It’s wise to have coconut sugar substitute options in your kitchen.
Importantly, coconut sugar is neither a miracle food nor a healthy substitute for table sugar.
It is quite akin to regular table sugar. From the point of nutrition, it is not better either.
We recommend using it sparingly or finding another healthy ingredient to replace coconut sugar.
What is coconut sugar?
Coconut flowers contain a sugary circulating sap. Coconut sugar is a granulated sugar made from coconut palm tree flower sap.
Some folks also call coconut sugar palm sugar. However, the actual palm sugar is obtained from a different type of palm tree.
The making process of coconut sugar involves 2 steps:
- A cut is made on the coconut flower before blossoming, and the liquid sap is collated in a specially designed container.
- The sap is heated till all water in it evaporates.
Finally, the end product of this process is granulated and brown sugar.
The color of coconut sugar is quite similar to raw sugar. But it has a smaller particle size and more variables. Most baking recipes use coconut sugar instead of white sugar or brown sugar.
What’s the best coconut sugar substitute?
Coconut sugar is somewhat healthier than regular table sugar.
But the overconsumption of coconut sugar is equally dangerous and harmful as table sugar.
Registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator Deborah Malkoff-Cohen tells that naturally occurring sugars are better for health. Natural sugars are found in foods like milk (lactose) and fruit (fructose).
The swaps for coconut sugar must be natural sugars got from fructose and lactose.
Your substitute sugar should not contain sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup.
Here are 6 best alternatives to coconut palm sugar:
1. Light brown sugar
Both white and brown sugar comes from sugar cane or sugar beet plants. Brown sugar is made by adding molasses to refined sugar.
Light brown sugar contains fewer molasses than dark brown sugar.
The flavor and color of the light brown sugar are identical to coconut sugar. It’s the best overall substitute for coconut sugar.
You can replace the coconut sugar with brown sugar in a 1:1 ratio. You may alter the ratio of substitution according to sweetness.
Because the molasses is in brown sugar, it contains minerals like potassium, calcium, magnesium, and iron.
Warning: Overconsumption of brown sugar may result in obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.
Sucanat is less processed and more natural than white sugar.
Sucanat is made by heating sugar cane juice into a thick syrup. After heating, the syrup is cooled and crumbled into dry granules.
Sucanat has a light brown appearance and tastes almost like coconut sugar.
The granules of Sucanat sugar have a hard texture and take longer to dissolve than regular sugar. Most cooks prefer to grind it before adding it to recipes.
You can use Sucanat as a substitute for coconut sugar in the same ratio of measure.
Warning: As warned by the American Heart Association points out, consuming too much-added sugars such as Sucanat can lead to heart disease, obesity, and type-2 diabetes.
3. Maple sugar
Maple sugar is produced from the sap of maple trees.
Maple sugar is just maple syrup that’s been cooked a bit longer. After heating, the syrup is stirred with a paddle until it forms granular sugar.
Maple sugar is a nice alternative to coconut sugar as both of them share a similar flavor profile. The substituting ratio is a 1:1 measure.
Warning: Like every other sugar, excessive use of maple sugar will do no good to your body.
4. Date sugar
Date sugar is made from dried dates.
Date sugar is made by first making a paste from raw dates mixed with maltodextrin. The mixture is heat dried and ground into granules.
This natural sugar contains a few useful vitamins and minerals.
Date sugar is as sweet as coconut sugar and can be used as a 1:1 substitute for it.
Some studies suggest that date sugar may help alleviate constipation and diabetes issues.
Warning: Consuming too much date sugar may cause abdominal issues, fructose intolerance, weight gain, and a rise in blood sugar levels.
5. Raw honey
Many folks like to use raw honey as a sweetener because it has a healthier aura than table sugar.
It is loaded with antioxidants, amino acids, vitamins, and minerals.
You can swap raw honey and coconut sugar to add sweetness to juices, smoothies, and raw recipes. Cooking honey deteriorates its quality and loses its essential nutrients and enzymes.
Liquid honey is sweeter than coconut sugar, and you may require only ½ the portion while substituting it.
Warning: Using large amounts of honey might increase blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes.
6. Stevia sugar
Stevia is the healthiest substitute for white, coconut, and brown sugar.
Stevia sugar is extracted from the leaves of the stevia plant.
Most importantly, it contains no calories and is 200 times sweeter than table sugar. It does not increase blood sugar.
Stevia is a healthy alternative to coconut sugar. One teaspoon of powdered stevia equals 1 cup of coconut sugar.
Warning: Long-term use of stevia sugar may adversely affect the kidney because of its diuretic effect. In the long run, it may also lower blood sugar levels and blood pressure.
Other Coconut Sugar Alternatives
Besides the overall 6 best substitutes for coconut palm sugar listed above, here are more alternatives you can use in place of coconut sugar:
7. Agave syrup
In many recipes, you can use agave syrup as a substitute for coconut sugar. However, they have different consistencies and sweetness levels. Adjust the quantity and other ingredients accordingly. While using agave syrup, reduce the oven temperature slightly and increase the baking time to prevent over-browning.
