Lucuma powder is a popular natural sweetener that has become more widely available in recent years. Derived from the lucuma fruit which is native to Peru, lucuma powder offers a sweet, maple-flavored alternative to processed sugars.
However, lucuma powder can be difficult to find in some areas, and it tends to be more expensive than other sweeteners. If you don't have access to lucuma powder, or simply want to experiment with different flavors and textures in your recipes, there are several suitable alternatives you can use.
What is Lucuma Powder?
Lucuma powder is made by drying lucuma fruit and grinding it into a fine powder. The lucuma fruit grows on trees in Peru and parts of Ecuador and Chile. It has green skin and yellow flesh with a dry, starchy texture reminiscent of a sweet potato.
Lucuma has been used for centuries in South America and was known as the "Gold of the Incas" for its revered status. The dried powder has a subtly sweet, maple-like flavor and caramel, butterscotch notes.
It contains fiber, vitamins, and minerals and has an extremely low glycemic index. This makes lucuma powder popular for people looking to reduce sugar and improve blood sugar control.
Key Takeaway: Lucuma powder offers a naturally sweet, nutritious alternative to processed sugars with a signature maple flavor profile.
Why Substitute Lucuma Powder?
There are a few key reasons you may want to use a lucuma powder substitute:
- Lucuma powder can be difficult to find. Since it comes from Peru, lucuma powder has limited availability in many areas. You'll mostly find it at health food stores or have to order it online.
- It's more expensive. Lucuma powder tends to cost more than common sweeteners like sugar, honey, and maple syrup. The price may make you hesitate to use it regularly.
- You want to experiment with flavors. While lucuma powder has a lovely flavor, you may sometimes want a different taste in your recipes. Trying substitutes allows you to change up the flavors.
- Dietary restrictions. Lucuma powder is not low-FODMAP, keto-friendly, or suitable for nut-free diets. Substitutes can help meet your dietary needs.
- You ran out. If you use lucuma powder frequently but your supply has run low, substitutes can fill in the gap.
Best Substitutes for Lucuma Powder
One of the closest lucuma powder substitutes in terms of flavor is pure maple syrup. It provides the same maple, caramelized sweetness that makes lucuma so unique. Maple syrup works especially well in liquids like smoothies, oatmeal, yogurt, and sauces.
When substituting maple syrup for lucuma powder, use a 1:1 ratio. You may need to thin it out with milk or water in thick mixtures like batters. For baked goods, maple syrup can work but may create a wetter, denser texture.
Like maple syrup, honey replicates the caramelized sweetness of lucuma powder. Raw honey also contains antioxidants and nutrients that make it a healthy choice.
Honey works beautifully in drinks, yogurt, oatmeal, and more. For baking, use a 3/4 cup of honey for every 1 cup of sugar. Honey is sweeter than sugar, so you may wish to slightly reduce other liquids in a recipe.
Note that honey is not vegan. For a vegan alternative, try date syrup or agave nectar in a 1:1 ratio.
When it comes to texture, brown sugar is the most direct substitute for lucuma powder. They have a nearly identical fine, grainy texture that integrates seamlessly into baked goods.
For flavor, brown sugar offers notes of molasses and toffee that can stand in for lucuma powder's maple taste. Use an equal amount of brown sugar in place of lucuma powder. Be aware that brown sugar does not offer the same nutritional benefits.
Surprisingly, mashed banana can mimic both the texture and flavor of lucuma powder. Overripe bananas are especially useful, as they become sweeter and more maple-flavored as the starch converts to sugar.
For baked recipes, substitute 1/4 to 1/3 cup banana puree for each 1 cup of sugar. Add a few tablespoons of non-dairy milk if the mixture seems dry. Banana works great in smoothies, pancakes, muffins, cakes, and cookies.
In its original form as a whole fruit, lucuma has an earthy, sweet potato-like flavor. You can lean into this flavor profile by using sweet potato in its place.
