In need of a quick and easy alternative to coconut sugar for baking or cooking? Below are 22 of the BEST coconut sugar substitutes, plus tips and tricks on when to use them. I bet you probably have a few in your pantry.
You can also find a recipe for a homemade coconut sugar replacement below if you’re feeling ambitious!
what is coconut sugar
Coconut sugar is a natural sweetener made from the blossom of the coconut palm tree. It’s not made from the fruit of the coconut tree.
To harvest the sugar, the flower bud of the coconut tree is tapped and the nectar is extracted. This nectar is then heated until all the liquid evaporates, leaving behind small granules.
what does coconut sugar taste like?
Coconut sugar isn’t as sugary sweet as white sugar and it has a subtle caramel taste that isn’t as heavy-handed as molasses.
It also has mellow toasted undertones similar to brown sugar.
low glycemic index
Some coconut sugars may be low on the glycemic index. Meaning, they don’t raise blood sugar levels quickly as refined sugars do. However, this can vary per brand and manufacturer, and every individual processes sugar differently.
Despite potentially having small amounts of minerals and nutrients, coconut sugar is still very high in calories like granulated sugar.
One teaspoon of coconut sugar contains:
- 15–18 calories (depending on the brand)
- 5 grams of sugar
This is about the same as granulated white sugar.
When it comes to choosing the best sweetener for your lifestyle, coconut sugar is still sugar and may not be much healthier than granulated sugar (from purely a calories perspective). You can find out more info about the health benefits (and cons) of coconut sugar here.
*If you are diabetic or you’re trying to find a sugar substitute for health reasons always consult your doctor before making any substitutions.
how to use coconut sugar in baking
Coconut sugar is a popular refined sugar alternative because in most cases it can be swapped 1 for 1 with white sugar or brown sugar. It’s also widely used in Southeast Asia in both savory dishes and desserts.
Because coconut sugar is plant-based and isn’t processed with bone char, it’s risen in popularity in vegan baking. It works especially well in recipes that call for brown sugar because it has a similar caramel flavor.
Some recipes that coconut sugar would go well in are:
22 of the best substitutes
Below are the top 22 substitutes for coconut sugar, listed in order of preference. For a summary of all the options click here.
the best overall substitute
When it comes to the best substitute for both baking and cooking light brown sugar is the winner.
Light brown sugar has a similar taste (although not identical) and sweetness level to coconut sugar. Brown sugar can be either unrefined or refined. And commercial brown sugar is produced by mixing granulated sugar with molasses.
Substitute light brown sugar 1 for 1 with coconut sugar in pretty much any application.
- 1 cup light brown sugar (spooned, not packed) = 1 cup coconut sugar
Regular granulated sugars do tend to be a bit sweeter than coconut sugar, so if you’re sensitive to the sweetness you could substitute 3/4 cup brown sugar for 1 cup coconut sugar, so long as the wet to dry ratio in your recipe isn’t super important.
the best low glycemic substitute
Swerve is a brown sugar replacement that I first heard about a year or two ago. It’s popular among those who practice a Keto diet because it’s low carb and non-glycemic.
Unlike other low-cal sweeteners like stevia and monk fruit, Swerve is made from erythritol which is a sugar alcohol and claims to be free of any odd aftertaste.
Swerve makes many products from brown sugar to granulated sugar. But the brown sugar version, in particular, would be a good option for anyone looking for a non-glycemic or low glycemic alternative to coconut sugar.
Because it measures like coconut sugar, it would work in both baking and cooking scenarios.
- 1 cup Swerve brown sugar (spooned, not packed) = 1 cup coconut sugar
granulated substitutes for baking
Aside from the brown sugar listed above, the following are the best granulated coconut sugar substitutes for baking applications. They are listed in order of preference.
3. Granulated White Sugar + Molasses
Commercial brown sugar is made by mixing white sugar and molasses together. So naturally, the third option on this list is a substitute that mimics the first option. This option is great if you’re also in need of a sub for brown sugar.
If you have white sugar and molasses in your pantry, you can make brown sugar at home.
The common ratio is 1 cup of white sugar mixed with 1 tablespoon of blackstrap molasses. Use a fork or your electric hand mixer to incorporate the molasses into the sugar until there are no lumps.
Depending on your preference, you can add up to 1 more tablespoon of molasses. However, any more than that and this substitute will start to border on dark brown sugar which is the next option on the list.
- 1 cup of white sugar mixed with 1 tablespoon of molasses = 1 cup of coconut sugar
4. Dark Brown Sugar
Dark brown sugar, similar to light brown sugar, is granulated sugar mixed with molasses. The ratio between the two is greater, with dark brown sugar containing close to 6.5% molasses instead of 3.5%.
Because of the higher molasses content, dark brown sugar has a stronger, distinctive molasses taste.
It will also make your baked goods darker in color. In some recipes like cookies, it will make them spread more and could result in a chewier texture.
