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*Corresponding author
1. University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU), Food Chemistry Division, Department of Food
Sciences and Technology, Institut of Food Science, Muthgasse18, 1190, Wien Austria
2. Gadjah Mada University, Faculty of Agricultural Technology, Department of Food Science and
Agricultural Technology, Jalan Flora No.1, BulakSumur, 55281, Yogyakarta, Indonesia

Andriati Ningrum

Pandan leaves: “Vanilla of the East”

as potential natural food ingredient
KEYWORDS: pandan leaves, natural flavour, natural colorant, traditional medicine

Abstract Pandan leaves with the latin name Pandanus amaryllifolius Roxb have been used in several South East Asia
countries e.g. in Indonesia as natural flavour, natural colorant and also as traditional medicine. Due to its
health benefit, chlorophylls and carotenoids as main natural colorants inside pandan leaves are potential to be used in several foods.
Pandan leaves also contain important aroma compounds e.g. 2-Acetyl-1-Pyroline (ACPY) which is identified in several aromatic rice
e.g. Basmati and Jasmine rice. Other class of aroma compounds e.g. norisoprenoids also can be identified in pandan leaves e.g.
β-ionone that have a good potential effect for human health. Several antioxidant compounds e.g. flavonoids, phenolic compounds,
vitamin E and ascorbic acid were found in pandan leaves. These several compounds are important compounds, so that pandan
leaves have been used traditionally in Indonesia for traditional medicine e.g as anti-inflamation. This paper reviews pandan leaves as
potential natural ingredients in food.


In Indonesia, people are familiar of using several herbal Pandan leaves, commonly known as pandan, are often used
leaves for special purposes especially for condiments to act to give a refreshing, fragrant flavour to both sweet and savoury
as natural colorants or natural flavours to improve colour and South-East-Asian dishes (rice, chicken, jellies, drinks, puddings,
flavours in food e.g. pandan leaves. There are several herbs custard or sweets). Pandan leaves are also used in cooking
that have been investigated contain expressive amounts ordinary non-aromatic rice to imitate the more expensive
of several bioactive compounds which can decrease aromatic Basmati and Jasmine rice (5). Since the flavour of
ageing and also prolong life span and living organism (1). pandan leaves is similar to that possessed by some famous
Natural products, including essential oils and extracts are aromatic rice varieties, the leaves often find their way into
the main source of biologically active compounds that the rice pot to enhance the aroma of lesser rice varieties. By
can give benefit for human health (2). Pandan leave is increasing the aroma in lesser rice varieties, it can increase the
one of natural product which is commonly been found in consumer acceptance by enhance the flavour perception in
several South East Asia Countries (3). Many people said that customer where the non-aromatic rice has similar flavour with the
pandan leaves are vanilla of the east since it is commonly aromatic rice e.g. Basmati and Jasmine rice. Flavour perception
used in several foodswith the vanilla like aroma (4). Pandan is interesting subject. The flavour of food is ultimately a product
leaves with the latin name Pandanous amryllifolius Roxb. of the brain. The brain combines sensory information from taste,
are a traditional herbal leaves which have been used in smell and touch to generate our perception flavour, and how it
cooking and also as traditional herbal treatment for several does this is currently a hot topic in psychology and neuroscience
illnesses in South East Asia Countries (3). The genus name (6). The study of the mechanism of important flavour during
Pandanus is derived from the Indonesian name of the tree, cooking rice is quite complex, where the absorption of important
pandan. In several Asia countries, pandan leaves, names flavour by rice in both optimal and excess water cooking was
given include pandan wangi (Malaysian), daun pandan highly dependent on the presence of water, moisture content
(Indonesian), baitoey or toeyhom (Thai), taey (Khmer), tey of rice, water to rice ratio, starch gelatinization process as well as
ban, teyhom (Laotian), duathom (Vietnamese), and ban temperature and time of cooking (7).
yan le (Chinese) (3). The plants grow in clumps and have Sometime, pandan leaves are also used to wrap food for
thin and sharp leaves at the edge where the form is like cooking, such as chicken wrapped in pandan leaves and are
sword, fragrant odor. Pandan leaves will grow in a short neatly folded into small baskets for filling with puddings and
shrub of 1.2-1.5 m in height and 60-90 cm in width with a cakes (3). The leaves are sometimes also can be put into frying
stout stem and usually branched low down. The plant will oils to impart flavour to fried food e.g. French fries (5). Pandan
not grow the flowers also. The distribution of pandan leaves extracts are also capable of retarding oxidation in palm olein
is found over Southern India, the Southeast Asia peninsular, during deep frying process than as effectively other antioxidant
Indonesia and Western New Guinea (3). The outline of this which is BHT (Butyl Hydroxy Toluene) (5). In sensory evaluation,
review is to give a review that pandan leaves are potential the extract also was able to maintain sensory quality of french
to be used as natural colorant, natural flavour in food and fries (5). The delightful flavour characteristic from pandan leaves,
also as functional herbal medicine for human health. which is well-known throughout the world as an important

