If you are ever in a country that uses sugar cane juice to make its sweets, you must try piloncillo.
The flavor is unlike anything else.
Piloncillo is a traditional Latin American sweetener, and it is a popular ingredient in a large number of dishes.
It can be found in candies, jams, jellies, beverages, and more.
Piloncillo is also comparable to other types of sugars used to make desserts worldwide – such as brown sugar or molasses.
However, if you aren’t near a place where they make this kind of candy, you might want to consider using another sweetener as a substitute for the real thing.
Luckily it is pretty easy to make some delicious candies with other ingredients.
In this article, we will go over four of the best substitutes for piloncillo that can be found worldwide.
What is Piloncillo?
Piloncillo is a type of unrefined or partially refined sugar.
It is sold in solid cones, and because it has not undergone the same processing as white or brown sugar, it retains its molasses content, creating a much richer flavor than either one.
Piloncillo is a traditional ingredient in Mexican cuisine, and many dishes use it as their main ingredient.
These dishes include antojitos, drinks such as Aguas Frescas, and desserts such as churros (fried dough pastries) and cajeta (a type of sweet milk), which is also served with piloncillo.
Many Mexican desserts are made using piloncillo as the sweetener because it emits a flavor that other sugars do not have.
One example of this is tres leches cake, where piloncillo gives the cake an almost caramel-like taste which cannot be achieved with other types of sugar.
In addition, piloncillo is typically cheaper than other sugars, which makes it a good choice for cooks who need to save money or who want to add a Latin twist to their cooking.
The 4 Best Substitutes for Piloncillo
Piloncillo, also known as panela or Mexican brown sugar, is a type of unrefined cane sugar with a rich and complex flavor.
It is commonly used in Latin American and Mexican cuisine to add depth and sweetness to various dishes.
However, if you don’t have piloncillo on hand or are looking for alternatives, there are several substitutes available.
In this guide, we will compare the top 4 substitutes for piloncillo, discussing their key characteristics and suggesting proper ratios to help you achieve similar results in your recipes.
|Dark Brown Sugar
|Moist and rich flavor with a hint of molasses; widely available
|Use an equal amount of dark brown sugar as a substitute for piloncillo
|Strong and robust flavor with a distinct bitter-sweet taste
|Use half the amount of blackstrap molasses compared to piloncillo
|Dark Corn Syrup
|Sticky and sweet syrup with a mild caramel-like flavor
|Use an equal amount of dark corn syrup as a substitute for piloncillo
|Palm Sugar (Nangka)
|Natural sweetener made from palm tree sap; has a complex and caramel-like flavor
|Use an equal amount of palm sugar as a substitute for piloncillo
Now let’s dive into each substitute in more detail:
1 – Dark Brown Sugar
Dark brown sugar is less processed than its lighter counterpart.
It has large crystals created by mixing granulated sugar with molasses.
This gives it a much richer flavor than white or light brown sugar.
It has an intense flavor and aroma but less molasses content than piloncillo.
One big advantage of using dark brown sugar is that it will produce a darker color for your food, ideal for certain dishes such as mole or barbecue sauce.
Remember to use an equal amount of dark brown sugar as a substitute for piloncillo.
- Key Characteristics: Dark brown sugar has a moist and rich flavor with a hint of molasses. It is widely available and can provide a similar complexity to piloncillo in your recipes.
- Proper Ratio: Use an equal amount of dark brown sugar as a substitute for piloncillo. Adjust the quantity based on your recipe requirements.
2 – Blackstrap Molasses
The next option you can use is blackstrap molasses which, like piloncillo, originates from sugar cane.
It’s important to note that this product is made via the third boiling of the sugar cane juice.
This boiling process is critical because it extracts the plant’s most nutrients, vitamins, and minerals.
The key benefit of using blackstrap molasses is that it offers many nutritional benefits.
This includes calcium, magnesium, potassium, sulfur, phosphorus, and iron.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that this product is bitter and sour.
Thus you will need to add it slowly while cooking to not impact the taste of your dish.
- Key Characteristics: Blackstrap molasses has a strong and robust flavor with a distinct bitter-sweet taste. Although different from piloncillo, it can add depth to your dishes.
- Proper Ratio: Use half the amount of blackstrap molasses compared to piloncillo when using it as a substitute. Adjust the quantity based on your recipe requirements and desired level of sweetness.
3 – Dark Corn Syrup
Dark corn syrup is another popular substitute for piloncillo.
It is produced by adding enzymes to a mixture that includes water, cornstarch, and maltose or dextrose.
This product was created in the 1880s when chemists realized they could use enzymes to ferment starch into sugar.
The benefit is that this product has a rich caramel-like flavor with smoky undertones.
It’s also particularly helpful because you can melt it easily, and it doesn’t contain any sulfites or phosphates.
You can use dark corn syrup as a substitute for piloncillo by using half the amount of piloncillo in your recipe.
- Key Characteristics: Dark corn syrup is a sticky and sweet syrup with a mild caramel-like flavor. While not identical to piloncillo, it can provide a similar level of sweetness and contribute to the overall taste profile.
- Proper Ratio: Use an equal amount of dark corn syrup as a substitute for piloncillo. Adjust the quantity based on your recipe requirements.
4 – Palm Sugar (Nangka)
Palm sugar (also known as nangka) is made from coconut and date palms and then boiled until it solidifies into a block.
It’s very similar to piloncillo because both of these products are unrefined sugars.
When using palm sugar, remember that it has a slight molasses flavor.
Thus it is not the best choice if you are looking for an intense sweet flavor.
Palm sugar also works best when cooked rather than added to beverages or uncooked sauces.
It’s important to note that palm sugar is usually available in dried, granulated form.
Thus you will need to use a grater or food processor for this product.
- Key Characteristics: Palm sugar, also known as nangka or gula melaka, is a natural sweetener made from palm tree sap. It has a complex and caramel-like flavor that can mimic the taste of piloncillo.
- Proper Ratio: Use an equal amount of palm sugar as a substitute for piloncillo. Adjust the quantity based on your recipe requirements.
Piloncillo is a traditional Mexican sweetener made by slowly simmering refined sugar cane juice.
One advantage of piloncillo is that it has a brown color and an intense molasses flavor, making it perfect for mole sauces.
However, with all these options available, the best way to know what substitute works for you depends on your own preference.
So experiment with different products, and see what you like best.
The 4 Best Substitutes for Piloncillo
- Dark Brown Sugar
- Blackstrap Molasses
- Dark Corn Syrup
- Palm Sugar Nangka
- Pick your favorite substitute from the list above.
- Follow cooking directions for your selected substitute with the proper ratio of ingredients.
Andrew Gray is a seasoned food writer and blogger with a wealth of experience in the restaurant and catering industries. With a passion for all things delicious, Andrew has honed his culinary expertise through his work as a personal chef and caterer.
His love for food led him to venture into food writing, where he has contributed to various online publications, sharing his knowledge and insights on the culinary world. As the proud owner of AmericasRestaurant.com, Andrew covers a wide range of topics, including recipes, restaurant reviews, product recommendations, and culinary tips.
Through his website, he aims to inspire and educate fellow food enthusiasts, offering a comprehensive resource for all things food-related.