Coconut Sugar versus Brown Sugar

Coconut Sugar verses Brown Sugar

Every Thanksgiving I make my own version of the infamous “Ruth Chris Sweet Potato Casserole”. If you’ve never had the real deal…holy heck, it’s amazing (and loaded with calories). I had it once and from then on out was determined from then to recreate in my own fashion.

So I do…one time a year.

Everyone at Thanksgiving dinner swoons over the dish and it is devoured.

What they don’t know is that each year I make the recipe with coconut sugar instead of the brown sugar the recipe calls for. Are you probably saying to yourself “sugar is sugar” and isn’t all sugar bad for you?

Is coconut sugar a better option? What’s the big deal on coconut sugar versus brown sugar?

In this post, I will share more about the differences between coconut sugar versus brown sugar including the nutritional benefits, uses, and recipe swaps.

Sugars By Name

As if the health factor of sugars isn’t hard enough to weed through, sugars have multiple names.

Brown sugar can go by many different names including light or dark brown sugar, demerara sugar, muscovado sugar, turbinado sugar, and free-flowing brown sugar.

Coconut sugar can also be known as coco sugar, coconut palm sugar, coco sap sugar, and coconut blossom sugar. Coconut sugar can come in a granular form or is also available in a liquid form similar to agave syrup, honey or maple syrup.

Where Do They Come From?

Perhaps one of the biggest differences in brown sugar versus coconut sugar is the origin. Your run of the mill conventional brown sugar you purchase at the grocery store is actually just refined white sugar with sugarcane molasses added in (shocking, right?!).

That is what gives it the brown color. White sugar is highly refined and is made from sugarcane and sugar beets. Refined means that it has gone through a chemical process that removed impurities and can possibly remove beneficial nutrients.

Brown sugar can contain up to 10% molasses. 4.5% molasses is considered light brown sugar and 6.5% plus is considered dark brown sugar. Processing sugar increases chemical additives and dyes to change consistency and appearance.

Coconut Sugar Verses Brown Sugar

Coconut Sugar Creation

Coconut sugar is made by a two-step process and can come in crystal or granule form, block or liquid. It is made by cutting the flower of a coconut palm and collecting the liquid sap. The sap is placed in large woks over moderate heat until most of the water is evaporated. The brown color is mostly due to caramelization.

Coconut sugar can also be considered a more sustainable product, therefore, it is considered better for the earth. Due to the minimal processing, coconut sugar uses less water and fuel when it’s being made.

When purchasing coconut sugar, make sure to check the ingredient labels to ensure you are getting a pure product and that it doesn’t contain cane sugar to help reduce the overall cost of the product.

Learning to read ingredient labels to confirm what additives are in your favorite brands helps increase food awareness and forces you to steer towards an organic brand which may be of higher quality.

If you struggle with extreme food guilt when it comes to eating sweet treats, I highly encourage you to also listen to this episode of the Feel Amazing Podcast where I dive deep into overcoming food guilt.

Coconut Sugar Versus Brown Sugar Nutritional Comparison

When you compare the nutritional facts of one tablespoon of coconut sugar versus brown sugar, they both have about 4 grams of carbohydrates in the form of sugars. That is about 16 calories per tablespoon.

But if you dive a little deeper into nutrition you will see that due to the added molasses, brown sugar contains calcium, iron, copper, potassium phosphorus, manganese, and magnesium.

Coconut sugar naturally contains vitamin C, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, calcium, zinc, iron and copper. Coconut sugar also contains inulin which is a type of dietary fiber.  Inulin acts as a prebiotic which nourishes the good bacteria already in your gut.

What Are They Made Of?

Generally, brown sugar is made of 95% sucrose and 5% molasses.  Sucrose (white table sugar) is made up of 50% fructose and 50% glucose. Coconut sugar is 70% sucrose and the rest is made up of individual molecules of fructose and glucose. So basically they are made up of the same molecules. Both are sugar.

How Does That Affect My Body?

In a study by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute aiming to assess the glycemic index of sugar, coconut sugar has a lower glycemic index than brown sugar. This means coconut sugar increases blood glucose levels at a slower rate. This can be especially important to monitor if you have diabetes.

However, these findings have been inconclusive. According to the American Diabetes Association, the glycemic index can be a helpful tool when managing blood sugar. Keep in mind the glycemic index can vary from person to person depending on different food combinations, how the food was produced and personally how your body responds.

Like most foods, it’s not the product that you consume that impacts health.  Rather it is the amount of the product that impacts your health. By overeating junk food you can gain fat just as you can by eating healthy foods.

Taste and Texture

If potential differences in the health value of brown and coconut sugar do exist, how does that translate to cooking in your own kitchen with regard to taste, texture and swapping one for the other?

Let’s start with conventional brown sugar. It is slightly moister due to the addition of molasses.  Because it originates as white table sugar the granules are fine and uniform in size.

