Sugarcane can be used for the production of biofuel but, more often than not, its juice is processed into a type of organic raw sugar known as panela. This unrefined sugar is traditionally produced and consumed in Latin America.
Move away from processed and refined foods, panela sugar hits all the right notes. Flavorful, aromatic, and sweet, it’s also sustainable, environmentally-friendly, and organic.
The majority of organic panela is made by cutting down the sugarcane by hand and kettle cooking it in small batches, the way it always has been. Using centuries-old methods that involve dehydrating the raw sugarcane juice over low levels of heat, the dried end product is then pressed into blocks and consumed in beverages and foods.
This traditional, small-scale production method lends itself to retaining higher amounts of the molasses contained within the sugarcane. It’s the molasses that lends panela sugar its distinct, lightly sweet flavor and aroma. At the same time, molasses contains naturally-occurring vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that you won’t find in sugars that go through an industrial refining process.
Because it’s still produced using traditional technology and without industrial processing, panela isn’t just a better alternative in terms of your health, it’s also environmentally-friendly and sustainable. In many cases, you’ll find USDA certified organic panela that’s also fair-trade.
We’ll get into all of the panela sugar benefits in more detail below – but first, let’s find out how panela sugar is made and what sets it apart from your more conventional options.
Now that we’ve addressed “what is panela?” we can move on to all of the panela sugar benefits. Below we list each of the many benefits in more detail.
Great for Cooking, Baking, and Beverages
Organic panela is cut by hand, kettle cooked, and crafted in small batches using traditional methods and technology. Unlike refined sugars, panela produced in this way doesn’t go through any industrial collection or processing – and it’s that lack of machine processing that gives panela its unique flavor and aromas.
Panela can be used as a 1:1 replacement for brown, white, and turbinado sugar in all kinds of beverages, baking, and cooking. It’s a welcome alternative in baking and other food products when you’re looking for a textural component with hints of caramel, molasses, raisin, and spice. It complements the flavor and minerality of teas and coffees, served either iced or hot. It can be used in smoothies, blended juices, and as a sweetener in cocktails. Panela can also be used for distilling and moonshining in both small and large distilleries.
Skipping industrial collection and processing allows panela to retain what’s known as its natural ‘terroir’. Terroir refers to the particular flavor and aroma profiles derived from the environment in which a food product is grown.
Meaning that, like cheese and wine, the characteristics of panela vary according to the region where it’s produced. Factors such as soil and climate will impact how you experience panela. In some cases, the result is a fruity, floral panela and in others that means panela with warm, caramel undertones.
Get Your Vitamins and Minerals
In centrifugal production methods that separate the sugar crystal from its molasses content, the flavor and aroma of the molasses isn’t the only thing that gets lost. Refined sugars don’t retain any of the potentially good parts of sugarcane. That includes vitamins, minerals, and amino acids, such as:
Vitamins A, B, C, D, and E
Panela also contains more complex carbohydrates than your conventional sugar products. If you’re an athlete looking for sustained energy release, then panela is your preferred option.
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