Pandan and Coconut Agar Agar Jello

A dessert staple in household growing up, agar agar was my first introduction to what most know as jello. Rendered from red algae, agar agar is generally prepared either from sticks or, as I used here, powder form, and yields a much firmer texture than your traditional gelatin desserts. A nice alternative for vegetarians, agar also has many other uses outside of being served as a straight dessert. It can be used as a stabilizing agent in many other dishes such as whipped cream and as well as a thickening agent in savory or sweet dishes such as jellies. Personally, my favorite way to have it is as a dessert, sweetened and chilled. Simple, easy, delicious, and refreshing!

Growing up, my mother used to always make agar agar for special occasion desserts and used to almost always mix it with coconut milk to give it a richer, more luxurious flavor and texture. While I love my coco nut, I personally prefer it as a layered dessert to provide some counterbalance to the richness. One of my favorite combinations is pandan, or screwpine leaves, and coconut. Pandan is wonderfully aromatic and lends a sweet and unique flavor unlike anything else that I’ve ever tasted. Traditionally prepared by boiling knotted pandan leaves in with the agar, if you aren’t able to find fresh pandan don’t worry. Most asian supermarkets will have pandan essence/flavoring readily available. I picked up a bottle for about $1.50 in Philly and barely used more than a few drops…a little will go a long way!

Agar sets at room temperature in about an hour so preparation is fairly quick and easy. One of the beautiful things about agar is that after it sets, if you find that the texture is either too firm or too soft, it can be melted again over medium heat, readjusted, and then reset. In my first attempt of the coconut layer, I found that I did not add enough agar so the coconut was too soft and separated from the pandan layer. I took it off, reheated it, added more agar, and voila! Success! Seriously, if only so many other dishes in life were this forgiving.

Pandan and Coconut Agar Agar

As envisioned by TastyDesu


For Pandan layer:
2 teaspoons agar agar powder (I use Telephone brand)
2 cups of water, lukewarm
1/2 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon pandan essence

For Coconut layer
3 teaspoons agar agar powder
1 13.5oz can coconut milk
1/2 cup water
5 tablespoons sugar


Prepare pandan layer first. Begin by mixing agar powder with lukewarm water and let stand 15 minutes. This allows the agar to bloom and ensures an even textured product. After blooming, heat over medium high heat and add sugar. Bring to a simmer and stir until sugar has dissolved completely. Add pandan. Let simmer 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and pour into mold. I used a 9×13 aluminum pan. Allow to set at room temperature for 25 minutes before beginning coconut mixture.

For coconut layer, mix agar powder and water and let stand for 15 minutes. In a small saucepan, heat over medium heat and mix in coconut milk and sugar. Bring to simmer and stir until sugar has dissolved completely. Allow to gently simmer for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and gently pour over pandan layer. I like to pour this over the back of a spoon so that it gently pours into the pandan mixture without melting it. Allow to set until firm at room temperate, about 1 hour. Chill. Cut into decorative shapes and serve. Enjoy!


~ by tastydesu on July 26, 2010.

8 Responses to “Pandan and Coconut Agar Agar Jello”

  1. can i replace pandan essence with pandan leaf?i it can how many pandan leaf i need to replace pandan essence to make pandan layer

    thanks 🙂

    • Hi Sonny! I’d recommend using 2-3 pandan leaves per batch. Bring the 2 cups of water to a boil and then add in your pandan leaves. Lower heat and simmer, covered, 5-10 minutes, until the water becomes really fragrant and aromatic. Remove from heat, uncover, set aside and allow to cool to lukewarm temparature.

      From there, continue with the recipe as directed, using this newly prepared pandan extract water to bloom the agar, etc. You may need to remeasure the pandan extract water to make sure it’s 2 cups (add in additional water if necessary) before you throw in the agar to bloom. I hope this helps and good luck! 🙂

  2. does the pandan essence give that green color or did you use food coloring?

  3. I know this was posted a few years ago, but I stumbled upon this article and I had a question. I have no pandan and I just need to make the coconut layer, so do I still use the recipe (3 teaspoons agar agar powder, 1 13.5oz can coconut milk, 1/2 cup water & 5 tablespoons sugar) or do I change the amount of water/coconut milk/agar-agar power higher (ex. 6 tablespoons of agar-agar and 1 cup of water)? I need to make a big batch, too, seeing that it is for a potluck.


    • Hi Alex! If you need to make a big batch and you just want to have the coconut flavor, just double the ingredients for the coconut layer…6 teaspoons agar agar powder, 2 cans coconut milk, 1 cup water, and 10 tablespoons sugar.

      How many people are you planning on serving at your pot luck? If there are a lot, you can easily triple this recipe as well. My mom would make big, thick blocks of this and then cut it down to bit sized pieces.

  4. Hi, hope you will still be able to answer my question. I love my jello’s a bit more chewy so I was wondering if I use more agar agar powder would the jello be more firm? Or does the 2 teaspoon already comes out firm. Thanks!

    • Hi! With this recipe and the ratio of agar powder to water, the jello already comes out pretty firm. I would call it “finger food” firm. You are welcome to add additional agar powder to the recipe though if you prefer your jello really firm, like my mom does 🙂 I posted another recipe for the jasmine jello which yields a jello firm enough to run through a mandolin slicer:

      this one gives you firmer consistency like what you’ll find in che ba mau and other such desserts. I hope this helps!

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