When preparing Sri Lankan cuisine (especially curries) one of the key components is the Pandan Leaf (also known as a Pandanus Leaf).

These aren't readily available where I live so I was wondering if anyone could suggest an alternative?

7 Answers 7


If you have an indian market nearby, you can get kewra extract/essence. Kewra is the indian name for pandanus plant and kewra essence is featured in a number of indian desserts. I don't recall seeing kewra leaves in my local indian market, but I use kewra essence regularly. (Careful, sometimes it's sold as a very concentrated oil extract and sometimes as the more dilute kewra water; so how much you need to add will depend on which form of kewra you buy).

Not too long ago, I made a Thai custard (usually served with sticky rice) that called for pandanus extract. It was researching where to purchase that when I discovered that I already had it in my cupboard. Great stuff.

  • Very useful info! Commented Oct 22, 2018 at 7:50
  • 1
    While they're both from pandanus species, the two are entirely different products and do not substitute for one another — kewra is made from pandanus blossom while pandanus leaf is, er, leaf, and their flavor and behavior is nothing alike. If one is reaching for extracts to replace pandan, "pandan extract" or "pandan flavoring" would be the far better choice.
    – colinm
    Commented Sep 21, 2019 at 5:21

There are enough Sri Lankans live in UK. Therefore, you should be able to find this in a Sri Lankan store (or in an Indian store). This is known as "Rampe" in Sri Lanka. Ask for "Ram-pe" when you visit such a store.

  • 2
    They can also be in many chinese and south-east asian supermarkets, sometimes frozen
    – canardgras
    Commented Aug 22, 2017 at 12:51

If you plan more of this cooking in the future, you can order extract. The aroma is subtle and savory. It is similar to that of jasmine rice or fresh-baked white bread. The leaf is frequently used in combination with coconut milk for sweet curries and desserts.

The Pandan Leaf (Pandanus amaryllifolius) is actually used in a wide range of Southeast Asian and South Asian cuisine. The flavor seems to derive from one specific aroma compound (abbr. 2AP). Interestingly, the Maillard reaction that is responsible for browning during baking produces an analog of the compound.


I replaced some of the stock in my recipe with jasmine tea and a dash of vanilla essence. It seemed to work - gave a slight flowery taste, which I think is what the pandan leaves do.


Perhaps flavors similar to Indian curries and Asian dishes, such as cilantro, Thai basil, kaffir lime leaves, or celery leaves.

I also just read a recipe that suggested bay leaf would be an appropriate substitute.

  • 2
    Pandanus (a.k.a Kewra) has a rather sweet/flowery smell. I would not recommend substituting bay or celery leaves. I would not recommend any of these substitutions for sweet desserts that rely on pandanus/kewra (to be fair, I haven't used kaffir lime leaves, so maybe those could work). Rose essence will get you closer to the flowery notes of Kewra. Making your own saffron extract may get you something with a (vaguely) similar sweet/flowery note.
    – S. Burt
    Commented Nov 4, 2015 at 18:17

tried several attempts to use jasmine tea and vanilla this just doesn't work.First time - No. Second time - No. Third time - more fool me, you guessed it - No! Instead I used with great success some Rooibos tea with vanilla. This is already balanced to suit adding to hot water to drink and as the ratio of leaves / vanilla is done the taste just works. Strange I know but just try it - you'll become a convert like me. Also its readily available in most supermarkets and guess what? You can use the rest of the packet to drink as tea! Winner.


Pandan leaf is sometimes sold dried, as a tea. I don't know if its available in your area as such, but you may be able to buy it online more easily - as it is both shelf-stable and lightweight, it may ship and store more easily than, say, buying fresh leaves or extract. I've purchased the tea relatively cheaply, even including overseas shipping, and gotten a fair quantity as well.

You may be able to add the leaves as a garnish, soak them and some water to balance moisture, or else make a tea and just add that, to get the flavor into your final dish.

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