What is Coconut Sugar? (How Coconut Sugar is Made & Nutritional Facts)

Discover what coconut sugar exactly is and learn about its many uses and benefits. And if you're wondering whether coconut sugar can be a better sugar alternative, then this article got you.

So many coconut products have exploded in popularity over the past decade. People are getting curious about why things like coconut milk are better than dairy milk, why coconut oil is better than olive oil, and why coconut water is better than sports energy drinks.

There are a lot of questions being asked about why coconut sugar may be a better sugar alternative from standard granulated sugar or brown sugar, and so we figured it was worth it to answer all of those questions in one place!

Just to get you started: read up on these different kinds of coconut palm trees to discover amazing varieties from around the world!

Discovering Coconut Sugar

What is Coconut Sugar?

Coconut sugar has many names. It’s also often referred to as coco sap sugar, coco sugar, coconut palm sugar, or coconut blossom sugar.

Coconut sugar comes from a variety of different kinds of palm trees. Not all palm trees grow coconuts (some of them grow dates and date sugar is made from these!), and sugars can be made from every kind of palm tree.

A close look at a tall coconut tree.

Other types that can be made are from the Kithul palm tree, the Palmyra palm tree, date palm trees, sago palm trees, or sugar palms, too! The texture, flavor, and color will vary depending on the variety of tree, when the sap is harvested, and how the sap is reduced.

But today we’re focusing on specifically coconut sugar. It can come in granule form, crystal form, in a sugar block, or as a syrup. Continue reading to discover how it’s actually made!

What Does Coconut Sugar Taste Like?

It’s common to think that coconut sugar is made from coconuts themselves, and therefore will be flavored like coconut, but that isn’t true. You’ll learn in a moment that coconut sugar is made from the sap from a coconut palm tree.

The sap within a tree isn’t going to have the flavor of coconut within it. Coconut sugar tastes rather similar to regular brown sugar with a twinge of caramel flavor since when it’s reduced it caramelizes slightly.

Sugar from coconut with half of coconut and leaf on a wood plank table.

The flavor of coconut sugar is going to vary depending on when the sap is harvested, the way in which it was reduced, and of course, depending on the variety of coconut palm trees that the sap was harvested from.

How is Coconut Sugar Made?

The process of making coconut sugar begins with tapping the flower bud stem of a coconut palm tree. The cut is made on the spadix of the tree. If you’re unfamiliar with this term, in botany the spadix is basically the whole head of a coconut flower, occurring as the end of the stem.

Man climbing a coconut tree to collect sap for palm sugar production.

Sap will then begin to flow from this cut and traditionally is contained in a bamboo container. Once the sap is completely drained, it will then be heated in a wok until all of the moisture content has been evaporated. Coconut sap is about 80% water when it first drains out, and it’s known as coconut neera.

As the water evaporates, the liquid thickens into a syrup (if you couldn’t tell already, this is the exact process used to create maple syrup!). From this syrup state, it can then be reduced into a paste or sugar block.

Hand stirring coconut sugar in a large pan.

Where Does Coconut Sugar Come From?

Coconut sugar can be manufactured all around the world, but the coconut sap can only be sourced from coconut palm trees. Coconut palm trees can only be found in tropical or subtropical regions. In America, they can be found in places like Hawaii, Florida, South Carolina, and California.

Other regions that grow palm trees are the Caribbean, all over Asia, all Africa, Australia, and the Middle East. Just keep in mind that palm trees won’t grow in places that have frozen ground for multiple weeks and months of the year.

 Tropical beach with turquoise ocean, white sand, and palm trees.

Are Coconut Sugar and Palm Sugar the Same Thing?

Technically yes, and technically no. Palm sugar should be considered as the broader category of sugar, with coconut sugar being a subcategory. All palm trees can produce sap which is turned into sugar, but not all palm trees grow coconuts.

So basically coconut sugar is a specific kind of palm sugar, that grows from coconut palm trees.

What is Coconut Sugar Used For?

There are many uses for coconut sugar. It can be used to replace any other kind of sugar, table sugar, brown sugar, and the like. It can be used in desserts and other baked goods, savory dishes, or simply to sweeten your morning coffee.

In Sri Lanka, they commonly use coconut sugar in its syrup form and it’s referred to as pol hakuru. In Indonesia, they prefer to use it in granular form, and it is referred to as gula Jawa. Both cultures use all kinds of coconut-derived products as a staple in their cuisine.

Various ingredients including fresh herbs, Asian spices, and a coconut.

What are the Nutritional Facts of Coconut Sugar?

The nutritional facts of coconut sugar are very similar to that of brown sugar and granulated white sugar. Within 1 teaspoon of coconut sugar, it will contain the following:

  • 15 calories
  • 0g total fat
  • 0mg sodium
  • 4g carbohydrate (70-79% sucrose, 3-9% fructose, 3-9% glucose)
  • 0g fiber
  • 4g sugar
  • 0g protein

What are the Health Benefits of Coconut Sugar? Is Coconut Sugar Better than Other Kinds of Sugar?

There is a lot of debate as to whether or not coconut sugar is a healthier alternative sweetener than other kinds of sugars. The following information may help you decide on your own what the better option is.

