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The Ultimate Guide to Panela

The Ultimate Guide to Panela
Writer and expert2 years ago
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What is Panela? 

Panela is raw dried organic cane juice that is deep-rooted in Colombia's urban and rural consumer traditions. Although it’s the next big thing in sugar alternatives, it has been around for at least 500 years in Latin America! 

In today’s culture, Panela is most popular with savvy consumers across the globe who are moving away from processed and refined foods. The no. 1 reason it is preferred beyond being one of the most natural sources of sweet available, is because of its flavourful & aromatic taste. Another key component to its popularity is its low glycaemic load vs. regular sugars.  

Who makes Panela? 

In Colombia, there are an estimated 350,000 people, including producers, workers, and traders involved and this provides income for more than 70,000 farming families who serve the significant domestic demand. There are approx. 18,500 crushing and milling facilities dedicated to sugarcane to support the production of this natural sugar. 

In recent years, the Colombian government has created programs to help develop local economies around the production of legal, in-demand agriculture products. A non-profit entity by the name of FEDEPANELA supports The Panelero Farmers - those farmers that make their livelihood harvesting sugar cane and producing panela.  

How is Panela made?


Panela is obtained from evaporated sugarcane juice. The sugar cane is hand-cut, transported to a mill, crushed, and kettle cooked. The juice is then filtered within panela production facilities called ‘trapiches’. During filtering, the impurities are removed, and the juice is boiled down into a thick syrup over earthen ovens. The syrup is traditionally sold in a solid block form in Latin America, as it is hardened in cone moulds. However, in recent years panela producers have innovated and found ways to pulverize the panela so it can be sold as fine-soft granules. This makes Panela a lot easier to use for the everyday consumer and a great sugar for beverages, cooking, and baking. Much like BONRAW’s Organic Panela 

What makes it so different to regular sugar? 

This traditional, small-scale production method lends itself to retaining higher amounts of the molasses contained within the sugarcane. It’s the molasses that delivers a lightly sweet flavour and aroma. It’s truly remarkable, as it contains naturally occurring vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that you won’t find in sugars that go through an industrial refining process. 

No factories, no synthetics. 

There are no factories and industrial processing involved, just traditional technology and farming. These methods result in a sugar that is better for your health and better for the environment. We work in direct trade, which enables us to manage transactions, labour, and work directly without the involvement of any third parties. We have a direct line of communication with our rural producers.  

A unique classification for Panela 

Your standard supermarket sugars are known as centrifugal sugar products. “Centrifugal” refers to the process by which the sugar is produced. Refining involves the sugar going through a machine that works like a spin dryer. During this process, the molasses is separated from the sugar crystal. They do this to make the sugar more ‘palatable’, we very much beg to differ!  

Panela sugar is classified as a non-centrifugal sugar by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Non-centrifugal sugar products are part-processed, which means most of the natural molasses content is retained in the sugar (the good stuff)!  

Is non-centrifugal sugar healthy? 

Non-centrifugal sugars show a superior nutritional value and bioactive molecule content compared to refined white cane sugar due to the molasses content and the process requiring less refining on different products. 

How can I use my Panela? 

Panela can be used as a 1:1 replacement for brown and white sugar in your beverages, baking, and cooking. In fact, it is probably one of the most versatile sugars you can buy thanks to its flavour profile. It’s a welcome alternative in baking when you’re looking for a textural component. It has wonderful, varied colouration, and delightful rich aromatic molasses aroma, combined with notes of sun-ripened wheat or barley. And on tasting there are distinct hints of sweet molasses and cane, with wonderful, caramelised notes. These flavours compliment quality coffees served hot or cold. It can be used in smoothies, blended juices, and as a sweetener in cocktails. For your cooking, Panela can be used for your marinades or pasta sauces to cut through acidity and add a warm depth to your recipes.  

All about natural ‘terroir’ 

Tasting a sugar that has undergone very minimal processing is an experience all in itself. Panela retains its natural ‘terroir’, which refers to the flavour profile derived from the environment it’s grown in. The scent is almost nostalgic, it’s comforting, a unique aroma delivered by the molasses that is contained within the sugar cane.  

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 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 flavour 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*: 

  • Potassium 
  • Calcium 
  • Magnesium 
  • Manganese 
  • 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. 

*Studies have shown.


Try BONRAW Organic Panela for Yourself! 

Panela is a natural wonder. It is the most natural cane sugar available and it doesn’t simply sweeten, it contains vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants from the sugarcane plant. It’s a perfect alternative to your supermarket sugar, it is varied in its uses and tastes good enough to eat. BONRAW’s Organic Panela is sourced from Quimbaya, Colombia. The natural terroir from this region provides our Panela with a warm, caramel, molasses flavour, it’s nature’s candy. 

Now that you have the full scoop on Panela, it’s time to try it for yourself. BONRAW’s Organic Panela. 

Writer and expert
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