Lets talk about Coconut Sugar / Coconut Sap

CoconutFlowers

Yellow coconut flowers

Recently a reader emailed me to ask if I had heard of coconut sap. “Coconut sap” is a brilliant name for what I’ve been calling “coconut sugar.” Why do I prefer that term? Because the term, “sugar”, is associated with white refined sugar, which is very bad for you. White refined sugar contributes to all sorts of problems such as heart disease, hypoglycemia, obesity, and diabetes (just to name a few). White refined sugar also feeds the growth of cancer cells as well as yeast or candida.

So, just what is coconut sugar?

coconutsugarThe coconut tree’s stems, which are covered in small flowers, are tapped with hollow bamboo tubes. Once collected, the sap is simmered at low temperatures for about 45 to 90 minutes. And it’s done! The result is a caramel-colored granulated sweetener that can be used just like conventional table sugar. Along with stevia, it’s one of my favorite sugar substitutes. And guess what? Tapping coconut tree sap is very sustainable. Once tapped, the coconut sap flows for the next 20 years. Meanwhile, sugar cane production causes widespread environmental damage (see this report by the World Wildlife Fund).

Coconut sugar nutrition

Unlike cane sugar sugar, coconut sugar is high in healthy minerals. The following chart generously uses brown sugar for the comparison. White cane sugar contains almost no minerals at all:

CoconutSugarMinerals

While coconut sugar’s calories and carbohydrates are about the same as regular sugar, coconut sugar is a low 35 on the glycemic index, compared to cane sugar, which is about 60-70. A now missing page on The American Diabetes Association website said that coconut sugar is ok for diabetics, but they advised that it would be safest to treat it as regular table sugar. More research needs to be done on its specific effect on blood sugar levels, but it seems safe to say that for those of us seeking a healthier and more environmentally-sustainable diet, coconut sugar is a better choice than cane sugar.

Where to find coconut sugar

There are several coconut sugar brands, but the typical grocery store probably won’t carry them. Most health food stores will keep it shelved, but I buy mine from iHerb.com (and you’ll save $5 with your first order using code ROZ388).

References

“Gone coconuts: New sugar or old hype?” from the Michigan State University website

What is Organic Coconut Sugar” on NaturesBlessings.com

“Coconut Sap ~ Who Knew???” on CoconutSecret.com

Big Tree Farms FAQs on coconut sugar

Comments

  1. says

    Hi, I’ve recently been getting into Coconut “sugar”. I think it’s great – sometimes you need some options in sweeteners. I think it’s important to note that the source of the coconut sugar is important. I’ve read about companies who combine it with the white, refined sugar, something we do not want to consume.

  2. says

    This is very interesting. I have not tried coconut sugar (sap) yet but would love to give it a try, esp. based on the nutrition facts AND the fact that harvesting the sap is sustainable. How cool!

    Also, the recipe looks easy and super yummy. I’ll have to give that a whirl, too.

  3. says

    Such a good point, Andrea. I have heard that too, but I have yet to see any of those coconut sugar combos, thankfully.

    Thanks My Year Without! Think you may love it too =)

  4. says

    Love this recipe. I’ll have to try it. I got some coconut sugar for the first time a few weeks ago. The other day I made a caramel corn popcorn recipe using mostly coconut sugar with some agave in place of the normal sugar and corn syrup and it was so good!

  5. says

    Were you reading my mind?! Dipped into my jar of coconut sugar today and thought “I’ve got to sit down and research this lovely ingredient.” It is so very close in taste and texture to brown sugar! It’s got my thumbs up! Thanks for doing that research for us :) Got great reviews on the coffee cake BTW.

  6. says

    Thanks Hannah!

    James, I get mine from Azure Standard co-op. We pick it up once a month. There’s no minimum amount you have to spend if you want to join. We were picking up near Loveland, but it we may be picking up in Longmont starting in mid May. I think Whole Foods in Boulder has it too. I saw it once at the one by the library, on Arapahoe.

  7. says

    I’ve been wondering if I should purchase some coconut “sap”, and this post cemented the idea. It’s fairly inexpensive, I suppose, so I might as well. It will be a good sweetener that I can blend in with my other favorites–xylitol, stevia and sometimes raw honey (also Sucanat, but at very low quantities.

  8. says

    Great information on coconut sap sugar. I never knew how it was made. That is good that they do not heat it above a certain temperature and keep it relatively low. The ice cream looks delicious :)

  9. says

    This post is very helpful, Kelly. I’m ordering coconut sugar the next time I place an online order. I already have all the other ingredients to make this recipe, so I’m getting closer than when you posted it the first time. ;-)

    Thanks, Kelly!

