What is coconut syrup?
Coconut syrup is a sweetener made from the sap of coconut trees. The sap is heated until much of the water content evaporates, leaving behind a thick, syrupy liquid. Coconut syrup contains about 60-70% sugar, mostly in the form of sucrose. It has a subtle coconut flavor and is slightly less sweet than honey or maple syrup.
Coconut syrup has been used for centuries in Southeast Asian and Pacific Islander cuisines. More recently, it has grown in popularity in North America and Europe as a vegan alternative to honey or syrups containing refined sugars. It is now easy to find coconut syrup sold in bottles at natural food stores and some grocery stores.
Nutrition facts of coconut syrup
One tablespoon (21 grams) of coconut syrup contains (1):
|Total fat||0 g|
|Saturated fat||0 g|
Like other unrefined sweeteners, coconut syrup is high in calories and carbohydrates. But it contains no fat and negligible amounts of protein.
Compared to white sugar or corn syrup, coconut syrup has a lower glycemic index. This means it does not raise blood sugar levels as quickly after consumption (2).
It also provides small amounts of several minerals, including iron, zinc, calcium, and potassium. However, the quantities are not high enough to significantly impact your daily nutrient intake.
Benefits of coconut syrup
Here are some of the main benefits associated with using coconut syrup:
– Lower glycemic index than refined sugars: Coconut syrup has a glycemic index of 54 while table sugar is 65 and high fructose corn syrup is 87 (3). The lower glycemic index means coconut syrup won’t spike your blood sugar as dramatically.
– Source of nutrients: Unlike refined sugar, coconut syrup contains trace amounts of nutrients like zinc, iron, potassium, and calcium.
– Longer lasting energy: The nutrients and lower glycemic index of coconut syrup provide a more sustained source of energy compared to a sugar high from refined sugar.
– Subtle coconut flavor: Coconut syrup has a mild yet sweet coconut taste that some people prefer over plain sugar.
– Vegan: Coconut syrup is completely plant-based and vegan friendly.
– Less processed: While coconut syrup goes through heating and evaporation, it is less processed than sugar that has been bleached and stripped of molasses.
Downsides of coconut syrup
Coconut syrup does have some downsides to consider:
– High in calories and carbs: Like any sweetener, coconut syrup is very high in calories and carbohydrates. The carbs are almost entirely from sugar. One tablespoon provides 29 grams of carbs, with 23 grams from sugar (1).
– Easy to over-consume: The thick, syrupy texture makes it easy to pour more than a standard teaspoon or tablespoon. This can lead to accidental overconsumption of calories.
– Not whole food: While less processed than refined sugar, coconut syrup is still extracted from coconut sap and boiled down into a concentrated, liquid form. It lacks the fiber of whole foods.
– Contains fructose: Coconut syrup is high in fructose, which may promote insulin resistance, belly fat accumulation, and other metabolic problems when frequently consumed in excess (4).
– Expensive: Coconut syrup tends to cost 2-3 times as much as plain sugar per ounce. The expense can add up if you use it regularly.
– Subtle flavor: The mild coconut taste may get overpowered by stronger flavors like coffee. You may not even notice the coconut flavor.
Is coconut syrup Keto?
Coconut syrup is not keto-friendly because of the high carbohydrate content.
Each tablespoon of coconut syrup contains 29 grams of carbs, almost entirely from sugar (1). On a standard ketogenic diet, you need to restrict net carbs to 20-50 grams per day (5).
Just a couple tablespoons of coconut syrup could already exceed your carb budget for an entire day.
Plus, coconut syrup elicits an insulin response and spikes blood sugar due to the high glycemic load. This takes your body out of ketosis.
If you follow a keto diet, there are better low-carb alternatives, such as:
– Monk fruit
These zero or low-carb sweeteners won’t impact ketosis or take up a substantial portion of your daily carb allowance.
Is coconut syrup Paleo?
Coconut syrup is considered Paleo-friendly and can fit into a Paleo diet when used in moderation.
The Paleo diet centers around foods available to early hunter-gatherers during the Paleolithic era. This means fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, meat, seafood, eggs, and plant-based oils (6).
Although coconut syrup requires processing, it comes entirely from coconut sap. No refined sugars, grains, legumes, dairy, or artificial ingredients are added.
Additionally, coconut products feature prominently in Pacific Island and Southeast Asian diets, where early hunter-gatherers had access to coconuts.
That said, Paleo experts recommend enjoying natural sources of fructose like fruit in place of liquid sweeteners like coconut syrup. Overdoing sweeteners isn’t optimal for health, even natural ones.
Use coconut syrup sparingly to sweeten Paleo desserts, smoothies, or coffee as a treat. But don’t make it a dietary staple.
Does coconut syrup go bad?
Unopened coconut syrup can last 12-24 months past the printed expiration date when stored properly. An unopened bottle should be good for at least 2 years from the production date.
Once opened, coconut syrup will last up to 1 year when kept refrigerated.
Keep coconut syrup tightly sealed in a cool, dark place like your pantry or cupboard. Refrigeration extends shelf life after opening.
Signs coconut syrup has gone bad include:
– Mold growing inside the bottle
– Fermented smell
– Separation and watery texture
– Crystallized texture (from excessive sugar crystallization)
– Change in color
– Sour taste when sampled
Discard coconut syrup if you notice any of these signs of spoilage. Don’t risk getting sick from consuming bad coconut syrup.
