Grass jelly is a popular dessert in many Asian countries, including China, Taiwan, and Southeast Asia. It is a dark-colored jelly that is made from the leaves of the Chinese mesona plant, which is boiled with potassium carbonate and then cooled to form a gelatinous substance. Grass jelly is often served with syrup or fruit and is known for its unique taste and texture.

Many people describe the taste of grass jelly as slightly bitter and earthy, with a hint of sweetness. The texture is often compared to that of gelatin or jello, but with a slightly firmer and chewier consistency. Some people also note a cooling sensation in their mouth after eating grass jelly, which is thought to be due to its natural properties.

Despite its unique taste and texture, grass jelly is a beloved dessert in many parts of the world. It is often used in a variety of dishes, including shaved ice, smoothies, and milk tea. Whether you are a fan of bold flavors or prefer something more subtle, grass jelly is definitely worth trying for its distinct taste and cultural significance.

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What does grass jelly taste like

Grass jelly is a popular Asian dessert made from the leaves and stalks of the Mesona Chinensis plant. It is known for its unique texture and subtle flavor, making it a favorite among many. In this section, we will explore what grass jelly tastes like and how it compares to other foods.


The texture of grass jelly is often described as gelatinous or jelly-like. It is similar in texture to agar or jello, but with a slightly firmer consistency. When eaten, it has a smooth and slightly chewy texture that is satisfying to bite into.

Flavor Profile

The flavor of grass jelly is subtle and slightly sweet. It has a mild herbal taste with hints of mint and a slightly bitter aftertaste. Some people describe it as having a grassy or earthy flavor, but this is not overpowering. Overall, it is a refreshing and light dessert that is not overly sweet.

What is Grass Jelly?

Grass jelly, known as 仙草烧 in Chinese, has a very distinct appearance and texture. It comes in dark sheets or cubes that are slimy and supple. When added to beverages or desserts, the grass jelly cubes wiggle and jiggle!

To make grass jelly, the Mesona chinensis plant is boiled to extract its starch and juice. The broth thickens into a gelatinous jelly which is then cut into pieces. Other names for this ingredient include leaf jelly and herb jelly.

The finished jelly is 70-80% water, so it has an extremely mild flavor. It is subtly sweet and slightly bitter. The herbaceous taste comes from the chlorophyll in the leaves. The dark green color is also derived from the plant pigments.

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Grass Jelly Origins and History

Grass jelly has ancient origins as a Chinese medicinal ingredient and dessert. It dates back over 2,000 years to the Han Dynasty in China. During the hot summer months, people turned to grass jelly as a cooling, yin food.

The early Chinese herbal text Compendium of Materia Medica by Li Shizhen described grass jelly as having “cooling and detoxifying qualities.” It was believed to provide relief from fever, inflammation, sore throat, and other heat-related maladies.

Over time, the jelly grew in popularity not just for its perceived medicinal properties but also as a refreshing treat. By the Qing Dynasty in the 1700s, grass jelly was commonly served as a dessert at banquets among the imperial noble class. Vendors also sold grass jelly drinks on the streets in hot months.

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The Cultural Significance

Grass jelly, known by various names across different cultures, traces its roots back to Southeast Asia and China. Whether referred to as “cincau” in Indonesia or “仙草” (xiān cǎo) in China, this dessert has been widely popular in Asian countries in different ways of serving.

CountryLocal NameCultural Notes
China仙草Often consumed during the summer to combat heat.
IndonesiaCincauAn essential ingredient in the popular drink, “es cincau.”
ThailandChao KuaiCommonly served with syrup and shaved ice.
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Comparison with Other jellies

At first glance, grass jelly might remind many of other gelatinous foods . Let’s explore some of these resemblances:

  • Agar-Agar: Originating from seaweed, agar-agar is a popular vegan gelatin substitute. While they both offer a similar jelly-like consistency, agar-agar is flavorless and often has a firmer texture than grass jelly. Its vegan nature also makes it a preferred choice for those avoiding animal products.
  • Gelatin: The primary ingredient in many Western desserts like jello, gelatin comes from animal collagen. Unlike the slightly bitter profile of grass jelly, gelatin is tasteless. Moreover, while grass jelly naturally solidifies upon cooling, gelatin requires a setting agent to achieve its jelly consistency.
  • Konnyaku (Konjac Jelly): A staple in Japanese cuisine, Konnyaku is made from the konjac plant’s root. It’s more rubbery in texture compared to grass jelly and is known for its health benefits, especially for weight loss.

