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The 4 Best Substitutes for Piloncillo

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?

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.

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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

If piloncillo is not available to you or if you simply want to try something different, several other sugars can be used in its place.

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The four best substitutes for piloncillo include:

1 – Dark Brown Sugar

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.

2 – Blackstrap Molasses

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.

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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.

3 – Dark Corn Syrup

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.

4 – Palm Sugar (Nangka)

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.

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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.


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.

Yield: 4 Servings

The 4 Best Substitutes for Piloncillo

The 4 Best Substitutes for Piloncillo
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes


  • Dark Brown Sugar
  • Blackstrap Molasses
  • Dark Corn Syrup
  • Palm Sugar (Nangka)


  1. Pick your favorite substitute from the list above.
  2. Follow cooking directions for your selected substitute with the proper ratio of ingredients.
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