Have you ever heard of coconut sugar? I still remember my friend pestering me about the secret ingredient in my parfait, which was coconut sugar, but she had no idea such a sugar existed at that time. So when I finally revealed my little clandestine ingredient, she actually balked. Because when had the baking world created a wonderful sugar like this?
Regardless, there have been times when I had to bake without this sugar, as some stores, like my friend, are still oblivious to its existence. Therefore, I’ve learned to keep a coconut sugar substitute at hand.
What is coconut sugar?
If you are out of touch with the baking world and don’t know what this sugar is, allow me to explain a little. Coconut sugar, unlike its name, is not made from coconuts but from the sap of coconut palm trees.
First, the sap is extracted; next, it is mixed with water and allowed to boil. When the mixture thickens to a syrup, the syrup is allowed to cool and harden. Finally, the hardened syrup is crushed into sugar-like granules.
What does coconut sugar taste like?
Different coconut sugars have different tastes, as it depends upon the kind of palm tree used to make the sugar. However, a typical coconut sugar tastes a little like brown sugar with subtle notes of caramel.
Is coconut sugar healthy?
Many people believe that because coconut sugar is natural and plant-based sugar, it will be healthy. But, this belief is entirely misguided as coconut sugar is quite similar to regular sugar in calories and nutrients. Nonetheless, it has a lower glycemic index than cane sugar. Therefore, you are less at risk of upsetting your blood sugar levels with coconut sugar.
Coconut Sugar Nutrition:
|Nutrition||Amount per serving (per teaspoon)|
What can I use instead of coconut sugar?
There are many coconut sugar alternatives that you can try. Each option will taint your dish in a subtle but delicious way, and certainly without ruining the overall taste, texture, or appearance.
Best substitute Overall
1. Brown Sugar
The best coconut sugar substitute is brown sugar, perfect in all respects as it possesses a similar taste, texture, and color. In addition, brown sugar has a nutritional value similar to coconut sugar too.
Moreover, it is easily available (most probably you already have some at home). As brown sugar is sweeter than coconut sugar, I suggest using it in ⅔:1 substitution ratio. Brown sugar is a soft sugar made by adding molasses to refined white sugar. Therefore, it is partially refined sugar.
Brown sugar contains at least 85% sucrose. It is not particularly healthy. Then again, no sugar is, but it contains several important nutrients such as iron, potassium, calcium, zinc, phosphorus, copper, and vitamin B-6.
It is also the perfect coconut sugar alternative for baking.
Brown Sugar Nutrition:
|Nutrition||Amount per serving|
Best Natural Substitute
Sucanat is a natural sweetener made from sugarcane. It is similar to white sugar in calories and nutritional value. However, it contains many more antioxidants, molasses content, and minerals. Sucanat was made in 1978 by a Swiss company called Pronatec.
The word sucanat is a shorter form of ‘sugar cane natural,’ or ‘sucre de canne naturel.’ It is an unrefined sugar made from juice extracted from sugarcane. The juice is filtered, heated, and cooled until it turns into tiny crystals.
During the production of Sucanat, the molasses naturally found in the sugarcane is not removed, as is the common practice; instead, it is allowed to brew, which gives sucanat a golden-brown color and a potent and distinctive taste.
|Nutrition||Amount per serving (1 teaspoon)|
3. Raw Honey
The second natural coconut sugar substitute is honey. It is a nutritious and natural sweetener made by bees from flower nectar. The taste and color of the honey depend upon the nectar used and the weather conditions of the place where it was made. Moreover, honey is a concentrated energy source and is famous for its remedial and healing benefits. Not only this, but honey is also an active ingredient in numerous beauty and skincare products, i.e., creams and masks.
Honeybees make honey from sweet nectar obtained from flowers. The nectar is gathered by collector bees and brought to the hive, where it is transferred to the worker bees. Next, the worker bees process this sweet nectar into a thick syrup and store it in the honeycomb.
You can replace sugar with your favorite kind of honey in almost all dishes and drinks. However, remember that honey is way sweeter than coconut sugar, so use it modestly. Moreover, its liquid state may prove a problem in some baking recipes. Therefore, you will have to make appropriate adjustments.
|Nutrition||Amount per serving|
4. Maple Syrup
Another popular coconut sugar substitute is maple syrup. Like coconut sugar, maple syrup is also made from tree sap. Pure maple syrup is simply tree sap boiled to a syrup-like consistency. Maple syrup is mainly produced in Vermont, USA. However, nowadays, companies add 1 to 3 percent sugar and other key nutrients in the maple syrup to enhance its flavor and benefits.