Preparation and Cooking Methods

This gelatinous dessert can be made from the Mesona chinensis plant or from commercially available grass jelly powder. Here, we’ll delve into both methods, helping you recreate this beloved treat in the comfort of your home.

1. From the Mesona chinensis Plant

The traditional way to make grass jelly is by using the dried leaves of the Mesona chinensis plant with a basic outline of the following.


  1. Soaking: Begin by soaking the dried leaves in water for about 3 hours.
  2. Boiling: Transfer the soaked leaves into a pot, add water, and let it boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 2 to 3 hours, until the water has reduced by half.
  3. Straining and Setting: Strain the boiled mixture to remove any leaf residues, ensuring you extract as much liquid as possible. If desired, add sugar or honey to the liquid while it’s still warm.
  4. Cooling: Pour the strained liquid into molds or a flat dish and leave it to cool. As it cools, it will thicken and take on a jelly-like consistency.
  5. Serving: Once set, you can cut the grass jelly into desired shapes and serve.

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How to Make grass jelly

The convenience of grass jelly powder makes it a popular choice for many. This method is quicker and yields similar results.
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  • 100 g Grass Jelly Powder
  • 600 ml Water as directed on the packet, typically around 2 liters
  • Optional: Sugar or honey for sweetness read about the instruction to see whether any amount of sugar is needed


  • Dissolving the Powder: In a large bowl, mix the grass jelly powder with a small amount of water to create a smooth paste.
  • Boiling: In a pot, bring the rest of the water to a boil. Once boiling, add the dissolved jelly paste to the pot, stirring continuously.
  • Sweetening: If you wish to add sweetness, now is the time to stir in your sugar or honey. Continue to boil and stir for another 5-10 minutes, ensuring the powder is fully dissolved and integrated.
  • Setting: Pour the mixture into molds or a flat dish and allow it to cool at room temperature. Once it starts to set (usually in a few hours), you can transfer it to the refrigerator. We use lovely mold like bear mold and a lovely heart mold this time. They looks so lovely.
  • Serving: After it’s fully set, you can cut the grass jelly into cubes or desired shapes and serve.


How is Grass Jelly Used in Cooking?

Grass jelly’s mild flavor and slippery, bouncy texture make it adaptable to both sweet and savory dishes. Here are some popular ways it is used:

  • Cold drinks – You can use grass jelly in chilled beverages like lemonade, fruit smoothies, milkshakes, and fresh juices.
grassy jelly with sago and coconut milk |
grassy jelly with sago and coconut milk
  • Boba milk tea – Bubble tea with tapioca balls almost always includes grass jelly cubes too.
  • Sweet soups – In Chinese dessert soups, grass jelly is added for texture and color contrast because it has a lovely black color.
  • Ice desserts – Shaved ice, ice kachang, halo-halo, and other Asian ice desserts contain chunks of grass jelly.
  • Fruit salad – Grass jelly cubes bring a fun new dimension to fresh fruit salads.
  • Puddings – The jelly can be layered or swirled into spoonable coconut, tapioca, or other puddings.

With its versatility, chefs find new ways to use grass jelly in fusion cuisine. Following is a grass jelly milk tea recipe.

Grass Jelly Milk Tea

You can easily transform grass jelly into a lovely milk tea drink.
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  • 100 g grass jelly powder
  • 600 ml water for grass jelly
  • 1 bag black tea use 2 for stronger tea flavor
  • 1 cup water for tea
  • 1 cup sweetened condensed milk or to taste
  • Ice cubes
  • 2 tbsp. crystal boba


  • Dissolving the Powder: In a large bowl, mix the grass jelly powder with a small amount of water to create a smooth paste.
  • Boiling: In a pot, bring the rest of the water to a boil. Once boiling, add the dissolved jelly paste to the pot, stirring continuously.
  • Sweetening: If you wish to add sweetness, now is the time to stir in your sugar or honey. Continue to boil and stir for another 5-10 minutes, ensuring the powder is fully dissolved and integrated.
  • Setting: Pour the mixture into molds or a flat dish and allow it to cool at room temperature. Once it starts to set (usually in a few hours), you can transfer it to the refrigerator.
  • serving: cut the jelly into the small cubes that can pass the straw
  • Add hot boiling water to black tea and let is steep for 4 minutes. Let it cool completely.
  • Drop grass jelly cubes into the glass (I also use some crystal boba pearls too), then add ice cubes if using, stir in sweetened condensed milk . Stir to combine.
  • Enjoy with a fat straw and spoon for the jelly chunks.