If we’re looking at 100g of coconut sugar, 75g of that is pure sugar. The other trace elements present are 625mg of potassium, 125g of sodium, with other traces of iron, zinc, and calcium. If we’re comparing those properties to other kinds of sugars, we’ll find that high fructose corn syrups and refined white sugar do not have those same properties.

A coconut cut in half and filled with brown sugar.

In terms of potassium, that amount is about 400x more potassium than can be found in table sugar. Coconut sugar also contains magnesium and sodium. All of these are valuable because they are considered electrolytes — this helps regulates the body’s water content.

Something present in coconut sugar is also inulin. If you’ve never heard of inulin before, it’s basically a fiber that is particularly helpful in maintaining a healthy gut biome by slowing glucose absorption in the body.

And finally, another cool thing about coconut sugar is that it contains raw antioxidants. It is considered as such because it is far less processed than other kinds of sugars, and so it has been able to maintain all of those rich antioxidants in their original form. Why do we like antioxidants? Because it reduces oxidation of cells that causes aging.

Illustration of antioxidants and free radicals.

Oh yes! Peta also taught us that surprisingly, regular sugar is often processed with the bone char from animals to help achieve that white color and fine consistency. Bet you didn’t know that certain table sugars aren’t actually vegan!

Where is Coconut Sugar on the Glycemic Index?

If you’re unfamiliar with the Glycemic Index, it’s basically a chart with which people measure the effect that food has on blood glucose levels. If a food has a high score, it will raise the blood sugar level faster than foods with a lower score.

Organic coconut sugar is between 35-42 on the glycemic index. Compared to regular table sugar that has a score of 65, it turns out that coconut sugar is the better option in terms of blood sugar regulation.

Natural fruits have a score of 25 on the glycemic index, and so coconut sugar is closer to a natural sugar compared to more processed sugars.

A wooden scoop on an organic coconut sugar.

Source: Medical News Today

How do You Store Coconut Sugar?

Coconut sugar can be stored like any other type of granulated sugar – in a dry and sealed container. It does tend to clump up like brown sugar does, but it is far easier to break apart.

FAQ

Is coconut sugar keto?

Since coconut sugar is high in calories and high in carbs, it may not be the most suitable sweetener option for those on a keto diet. Since stevia is a zero-calorie sweetener, it’s probably the more appropriate choice for those keto dieters.

Is coconut sugar paleo?

If you’re on a paleo diet, coconut sugar is one of the better options of sweetener because it isn’t highly processed like high fructose corn syrup or granulated sugar.

Is coconut sugar vegan?

Yes, it is! Surprisingly enough, some granulated sugar is not vegan because it is processed with animal bone char to achieve a white color and fine consistency. But coconut sugar is not processed in this way.

Can coconut sugar replace brown sugar?

Coconut sugar does not hold moisture in the same way that brown sugar does, and so if you’re replacing brown sugar with coconut sugar in a recipe frequently used, it may not yield the same result.

Can coconut sugar replace white sugar?

Coconut sugar does not hold moisture in the same way that white sugar does, and so if you’re replacing white sugar with coconut sugar in a recipe frequently used, it may not yield the same result.

Can coconut sugar go bad?

No. It can be stored indefinitely like other types of sugars. Sugar is a natural preservative.

What does coconut sugar taste like?

Coconut sugar tastes rather similar to brown sugar with a twinge of caramel taste since when it’s reduced it caramelizes slightly. The flavor of coconut sugar is going to vary depending on when the sap is harvested, the way in which it was reduced, and of course, depending on the variety of coconut palm trees that the sap was harvested from.

Will coconut sugar caramelize?

Yes! It functions in the same way other sugars do when cooked.

Will coconut sugar melt?

Yes! It functions in the same way other sugars do when cooked.

Will coconut sugar dissolve?

Yes! When mixed with warm water it will dissolve more quickly than it would in cold water. Coconut sugar actually dissolves more quickly than granulated sugar.

Will coconut sugar activate yeast?

Yes, it will! It may actually be a better option with activating yeast than granulated sugar because it dissolves far more quickly.

Will coconut sugar work for kombucha?

Yes! Coconut sugar is actually a popular choice in making kombucha because it is an unprocessed sugar, and tends to be a “healthier” alternative.

How many carbs are in coconut sugar?

For every teaspoon of coconut sugar, it contains 4g of sugar.

How many calories are in coconut sugar?

For every teaspoon of coconut sugar, it contains 15 calories.

How much fructose is in coconut sugar?

For every teaspoon of fructose, it contains 3-9% fructose.

Where to buy organic coconut palm sugar?

Does coconut sugar taste like coconut?

No, it does not. Coconut sugar is not made from coconut fruits themselves but from the sap of a coconut palm tree. Therefore it will not have a coconut flavor.

Can you replace the coconut sugar with stevia?

It may not be the best option as a stevia replacement because coconut sugar is rather high in calories when stevia contains zero calories.

What’s better, coconut sugar or maple syrup?

Both coconut sugar and maple syrup are on the same level on the glycemic index and calorie content. They have a similar flavor profile and both contain potassium, magnesium, sodium, and antioxidants. They’re pretty much even on the “better” scale.

What is the healthiest sugar?

If you’re thinking in terms of carbohydrates and calories, stevia has no carbs and no calories. In terms of beneficial properties, coconut sugar contains potassium, magnesium, sodium, inulin, and antioxidants, but is high in calories and carbohydrates.

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