Palm Sugar: At a Glance
Palm sugar is a unique sweetener made from palm tree sap. It is a common ingredient in desserts and savory meals in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. It is sometimes sold as coconut sugar, although the coconut fruit of the palm tree are not involved in the process of making palm sugar.
Butterscotch and caramel define the delicious taste of palm sugar. It can vary significantly in appearance, with colors ranging from gold to dark brown or even black. Palm sugar is not subject to the heavy processing of refined sugar which helps it retain more of its natural flavor.
Palm sugar also has a much lower glycemic index than regular sugar. This means when you consume foods made with palm sugar, you receive a steady supply of energy rather than a dramatic sugar spike. This makes palm sugar a healthier choice, in moderation, for diabetics than regular refined white sugar. It’s also favored by people following some diets, like the paleo diet.
Cooking with Palm Sugar
Palm sugar is a versatile ingredient in the kitchen. Its sweetness is perfectly suited to desserts, from Malaysia’s traditional bubur cha cha to Asian-inspired treats like coconut custard or banana pudding. You can also blend palm sugar into your favorite smoothies for sweetness.
But don’t underestimate its power in savory dishes. Palm sugar is a traditional way of balancing salty Asian ingredients like dried shrimp paste and fish sauce. It’s an essential ingredient in the dressing for a classic Thai green papaya salad. The caramelized sugar also gives the seafood in Vietnam’s caramel-galangal salmon its depth of flavor. Palm sugar also works wonderfully well in traditional Indian chutneys.
Try palm sugar as a unique substitute for regular sugar in savory or sweet dishes. Just like regular sugar, you can melt it down, cream it with butter, and so much more. Use the same quantity of palm sugar as you would white refined sugar. Just remember to expect some texture variation as palm sugar is coarser.
Palm Sugar: History and Origination
Palm sugar has been a staple part of the diets of people living in Asian nations including the Philippines, Indonesia, and India for generations. They called it jaggery, a name that is still in use in many of these countries today. Over time, people on other continents discovered how easily palm sap could be extracted from trees and turned into sugar.
Eventually, many of the traditional makers of palm sugar discovered the money-making potential of palm sugar. They began exporting their palm sugar to increasingly-health-conscious Western nations looking for less processed, healthier alternatives to sugar.
Cultivation of Palm Sugar
Any palm tree sap can be turned into palm sugar. However, most of the world’s palm sugar comes from Palmyra, date, nipa, sugar, and coconut palm trees. These trees are found all around the world, including Asia, Africa, the Middle East, the Mediterranean, and New Guinea. Sap is typically extracted from the trees once they are at least 15 years old.
There are a couple of methods for extracting the sap from palm trees. Traditionally, tappers climb the trees to extract and collect the palm tree sap, usually from cut flowers. Tappers slice through flower buds, then place buckets underneath the flower stumps to catch the sap that pours out. Alternatively, sap can be collected after palm trees are cut down. Lighting the cut end of the tree on fire aids the extraction.
The collected palm tree sap is then boiled until it becomes thick and syrupy. This process evaporates the moisture in the sap and concentrates its sweet flavor.
Once the sap is boiled down, it becomes palm sugar. Palm sugar is sold in various forms. It can be dried and sold as a solid brick or cake which can be grated or ground down to resemble traditional sugar granules. Alternatively, moisture can be left in for palm sugar paste.
About Our Palm Sugar
We’ve scoured the globe to bring the very best palm sugar to our loyal customers. While palm sugar can be derived from any palm tree sap, all our palm sugar comes from the sap of the coconut palm tree. This tree is native to tropical, coastal regions of Asia, including parts of China and Indonesia. Our palm sugar is 100 percent pure and never mixed with other sweeteners, like sucrose, as some commercial palm sugars are.
We hand fill our rice paper bags personally in our spice shop to guarantee quality. We only keep a limited stock on hand to ensure that it’s fresh when it reaches you.
Our palm sugar comes in granular form, so all the hard work is done for you. Simply add the amount you need into your favorite sweet or savory dishes.