How to Buy and Store Grass Jelly

When purchasing grass jelly, you can find it in Asian grocery stores in a few different forms:

  • Dried grass jelly powder – This reconstitutes in water to form a jelly.
  • Pre-cut cubes – The most convenient option, sold in jars or packs.
  • Whole leaf jelly sheets – To cut into DIY cubes or shreds.
  • Grass jelly drinks – Many bottled Asian drinks contain grass jelly.

For storage, keep dried grass jelly powder in a cool, dry place until ready to use. Refrigerate pre-cut grass jelly or jelly sheets for up to one week. The jelly will start to lose its shape if stored too long.

grassy jelly milk tea |
grassy jelly milk tea

Health Benefits and Nutrition of Grass Jelly

Grass jelly is very low in calories and rich in hydration. A 100-gram serving contains just 30 to 40 calories based on the sugar level. It is free of fat and cholesterol while providing some fiber, protein, calcium, and iron. Some of the proposed health benefits of consuming grass jelly include:

  • Hydration – With its high water content, grass jelly can prevent dehydration.
  • Digestion – The soluble fiber may improve gut health and promote regularity.
  • Cooling effect – Its cooling properties could help lower body temperature and inflammation.
  • Detox – Compounds in the jelly may support kidney and liver function.
  • Heart health – Grass jelly provides potassium which is beneficial for blood pressure.

While many of these benefits are anecdotal, the jelly’s low-calorie, high-nutrient profile does support wellness. It makes for a more nutritious dessert choice than sugar-laden options.

Allergies and Dietary Restrictions

Though it is enjoyed by many, it’s essential to consider those with dietary restrictions or allergies:

  • Vegans and Vegetarians: Grass jelly derived from the Mesona chinensis plant is entirely plant-based, making it suitable for both vegans and vegetarians. However, always ensure that commercially bought grass jelly or powders don’t have any non-vegan additives.
  • Allergies: While allergies to grass jelly are rare, it’s crucial to be aware. Signs of an allergic reaction include itching, hives, swelling, and in severe cases, difficulty breathing. If any of these symptoms occur after consuming grass jelly, it’s imperative to seek medical attention.
  • Medical Interactions: Due to its cooling properties, grass jelly might not be suitable for those with certain medical conditions or those on specific medications. Always consult with a healthcare professional if in doubt.

Frequently Asked Questions About Grass Jelly

If you are new to using grass jelly, you may have some questions about how to select, prepare, and cook with it.

What does it taste like?

Grass jelly has a very mild flavor. It is lightly sweet and herbaceous with subtle bitter notes from the plant. The jelly itself takes on the flavors of the dishes it is prepared with.

Is grass jelly good for you?

Yes, grass jelly is fat-free, cholesterol-free, and low-calorie. It provides some fiber, minerals, and hydration. Grass jelly is considered a cooling food in Traditional Chinese Medicine

Any Substitutes?

If you can’t find grass jelly, substitute mini tapioca pearls, agar jelly cubes, or chia seeds. They won’t mimic the exact texture but provide a similar effect.

Does grass jelly have any medicinal properties?

Yes, traditional Chinese medicine values grass jelly for its cooling properties and its ability to aid digestion.

Can I consume grass jelly daily?

While grass jelly can be part of a balanced diet, like all foods, it should be consumed in moderation.

How is grass jelly different from other jellies?

Unlike gelatin-based jellies, grass jelly derives its gelatinous texture from the boiled extracts of the Mesona chinensis plant. It is vegan friendly and gluten free.


Grass jelly is sure to become your new favorite ingredient once you try it! With proper selection and storage, you can always keep grass jelly stocked to elevate your beverages, dessert soups, puddings, and more.

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