The Beginner’s Guide to Coconut Sugar

From coconut oil to coconut flour, it seems coconut is always in the health spotlight. In our opinion, though, the coconut craze is well-deserved, because coconut is one of the most versatile whole foods out there.

One coconut product we’ve always enjoyed (so much so that it’s a mainstay ingredient in our cookies) is coconut sugar. In this beginner’s guide to coconut sugar, you’ll learn how this natural sweetener is made, how it compares to cane sugar in terms of nutrition, and how to start substituting it for refined sugar in your own life. 

coconut sugar

How is Coconut Sugar Made? Sustainability & Sourcing

Coconut sugar is derived from the sap of the coconut palm. This sap is collected from cut flower blossom stems, and then boiled and dehydrated. The result is caramel colored granules. This entire process is simple, natural, and chemical-free.

There’s more good news: harvesting either coconuts or their sap doesn't harm the tree or the environment in the least. In fact, the vast majority of the world's coconut palm trees aren't being used for either coconut or sap production, so these trees are already planted, present, and waiting to be harvested. This non-invasive sourcing makes coconut sugar one of the most sustainable sweeteners available.

Cane sugar, on the other hand, presents several sustainability issues. Sugar cane is actually one of the world’s most water-intensive crops, and can thus have a big impact on envcironmentally sensitive areas (like the Mekong Delta and the Atlantic Forest).

Coconut Sugar vs Cane Sugar

But the edge doesn’t just go to coconut sugar for sustainability. It’s also simply a more nutritious choice than reifned sugar. Since coconut sugar is natural and doesn’t undergo heavy processing and refinement, it contians important vitamins and trace minerals.

Some of the vtamins and minerals found in coconut sugar include:

  • Vitamin C
  • Potassium
  • Magnesium
  • Zinc
  • Iron
  • Calcium
  • Inulin (a prebiotic fiber)

Coconut sugar does have the same amount of carbs and calories as cane sugar, but this is a perfect example of how carbs and calories alone don’t tell the full story.

If you were to focus exclusively on calorie content, these two sugars would look the same, even though coconut sugar has a much lower glycemic index than refined sugar, meaning it won’t spike blood sugar levels as rapidly. Lower GI foods tends to also make for a slower, more sustainable release of energy over time, rather than the big rushes and crashes that table sugar is known for. 

glycemic index chart of sugars

You can learn more about how your body responds to natural and refined sugars in our free eBook, The Sweet Life: Why Your Pantry Needs a Sugar Makeover.

How to Substitue Coconut Sugar for White Sugar

Looking to start incorporating more coconut sugar into your life? Doing so is easier than you think. It’s extremely easy to sub in coconut sugar for refined white sugar in nearly any recipe. For every one cup of white sugar, you simply use one cup of coconut sugar instead. Nothing beats a perfect 1:1 substitution!

By the way, if you’re not big on the flavor of coconut, don’t worry. Coconut sugar doesn’t actually taste liker coconut at all. In fact, it’s more similar to the earthy sweetness of brown sugar. 

Another way you can substitute coconut sugar for white sugar is by swapping out storebought foods that have lots of corn syrup or refined sugars, and replacing them with foods sweetened with coconut sugar. Our cookies, for example, are sweetened with coconut sugar and dates.

sweetened with coconut sugar and dates

Bottom Line

Don’t get us wrong - no form of sugar is ever going to be a miracle superfood. But as far as natural sweetners go, we think coconut sugar is up there with the best of them. It’s sustainable, minimally processed, and contains key nutrients and minerals. Plus, it’s low glycemic index means we feel nourished and consistently energized after eating it, instead of having to go through the huge rushes and crashes of table sugar. 

So next time you find yourself reaching for table sugar, try swapping it out for coconut sugar using our substition tips above. Or see just how good coconut sugar can taste by exploring our delicious homemade-style cookies - all naturally sweetened with coconut sugar and dates.

chocolate chip cookies made with natural sugar

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