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component in Asian cookery, has made the industrial production
of both natural extracts and artificial flavourings containing
green food colours for use as food additives in Southeast Asian
countries enlarge during the past two decades (3).
Application of pandan leaves flavour have been used in rice,
where rice-starch coating containing natural pandan extract
produced non-aromatic rice with aroma compounds similar to
that of aromatic rice (8). Supercritical carbon dioxide extraction
from pandan leaves also have been investigated as a novel
applications in food flavourings (9-10). The supercritical fluid
extraction with carbondioxide gas has the potential to produce
higher yield and better quality extracts of flavour than other
method e.g. steam distillation and solvent extraction. Supercritical
carbon dioxide extraction have more 12 new volatile compounds
than steam distillation and solvent extraction. Optimum condition
for the supercritical carbon dioxide extraction was obtained at
pressure of 200 bar at 50oC for a contact time of 20 minutes (10).
The supercritical fluid extraction also will be a potential realistic
environmentally friendly technique as alternative method than
the solvent extraction because it is solvent less technique (10).
Because it is a delightful and a sweet flavour characteristic
of pandan leaves, once again it make the leaves so well-
known throughout the world as an important component in
Asian cookery. So that, it has made the industrial production
of both natural extracts and artificial flavourings for use as a
food additives in Southeast Asian countries enlarge in several
decades (3). The pandan leaves have strong flavour, cheap
prices and ready availability. Because of these several factors
many types of artificial pandan essences are widely sold in the
markets of Southeast Asian countries and replacing the fresh Table 1. Concentration of sugars and free amino acids (dry
basis) in fresh pandan leaves (12)
pandan leaves. Although the synthetic flavour have been
discussed further especially in health impact effect. Nowadays,
the increasing sensitivity of ecological systems will support the pandan leaves contained 2.38 mg/g fructose and 1.77 mg/g
choice of environmentally friendly processes and consumers have glucose. Although glucose was at lower concentration than
developed a preference for natural ingredients (11). By legislation fructose, this compound might play significant role in ACPY
in US and Europe, the natural flavour substances can only be formation (12). Several free amino acids in fresh pandan leaves
prepared either by physical processes (extraction from natural are listed in Table 1. The major free amino acid was glutamic
sources) or by enzymatic or microbial processes, which involve acid (0.41 mg/g), followed by aspartic acid, threonine, serine,
precursors isolated from nature (11). The natural ingredients have histidine, alanine, and proline (0.12 mg/g). In pandan leaves,
become a good positive ingredients for human health. it is possible that glutamic acid and proline may play an
Volatiles in pandan leaves have been investigated by using important role in pandan aroma compound formation (12).
several methods where the volatile compounds in groups of Most of ACPY in foods e.g. bread, crackers and sesame is
alcohols, aromatics, carboxylic acids, ketones, aldehydes, formed by strecker degradation during the heating process
esters, hydrocarbon, furans, furanones and terpenoids (3). (13). Naturally, the ACPY just found in pandan leaves,
ACPY (2-acetyl-1-pyroline) is known as important compound bread flower and aromatic rice Basmati and Jasmine
in pandan leaves (Figure 1). The very low odor threshold of rice (3). The optimum absorption of ACPY by rice during
ACPY is 0.1. nL/L has made this volatile the key impact aroma cooking was observed at 15 min of cooking time in optimal
compound frequently found in several foods (3). This compounds water condition (7).
has popcorn and roast like flavour. The formation of foods has Beside, ACPY norisoprenoids are found as other important
been suggested by many researchers to occur during the food compounds in pandan leaves (14). This norisoprenoids are
processing at elevated temperature through a reaction called come from carotenoids degradation have been found in
Mailard reaction. Amino acids can act as natural precursor of pandan leaves, so that this compounds are potential to
ACPY, where the proline and ornithine can act as the precursor act as aroma impact compounds in pandan leaves (14).
of ACPY. By addition Norisoprenoids have positive effect for human health for its
of these precursor the anti-carcinogenic activities (15-17). β-Ionone is one of major
production of ACPY in carotenoids found in pandan leaves by HS-SPME GC-MS (Head
pandan leaves sample will Space Solid Phase Microextraction Gas Chromatography Mass
increase also (12). Spectrophotometry)(14). β-Ionone is one of C-13 norisoprenoids
(Figure 2). This compound can be derived from the oxidation
Several amino acids and of C9-C10 double bound or the oxidation of C9’-C10’ of
reducing sugar as the b-carotene as the major carotenoids in pandan leaves (14).
Figure 1. ACPY as the
precursor of ACPY are Several processed food products and commodities commonly
important compound
in pandan leaves explained on Table 1. undergo the thermal treatment during production to increase
Based on Table 1, fresh product stability or shelf life, food safety, for easily distribution.

