What is Palm Syrup?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Palm sugar can be melted to make palm syrup.
Palm sugar can be melted to make palm syrup.

Palm syrup is a type of sweet syrup extracted from the sap of several varieties of palm trees, including coconut palms, date palms, sugar palms, and palmyra palms. This food is used in Southeast Asian cooking, especially in desserts, and it can also be distilled to produce various alcohols, such as arrack, a fiery liquor similar to rum. Many Asian markets carry palm syrup, and it can also be purchased from specialty purveyors.

Many types of palm trees grow naturally in rain forests or areas that typically have tropical or subtropical climates.
Many types of palm trees grow naturally in rain forests or areas that typically have tropical or subtropical climates.

In order to make palm syrup, producers first have to collect the sap of palm trees. Agile workers are sent up the trunks of palm trees during certain times of the year to cut depressions in the crown of the palm tree and position collecting buckets beneath pipes leading from the depressions. As sap wells up and drips down the pipes, it is gathered in the collection bucket; once the bucket is full, it can be taken away for processing.

Palm syrup may be distilled to create various types of alcohol.
Palm syrup may be distilled to create various types of alcohol.

The sap is boiled down much like sugarcane juice to produce palm sugar and syrup. The syrup is extremely dense, like molasses, and it tends to be a very dark brown. It is also incredibly rich and very sweet, making it ideal for many desserts. The thick substance is extremely sticky as well.

Palm syrup is typically sold in bottles or tins, and it will tend to thicken and crystallize over time. It is most typically used in sweet foods like desserts, breads, pastries, and puddings, and it may be drizzled over various foods or mixed in as the food is prepared. Palm syrup can also be used to temper the flavors of spicy curries and other Southeast Asian dishes, adding its rich, molasses-like flavor to the food.

If you have a recipe which calls for palm syrup and you have trouble obtaining it, there are a number of options you can use. Molasses makes a decent replacement for this syrup, since it has a similar consistency and flavor. You can also use palm sugar to make syrup: melt the sugar and strain it to remove chunks and impurities, leaving the sweet, thick syrup behind. Be careful when doing this, as hot sugar can feel like napalm if it lands on exposed skin.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

anon342354

I had to cut a palm tree, and I am collecting the syrup. What I should do with it? Thanks.

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    • Palm sugar can be melted to make palm syrup.
      Palm sugar can be melted to make palm syrup.
    • Many types of palm trees grow naturally in rain forests or areas that typically have tropical or subtropical climates.
      Many types of palm trees grow naturally in rain forests or areas that typically have tropical or subtropical climates.
    • Palm syrup may be distilled to create various types of alcohol.
      Palm syrup may be distilled to create various types of alcohol.