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This article is about the unrefined sugar product. For the cheese, see Queso panela.

|uses = Panela water |origin = Latin America

Region or state
Main ingredients Whole cane sugar
Cookbook:Panela  Panela
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy 1,600 kJ (380 kcal)
Sugars 86.4 g
0.1 g
0.2 g
Other constituents
Water 12.3 g
Calcium 79 mg
Magnesium 81 mg
Iron 12 mg

Panela (Spanish pronunciation: [paˈnela], Portuguese: rapadura [ʁɐpɐˈduɾɐ]) is unrefined whole cane sugar, typical of in general, which is a solid form of sucrose derived from the boiling and evaporation of sugarcane juice.[citation needed] Panela is known by other names in Latin America, such as piloncillo in Mexico (where panela refers to 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.[1][2]

Panela is sold in many forms, including liquid, granulated, and solid blocks, and is used in the canning of foods as well as in confectionery, soft drinks, baking, and vinegar- and wine-making.

Regional names[edit]

This is the front of the Museum of Brown Sugar, a sugar plantation with historic features in the city of Aquiraz, Ceará, Brazil.
Rapadura with cashew from Museu da Rapadura
Claimed to be the world's largest rapadura, on display on a farm southeast of Fortaleza, Ceara, it took 19,800 kg of sugar cane to produce this block, which is more than 10 square meters and weighs 1,811 kg.
  • Raspadura in Cuba and Panama
  • Rapadou in Haiti
  • Panela de Dulce in El Salvador
  • Panela in Colombia and Ecuador
  • 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[3]


Panela is commonly sold in this form.
Brazilian rapadura in tablet
Mexican café de olla served with a panela lump.

The main producer of panela is Colombia (about 1.4 million tons/year),[4] where panela production is one of the most important economic activities, with the highest index of panela consumption per capita worldwide. Panela is also produced in Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico,[5] Panama, Peru, Chile, Venezuela, Brazil, and Bolivia (where it is called chankaka or empanizao).

In Colombia, the panela industry is an important source of employment, with about 350,000 people working in nearly 20,000 trapiches (panela farms). In 2003, Colombian sugarcane contributed 4.2% of the value of agricultural production (not counting coffee) and 1.9% of national agricultural activity of that country. That year, it was ninth in contributions to production value.

Similarly, it represents 10.7% of the area for permanent crops and 6.2% of the total area cultivated in Colombia, sixth place among the country's crops, behind only coffee, corn, rice, bananas, and cotton. This product is produced predominantly in the rural economy, the basic economy of 236 municipalities in 12 national departments.

An estimated 70,000 farm units cultivate sugarcane for mills, which generate more than 25 million[clarification needed] annually in wages, employing around 350,000 people, or 12% of the economically active rural population, making it the second-largest employer after agricultural coffee production.[citation needed]

Worldwide, the Colombians are the largest consumers of sugarcane, at more than 34.2 kg per capita. To the extent it is a low-cost sweetener with important contributions of minerals and trace amounts of vitamins, high intake occurs mainly in strata. Panela consumption represents 2.18% of expenditures on food and in some areas accounts for up to 9% of food expenditures in low-income sectors.


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.[6]

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.[7] 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 Tagalog term panutsá, is traditionally used as an ingredient for latík and kalamay, as well as a comfort food eaten straight.

National Panela Pageant[edit]

The National Panela Pageant takes place in the town of Villeta, Cundinamarca, in Colombia. This town is famous for its production of sugarcane, but the festivities occur in almost all national departments of Colombia in January of each year. Villeta is located 91 km from Bogota and has 37,300 inhabitants. The festival has been celebrated since 1977 as a tribute to the hard work and craftsmanship with which the peasants of the region make panela. It creates a sense of regional and national unity and the sharing of a common bond. Each year, a National Queen is crowned, on the basis of beauty, popularity, and knowledge about the production and marketing of panela.

See also[edit]