Agro FOOD Industry Hi Tech - vol 25(3) - May/June 2014 11

For some products for reducing cellular oxidative damage and reduce degenerative
the thermal conditions such as cardiovascular diseases and cancers. The
processing will consumption of several leafy vegetable are encouraged
give a negative enough to fulfil nutrient especially in developing countries (26).
impact on the Investigation of nutritional value of plants are essential especially
Figure 2. eating quality due to develop strategies to promote the utilization, cultivation and
β-Ionone as C13 to alteration of commercialization on these sources of nutrients which could be
norisoprenoid in
pandan leaves the flavour. The promoted a new source and other developing countries to assist in
thermal processing promoting biodiversity and combating malnutrition (26-27). Several
applied to several phenolic compounds and phenolic compounds were investigated
food products can cause the unwanted flavour development in several pandan leaves based on several geographic origin
that can directly influence the acceptance of the product for (28). Table 2 showed several concentrations of total phenolic and
consumer. Application of flavonoids which is catechin in UHT Milk specific phenolic compounds in pandan leaves.
can increase the acceptance of UHT milk (18).
Pandan leaves with the its flavonoids content
123.5 mg/kg dry weight also have a potentiality as
a preservative and also to increase the consumer
acceptance in thermal processed milk (19-20).


Pandan leaves have been used traditionally

in many Asian countries as food colorants. For
food colorants, the leaves are usually applied
into food as fresh whole leave or juice. Pandan
Table 2. The concentration of total phenolic and some phenolic acids detected in pandan
leaves are become popular in use as a green
extracts from three different locations in Malaysia (28).
food colorant in pandan flavoured cakes, ice
cream and custards and other Asian cuisine.
Synthetic colorants are quite often applied in several products, The extract of pandan leaves from different locations gave
but since the natural colorants are healthier its application influence to the total amount of phenolic compounds. The
of food products have to be promoted. For optimization of extract of pandan from Bachok exhibited highest value (0.423
pandan colorants in food application, an investigation for ± 0.052) of gallic acid compared to Klang (0.325 ± 0.041) and
chlorophyll extraction was performed by using enzymatic Pontian (0.214 ± 0.019) locations (28). In addition, there was no
technique (21). Chlorophyll a and b have been found in significant difference between Klang and Pontian locations for
pandan leaves, where the optimum extraction of chlorophyll gallic acid production in pandan. Based on Table 2, among the
compounds in fresh pandan leaves with 300 ppm zinc chloride studied phenolic compounds, cinamic acid was detected from
at pH 5 and 110ºC for 15 minutes produced the optimal Bachok and Klang locations. Bachok location represent high
condition for Zn-chlorophyll complex formation (21). value (0.084 ± 0.033 mg/g DW) of cinnamic acid then followed by
Klang location (0.033 ± 0.018 mg/g DW). Cinnamic acid was not
