What is Palm Sugar?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Palm sugar is a sugar that is extracted from the sap of palm trees. Numerous varieties of palm tree are tapped for their sugar, although sugar from date palms and palmyra palms tends to be the most prized. It can also be extracted from sago and coconut palms. This sugar is widely used throughout Southeast Asia, and it has a number of regional names, including jaggery and gur.

A block of palm sugar.
A block of palm sugar.

To extract the sap, climbers ascend the palm tree and slash the flower buds, placing buckets under them to collect the sap that wells out. Then the sap can be boiled down to concentrate it and evaporate the moisture. Depending on how heavily the sugar is processed, it may be sold in the form of a paste, or it may be dried out and molded into blocks or cones to make it easier to handle.

Palm sugar is coarse and minimally processed.
Palm sugar is coarse and minimally processed.

Palm sugar varies in color from a light golden color to a rich dark brown. It tends to be extremely grainy, with dried forms being highly crumbly, and it is typically minimally processed. Many people like to use it in cooking because it is so coarse and unprocessed, and many Southeast Asian recipes call specifically for this type of sugar. The light processing leaves much of the flavor of the sugar intact, creating an almost molasses-like flavor.

You may also see palm sugar sold as “coconut sugar,” which can be a bit confusing, since coconut fruits themselves are not actually involved. It is also sometimes marketed as “palm honey.” In addition to being used in cooking, the sugar can also be treated to create palm wine and arrack, a strong distilled liquor that is popular in some parts of Southeast Asia.

Asian markets are a good resource for palm sugar, and this sugar can also be ordered through specialty retailers. Many companies sell it in jars or tins, which makes it easy to ship and store, and if you purchase a block or cone, be aware that blocks are often coated in wax for shipping. Check for wax before shaving off the desired amount of sugar.

If you have a recipe that calls for palm sugar and you have trouble finding it, you can try using dark brown sugar mixed with a little molasses. The molasses will intensify the flavor of the sugar and also create the desired level of moisture.

Many types of palm trees grow naturally in rain forests or areas that typically have tropical or subtropical climates.
Many types of palm trees grow naturally in rain forests or areas that typically have tropical or subtropical climates.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


Coconut sugar can be recommended for diabetics because it has the low GI (35) - not all palm sugars contain the same nutrients, nor do they all have the same GI. There is a lot of misinformation about coconut sugar and palm sugar - many use the terms interchangeably and apply the same nutritional values to both. 100 percent pure coconut sugar is the only reliable source for the nutrient claims. Palm sugar is used as a filler for coconut sugar and it adulterates the quality.

The PCA (Philippine Coconut Authority) has established guidelines for harvesting and processing coconut sap to ensure quality. The PCA now advises importers and manufacturers to only buy coconut sugar from accredited suppliers to ensure they are receiving pure coconut sugar. However, the only way for the consumer to be sure they are getting quality coconut sugar is to make sure the ingredients say: "100% pure coconut sap sugar" (it has to say that to be approved for export). Source info: PCA official government website


Many Indonesian dishes call for sweet soy sauce, called ketjap or kecap. It's a heavy syrupy sweet sauce that's made of hydrolyzed soybeans and palm sugar. Quite different from the very salty and watery soy sauce from other Asian countries.


Is palm sugar as bad for you as palm oil is? What is the difference chemically and does the palm trees the sugar is taken from take the place of the rain forests as palm oil trees do?


Is palm sugar the same as piloncillo?


palm sugar is good for those with diabetes as the glycemic index for it is very low (35).


Is palm sugar the same as jaggery?


is palm sugar good for diabetics?


what are the possible chemical content of sugar palm?


Do you use the same amout of palm sugar as you do regular sugar in baking?


Differences between Palm Sugar and Cane Sugar

S No

Cane Sugar

Palm Sugar


Cane Sugar is Sweet

Palm Sugar is sweet and delicious


Cane Sugar Provides no mineral salts

Palm Sugar Provides mineral salts too


Cane Sugar has more sugar content

Palm Sugar has less sugar content


Cane sugar has less/no nutrition value

Palm Sugar contains:

a) Thiamine

b) Riboflavin

c) Nicotinic Acid

d) Ascorbic Acid

e) Protein

f) Vitamin C


Cane Sugar is less therapeutic value

Palm Sugar is good to the problems of

a) Asthmatic

b) Anemic

c) Leprosy

d) To accelerate growth of young



Cane sugar sometimes create ill effects on the health

Palm sugar solution proves a wonderful food in both early stages and chronic stages of typhoid


Cane Sugar creates cough and cold when consumed in high quantity

Palm Sugar is good remedy for cough and cold


Cane Sugar treats no health problem

Palm Sugar treats following diseases

a) reduction of BP

b) To decrease pancreas heat

c) To strengthen heart

d) Helps to build up strong teeth

e) Reduces pitta


Cane Sugar is treated as sweet water

Palm Sugar is treated as honey


I have been told that palm sugar is suitable for diabetics as it does not contain glucose. Any truth in this? fvpc


What is the nutritional value of palm sugar compared with white or brown sugar?

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