What Is Grass Jelly?

Britt Archer

Grass jelly is certainly not much to look at, jiggling on a plate with its shiny black or dark green appearance. Admirers of the Asian jelly-like dessert say diners should try to overlook its appearance and not pass up a chance to give it try if they find grass jelly on the menu. A plant-based food, it is pleasant-tasting to many, and some proponents also tout its purported benefits for better health. Others who have tasted it report that it is slightly bitter. Grass jelly, also called leaf jelly, can be found in iced desserts, drinks and snack foods.

Grass jelly is a jiggly Asian dessert that has a shiny black or dark green appearance.
Grass jelly is a jiggly Asian dessert that has a shiny black or dark green appearance.

Manufacturers make green jelly from a plant called mesona chinensis, which belongs to the mint family of herbs. Although the jelly is popular in Taiwanese dishes, the country’s climate is not conducive to growing the herb and much of the product must be imported from other Southeast Asian countries. The manufacturing process includes several hours of boiling the dried herb down into a gelatinous and gummy substance. During this part of the process it smells very medicinal. After the hours of boiling, the mixture is strained and then kneaded with a bit of flour. After hours of work, the substance is finally ready to be formed by cooling in trays into the cubes that are known as grass jelly.

Grass jelly can be found in both snack and drink forms, as well as in iced desserts.
Grass jelly can be found in both snack and drink forms, as well as in iced desserts.

The consistency of green jelly is similar to that of aiyu jelly, which is manufactured from figs. Cooks use green jelly in a wide variety of recipes, including pairing it with fruit and ice for dessert, and even as a beverage, albeit a thick one that relies on melting to achieve the desired consistency in certain dishes. Chefs at some Taiwanese restaurants enjoy mixing grass jelly with traditional flavorings such as chocolate or strawberry. Diners who have come to enjoy grass jelly say it is a cooling dish.

Manufacturers claim the green jelly is beneficial for a number of health problems, including the common cold, infections and high blood pressure, although there are no scientific studies to back up this claim. Some women in Vietnam turn to grass jelly drinks to improve their fertility. It is a popular ingredient in many Asian cultures, and the variety of names bestowed on green jelly reflects its widespread use. In Taiwan it is known as chao kuay, while in Singapore it is referred to as chin chow. The Vietnamese named it suong sam, and in Malaysia it is cincau.

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Discussion Comments


Please send more nutritional facts of grass jelly. I bought it and it tastes good, but what I'm interested is the iron content. Is it 11% as stipulated on the label? No one mentioned the iron content. Any comment?


I would say it tastes close to yerba mate almost. It's slightly sweet with a little perfume taste to it. It's very pleasant.


@MsClean - Grass jelly is beneficial at preventing many diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. It contains a healthy dose of carbohydrates, calcium, vitamins A, B and C, and phosphorus.

Contrary to what some people believe, grass jelly does not taste anything like grass or even an herb as far as that goes. It has more of a mild medicinal flavor similar to a lavender iodine.

Some people add honey or syrup to sweeten up a grass jelly drink recipe.


I worked with an Asian gal once that used to keep a bowl of that black jelly in the refrigerator at work sometimes. She didn't talk much so I didn't dare ask her what it tastes like to save from hurting her feelings.

Does anyone know what it tastes like? Being in the mint family I'm thinking apple-mint which I love but the dark green almost black appearance throws me off a bit. Also what are some of the grass jelly health benefits anyway?

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