Date sugar is not sugar in quite the same way other types are, like those derived from cane or beets. It’s not processed to create sugar alcohol or a smooth melting effect, instead it’s merely made from very finely chopped dry dates. It is quite sweet, but it can clump, and doesn’t melt, making it an impractical substitution for certain types of baked goods, or as an additive in beverages.
Still, many like date sugar because it goes through minimal processing and by some it is considered more natural than sugar derived from sugar cane. It can be used as a substitute for other sweeteners in recipes that don’t require sugar to melt. When baked, it may appear in foods like small brown flecks, and its taste lends an overall sweetness to baked goods.
There are recommendations that sugar made from dates can be substituted cup for cup for brown sugar, but many find that this causes food to become too sweet. Some bakers who use date sugar regularly suggest instead that you use about two-thirds of the amount of brown or white sugar called for in a recipe to approximate a similar sweetness level.
You may be challenged trying to find this sugar, and other less known sugar substitutes. You’ll also pay much more for it. The average pound (.45 kg) of date sugar costs about $6 US dollars (USD), and many find this cost prohibitive, especially as compared to the cost of brown sugar derived from cane or beets, which normally costs about $2 USD per pound.
You’re most likely to be able to find date sugar in gourmet or specialty foods stores and in natural foods stores. You can also check Asian and Mediterranean grocery stores since these cultures make significant use of dates. If you buy organic versions of the sugar, expect to pay quite a bit more for it, especially if it is manufactured in the US. You will probably find less expensive imported versions in Asian and Mediterranean stores.
If you don’t want to bake with this sugar, you can still find lots of uses for it. For instance, a little plain yogurt and fruit can come alive with a sprinkling of date sugar on the top. Consider substituting it for brown sugar on cinnamon toasts. If you are into baking, there are many bread recipes, especially calling for whole grains that now suggest using sugar made from dates instead of brown sugar. These can lend a sweet and different taste to home baked bread.