Piloncillo Mexican Brown Sugar



The name piloncillo refers to the traditional cone shape in which the sugar is produced. It is also know as panela and panocha. There are actually two varieties of piloncillo produced one is lighter (blanco) and one darker (oscuro). The cone size can vary from as small as 3/4 ounce to as much as 9 ounces per cone. The cones shown in the picture above are about 3" tall.

How To Use Piloncillo

Piloncillo is very hard compared to the brown sugar you purchased in a box at the local grocer. Chop the piloncillo with a serrated knife.

Traditional Uses For Piloncillo

Cafe de Olla - An earthy mixture of Viennese-roast coffee, cinnamon, aniseeds, and piloncillo (Mexican dark brown sugar).

Champurrado - A special hot chocolate thickened with masa and flavored with piloncillo and aniseeds.

Featured Recipe - Piloncillo Pralines

  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • 8 to 9 oz. piloncillo, softened and chopped
    1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons whole milk
  • 6  tablespoons butter
  • 1 1/2 cup pecan pieces, toasted
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground canela (cinnamon)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  1. Grease a 24-inch sheet of wax paper. Set it on several thickness of newspaper.
  2. Combine all ingredient except the vanilla extract in a heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil slowly so that the piloncillo melts and continue cooking, stirring constantly, until the mixture reaches the soft ball stage, 238°F.
  3. Add vanilla extract, remove the pan from the heat, and continue stirring as the candy cools. When the mixture becomes creamy and cloudy, and the pecans remain suspended while stirring, spoon the mixture onto the wax paper. You can make pralines of any size. Work quickly, before the candy hardens in the pan. The pralines set as they cool.
  4. These are best the day they are made, but they will keep for several days if tightly covered. Use leftover pralines by crumbling them over ice cream. You can also pour the praline mixture into a pan and cut it like fudge.

Fun Fact about Piloncillo Mexican Brown Sugar

Where To Buy Piloncillo

Look for piloncillo cones in Mexican grocery stores.  You can also purchase the cones online at Amazon.com: Piloncillo Mexican Brown Sugar Cones

Substitutions And Storage


If your recipe calls for piloncillo you can substitute 1 cup dark brown sugar and a couple of teaspoons of molasses. You can see more piloncillo substitutions here. 


You can store piloncillo indefinitely. It should be tightly wrapped and stored in a cool, dry spot in your cupboard or pantry.  Pilocnillo will get a whitish granular look to the exterior as it gets older but it still totally usable.

Barbara Bowman graduated with degree in Foods and Nutrition from San Jose State University. As CEO of GourmetSleuth.com she spends most waking hours writing, cooking, eating, gardening and traveling.