- 1 cup dark brown sugar (spooned, not packed) = 1 cup coconut sugar
5. Turbinado Sugar (Sugar in the Raw)
Turbinado is a natural brown sugar. So unlike commercial brown sugar which is made from white sugar and molasses, it retains some of its sugar cane juice which gives it a darker color.
Raw sugars like turbinado have been spun in a centrifuge to remove some of the natural molasses on the crystals. They have relatively large granules and a distinctive golden color.
It has a milder caramel taste than brown sugar and has much larger crystals than coconut sugar.
- 1 cup turbinado sugar = 1 cup coconut sugar
The name Sucanat is actually a trademark for ‘sugar cane natural.’ Sucanat retains some natural molasses, similar to turbinado sugar.
However, unlike turbinado, Sucanat is technically pure dried sugar cane juice, and it has smaller, almost powder-like granules.
- 1 cup Sucanat = 1 cup coconut sugar
Palm sugar and coconut sugar are often confused and used interchangeably. Most palm sugar actually comes from a different tree than coconut sugar. While coconut sugar is a type of palm sugar, not all palm sugars are coconut sugars.
Palm sugar is most commonly extracted from the date palm, nipa palm, or sugar palm trees.
It’s processed similarly to coconut sugar. But instead of being sold as granules, it is often sold as a paste or as larger blocks of sugar that need to be grated.
It’s unrefined and has caramel and buttery flavors with a distinct palm taste.
The only reason this alternative isn’t higher on the list is that it either comes in a paste or needs to be grated to be the same texture as coconut sugar.
- 1 cup palm sugar = 1 cup coconut sugar
As the name suggests, date sugar is made from dried dates. Dates have a rich, sweet, caramelly taste which translates into date sugar. It’s important to note that the texture is more of a powder, and not really granules of sugar.
Date sugar doesn’t dissolve super well, so it’s not the best substitute for cold or hot beverages. It also doesn’t melt the same way coconut sugar does, so it’s not ideal for caramel-type recipes.
In other baking applications, it can be subbed 1 for 1 with coconut sugar.
- 1 cup date sugar = 1 cup coconut sugar
Maple sugar comes from the same trees that produce maple syrup! It’s made by boiling the sap of the sugar maple, black maple, or red maple until all that’s left is solid sugar.
Maple sugar takes on the flavor of maple syrup, which is delicious, but it’s not super similar to coconut sugar.
The particular brand linked above is NOT a 1 for 1 substitution and is closer to a granular sugar in texture than brown sugar or coconut sugar.
- 3/4 cup maple sugar = 1 cup coconut sugar
10. Regular Granulated White Sugar
The second to last item on the granulated sugar portion of this list is good old white sugar.
Unlike coconut sugar, granulated sugar is refined and higher on the glycemic index. It also doesn’t have the same toasted caramel taste that coconut sugar has.
Granulated sugar is also much sweeter than coconut sugar. It can technically be subbed 1 for 1, but if you’re sensitive to sweetness, I’d recommend using closer to 3/4 of a cup to 1 cup.
- 1 cup granulated sugar = 1 cup coconut sugar
- or if you’re sensitive to sweetness, 3/4 of a cup granulated sugar = 1 cup coconut sugar
11. Jaggery / Panela
Jaggery and panela are two types of cane sugar that are not granulated. They’re both concentrated sugars made from either cane juice, date sap, or palm sap. They often come in a brick-like format which is why I’ve placed them lower on this list.
Jaggery is common in Southeast Asia and is used in many desserts and baked goods.
Panela is an unrefined cane sugar but it is typically found in both Central and Latin America.
- 3/4 cup dark jaggery = 1 cup coconut sugar
- 1 cup light jaggery = 1 cup coconut sugar
- 1 cup panela = 1 cup coconut sugar
low cal granulated substitutes
The following are the best coconut sugar substitutes if you’re looking for a low-calorie option. These may not be the best choice for baking applications as they don’t have the same texture as coconut sugar. These would work best in cooking recipes, sauces, or drinks.
Stevia is a sugar substitute derived from the Stevia plant. It has zero calories but is super sweet. It has two to three times the sweetness of regular sugar.
So even though most manufacturers say to substitute it one for one with granulated sugar, keep in mind it will make your baked goods sweeter.
For simplicities sake, I’ve listed a one-for-one ratio below, but use your judgment and adjust according to your personal taste.
- 1 cup stevia (adjust to taste) = 1 cup coconut sugar
Xylitol is a pant-derived sugar alcohol, similar to the one that Swerve sugar is made from. It’s the common ingredient in many sugar-free gums and candies.
It has 1/3 fewer calories than granulated sugar and is lower on the glycemic index. Similar to stevia, manufacturers claim that it has a one-for-one ratio with granulated sugar, but it is sweeter in taste so use your discretion.
