Meet Your Ingredients: Coconut Sugar

Meet Your Ingredients: Coconut Sugar

One of the trendier sweeteners right now, coconut sugar is advertised as a healthier ingredient, but what does the research say? Find out more in this guide!

The Basics

Coconut sugar is a natural sweetener made from coconut palm tree sap. Once harvested, the sap is mixed with water, boiled into a syrup, dried out to crystallize, and then broken into small granules.

While the color is darker and similar to light brown sugar, the texture of coconut sugar more closely resembles raw sugar. As we’ll touch on more below, it’s important to make this distinction as this means it’s also not as moist as brown sugar, which could affect your baked goods if used as a substitute.

You may see coconut sugar listed as “coconut palm sugar,” which can get confused with palm sugar – also a sugar but made from a different type of palm tree.

Close up of coconut sugar in bowl

Nutrition Overview

Okay, time for the big question: is coconut sugar healthier than regular sugar? Yes. And no.

Coconut sugar contains approximately the same amount of calories as white sugar, about 45 calories per tablespoon.

However the main health claim I see is that it’s supposed to be a lower carb option.

To compare, coconut sugar contains approximately 12 grams of carbohydrate and sugar per tablespoon, and white sugar contains 12.6 grams of carbohydrate and sugar – almost exactly the same as coconut.

But what about it’s glycemic index. Table sugar has a GI of around 60, while coconut sugar is closer to 54. A lower GI may mean that it results in lower rises in blood sugar; however, the actual effect of these sugars can vary by person and composition of the meal in which they’re consumed. The research also isn’t convincing that coconut sugar’s lower GI translates into a meaningful health benefit.

However, unlike white sugar, coconut sugar does contain small amounts of inulin (a prebiotic fiber), minerals such as iron, zinc, calcium and potassium, and antioxidants. So it is more nutritious.

Bottom line: coconut sugar is not a miracle health food, but it can be a more natural option compared to granulated white sugar. While it does have more nutrition than traditional sugar, it’s still high in calories and sugar and should be consumed in moderation – just like all other sweeteners.

How to select

When buying coconut sugar, make sure to read the ingredient list as some brands will mix it with cane sugar or other fillers.

How to store Coconut Sugar

Keep your sugar stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry place. Properly stored it should keep for 2 years.

How to use in cooking/baking

Bowl of coconut sugar

Coconut sugar can be substituted for brown or white sugar in cooking or baking in a 1:1 ratio. However, it’s important to keep a few things in mind:

  • Its taste is more similar to light brown sugar, so if substituting for granulated sugar it will change the flavor a bit.
  • The texture is coarser, so when using it in recipes that have a more liquid batter thanks to milk, melted butter, oil, yogurt, or applesauce, you’ll want to dissolve the sugar in the liquid prior to mixing it into the remaining ingredients. This way you’ll end up with a smoother final baked good, which is especially important for cakes and breads!
  • Despite tasting like brown sugar, it isn’t as moist and will act more like granulated sugar in a recipe. If making a quick bread or other recipe that uses large amounts of brown sugar  (for example, my Whole Wheat Bourbon Banana Bread), you may need to add a little more liquid to the batter in order for a moister end product.

So, how can you start using coconut sugar? As I alluded to above, pretty much anytime you’d use sugar feel free to add it in. Specifically, it works well in denser baked goods like chocolate chip cookies, brownies, fruit crisps, pancakes, muffins and quick breads.

On the savory side, it can be added to a dry rub or marinade for a hint of sweetness.  

Are you a coconut sugar fan?

Share your tips and favorite recipes in the comments below! And be sure to pin this guide for reference later.

Coconut Sugar Pinterest Image

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About Kelli McGrane Headshot

I’m Kelli MS, RD, and my mission is to prove that eating healthier doesn’t have to be complicated or restrictive. Follow along to learn more about food and cooking, with an emphasis on breakfast and sweet treats!

About Kelli McGrane Headshot

Welcome to The Healthy Toast!

Here you’ll find healthy breakfast recipes designed by a registered dietitian with your health goals in mind.

As a dietitian I understand that a healthy breakfast is essential for giving you the fuel you need to power through your day. Which is why on TheHealthyToast, you’ll find nutrition guides plus the best healthy breakfast recipes for every diet and lifestyle.

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