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Palm Sugar and Coconut Sugar

Learn More About these Two Asian Sugars

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palm sugar

Palm Sugar in Rock-like 'Cakes' from the Package

Darlene A. Schmidt
Palm Sugar and coconut sugar are two different types of sugars used in southeast Asia and can also be found here in North America as imported items. Both are natural sweeteners that come from trees: coconut sugar comes from the buds of coconut tree flowers, while palm sugar is made from the sap of sugar palm tree (also called date palm). Both are collected as sap, and, like North American maple syrup, the sap is then boiled in enormous vats to create either a sugar paste (sold in jars or tins) or rock-like chunks of sugar (see my photos on this page) also known as 'jaggery' (note that jaggery can be made from cane sugar as well - it just means the solid, rock-form of sugar).

Taste: You will find these sugars are not as sickly sweet as refined white sugars (so if using them for cakes or other desserts, you may need to add more to achieve the same level of sweetness). However, I find they have a nice caramel-like taste which is similar to natural molasses, but lighter. You'll definitely enjoy the taste!

Buying Tips: Both coconut sugar and palm sugar are created and sold across most Southeast-Asian countries, including Thailand. You can purchase imported coconut sugar or palm sugar in either the soft paste form or rock form in North American Asian stores (the rock type comes in a plastic package, so you'll be able to see these "cakes" quite clearly - see photo).

When purchasing these sugars: Keep in mind that the names palm sugar and coconut sugar are often used interchangably, even on package labels. That's why it's best, if you are looking for a specific type, to go by the ingredients on the package rather than the title on the label. Aside from Asian stores, you may also be able to find these sugars at many health food stores or gourmet food stores.

See next page for health benefits + how to cook with these sugars.

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