Alibi V.27 No.31 • Aug 2-8, 2018 

Know Your Ingredients

What is coconut sugar?

And why is everyone obsessed with it?

coconut flowers
Coconut sugar is made from coconut flowers, not coconuts

Various coconut products have achieved nearly cult status in some health food circles, most notably the coconut oil craze. (You’re not truly a health punk until you’ve tried oil pulling with coconut oil). Coconut water is still infinitely popular among Whole Foods yoga moms. Coconut sugar is the latest to get the spotlight, and thus a lot of varying opinions and incongruous facts have been thrown around about it. Always the champions of clarity and truth over here at Weekly Alibi, we figured we’d give you a little primer on this alternative sweetener.

What is it?

Coconut sugar isn’t actually made from coconuts. It’s instead made from the sap of coconut flower buds. (The same process is used to make palm sugar from date palms and other types of palm trees). The sap is boiled down until it’s at a syrupy thickness (this product is sold too, as palm syrup or palm honey), then that syrup is dried and ground into a coarse powder resembling brown sugar. It’s worth noting that this makes all types of palm sugar more sustainable than cane sugar, as it involves simply harvesting a flower rather than taking down the whole plant.

Is it good for you?

Let’s get one thing straight: Sugar is sugar is sugar, and sugar isn’t good for anybody in excessive amounts (or even in moderate amounts, if we’re being real). Is coconut sugar less bad for you compared to refined cane sugar? For sure. Coconut sugar has a lower glycemic index than cane sugar, which means that your body metabolizes it more slowly, making for less of a sugar rush/crash situation. It’s a friendlier sugar alternative for diabetics for the same reason. Coconut sugar also has trace amounts of vitamins and minerals not present in cane sugar, but it’s certainly not enough to go calling it a superfood.

How do I use it?

The coolest thing about coconut sugar as an alternative sweetener is that it can reliably substitute for regular sugar on a 1:1 basis. That makes it an ideal candidate for baking with, or for any recipes that call for a lot of sugar. Be warned, though, that coconut sugar won’t deliver as much of a tender, moist texture as cane sugar in your baked goods. It also departs an earthy and decidedly coconutty flavor to whatever you put it in. If you’re a fan of coconut though, this shouldn’t be an issue. Make simple syrup out of it for mixing into drinks, put some in your morning yogurt, or use it in your favorite cake recipe.

Where can I get it?

You can get coconut sugar in most standard grocery stores at this point, but it’ll cost you a few bucks more than the white stuff. A pound of coconut sugar will cost anywhere from $3.99 for the Smith’s brand stuff to around $7. As always, make sure you buy from a fair trade source.