Proper storage helps prevent coconut syrup from spoiling quickly. Keep unused portions refrigerated and tightly sealed. Never leave the bottle sitting out on the counter after use.
Coconut syrup as a sugar substitute
Coconut syrup can substitute for plain sugar in some recipes, but a few adjustments may be needed:
– Use 3⁄4 cup coconut syrup for every 1 cup of sugar. Coconut syrup is slightly less sweet than granulated white sugar.
– Reduce liquids slightly to account for the thinner consistency of coconut syrup compared to sugar.
– Add liquids gradually and watch consistency. Coconut syrup can thin out batters more than expected.
– Cookies may spread more due to the moisture in coconut syrup. Use less syrup or more flour.
– The subtle coconut flavor likely won’t be noticeable in strongly flavored foods like cookies or curries. It may come through more in things like lemon bars or cream pies.
– Store-bought coconut syrup varies in thickness. The replacement ratio may need tweaking based on the brand you use.
– Refrigerate baked goods made with coconut syrup, as they may mold faster.
Coconut syrup isn’t suitable for all recipes that call for sugar. Because of the moisture content, it can inhibit browning in recipes where caramelization is desired.
It works best in moist cakes, muffins, pancakes, and fruit pies where a very sweet flavor isn’t required. The coconut taste also pairs well with tropical fruits and desserts.
Is coconut syrup good in coffee?
Coconut syrup can add a touch of natural sweetness to coffee. It mixes in smoothly and imparts a subtle coconut aroma.
The lower glycemic index may also provide a more stable energy boost compared to plain sugar or simple syrups.
When using coconut syrup in coffee:
– Start with 1 teaspoon (5 ml) per 8 ounces (240 ml) of coffee and adjust to taste. It’s sweeter than plain sugar.
– Stir thoroughly until fully dissolved into the hot coffee.
– Froth coconut syrup into lattes for a nice foam. It may not whip up as thick as dairy milk.
– Coconut flavor comes through more in iced coffee. It gets muted by hot coffee.
– Avoid adding too much, as excess sweetness can overpower the coffee flavor.
– Refrigerate leftover coconut syrup to extend shelf life after opening.
Coconut syrup can replace plain sugar or simple syrup in many coffee drinks, including:
– Iced coffees
– Frappes and blended coffee drinks
However, the coconut flavor may not suit espresso shots or purist black coffee drinkers who don’t want added sweetness.
For a coconut-mocha twist, add a shot of chocolate syrup along with coconut syrup. Just watch your overall calories.
Is coconut syrup better than other sweeteners in coffee?
Coconut syrup has some advantages over table sugar and simple syrup when used as a coffee sweetener:
**Benefits vs. Sugar:**
– Lower glycemic impact
– Subtle coconut flavor
– More nutrients
– Less likely to oversweeten
**Benefits vs. Simple Syrup:**
– Richer, more complex flavor
– Lower glycemic index
– Nutrients like zinc and iron
– Easier to measure and portion control
However, drawbacks include the higher cost per ounce and not mixing quite as instantly as simple syrup.
Compared to zero-calorie sweeteners like stevia and Splenda, coconut syrup has more effect on blood sugar. It also adds calories, making it more difficult to enjoy sweet coffee while controlling calories.
Overall, coconut syrup is a tasty option for those who follow a whole-foods diet and want to limit refined sugar. But it may not suit low-carb or hypocaloric diets as well as zero-calorie sweeteners.
As with any sweetener, moderation is key to prevent potential downsides.
How to make your own coconut syrup
It’s possible to make basic coconut syrup at home with two ingredients:
– Coconut sap/nectar – Available canned or bottled at some health food stores. You can also tap fresh sap straight from a coconut tree if you live in a tropical climate.
– Stainless steel pot
1. Pour coconut sap into a stainless steel pot. Use a 2:1 ratio of sap to desired syrup. For example, 2 cups of sap will yield 1 cup of syrup.
2. Bring the sap to a simmer over medium heat. Do not let it boil vigorously.
3. Let the sap simmer while stirring occasionally. Simmer until the volume has reduced by half and the sap is thickened to a syrup consistency. This can take 45-90 minutes.
4. Remove the syrup from heat and let cool slightly before transferring to an airtight glass jar or bottle.
5. Refrigerate after opening to increase shelf life. The homemade syrup should keep for 4-6 months.
Keep in mind that homemade coconut syrup won’t be quite as thick or concentrated as commercially made syrups. But it still offers a minimally processed, all-natural sweetener option.
Add your own twist by simmering spices like cinnamon, vanilla, or cardamom into the sap as it reduces.
Coconut syrup offers a moderately healthy alternative to refined sugar or corn syrup when you want to add a touch of sweetness to coffee.
The lower glycemic impact, subtle coconut flavor, and trace nutrients are advantages over plain sugar. It also mixes easier into cold and hot coffee compared to honey.
Just be mindful of portion sizes, as the calories and sugar content add up fast. Those following very low-carb or low-calorie diets may want to opt for lower calorie sweeteners instead.
Overall, coconut syrup can be an occasional indulgence in moderation for those that tolerate natural sources of sugar. Limit to a teaspoon or two max per day as part of a healthy diet. Or save it just for special coffee treats.