- 1 cup xylitol (adjust to taste) = 1 cup coconut sugar
Monk fruit sweetener is another common sugar substitute. Many brands claim it tastes, bakes, and cooks the same way granulated sugars do.
It’s 250 times sweeter than sugar yet has zero calories.
Again, like stevia, I’ve listed a one-for-one ratio below, but use your judgment and adjust according to your personal taste.
- 1 cup monk fruit sweetener (adjust to taste) = 1 cup coconut sugar
The following are the best coconut sugar alternatives for cooking applications or for sweetening drinks and liquids.
I would not recommend the following for baking recipes unless specially called out by the recipe creator. Baked goods often require a specific wet to dry ingredient ratio.
15. Maple Syrup
In terms of coconut sugar substitutes, maple syrup is a great one. It’s readily available (I bet you have some in your fridge), it tastes amazing, and it’s all-natural.
The only reason it’s so low on the list is that it is a liquid sweetener and therefore isn’t great for every scenario.
In most baking situations, maple syrup can probably be substituted using a 3:4 ratio (so 3/4 cup syrup to 1 cup granulated coconut sugar). If using syrup, you’ll most likely want to decrease the overall liquid of the recipe by 3-4 tablespoons. This is a tricky substitution though because many baking recipes can be finicky.
- 3/4 cup maple syrup (adjust to taste) = 1 cup coconut sugar
16. Agave Nectar
Agave is another mild tasting yet common liquid sweetener.
A good rule of thumb would be to use the same ratio as maple syrup. So, use a 3:4 ratio (3/4 cup agave nectar to 1 cup granulated coconut sugar). If using agave, you’ll most likely want to decrease the overall liquid of the recipe by 3-4 tablespoons.
- 3/4 cup agave nectar (adjust to taste) = 1 cup coconut sugar
17. Brown Rice Syrup
As the name suggests, brown rice syrup is made by steeping rice starch and extracting sugars from the starch. It’s a super sticky and thick liquid sweetener. I would say it’s similar in texture to corn syrup.
- 3/4 cup brown rice syrup (adjust to taste) = 1 cup coconut sugar
18. Date Syrup
Date syrup, sometimes called date honey, is a very sweet, thick fruit syrup. If you think of the flavor and sweetness of dates, date syrup is a concentrated version of that.
Because it’s so sweet, you’ll want to use less than the other liquid sweeteners listed above.
- 2/3 cup date syrup (adjust to taste) = 1 cup coconut sugar
Honey (or in this case, vegan honey) is yet another great natural sweetener.
It’s sweeter than coconut sugar so it’s not a one-for-one swap.
- 2/3 cup honey to 1 cup coconut sugar.
You probably have molasses in your pantry if you’ve made gingerbread cookies recently. Blackstrap molasses, or treacle, is very thick and is made by refining sugarcane into a liquid.
While somewhat sweet, molasses isn’t the best substitute because of its strong, distinctive flavor.
I won’t list a ratio because it’s best used in moderation and to taste.
Okay, this one is kind of out there, but if you’re making some type of sauce or sweetening a beverage caramel sauce could be a good option if you have it on hand.
It’s sweet and has that rich caramel taste of coconut sugar.
whole foods substitute
The following is best for cooking applications, sauces, or when blended.
22. Medjool Dates
Medjool dates would make a good coconut sugar substitute in smoothies, milkshakes, sauces, or crusts. Anywhere where blending is involved, you could use whole dates!
best coconut sugar substitutes for baking
- Light brown sugar
- Swerve brown sugar
- White sugar + molasses
- Dark Brown sugar
- Turbinado Sugar
- Palm Sugar
- Date Sugar
- Maple Sugar
- White Granulated Sugar
- Jaggery / Panela
best low cal options
- Monk Fruit
liquid substitutes (best for cooking)
- Maple syrup
- Brown rice syrup
- Date syrup
- Vegan honey
- Coconut caramel sauce
whole foods substitute
- Medjool Dates
- DIY Coconut Sugar Substitutes are listed in the recipe card below!
coconut sugar faq
Light brown sugar has a similar taste (although not identical) and sweetness level to coconut sugar. Brown sugar can be either unrefined or refined. Commercial brown sugar is produced by mixing granulated sugar with molasses.
On the other hand, coconut sugar is a natural sweetener made from the blossom of the coconut palm tree. Unlike brown sugar, it is unrefined or minimally refined.
Some coconut sugars may be low on the glycemic index, meaning they don’t raise blood sugar levels quickly as refined sugars do. However, this can vary per brand and manufacturer, and every individual processes sugar differently.
While they might seem like the same thing (coconuts come from palm trees of course), they are actually different types of sugars. Coconut sugar comes from the buds of coconut tree flowers. And palm sugar usually comes from the sap of the sugar palm tree. You can find out more in this article.
coconut sugar alternative recipe & video
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