8. Maple syrup
Maple syrup has a different taste and consistency than coconut sugar in baking. Maple syrup may affect the overall flavor and texture of the dish. Since pure maple syrup is a liquid sweetener, you may need to adjust the amount of other liquids in the recipe.
9. Demerara sugar or Turbinado sugar
Demerara sugar can be a good alternative to coconut sugar in most recipes. While there are some differences in taste and texture, they have a similar flavor profile with notes of caramel and molasses.
Demerara sugar has larger crystals than the latter. It may not dissolve as easily and could leave a gritty texture in your dish. Consider grinding the Demerara sugar to create a finer texture before using it.
10. Piloncillo or Panela
Piloncillo is an unrefined Mexican cane sugar with a similar taste and texture to coconut sugar. It has notes of caramel and molasses. Piloncillo has a harder texture than coconut sugar and may need to be grated or broken down into smaller pieces before use. Panela is also sweeter than the latter, so you may want to start by using a little less.
11. Monk fruit sweetener
Monk Fruit Sweetener is a zero-calorie sweetener made from a small green fruit called monk fruit. It is a popular alternative to traditional sugar. When using Monk Fruit Sweetener as a replacement for coconut sugar in recipes, it may affect the texture of baked goods. So you may need to adjust the recipe accordingly.
Erythritol is a good swap for coconut sugar in many recipes. Erythritol is a low-calorie sweetener that has become increasingly popular as a white table sugar substitute in recent years. It’s made from fermented corn or wheat starch and has about 70% of the sweetness of table sugar. It has only a fraction of the calories of table sugar.
When using Erythritol as a replacement for coconut sugar, start by substituting it on a 1:1 basis.
Tagatose is a low-calorie, low-glycemic sweetener made from lactose found in dairy products. It has a similar sweetness level to sugar. It is often used as a sugar substitute in baking and cooking. Replace coconut sugar with Tagatose on a 1:1 basis and adjust according to taste preferences.
Xylitol is a low-calorie sweetener that has a similar sweetness level to regular granulated sugar. It is commonly derived from birch bark or corn cobs and has about 1/3 fewer calories than regular sugar. When you swap Xylitol for coconut sugar, start by substituting it on a 1:1 basis and adjust according to taste preferences.
15. Date syrup
Both sweeteners are natural and have a similar sweetness level, so they can typically be used interchangeably in recipes. Date syrup has a more liquid consistency than coconut sugar, a dry, granulated sweetener. So, you may need to adjust the amount of other liquids in your recipe.
Molasses is a thick, dark syrup derived from sugar cane or sugar beets. It has a strong, distinct flavor that differs from coconut sugar’s mild sweetness. Using molasses instead of coconut sugar may change the taste of your dish. You may need to use a bit more molasses to achieve the same level of sweetness in your recipe.
17. Brown rice syrup
Brown rice syrup is a thick, amber-colored syrup made by breaking down cooked brown rice with enzymes. It has a mild sweetness similar to coconut sugar but less sweet. Use a bit more of it to achieve the same level of sweetness in your recipe.
Allulose is a low-calorie sweetener that is derived from natural sources such as figs and raisins. It has a sweetness level that is similar to coconut sugar.
However, allulose has a different texture and consistency than coconut sugar. It is a crystalline powder rather than a granulated sweetener.
Allulose does not caramelize like coconut sugar; thus, not suitable for recipes that require browning or caramelization.
Swerve is a low-calorie sweetener made from Erythritol. It can be used in place of coconut sugar in a 1:1 ratio. However, Swerve does not have the same caramel-like flavor as the former, so your recipe may taste slightly different.
Muscovado is an unrefined cane sugar with a rich, molasses-like flavor similar to coconut sugar. It can be used in place of coconut sugar in a 1:1 ratio. It is slightly more moist and sticky so it may affect the texture of your recipe slightly. Also, muscovado sugar is usually darker in color, so your recipe may have a darker appearance.
Advantages of coconut sugar over regular table sugar
Coconut sugar contains quite a bit of natural nutrients present in the coconut palm sap. Whereas regular sugar contains only empty calories and no nutrients.
Some of the expected benefits of coconut palm sugar are:
- Coconut sugar has a lower glycemic index
- contains a bit of mineral-like iron, zinc, calcium, and potassium
- it contains a fiber called inulin which reduces glucose absorption
- it includes some short-chain fatty acids like polyphenols and antioxidants
What is bad about coconut sugar?
You might have seen frequent claims that coconut sugar is effectively fructose-free. In reality, it is made of 70-80% sucrose, half fructose.
Secondly, coconut sugar contains a lot of calories. It is quite similar to the table sugar in calorie content.
The nutrients present in coconut palm sugar are only a negligible amount. You must eat natural and healthy foods to get the required nutrients, not coconut sugar.
Coconut sugar is very high in calories (the same as regular sugar), and you’d have to eat a ridiculous amount to satisfy your need for the above nutrients.
Like table sugar, excess consumption of coconut sugar can cause problems like metabolic syndrome, diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.