Okinawa Black Sugar Takes the World Stage

by Krystina Quintana

Okinawa Black Sugar Takes the World Stage

Japan is well-known for its culinary flavors and delightful cuisine options, from fruit-shaped like hearts to umami-rich soups. But have you heard about Japanese black sugar? If not, you'll want to add black sugar to your must-try list. This delicious Okinawa sugar is much different than what you would find in the U.S. It's also said to be a healthier alternative to other forms of sugar. Below, we explore this ingredient, from potential health benefits to varieties and more. 

What Is Black Sugar?

A pile of Okinawa black sugar on a leaf.

Japanese black sugar, also known as kokuto, is an ingredient that has been produced since the 1600s. It’s made in the Okinawa prefecture, hence the name Okinawa black sugar. This delicious sugar is beloved for the rich, caramel taste it adds to drinks and dishes. 

How Is Kokuto Sugar Made?

This delicious sugar is produced by separating the juice of the sugar cane from the rest of the stalk. Then, the juice is boiled for a few hours until it turns into black syrup. Then, it's allowed to cool completely before being broken into chunks or a powder. 

Typically, this Japanese black sugar is made from January to March. During this time, it is said that the sugar has the best flavor and consistency.

Japanese Black Sugar Uses

While it does help sweeten food and provide a delicious flavor, this ingredient is commonly used to help with colds. Otherwise, it’s common to see black sugar dissolved in ginger tea as a remedy for nausea. Additionally, people use Japanese black sugar to help with menstrual pain, as it has a high iron content. 

Health Benefits of Kokuto

The main health benefits of kokuto come from its inclusion of minerals not found in other sugar options, like white sugar. These minerals include potassium, magnesium, iron, and calcium. Additionally, kokuto has many vitamins, such as B1, B2, and B6. 

There are many Okinawa black sugar benefits since it contains essential vitamins and minerals. It can help by increasing energy, relieving stress, and potentially helping lower your blood sugar levels. Since black sugar is not refined, it can maintain these nutrients that are usually stripped out of sugar when processed. 

Types of Black Sugar

Multiple types of black sugar are available, differing based on the region or country where they are produced. While Okinawa is the original producer of black sugar, you’ll also find options in China, Taiwan, and Korea. For example, Taiwanese or Chinese black sugar is also on the market. 

A spoonful of Okinawa black sugar.

These sugars are each produced within their respective countries. While they are all made from sugar cane, they each have a slightly different flavor depending on where they were produced. Even black sugar made in different areas of Japan features a slightly different flavor which ranges from salty to sweet and rich. 

There are many ways to use kokuto, including creating an Okinawa black sugar latte, desserts, jams, and bread. You'll even find this ingredient in some cosmetic products.   

White Sugar Vs. Black Sugar

A few main differences exist between white sugar and black sugar. The molasses is removed while making white sugar, creating its white color. The molasses is what holds most of the nutrients, so it's considered a "less healthy" black sugar substitute. Black sugar is an unrefined sugar, as the molasses is still maintained during the creation of black sugar. 

However, that does not mean that white sugar doesn’t have benefits. White sugar can help boost energy and mood after consumption. You’ll commonly see white sugar in baked goods, specifically fluffier desserts like meringues and mousses. 

Black Sugar Vs. Brown Sugar

Wondering, “what is Japanese brown sugar?” In Japan, brown sugar and black sugar are generally the same as they indicate unrefined sugar made from sugar cane. However, comparing American brown sugar and Japanese black sugar, you'll see a larger difference. Brown sugar in America has a different consistency than black sugar. It also features some of the health benefits that black sugar does, such as the ability to help with menstrual cramps due to its potassium content. 

This difference in nutrients is due to the process of creating brown sugar. This type of sugar is made by adding molasses to refined sugar crystals and boiling them together. Brown sugar is best for dense baked goods, such as rich cookies or sweet loaves like banana bread. It’s also one of the main ingredients in caramel sauce. 

Where to Buy Okinawa Black Sugar

With its recent spike in popularity as a trending ingredient, it's easier to find a source for Japanese black sugar. You can find it at most Asian marketplaces or online.

It’s also easier to find prepared foods and snacks that use Japanese black sugar, such as Day Plus Natural Yeast Bread: Okinawa Black Sugar (1 Piece). Bokksu also includes snacks flavored with Okinawan black sugar in its Japanese snack subscription boxes, so subscribe today to get a taste!