Panela is unrefined whole cane sugar, typical of Central and of Latin America in general, which is a solid form of sucrose derived from the boiling and evaporation of sugarcane juice. Panela is known by other names in Latin America, such as piloncillo in Mexico (because the word panela names a type of cheese, queso panela) and rapadura; elsewhere in the world, the word jaggery describes a similar foodstuff. Both of them are considered Non-centrifugal cane sugars.

Panela is sold in many forms, ranging from solid blocks of different weights, to granulated, to liquid forms, to used in the canning of foods, confectionery, soft drinks, baking, wine making, and the making of vinegar.


It was originally created as an easier way to transport sugar. In Venezuela, it is an essential ingredient for many typical recipes, and in some parts of the country, it is used in place of refined sugar as a more accessible, cheaper, and healthier sweetener. Apart from being a sweetener panela has been claimed to contain other substances of nutritional value for human consumption such as minerals, antioxidants and vitamins.

It is used to make chancaca. In Peru, chancaca is used in typical food such as champús, picarones, calabaza al horno, and mazamorra cochina. In Costa Rica, it is used in preparations such as tapa de dulce and agua de sapo.

The main use of the panela in Colombia is for aguapanela, one of the most widely consumed beverages in Colombia. It is also used in the preparation of guarapo and various desserts. Since it is a very solid block, most Colombian homes have a hard river stone (la piedra de la panela) to break the panela into smaller, more manageable pieces. Panela can be purchased in markets, local grocers, and online stores. In parts of coastal Colombia, it is also used for chancacas.

Known as piloncillo in México, it is most often seen in the shape of small, truncated cones. Many Mexican desserts are made with piloncillo, such as atole, capirotada, champurrado and flan. It is also blended with different spices, such as anise, cayenne, or chocolate.

In the Philippines, panocha or in Filipinized term panutsá is traditionally used as an ingredient for latík and kalamay, as well as a comfort food eaten straight.

Regional names

  • Raspadura in Cuba, Ecuador and Panama
  • Rapadou in Haiti
  • Panela de Dulce in El Salvador
  • Panela in Colombia
  • Rapadura in Brazil and the Dominican Republic
  • Chancaca in Chile, Argentina and Bolivia
  • Tapa de dulce in Costa Rica
  • Papelón, panela or miel de panela in Venezuela
  • Gur in India
  • Piloncillo (“little pylon”, so named for the cone shape) in Mexico

Shopping hints:

Look for cones of this in Mexican markets or online.


Combine 1 cup dark brown sugar with 2 tablespoons molasses (very close substitute)

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