All maple syrups do not taste the same, as the quality of the sap and environmental factors greatly affect its flavor. Moreover, we have two types of maple syrup to choose from, namely, organic maple syrup and inorganic maple syrup.
Maple syrup does not need chemicals for its production. However, a little chemical is needed to control the foam over the boiling syrup during the production process. Organic producers use organic materials like canola oil or safflower, whereas inorganic maple syrup contains chemical defoamers.
Although The real difference between organic and ii organic maple syrups lies in the treatment of the trees from where the syrup is obtained, Organic producers treat their trees as a living ecosystem and only use organic fertilizers. On the other hand, inorganic producers use inorganic substances to improve fauna growth.
I always use pure maple syrup as a substitute, as commercial products contain many other ingredients that can interfere with your recipe, especially during baking. Use ⅔ cups of maple syrup for every one cup of coconut sugar. Once again, please remember to adjust the liquids and solids in your recipe appropriately.
Maple Syrup Nutrition:
|Nutrition||Amount per serving (2 tablespoons)|
5. Agave Syrup
Agave syrup is used as a common vegan sweetener in a boatload of recipes. Agave syrup, also known as honey water, is extracted from the agave plant. The agave plant looks like a cross between the cactus and aloe vera plants. It grows in dry and warm regions.
Agave syrup is thicker than maple syrup but thinner than honey. It is sweet and has a light floral taste, unlike honey which has a potent flavor, and maple syrup boasts strong woody tones. Agave syrup is an excellent substitute for regular sugar too. Moreover, it leaves room to use some coconut flavor in your recipe as it is not overpowering as the other substitute on this list.
Another great thing about this syrup is the price; agave syrup is half as expensive as maple syrup. Thus, if you are on a tight budget and can’t afford to indulge in pricey ingredients, this is just the option for you.
Agave syrup is 1.5 times sweeter than normal sugar. Therefore, I suggest using ¼ cup of agave syrup for every 1 cup of coconut sugar. Finally, because it is a liquid too, you might want to adjust any other m]liquids in your dish if you’re using it in bakery batter.
Agave Syrup Nutrition:
|Nutrition||Amount per serving (1 teaspoon)|
Point to remember: Agave syrup causes bakery items to brown more quickly in the oven. Therefore, reduce the baking time by ten to fifteen minutes to prevent over-browning.
6. Date Sugar
Our next substitute is date sugar which is made by grinding dehydrated dates. It’s quite similar to brown sugar in appearance; however, it has a sweet, nuanced butterscotch-like flavor. Although I love this substitute, it has a tiny flaw.
The fibers in the dates are also ground with the rest of the sugar. These insoluble fibers do not dissolve in hot liquids or even baked goods. Therefore, they give the sugar a transferee grit to the final product.
But if this does not bother you, or you’re used to using this sugar, by all means, go ahead and use it in a 1:1 substitution ratio for coconut sugar.
You can also make coconut sugar at home by dehydrating the dates in a preheated oven at 218 degrees Celsius and 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
How to make date sugar at home:
- First, preheat your oven.
- Then place the dates on a parchment-lined baking sheet to make sure there is some space between each date.
- Place the tray in the oven and set the meter to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Keep heating until the dates have completely dried. There is no specific time measure for this, so only take them out once they are completely firm, i.e., they have no give left in them.
- Use a heavy-duty food processor to grind the sugar until it is completely done. Remember to add a teaspoon of cornstarch for every one pound of dates.
Date Sugar Nutrition:
|Nutrition||Amount per serving (2 teaspoons)|
Best Low-Carb Substitute:
Our last coconut sugar substitute is stevia. It is another natural sweetener on this list. It is made from stevioside extracts obtained from the stevia plant. In addition, it is very healthy and contains zero calories. The stevia plant has over 240 varieties. However, stevia sweetener is produced from the Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni plant or sweet leaf.
There are many reasons why stevia is so popular. Some of these characteristics are:
- It is 100 percent natural.
- It contains zero calories.
- It contains zero carbohydrates.
- Its glycemic index (G1) value is also zero.
- It is vegan.
- It does not promote tooth decay.
You can incorporate stevia in a variety of recipes without increasing the overall carb numbers. Moreover, stevia is also known to help manage blood pressure and aids in weight loss. It is no wonder it was embraced enthusiastically by the health-conscious community all around the globe.
Now there is no right amount for stevia as a substitute. It varies from recipe to recipe. I have known it to be the perfect substitute in 1:1 in certain recipes, whereas, in others, it has overly sweetened my dish to the point where even a bite made me queasy. Thus experiment as you go until you find ‘just the right amount.
If you are looking for a coconut sugar substitute for a keto diet, stevia is just the right choice.
|Nutrition||Amount per serving (per packet)|