff in a cavity of chicken before roasting.
Panfusine October 18, 2017
Never cooked with the leaves, but I use pandanus extract a lot for Indian desserts and Lassis. Its called Kewra in Hindi.
Peony October 17, 2017
Secret Scoop is a Thai gelato place in Berkeley where you can ge a scoop of pandan rice along with your gelato. A great combo!
HalfPint October 17, 2017
Pandan is ubiquitous in SE Asian desserts. It's sweet yet subtle fragrance nice paired with most of Vietnamese desserts. We Viets have used it in our cakes, sweet soups (che), waffles (those green ones from bakeries), sweet sticky rice, etc. It's harder to find fresh pandan leaves , even frozen. So we often use pandan essence/extract. Look the fragrance and it's nice change from vanilla.
Jeremy S. October 17, 2017
Pandan is readily available here in San Francisco. I have done many things with it, including brewing beer. It's delicious when you wrap chicken with the leaves and coconut milk, and then grill the chicken, which is a common Thai recipe.
Debbie S. October 17, 2017
Take your rice to the next level by cooking it with coconut milk and pandan leaves plus a pinch of salt. Delicious!
Valhalla October 17, 2017
Well I've got a plant, lucky me--so I look forward to seeing more recipes for it. It makes rice magical!