The sugar dissolves well in liquids and incorporates into solids used in baking such as butter. Brown sugar has an almost caramel-like flavor to it which blends well in baked goods. Depending on the amount of molasses added the caramel flavor and color can vary.

Coconut sugar, contradictory to what the name implies, does not taste like coconut! Like brown sugar, coconut sugar has a slight caramel flavor. Both sugars have a very similar taste. It’s the texture that sets them apart.

Coconut sugar has much larger granules because it is made by dehydrating sap. It is less processed than brown sugar and is in a more natural state. Due to less processing, coconut sugar can be a less informed in taste and granule size, mostly unnoticeable to you and I.

Coconut sugar does not blend as well with items such as butter and can leave baked goods spotted or grainy if they normally call for brown sugar. However, these days there are many baked goods recipes that call for coconut sugar and it works great. (See below for some amazing health inspired recipes to give it a go.) Coconut sugar does dissolve in liquids quite nicely and can be a nice addition to your morning coffee or tea.

You Decide

Brown sugar and coconut sugar contain very similar macronutrient profiles. Coconut sugar edges out brown sugar slightly as far as micronutrients are concerned. It also contains inulin which can be beneficial for gut health.

In both cases, quality trumps it all. Be sure to read ingredients labels thoroughly to look for added sugars, chemical additives and anything that looks and feels like it doesn’t belong in a PURE sugar product!

(Want to learn how to fill your body with real food to look and feel your best? Check out my Feel Amazing Naked challenge by clicking here.)

Where do I buy coconut sugar?

Coconut sugar can be found in any local grocer.

BUT, my favorite place to buy it is from the comfort of my own home, on the couch and in my pajamas.  Because this mama LOVES efficiency and does not like shopping.

Here are a few brands I love that can be found by clicking on the name and shopping on Amazon.

Big Tree Farms Organic Brown Coconut Sugar

Nutiva Organic Coconut Sugar

Wholesome  Organic Coconut Palm Sugar

Better Body Foods Organic Coconut Sugar

Thrive Market

If you haven’t heard about Thrive market you are missing out! Think of Thrive as Costco meets Whole Foods all via a virtual store. Essentially you pay an annual membership to get amazing prices on high-quality products including food, supplements, toiletries and home essentials.

The awesome part is shipping is FREE on orders over $49!

You can shop for specific products via their online catalog, with all prices typically 25-30% below retail value.  Some of my favorite foodie products are hard to find and I don’t live near a retailer that carries them.

Thrive comes in handy because I can order whatever I want and have it delivered to my doorstep. They also carry a few things that I have yet to find in my local grocer.

Thrive’s yearly membership cost is $60 (that breaks down to $5 a month) and is an awesome price point for a gift. When I got married we got a Costco membership and it was the best ever.

Thrive would have been even better! Click on the link below to start your 30-day FREE trial at Thrive and get FREE shipping.

Thrive Membership

Now What?

Understanding their potential differences may increase your willingness to try new recipes. There are many sweet treats that can be made with coconut sugar. It can also be used in savory dishes as well. Coconut sugar can add a little extra kick to your dinner plate for that combo sweet and savory finish.

Recipes To Try

Check out the links below to try a few healthy recipes that require coconut sugar in the ingredient list.

Paleo Vanilla Coffee Creamer

Sweet Potato Breakfast Cookies

Paleo Sweetened Condensed Milk

Coconut Sugar Sriracha Shrimp

Slow Cooker Refined Sugar-Free Pulled Pork

Peanut Butter Blondies

Soft and Chewy Whole Wheat Pumpkin Cookies

Peanut Butter Blondies

Coconut Sugar Lemon Almonds

Roasted Apples and Pears With Coconut Sugar

At the end of the day, coconut sugar is still sugar and should not be over consumed. Just because it contains some additional nutrition does not mean it’s a free for all. Sugar is still a “treat.”

Using food awareness and nutrition label assessment is the key to choosing the highest quality option for you.

Do you use coconut sugar?

Do you have a favorite dish to use it for?


Work Hard Be Kind,


5 replies
  1. Mar A. Cabrera
    Mar A. Cabrera says:

    I’m sorry to correct your statement that brown sugar is nothing but reprocessed refined white sugar. No, it’s not in the Philippines. It’s the reverse. Refined white sugar is chemically processed raw brown sugar or the so called muscovado sugar. This muscovado sugar is the first result of dehydration of sugar cane mollases. Then producers or manufacturers put it into a chemical process that makes it granulated brown sugar. Likewise, the raw brown or muscovado sugar is refined into white sugar the process of which is costlier. It’s the reason why in the Philipines the WHITE REFINED SUGAR HAS THE HIGHEST PRICE. Only during the advent of health consciouness of people that muscovado brown sugar has become popular. But in the Philippines i think the coconut sugar is the best sugar, may be at least second to maple sugar.

    • awalkmacros@gmail.com
      awalkmacros@gmail.com says:

      Thank you so much for the feedback and education. It’s amazing the differences across countries. I so appreciate your comment!


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.