    Shirley

  10. says

    I agree with everyone else…this is a great post. I’ve been using coconut ‘sap’ and love it. It works beautifully in so many dishes. I think the taste is much like brown sugar but it’s not overly sweet.

    PS – saw the tweet about your upcoming book. Congrats!

  11. says

    Oh.My.Word. I can’t believe this is breakfast!! I actually bought coconut (palm) “sugar” at my local grocery store. Thank you for the valuable information as well as the marvelous recipes!

  12. Seattle Mom says

    Just wondering if the Chocolate Pudding mixture can be put into an ice cream maker? Has anyone tried that? AND, do you really blend it for 10 MINUTES after you take it out of the fridge? My blender would probably keel over if it had to work that long. LOL Might be time for a new blender. We LOVE LOVE LOVE your Spunky Coconut Cookbook and can’t wait for the next one!

  13. says

    Thank you, Sandy!

    Seattle Mom, Yes, I have tried that, and so have others—excellent ice cream. And thanks for catching my typo! I changed it—Meant to say, “put in the ice cream machine for 10 minutes…” xoxo

  14. Dawn says

    Kelly I am so Very glad that you addressed the coconut sugar because I couldn’t find it or anyone that had heard of it out here in the Indiana sticks. I found an organic palm sugar on line at the nutsonline website, but they don’t call it coconut sap, but it is from the coconut palm tree. I will eventually have all the items for these wonderful recipes-thanks again and again–Dawn

  15. Beth says

    Thanks for the recipe. It tasted good. I had never tried Hemp or Chia seeds. I will make it again. I couldn’t find coconut sugar. I had some date sugar that I needed to use up so I substituted that instead.

  16. says

    This looks SO good Kelly! I’ve really been enjoying your blog recently Kelly! I’m a long time lurker and I appreciate all the wonderful raw & vegan inspired recipes you share! Thank you!!

  17. says

    Thank you so much for your amazing blog! I made this yesterday and it is tasty, but mine never “set up”. I substituted flax seeds for the hemp and chia would that cause it?

  18. Anonymous says

    Hi! Thanks for your lovely blog and recipes. I tried the pudding recipe twice, and although it tasted just like chocolate pudding — it never set properly. Any ideas why not? It was still good as a smoothie mixed with banana and ice.

    Thanks!

  19. Susanne says

    hi kelly! quick question: what is “vanilla extract meal”? is it the same as the liquid vanilla extract, or was it a typo? i tried to google it and came up with a lot of fishing bait websites. (?) lol

    thanks for sharing all your amazing goodies with us! i just found your blog and i’m so excited. can’t wait to try everything!

  20. says

    Coconut sugar is sustainable in that a farmer can tap a tree indefinitely. What Tropical Traditions doesn’t like is that this new demand for coconut sugar competes with a tree’s traditional use for producing coconut milk/oil/flour. If there is such a high demand for all these coconut products, then I don’t understand why this can’t be met by new coconut plantations: coconuts are grown all over Asia and S. America. I think TT’s concern is that their local growers are moving over to sugar production, which makes their particular supply of coconuts more difficult.

  21. Anonymous says

    A lot of attention is given to glycemic index, but except for people with blood sugar/insulin disorders, I’m not sure it’s a very relevant measure. At least for athletic performance, higher glycemic index is usually a short term benefit.

    I think what “ose” coconut sap is important. Sucrose (cane & beet sugar) and fructose (fruit & refined corn sugar) are more of the culprits, because what’s not used immediately by the body for fuel is stored in adipose tissue (not good) and in the liver (bad). Glucose however is stored in the muscles (better or good).

    Coconut sap is 85 to 89% sucrose.

    Tom

  22. Anonymous says

    …Looks delicious! Thank you for the article on coconut sap. We replace the cacoa with carob powder…. Worth checking into it. :-)

  23. says

    Coconut sugar making is most common in tropical countries. This kind of sugar has a low-GI of 35. An indication of how quickly a specified amount of food will cause a rise in blood sugar level is Glycemic Index or GI means. Sugar substitute or artificial sweeteners like aspartame on the other hand has much more lower GI or sometimes no GI rating at all.

  24. Anonymous says

    Great article but it’s not sap- I spent time this weekend with a coconut sugar manufacturer from Bali and he dispelled the common myth that has circulated through internet blogs that it is the sap- similar to maple syrup. It is not- it is the nectar of the flowers.

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