Palm sugar is used in sweet and savory dishes. If you are adventurous in your cooking, it is likely that you have come across this sugar in different recipes. You may wonder what is a good palm sugar substitute? After all, this sugar is often not easy to source since it is more widely used in Asian countries, though you may well get it at major supermarkets now.
It comes from the palm tree and is a form of unrefined sugar, brown in color with a caramel flavor. It is widely used in Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, the Indian subcontinent, and some other countries.
Palm Sugar Substitutes That You Can Try
Brown sugar, in its different variations, can be used instead of palm sugar. It shares many characteristics with palm sugar: it is more sweet, has a caramel-like flavor and ranges from light brown to dark brown in color. When used in any recipe, you need to pack it if you are using a volume measurement. Brown sugar may be light or dark in color and Muscovado sugar, for instance, is quite dark with a smoky flavor.
You can use this instead of palm sugar in a reduced quantity, but taste as you add it because you do not want the recipe to get too sweet or not sweet enough. Darker varieties of brown sugar may add color and a different depth of flavor to the dish.
2. Coconut Sugar
Coconut sugar has become the new favorite sugar for all kinds of uses. It comes from the coconut and is usually available in a granulated form that is brown in color. It has a smooth flavor with a hint of smokiness, but does not taste like coconut.
It can be used in all kinds of beverages, in sweet and sour recipes, in desserts, and in any recipe that calls for palm sugar. It has a similar sweetness as palm sugar as well, so it is easier to use.
3. Date Sugar
Date sugar is different from palm sugar that may be sourced from the sap of the date palm. In fact, date sugar is actually dried dates that have been turned into sugar. However, this sugar has some fiber in it so it may not dissolve completely.
It has a lower glycemic index, so is healthier in that regard, though it does add the taste and flavor of dates to the food. You can replace palm sugar with date sugar in the same proportion, because it is also less sweet. Use it in recipes where you will not mind the bits of date sugar that do not dissolve.
Molasses is a thick and dark brown liquid with smoky and rich undertones. It is also quite sweet. It is a by-product of sugar manufacture, and this sugar may come from sugarcane or sugar beets.
You can use this in baking, in sweet dishes, in desserts, and even in beverages in a small quantity. You may add it as an additional flavor when you use white sugar instead of palm sugar because refined white sugar can be quite bland.
Honey is a natural sweetener. You can get honey sourced from the nectar of different plants and each has its own flavor, color, and sweetness. Usually golden in color, this viscous sweetener can also be brown and can be used on its own as a sweetening agent.
Honey has many healthful properties and it is supposed to boost immunity. It can be added to all kinds of beverages, foods, and even used in baking and in desserts. It is not as sweet as refined sugar and has a similar sweetness as palm sugar syrup.
6. Maple Syrup
You probably have a bottle or more of maple syrup lurking around since it is a favorite with breakfast pancakes. With the flavor of butterscotch, this sweetener is also a liquid similar to honey and should be used the same way. Instead of maple syrup, you may also use maple sugar, which is made from maple syrup. This can be quite sweet.
It can be used in both sweet and savory dishes. In savory dishes, use maple syrup towards the end of the cooking process since it does not need to be dissolved and you can adjust the sweetness as you add it.
7. White Sugar
When you don’t have palm sugar, but have refined white sugar, you can use it instead in a pinch. It will not give you any additional flavor as it does not have any of its own. It is also more sweet, so use less of it than you would palm sugar.
You can use white sugar in any food, whether sweet or savory, hot or cold. Just ensure that the sugar dissolves, so use fine grained or powdered sugar, specially in cold foods where the sugar dissolving is important. In the presence of heat, white sugar dissolves.
8. Cane Sugar
Cane sugar comes from sugarcane that is juiced and processed. This is made into sugar of different kinds, depending on how much it is processed. In its unrefined form, it is sold as a form of brown sugar that has molasses in it. This dark brown kind includes jaggery and muscovado sugar. When it is medium refined, it is packaged as demerara or turbinado sugar. If it is more highly processed and refined, it turns into granulated white sugar or even finely ground or bakers’ or confectioner’s sugar.
In its refined form, it is simply sweet and does not have any kind of flavor. When it is light or dark brown, it has some molasses, so has some of the flavor of molasses as well. You can use any of these forms as an alternative to palm sugar.
What is the difference between regular sugar and palm sugar?
Regular or white sugar is refined sugar. It can cause sugar spikes in the body. Palm sugar has a lower glycemic index so it reduces sugar spikes and crashes in the body.
How is palm sugar made?
Palm sugar is made from the sap collected from different kinds of palm trees. The sap is cooked till it solidifies and is sold in the form of cakes, or can even be granulated and sold in a more convenient to use form.
Many different kinds of sugar can often be used interchangeably, though you may have to tweak recipes. When you use a syrup like maple syrup or honey, you may have to reduce the liquid content of the dish and use it towards the end of the cooking process where possible. While all sugars are sweet, the degree of sweetness and other flavors will differ, so it is best to taste food as you add the substitute.
Palm sugar is often used in regions in which it originated to make special desserts and foods to which it lends its distinctive taste. If you use a palm sugar substitute, you may get the desired sweetness, but you may miss out on flavors. However, in foods that use other spices and flavorings, this may not be a very important aspect.