Panela Sugar

Panela is another of the paleo-sugars, which is to say those that are made the truly old-school way, by crystallizing reduced cane juice in pans, then draining it in conical molds. In that way it’s almost identical to jaggery sugar, except that it’s made in the Americas (in Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, Guatemala, Panama, Peru, Venezuela and Mexico, where it’s called piloncillo) and is always made from cane juice. Like jaggery it has about 20% non-sugar content, and can run the gamut from very blonde to very dark. This right here is obviously very deep, dark stuff. And since rustic packaging seems to be de rigueur with these, I thought I’d show you that as well. Cool.

14 thoughts on “Panela Sugar”

  1. The question is: how do you break up panela into usable chunks?

    My mom kept a hammer in the miscellaneous kitchen tools drawer for three reasons: coconuts, cracking open nuts, and helping the cleaver to break off chunks of panela. Once a manageable chunk was off, she’d cover the chunk with a towel and directly hit it with the hammer to make smaller pieces. But while fun to use a hammer, it always seemed like there should be an easier (and less messy!) way. Any ideas?

    1. I use an old box grater for ‘lump’ sugars but its probably not good on the tool.

    2. Hey Mari!

      The fresher the sugar, the softer it is. That’s due to the molasses and non-sugar content. The more time passes the more it crystallizes and the harder it gets. So my thought in a nutshell is: buy it in small quantities and use it consistently. When it’s fresh you can almost cut it with a butter knife.

      – Joe

      1. Can’t you do the same thing that’s done with brown sugar….. put it in a jar with a bit of apple? That always works for me to soften rock hard brown sugar.


        1. Yes I do think that would work, Robin. A lightly damp paper towel also works.


          – Joe

  2. I have never seen this stuff – does it come with a lot of vegetation & things in it? Given its color here I would expect a fairly dark, molasses-y flavor – is it?

    1. It’s more consistent than jaggery, yes. And it has a very deep molasses flavor. I recommend it to you.

      – Joe

  3. I saw this late, sorry for answering now. My mother used to whack it with a “pilon”, but I just cut or shave what I need with a sharp knife. It works well. If you’re going to use it to make a syrup or are using it in any type of liquid, you can cut the chunks bigger because the liquid will disolve it.

  4. Hey ! Hello friend’s old school dark sugar. I m fool of this way until descovering it accross travel trip in mexico’s montain village market( at pinotepa de don louis), or in Laos’ local market and india too….
    I m chef and make experiece or looking for combinaison with simple but good hand made product. ex nice medium goat cheese with slice dark panela (little acidity & finess smeeling) make un masing…..
    Voilà, just to know if you get some dark panela mean same i’m looking for whith acidity ?
    Thank’s lot friend’s, waiting answers and mabye exchange info about keeping or try d'”affiner”the panela….!!!!!
    from france à paris, merci

    1. Hello Arno!

      Thank you very much for the comment, and the excellent idea! I will use that one day. I will ask if anyone on the blog has any more ideas for you.

      I hope the weather is good in Paris!

      – Joe

    1. Hey Honest!

      A Mexican grocery store for sure. A larger multi-ethnic market should have it as well. Failing that there’s always they internet!


      – Joe

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