Moving to an organic lifestyle does not mean sacrificing taste, in fact, quite the contrary. Organic foods are healthier and actually taste much better than their preservative-filled, highly refined counterparts. After recently writing about Refined Sugar and the reasons to avoid it, I am excited to now talk about my favorite sugar alternative, Coconut Sugar.

Replacing Granulated White Sugar in your recipes is one of the first and most tasteful ways to move to a healthier, organic diet. As a consummate baker, sugar is an important ingredient in many of my favorite recipes and I was determined to find a better option. As a person who is insulin resistant, with many diabetic family members, my research into better sweeteners has yielded many benefits. Not only am I now eating healthier, but my recipes taste so much better! I replaced all granulated sugar in my recipes and they have never been more rich and delicious.

Coconut plantation

What is Coconut Sugar

Coconut sugar is made from the nectar of the coconut blossom. It is a naturally sweet, sap-like substance that is evaporated to create a dry, granulated sugar. Workers at coconut plantations actually shimmy up the trees, some of them 150 feet tall, to slice the blossom stem to harvest the sap. Older trees that are no longer fruiting are typically selected to become sap trees. While Coconut Sugar is only recently gaining popularity in the US, it is the traditional sweetener used in South East Asia.

  • Coconut Sugar is about 75% Sucrose, compared to Granulated White Sugar which is about 100% Sucrose
  • Coconut Sugar has a low glycemic index of about 35 GI, compared to Granulated White Sugar, which is about 80 GI (see the GI chart here)

Coconut sugar is an un-refined (or lightly refined, as low heat is used in the evaporation process) product, so it retains the natural mineral content (see chart below). The importance of this is not for the addition of these minerals to your diet, as they would be relatively small percentages in an overall diet, the key is that the minerals and enzymes necessary to digest the food are retained. Refined sugars are processed with high heat and chemicals which leach the necessary digestive components from the food, rendering it indigestible and toxic. Coconut sugar having its mineral content retained is a good indicator that the food will be digestible.

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Benefits of Coconut Sugar

  • Safer for diabetics (excess sugar of any type is good for no one)
  • Unrefined, natural product
  • Retains the nutrients and enzymes needed for digestion
  • High in B Complex vitamins, glutamine and other amino acids
  • 100% natural product, not lab synthesized
  • No added chemicals
Comparative Sugar Nutrients
Macro-nutrients (mg / l – ppm, dry) Refined, White Sugar Brown Sugar Coconut Sugar
Nitrogen (N) 0 100 2020
Phosphorus (P) 0.7 30 790
Potassium (K) 25 650 10300
Calcium (Ca) 60 240 60
Magnesium (Mg) 10 70 290
Sodium (Na) 10 20 450
Chlorine (Cl) 100 180 4700
Sulfur (S) 20 130 260
Boron (B) 0 0 6
Zinc (Zn) 1.2 2 21
Manganese (Mn) 0 2 1
Iron (Fe) 0.6 0.6 22
Copper (Cu) 1.2 12.6 2

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Taste and Cooking Properties

Coconut Sugar has a rich flavor most closely compared to brown sugar. Coconut sugar is extracted from the coconut blossom, not the coconut meat, so it does not taste like shredded coconut. If someone hates coconut, it is still safe to use Coconut Sugar. Coconut Sugar is natural colored and it will warm the color of your baked goods.

I love the rich, warm taste of coconut sugar. Last night I was perfecting my Perfect Organic Chocolate Cookie recipe (which I will be posting up very soon!) and I had to pause and revel in the fabulous taste. I just cannot get over the amazing flavor of the cookies made with Coconut Sugar. My only lament is the years I spent wasting my time baking cookies with inferior ingredients.

Coconut sugar is fantastic in baked goods and as a sweetener for sauces. I use this in my Pasta Sauce recipe and feel that it really adds fullesss to the flavor of the sauce. It does not overpower lighter dishes. For example I use Coconut Sugar in my Coconut Whipped Cream, and feel that it is great even with this more delicate flavor. You can even use Coconut sugar to make fantastic salted caramel (yes, I do have a recipe for this, also coming soon), so it is very versatile.

  • Coconut sugar has a rich taste, most similar to brown sugar 
  • Coconut sugar is a direct replacement for Granulated White Sugar, 1:1 ratio. No fancy equations, not converting your recipes, just use Coconut Sugar instead of Granulated Sugar and Brown Sugar
  • Coconut Sugar is not as moist as brown sugar
  • Prominent granulated texture
  • If your recipe calls for both granulated and brown sugar, use Coconut Sugar for both
  • No coconut taste
  • Medium tan color

Uses for Coconut Sugar

  • Baked Goods: Pies, cakes, cookies, brownies
  • Sauces: Pasta, terriyaki, glazes
  • Desserts
  • Breads/Dough
  • Great for streusel toppings

Shortcomings

  • Warm color may not suitable for foods that require a visually light color (i.e.: lemon bars, sugar cookies)
  • Not crystalline like table sugar, therefore may not be a great for decoration for certain foods (i.e.: sugar cookies)

I do need to stress that just as with any other product, purchasing only Organic Coconut/Palm Sugar is important. Though pesticides are not a concern as there are few pests that plague palms, there are “Palm Sugar” products on the market that are a blend of Coconut Sugar and Granulated White Sugar. To ensure that you are getting a pure product always buy a reputable, certified organic brand.

I like the Madhva brand Certified Organic Coconut Sugar, available at Vitacost.com, but I typically buy the 6-pack at Amazon for the price break.

 

Other Granulated Sugar Alternatives

I have been  writing articles detailing the use and application of various Sugar Alternatives which will be featured in upcoming articles.

Raw Honey

Sucanat/Rapadura/Organic Whole Cane Sugar

Stevia

Maple Syrup

Related Links to Coconut Sugar:

Read here for more detailed information on Coconut Sugar nutritional content

Find my related post on Refined Sugar here: The Problem with Sugar – The Devil is in the Refinement

There has been a small amount of debate surrounding coconut sugar harvesting impacting coconut fruit production. Here is a good response to this concern.

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