Palm sugar is a natural sweetener made from various palm trees, including coconut, date, palmyra, nippa, and toddy. Extracted from the palm sap, it involves minimal processing making it a healthier alternative to other sugars. Its caramel-like taste makes it widely popular in African and South-Asian cuisines.
Besides having a low glycemic index, this brown sweetener is loaded with plant minerals and vitamins. If you ever run out of this sweet goodness, here are some commonly available palm sugar substitutes that can save you from last-minute panic.
1. Brown Sugar
Brown sugar shares the rich color of natural palm sugar. It’s made by adding molasses to processed white sugar, which grants it the signature color. The sticky consistency of brown sugar makes it incredible for baking.
You’ll find brown and palm sugars nearly identical, with the only difference being higher water content in brown sugar. So, when substituting, adjust the recipe’s dry ingredients to accommodate the moist texture.
1 cup of palm sugar = ½ cup of brown sugar.
2. Natural Maple Syrup
Maple syrup is a golden, honey-like syrup extracted from native American and Canadian maple tree sap. Its rich, caramel flavor pairs exceptionally well when drizzled over pancakes, waffles, fruits, and desserts. Maple syrup is also widely used in various recipes, from maple syrup bars to traditional maple cream, maple syrup popcorns, and maple syrup pie.
When replacing it with palm sugar, be mindful since it’s a liquid. Go for granulated maple sugar if you don’t want to use a liquid. Maple syrup is a bit sweeter than palm sugar so adjust the amount accordingly. Like palm sugar, natural maple syrup does not have artificial flavors or additives, so you’ll get a similar taste. Don’t fall for maple-flavored syrup, though, since that syrup’s base is generally table sugar.
1 cup of palm sugar = 1 cup of maple syrup (adjust to taste).
Honey is a popular viscous liquid gold with several health benefits. It’s packed with antioxidants and has amazing wound-healing properties. Its flavor, color, and smell can vary depending on the flower nectar. Honey is incredibly versatile due to its rich texture and sweet taste. You can use it for any meal, from breakfast to dinner.
If you ever run out of palm sugar, you can simply whip out your jar of honey. Don’t go overboard because the liquid nature of honey can change the consistency of your dish. With honey, the food will turn brown much earlier too. But that’s nothing to worry about, though. If you can find organic honey, it will be a better bet. If not, regular honey works well, too.
1 cup of palm sugar = ½ cup of honey.
4. White Sugar
Also known as regular sugar, table sugar, or granulated sugar, white sugar is made from sugar cane or sugar beet. The natural brown molasses are removed during the refinement process. White sugar is available in granulated, powdered, or cubed form. It’s one of the most popular sugar types used in both sweet and savory dishes.
White sugar offers a sweet taste but without the rich caramel texture of palm sugar. Since it’s a common kitchen ingredient, it’ll always be available if you run out of palm sugar. Note that powdered white sugar and granulated sugar can’t be measured similarly.
1 cup of palm sugar = 1 ¼ cup granulated white sugar.
Molasses is another viscous syrup extracted from cane or beet juice. It’s separated from sugar crystals by a centrifuge and processed repeatedly to obtain a thick, dark-brown end-product. Known as treacle in the UK, it was once a popular animal feed. Currently, it is widely used to enhance an array of meals.
Molasses provide the same earthy texture and taste as palm sugar. However, you can combine it with white sugar for an authentic palm sugar taste. This combination works so well that you wouldn’t even know you used a substitute.
1 cup of palm sugar = 1 cup of white sugar + 2 tablespoons of molasses.
Jaggery or Gur is another excellent alternative to palm sugar. It’s a non-centrifugal sugar obtained via natural methods of pressing canes and palms and is typically common in Asia. It’s also called panela in Colombia, kokuto in Japan, and piloncillo in Mexico. Jaggery’s color varies from golden, yellow, orange, and brown. Some varieties are so soft that they melt in your mouth, while others are crystalline and hard.
Depending on the types of jaggery, the levels of sweetness may be different. So be cautious when substituting. You can start out with a 1 :1 ratio and then adjust to taste. Its color and texture can give it a similar result to palm sugar. You can add it to bakery goods, desserts, and drinks calling for palm sugar.
1 cup of palm sugar = 1 cup of jaggery (adjust to taste).
7. Date Sugar
Technically not sugar, date sugar is actually the dried form of a dried date. Fresh dates are made into a paste, and a food additive, maltodextrin, is added. Next, they’re dried and ground into granulated sugar. Date sugar has a bit of a malty, sweet taste. Since it uses a whole date, it retains antioxidant properties, which makes it great for your health.
While its taste is reminiscent of palm sugar, bear in mind that it might take some time to dissolve. Made from whole pitted dates, the leftover fiber leaves from the pit may also be detected while eating. Still, it’s a great replacement option to sweeten your food instead of palm sugar.
1 cup of palm sugar = 1 cup of date sugar.
8. Rock Sugar
Rock sugar, crystal or candy sugar, is a hard, irregularly shaped confection. Sugar syrup is cooled down into large crystals to make rock sugar. Another unique method of using rock sugar is wrapped around a stick like a string with color and flavor additives. Once cooled down, it makes for fascinating candy loved by children. While primarily used in deserts, some Asian cuisines also use it to balance savory flavors.
As a palm sugar substitute, it provides a sweet taste minus the caramel texture. Rock sugar is also less sweet than palm sugar so adjust the quantity accordingly. Its rocky texture makes it difficult to dissolve, so you can mix it in water to use as a syrup.
1 tablespoon of palm sugar = 1 small crystal of rock sugar.