Jaggery is a traditional unrefined sugar with a strong caramel-like flavor produced from the sap of various species of palm tree.
It is particularly popular in the south and southeastern Asian cuisine.
Jaggery comes in different forms: solid blocks, powder, or liquid, usually made from sugar cane.
One of the main uses of jaggery in cooking is sweetening desserts and curries, which can profoundly affect savory dishes.
Jaggery also helps with preserving foods – it has better antimicrobial properties than refined sugar, helping to stop the growth of bacteria and fungi on the food.
However, jaggery has two main drawbacks: it is difficult to find (particularly outside of Asia) and quite expensive.
This article covers the best substitutes that you can use for this sweetener alternative.
What is Jaggery?
It is a traditional Indian sweetener made of dried sugarcane juice.
It is harder than refined cane or beet sugar, has a pleasant, mild caramelized flavor, and is sticky.
Using jaggery can be difficult at first because it is not as easy to work with as regular sugar, but the flavor will win you over soon enough.
Jaggery can be made at home or purchased from specialty Indian grocery stores.
It is used in many traditional Indian desserts, beverages, and savory dishes.
When cooking with jaggery, add it initially because it tends to burn easily.
When making tea or coffee with jaggery, add just enough hot water to dissolve the sugar and then stir in the remaining water so that it does not stick to the bottom of the pan.
The 5 Best Substitutes for Jaggery
Although jaggery is a traditional sugar, there are some substitutes you can use if you don’t have it on hand.
1 – Molasses
Molasses are dark brown syrups that are sugar cane or sugar beet by-products.
It has an incredibly strong flavor and isn’t very sweet.
Molasses is about as sweet as brown sugar.
Molasses were originally used as a medicine to sailors because they kept well during long voyages.
When using molasses, you’ll need to dissolve it in liquid.
This is because it’s incredibly sticky.
You can use this ingredient in savory dishes, baked goods, and desserts.
Make sure to use unsulfured molasses because it is processed without high-sulfur fuel.
2 – Demerara Sugar
Demerara sugar is a variety of brown sugar.
It can be used as an alternative to white sugar.
It provides a rich texture and toffee flavor.
You can often use demerara sugar as you would use any other type of brown sugar in the kitchen.
This means it should work fine in cookies, muffins, or other sweet dishes.
You can also use it for coffee or tea because it won’t dissolve well in hot liquids.
You’ll likely want to add sprinkles on top of the dish when cooking with it near the end.
This will avoid burning.
It’s worth noting that demerara sugar is not widely available in all grocery stores.
However, you can order it online or look for it in specialty food stores.
3 – Turbinado Sugar
Turbinado sugar is a coarse and large-crystal sugar.
It is off-white and produced from the first pressing of sugar cane.
It’s important to note that turbinado sugar can substitute for molasses, brown sugar, and even jaggery.
You can use it in baked goods or coffee or tea.
Although turbinado sugar is a bit coarse, you won’t have to worry about this when using it in beverages because the strength of flavor will mask any coarseness.
Turbinado sugar is often used in top-notch restaurants.
You can find it in most grocery stores.
4 – Muscovado Sugar
If you can’t find turbinado sugar, try muscovado sugar.
It is brown to dark brown and has a very strong molasses flavor.
This sugar is often used in desserts and beverages because it has an intense flavor.
You can use muscovado sugar to replace jaggery or molasses in many recipes, but you might have to experiment a bit with how much you’re using.
The good news is that it’s easier to find than demerara sugar.
Depending on where you live, it may be carried in grocery stores.
If not, you can order it online.
5 – Dark Brown Sugar
Last but not least, you can always use dark brown sugar as a substitute for jaggery or molasses.
Dark brown sugar is a mix of white and dark cane sugars, so it has a less intense flavor than muscovado sugar.
It’s often used in desserts instead of light brown or white sugar because it provides a rich texture and flavor profile.
You can use dark brown sugar as an alternative for any other types of sugars you might be cooking with.
This includes light or dark molasses, white sugar, and turbinado sugar.
Like muscovado sugar, it’s easy to find in most grocery stores or specialty food stores.
Jaggery has a unique flavor.
If you don’t have it on hand, there are many other types of sugars you can use as a substitute to avoid changing the recipe too much.
You might have to experiment with each type to determine how it changes the taste and texture of your dish.
As a general rule, it’s best to use these sugars as a 1:1 substitution for each other.
This means that if the recipe calls for 1/4 cup jaggery, you should use about 1/4 cup molasses or demerara, or turbinado sugar.
You can also experiment with muscovado and dark brown sugar.
Have you used any of these sugars as substitutes before? What did you make, and how did it turn out?