detected in pandan extract from Pontian location. Ferulic acid
OTHER RELATED FUNCTIONAL PROPERTIES OF PANDAN LEAVES AS was detected just in pandan extract of Bachock Location (Table
FUNCTIONAL HERBAL LEAVES 2). These several flavonoids in pandan leaves are potential for
human health because it has a good antioxidant activity (3-5).
As a traditional herbal this leaves are generally used for Beside phenolic compounds, the concentration of flavonoid
traditional medicine especially to encounter the typhus illness compounds was also influenced by geographic origin of pandan
in Indonesia (22). The effect of antimicrobial effect of pandan leaves in Malaysia (28). Highest value of total flavonoid content
leaves has been investigated on the preservation of stored milk in pandan was observed in Bachok (1.87 ± 0.246 mg/g DW)
(20). The only biomolecule isolated from fresh pandan leaves is location followed by Klang (1.32 ± 0.211 mg/g DW) and
unglycosylate protein, lectin, called pandanin. Several alkaloids Pontian (1.12 ± 0.177 mg/g DW). Five different flavonoids
such as pandanmine, pandamerilactones with pyrroline derived e.g. rutin, epicatechin, catechin, kaempferol, naringin are
structures are also found in the leaves with is potential activity for identified in pandan leaves (Table 3).
health (23). Pandanin is a single polypeptide chain avs molecular Dried leaves of pandan leaves also available only in the form of
weight of 8 KDa and exhibits hemagglutinating activity toward herbal tea (3). Due to its easy growing requirements, it is suggested
rabbit erythrocytes. Pandanin also have a potential antiviral that this herb, could be used not only flavouring and colorants
activities against human viruses e.g. herpes simplex virus type=1 but also a good potential as traditional herbal treatments since
(HSV-1) and influenza virus (H1N1) (23). the antioxidant activity effect (5). Besides as a common flavour
Like other green leafy vegetables, pandan leaves are also and colorant additive in several Asian cuisine, pandan leaves
known as potential source of several lipophilic antioxidant e.g. have potential applications in biomedical application because
β-carotene, vitamin E, phenolic compounds, ascorbic acid (24- of its anti-inflammation, antioxidation and aromatic properties.
25). Besides the lipophilic antioxidants, it also contain quercetin, The water extract of fresh leaves has a cooling effect and is
alkaloids, fatty acids and ester (5). Leafy vegetables are excellent for treatments of internal inflammations, colds, coughs,
nutrients dense sources. They possess antioxidant activity and and measles. A drink made by boiling finely chopped fresh stem
thus have the potential to be used as cheap natural sources of pandan leaves in water is also used to cure urinary infections.

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The juice extracted
from the leaves mixed
with Aloe vera is
used to cure some
skin diseases. The
aromatic herbal tea
of the leaves has a
cardiotonic function
Table 3. The concentration of total flavonoid and some flavonoid compounds detected in pandan extracts from
(3). Pandan leaves
three different locations in Malaysia (28).
were proved to
have a good activity
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