For baking, substitute 1 cup cooked, mashed sweet potato for 1 cup of sugar. In smoothies, a small chunk of roasted sweet potato adds natural sweetness. You can also add sweet potato to puddings, custards, yogurt, and oatmeal much like lucuma powder.
Chopped Medjool dates can provide texture and binding abilities similar to lucuma powder in baked goods. Soak the dates first to soften them before adding to a recipe.
Depending on the recipe, use 2-3 times as many dates by volume compared to the amount of lucuma powder. Add a splash of non-dairy milk if the batter seems dry. Dates work well in cookies, bars, muffins, and cakes.
For a 1:1 lucuma powder substitute, try coconut sugar. The two have an almost identical fine, powdery texture. Coconut sugar also has a subtle caramel-like sweetness reminiscent of lucuma.
However, coconut sugar does have a higher glycemic index than lucuma powder. For retaining the health benefits of lucuma, limit coconut sugar to a 50/50 mix or usejust small amounts.
Stevia extracts offer zero calories and have almost no effect on blood sugar. This makes stevia ideal for those managing diabetes or weight. Start with just a pinch as stevia is extremely potent.
Keep in mind that stevia has a distinct aftertaste that some dislike. Combining a small amount with another sweetener helps mask the aftertaste. Look for liquid stevia drops rather than powdered forms.
Lucuma Substitute Recipes
Here are a couple recipes using some of the best lucuma powder substitutes:
Healthy Carrot Cake Bars
Makes 16 bars
- 2 cups walnuts
- 1 cup Medjool dates, soaked
- 1 cup shredded carrots
- 1 large banana, mashed
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp ground ginger
- 1/4 cup raisins or currants
- Process walnuts in a food processor until finely ground. Add dates and process until a sticky dough forms.
- Press dough into an 8x8 baking pan lined with parchment paper.
- In a medium bowl, mix shredded carrots, mashed banana, maple syrup, and spices. Fold in raisins/currants. Spread over the crust.
- Refrigerate bars for 2-3 hours before cutting into squares. Store leftovers in the fridge.
Lucuma-less Vegan Ice Cream
Makes 4 servings
- 2 frozen bananas, chopped
- 1 cup full-fat coconut milk
- 3 Tbsp maple syrup
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Pinch sea salt
- Blend all ingredients in a high-speed blender or food processor until smooth and creamy.
- For a softer consistency, let ice cream sit at room temperature for 5-10 minutes before serving.
- Scoop into bowls and enjoy! Leftovers keep well in the freezer.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is lucuma powder healthy?
Yes, lucuma powder is very healthy and nutritious. It provides fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, while being low glycemic and low in sugar. Lucuma powder offers health benefits for blood sugar regulation, heart health, digestion, and immunity.
What does lucuma powder taste like?
Lucuma powder has a sweet, maple-like flavor with notes of caramel, butterscotch, and sweet potato. It is not as sugary tasting as honey or maple syrup. The flavor is delicate and warm.
How do you use lucuma powder?
Lucuma powder is easy to incorporate into smoothies, yogurt, oatmeal, coffee/tea, ice cream, pudding, and baked goods. Use it anywhere you would use sugar. For baking, use a 1:2 ratio of sugar to lucuma powder.
Is lucuma powder keto-friendly?
Yes, lucuma powder is generally considered keto-friendly. It is low in sugar and net carbs. A typical serving of 1-2 teaspoons contains around 2-4 grams of net carbs, fitting into a keto diet.
Can I substitute lucuma powder for stevia?
You can, but keep in mind that lucuma powder does contain carbs and calories, unlike zero-calorie stevia. For diabetes or carb-conscious diets, only use small amounts of lucuma powder. Combining it with stevia can reduce carb content.
Lucuma powder is a wonderfully healthy, natural sweetener, but it can be hard to come by. Thankfully, alternatives like maple syrup, honey, brown sugar, sweet potato, and banana can mimic lucuma's sweetness and caramel notes when needed.