Coconut sugar shows up in a number of Asian recipes and is a great all-purpose sweetener with a reputation for being healthier than white sugar. If you want to make authentic tasting Thai dishes or are seeking a less harmful sweetening option, coconut sugar is an excellent choice. All that said, it is not always easy to find. If you are having a hard time finding it locally and need it immediately, consider the coconut sugar substitutes below.
Your best bet: Light brown sugar
Brown sugar consists of refined white sugar with molasses added to it for the brown color and the caramel-like flavor. The darkness of brown sugar has to do with how much molasses has been added. Dark brown sugar has more molasses added when compared to light brown sugar. The color and the flavor of light brown sugar bear a striking similarity to the color and flavor of coconut sugar. They share a toffee brown hue and a muted caramel flavor.
While coconut sugar has a nutritional advantage in that it contains inulin and light brown sugar does not, both sugars are almost identical when it comes to the rest of their health benefits and drawbacks. What’s more, light brown sugar is much easier to find in the western world when compared to coconut sugar, which may only be available in Asian and health food stores.
While you can use light brown sugar as a 1:1 substitute for coconut sugar, you should note that light brown sugar is actually a little sweeter. If you want an exact substitute in terms of sweetness, use two teaspoons of light brown sugar for every three teaspoons of coconut sugar in your recipe.
A decent second choice: Sucanat
Sucanat is the name for a type of raw sugar. It is categorized as raw since it has undergone less processing when compared to regular white sugar. Instead of the many filtering and clarification steps required to render white sugar, sucanat undergoes only a few to remove solids and to crystallize it. As a result, it retains its natural light brown color that gives it an appearance similar to that of coconut sugar. It also has the same caramel notes that coconut sugar provides due to its natural molasses content.
Sucanat has a relatively tough texture, which means that it may not dissolve quickly. It is a good idea to grind it in a spice grinder, blender or food processor before using it.
Sucanat has a similar sweetening power as that of coconut sugar, which means that you can use it as 1:1 substitute.
In a pinch: Maple sugar
Like maple syrup, maple sugar is made from the sap of the maple tree. The difference is that maple sugar has been reduced to the point where it crystallizes rather than just to the point where it becomes a syrup. Maple sugar’s flavor profile is similar to that of coconut sugar with the subtle hint of maple flavor. There are hints of butter and caramel as well as a little vanilla. The maple flavor should work well in most recipes that require coconut sugar.
Maple sugar works as a 1:1 substitute for coconut sugar.
Maple syrup offers similar sweetness as maple sugar. The only difference is the fact that it is a liquid, which means that using it will require you to adjust the amounts of the other liquids that the recipe requires.
Date sugar is another effective coconut sugar alternative. It is not a sugar in the sense of the other sugars named above, but it can still fulfill the same function. Date sugar consists of dates that have been dehydrated and ground, not sugar crystals. The result is a powder that can sweeten and that has a flavor similar to that of coconut sugar, but that will not dissolve.