In the West there is increasing interest in pandan, aka pandanus amaryllifolius, or screwpine, due to its culinary versatility and purported health benefits.
This means it’s going to end up on our tables a lot more. And since there are so many things we can make with pandan, it’s possible we’ll end up giving it to our dogs as a snack.
Who am I kidding, our dogs will probably ask for it.
But can dogs eat pandan?
What is pandan and where does it come from?
Pandan, originating in Southeast Asia, has been used to flavour Southeast Asian and Asian cuisine for ages.
This shrub or tree-sized plant features fragrant blade-like leaves that are often sold frozen or fresh, and may be powdered, boiled, juiced, or used as a wrap for certain dishes. Sometimes pandan also has a fibrous fruit that resembles a reddish-orange pinecone/pineapple hybrid. The fruit can be made into a paste or eaten raw.
What food items can be made with pandan?
So many things can be made with pandan.
The leaves, when powdered or ground, are often used to add a sort of vanilla/coconut flavouring to breads, chiffon cakes, waffles, and other baked goodies.
It also gets added to rice, curries, infused in alcohol, and so much more. A famous Malaysian dish called Nasi Lemak is made by adding pandan leaf extract to steamed rice and coconut milk.
Sounds good already, right?
What is the nutrition in pandan?
Pandan is not only popular for its taste. It’s rich in nutrients too!
A paste made from pandan leaves and fruit is ultra-rich in beta carotene – something we need to make vitamin A. Pandan is also among the rare plants that contain high amounts of both iron and fibre.
The leaves are uniquely high in potassium as well as antioxidant compounds, including flavonoids, phenolic compounds, vitamin E and ascorbic acid. And don’t forget essential oils, glycosides, alkaloids, and traces of tannin and isoprene esters.
Pandan has it all!
Is pandan toxic to dogs?
Good news. After all this talk about how tasty pandan is, it’s also considered safe for dogs, and is not among the plants listed by the ASPCA as toxic.
So will pandan have any good or bad side-effects if a dog ingests it?
Pandan’s effects on dogs specifically is not known. But we can learn a bit from what we know about pandan’s effects on people.
In ayurvedic medicine pandan is known for its ability to help with all sorts of ailments. It may help with arthritis, inflammation, high blood sugar, oral health, constipation, cold and flu-like symptoms, and even skin care.
On the downside, the fruit may be a tad high in sugar and act as a mild laxative. And people with kidney problems are advised not to use pandan regularly or in excess because it may cause an upset stomach, nausea, or damage the kidneys.
As with most things, moderation is essential. Since pandan is not known to be included in any dog food, you should restrict giving your dog pandan products except as an occasional snack.
Sounds super-delicious. Enough talk, let’s get eating.
But what else do those snacks contain?
Can dogs eat pandan cake?
A recipe for pandan chiffon cake includes:
Pandan juice or essence
Cream of tartar
Potential problem ingredients:
- As always, it is important to note how much flour we give our dogs. While it is included in many dog snacks already, it can be a problem for dogs with digestive issues. Keep an eye out for bloating, signs of inflammatory bowel syndrome (like flatulence or pain), or an intolerance to gluten.
Otherwise, small amounts won’t hurt.
- Similarly, low amounts of salt are safe for your dog. But dogs with kidney, liver, and heart problems should be on low sodium diets.
- Some people online are really freaked out about baking powder. Yes, if ingested alone, baking powder is toxic. But once it’s cooked it’s harmless.
- Sugar is known to contribute to obesity, diabetes, and poor oral health in dogs. And in people too! This recipe (as with most recipes for baked goods) calls for quite a bit of sugar. Be aware.
Cream of tartar
- It’s used to make the meringue. Interestingly, tartaric acid may be the reason why grapes and raisins are poisonous to dogs. Consumption of cream of tartar may therefore cause acute vomiting and kidney failure. Skip the meringue, or don’t bother giving this cake to your dog as a snack.
A recipe for pandan bread includes:
Instant dry yeast
Potential problem ingredients (not yet discussed):
- Many dogs are lactose intolerant. Even among those who are not, milk should only be given in small quantities. Dogs have a difficult time digesting it, leading to diarrhea and vomiting.
And that’s about it!
Another potential problem ingredient you may encounter in goods made with pandan, like pandan waffles for example, is:
- Most vanilla extracts contain alcohol. And while there probably won’t be enough in your cake or waffle to do any harm, it would be safer to go with an alcohol-free vanilla flavouring.
While we’re on the subject of ingredients, let’s consider some herbs we probably have in our kitchen right now.
What are some of the best herbs to give dogs?
- If you’ve ever made a soup or stew with chicken, there’s a good chance you’ve come across rosemary. Full of antioxidants, rosemary may help prevent cancer and heart disease. Its antimicrobial properties could be helpful for dogs with digestive issues. And there is some evidence it may be helpful for anxious dogs as well. Bonus points for being a natural flea repellant.
- If you cook with curries, you have must have some turmeric in your cupboard. A potent anti-inflammatory complete with antioxidants, turmeric may help fight cancer, arthritis, gastrointestinal disorders, and support liver function. It’s also a natural pain killer!
- Used to flavour everything from water to vegetables to seafood, there’s always time for thyme (sorry, I had to). Thyme is high in vitamins and antioxidants and may act as an antiseptic and boost your dog’s digestive health. It’s also said to have antifungal and antibacterial properties.
Now that I’ve got you rooting through your cupboard to see if you have these super-herbs on hand…
Leaves and herbs commonly used in cooking that are toxic to dogs
Not so fast. The following three herbs are super-common, and while they may have positive effects at the right doses, they are all listed as toxic by the ASPCA.
- Oil of oregano is so popular right now. For people and dogs. But the ASPCA lists vomiting and diarrhea as possible side-effects. If you’re going to use it, get a type that’s specifically formulated for your dog.
- If you have a spice rack, you probably have parsley. It’s known to have some benefits for dogs, like soothing a sore stomach, or freshening dog breath. But in sufficient amounts it may also cause photosensitization and make your dog susceptible to sunburn and skin problems.
- The ASPCA lists vomiting and diarrhea as possible side-effects, and notes that ingestion of a whole leaf could obstruct breathing.
Can dogs eat pandan leaves?
As in the case of bay leaves, it’s probably best to avoid giving your dog (or letting your dog) eat whole pandan leaves, cooked or otherwise. It may be a chocking hazard. But otherwise, snacks including pandan should be ok on occasion.
You will find pandan in many forms. The fruit, the leaves, baked into cakes, breads, and waffles. It’s also made into a delicious cold snack – buko pandan.
If we’re careful, it could also be a snack for our dogs. Moderation is key. We probably don’t – and won’t – eat pandan every day. Neither should our dogs.
But since pandan recipes look so delicious, why not try some? If you’re going to bake, include a bit of pandan and reap the health benefits. Add some sweet grassy, coconutty, almondy, vanilla-type flavour to your soups, stews and curries.
And don’t be afraid to share with your dog every once in a while.