Home » coconut sugar vs. brown sugar - what's the difference?

coconut sugar vs. brown sugar - what's the difference?

coconut sugar vs. brown sugar - what's the difference?

Coconut sugar and brown sugar are popular in baking and are very similar. If you were placed in front of small bowls of coconut sugar and brown sugar, you might not be able to visually tell the difference.

So what is the difference between coconut sugar and brown sugar? The biggest difference between coconut sugar and brown sugar is how and what they are made from. Coconut sugar is made from the nectar of the flowers of the coconut palm tree, while brown sugar is made from cane or beet sugar, just like white sugar.

There are many more similarities and differences, from its taste to its use. To decide which one you will use in your next pastry, let’s look at each element.

What is the difference between coconut sugar and brown sugar?

There may be some merit to the “sugar is sugar” argument, but there are still significant differences between coconut sugar and brown sugar.

They are made from completely different plants, which we have already talked about. Although they also have similar flavors and nutritional profiles, there is still a lot that sets them apart.

The way to use them in your confectionery presents subtle differences, although you can substitute one for another. Before making your decision, consider each sugar from all angles.


The biggest difference between coconut sugar and brown sugar is what they are made of.

Coconut sugar has become very popular because it is lower on the Glycemic Index than conventional white sugar, which is why many people turn to it as a healthier solution.

The question is why? And what about brown sugar?

Coconut sugar is not made from the meat, water, or milk of a coconut, as many people may assume. It is actually made from the nectar of the flowers of the coconut tree.

This makes its process more similar to that of honey, although it is a granule, not a syrup. The nectar is simply heated until all the liquid is evaporated.

Coconut sugar is very lightly processed, especially when compared to white or brown sugar. Most people know that white sugar is highly processed and unhealthy. We are also programmed to understand that “brown” products are healthier than white alternatives.

Many common brown sugars are simply refined white sugar with molasses added. It is just as processed as white sugar, and is made using the same process, with one simple additional step.

You can find unrefined brown sugar, which has never had the molasses removed, and is the most natural of brown sugars.

You can also find partially refined brown sugar, which has had some of the molasses removed and is the middle ground between reconstituted and unrefined brown sugar.

Unless explicitly stated on the packaging, it’s safe to assume that brown sugar has been reconstituted and is just as refined as white sugar. The molasses reduces sweetness and adds a smoky flavor, but it doesn’t change the key ingredient: white sugar.


As we just mentioned, the characteristic flavor of brown sugar is molasses . Depending on how dark the sugar is, you’ll get more or less flavor that will dampen the straight-sweet taste of white sugar.

A very dark brown sugar will take on more of the bitterness and almost coffee flavor of molasses, while a light brown will be almost as sweet as white sugar, but with a hint of dried fruit.

Coconut sugar , interestingly, does not taste like coconut, but its taste is often compared to that of a light brown sugar. It has a slightly nutty flavor, a bit of caramel, and is not as sweet as refined white sugar.

nutritional data

Coconut sugar is less refined than brown sugar, which means it retains trace amounts of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, amino acids, and other healthy plant-based materials.

Brown sugar does not have these trace amounts of vitamins, minerals, and other healthy materials. It is as healthy as sugar is expected to be.

In any case, if you look at their basic nutritional profile, they are almost exactly the same. Trace amounts of minerals only show up in huge servings, which you don’t want to consume in any form of sugar.

Where the biggest nutritional difference occurs is in the glycemic index (GI), and this is mainly the reason why coconut sugar has become so popular in recent years.

Brown sugar has a glycemic index of 64, but coconut sugar has a GI of 35.

This means that consuming the same amount of sugar will trigger a much smaller response from your metabolic system (if you eat coconut sugar), helping you maintain blood sugar balance more effectively.


Brown sugar is high in moisture and dissolves quickly in liquid. Brown sugar also tends towards the sticky side of sugar granules due to the added molasses.

There is a popular trick that consists of placing a piece of bread with the brown sugar to extract the moisture from the sugar and prevent it from caking.

Coconut sugar tends to have larger individual granules, which will affect how well it dissolves, especially if it’s used in baking. If you need to make a buttercream, it’s a good idea to put the sugar in a blender to grind it into smaller pieces first.

Coconut sugar has less moisture than brown sugar, so if you’re going to bake with it, you may need to add a little more liquid to your recipe to keep the overall consistency of your baked good the same. regardless of how well it dissolves.

Coconut sugar is more variable than brown sugar depending on the brands you buy, so it’s hard to predict exactly how well it will dissolve. If you use it in coffee or a hot drink, just give it a good stir and you won’t have any problems.

If you are dissolving the coconut sugar in thicker liquids, such as whole milk or oils, you may need to give it an additional 5 minutes to fully dissolve.

How to use brown sugar vs. coconut sugar

Coconut sugar is less predictable in recipes and is not used as much by professional bakers and recipe makers. So any time you substitute another type of sugar for coconut sugar, you are taking a texture and consistency risk.

It may be worth it, but you may also end up with denser and/or drier baked goods.

With this in mind, coconut sugar is a great solution for your daily coffee or tea, to sweeten cereal, or to sprinkle on anything you want to sweeten.

If you want a reliable sugar for baked goods, brown sugar will offer more consistency . Also, brown sugar is cheaper and much easier to find in local supermarkets.

Can you substitute brown sugar for coconut sugar?

Yes, in general, you can substitute coconut sugar for brown sugar and vice versa, cup for cup. However, coconut sugar is less sweet and less moist in nature.

To compensate, if you’re swapping coconut sugar for brown sugar, you may consider adding a bit more liquid. A tablespoon of plain applesauce will also give you the moisture you need and add another boost of natural sweetness.

Where to buy brown sugar vs. coconut sugar

Brown sugar can be easily found at almost any grocery store, although if you’re looking for unrefined brown sugar, the search can be a bit more difficult.

coconut sugar vs. brown sugar [Table]

Criteria coconut sugar Brown sugar
Ingredients Nectar from the flowers of the coconut palm tree It is usually refined cane or beet sugar
Taste hints of caramel Varying molasses levels, depending on how dark the sugar is
Texture Large, dry granules wet and soft
nutritional data Traces of vitamins and minerals, but essentially pure sugar Pure sugar with no other nutritional benefits
Glycemic index 35 64
How to use As an added sweetener for beverages or convenience foods In baked goods or for budget reasons
replaces 1:1, add a little liquid 1:1, slightly reduce liquid

We hope you have learned something about coconut sugar and brown sugar. We’ve also included some related questions that we hope you’ll see.

Palm sugar vs. Brown sugar?

Palm sugar comes from the nectar of coconut palm blossoms. Palm sugar, however, comes from the sap of sugar palm trees, making it more similar to maple syrup.

From there, it is either boiled to create a paste or the water is completely evaporated to create small, rock-like pieces of sugar called jaggery.

Palm sugar is not as sweet as brown sugar, although they do have similar flavor profiles. Palm sugar is on the smoky end of the scale, while brown sugar has more of a cooked caramel and molasses flavor.

Does coconut sugar taste like coconut?

No, coconut sugar does not taste like coconut at all. In fact, it is often compared to a light brown sugar, although not quite as sweet. It has a slight hint of caramel that many compare to molasses.

What is a healthy substitute for brown sugar?

Sugar is sugar and there are no truly healthy substitutions. Substituting coconut sugar for brown sugar will lower the glycemic index, which is better for your metabolic system.

Substituting with artificial sweeteners can completely eliminate the sugar content. It depends on what you use as a measure of health.