Across the world, most sugar is called brown or white, determined by its refinement and molasses content. Sugar from Okinawa, kokuto, is literally defined in Japanese as “black sugar” – set apart by a very dark, chocolate-like hue and unique processing method. As the star ingredient of this recipe, kokuto lends a deep, defined malty flavor in a soft but crispy-edged cookie.
How is sugar processed?
Common brown and white sugar is processed as such: the sugar cane is stripped and crushed, then boiled in water to crystalize. Afterwards, it is processed again to remove impurities and by-product molasses. To make brown sugar, the molasses is added back in. Regardless, this method of repeatedly refining the sugar into a crystalized form strips the final product of the cane’s natural vitamin and mineral content.
How is kokuto different?
Instead of following widespread sugar refining techniques, Okinawans make kokuto by extracting sugar cane juice and then boiling it down slowly. The juice is only boiled down to a point where impurities are skimmed off before the liquid is poured into trays to cool and solidify. The result is dark brown slabs, broken into smaller chunks or ground up before packaging. Due to the limited processing, kokuto retains a high amount of calcium, magnesium and potassium. As such, kokuto is touted as a nutritious sweetenerin Japan that maintains strong bones and relieves fatigue.
Our kokuto Cookies bring out the best of Okinawa’s famous sugar, pairing its complexity with rich, browned butter. On the face of the golden cookie, specks of larger kokuto grounds remain visible, just like freckles after a day on one of Okinawa’s beautiful beaches!
Servings: 6 large cookies
- 115g unsalted butter
- 75g kokuto (Okinawa black sugar)
- 75g granulated sugar
- 1 large egg
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- 125g all purpose flour
- ½ tsp baking soda
- ½ tsp salt
- Flaky sea salt (optional topping)
- Brown the butter: In a saucepan, melt the butter on medium, and allow for it to crackle and foam. Use a rubber spatula to stir gently to remove milk solids from the bottom of the pan. As the crackling subsides, lower your heat but continue to stir until the butter becomes visibly brown and smells nutty. Turn off your heat and transfer the browned butter to a shallow bowl or small baking dish. Store in the fridge until the butter solidifies, and then remove to soften at room temperature.
- Cream the brown butter, kokuto powder and sugar for 5 minutes, or until the sugars dissolve and the mixture is smooth and whipped. Beat in the egg and vanilla extract.
- Separately, sift and combine the flour, baking soda, and salt. Add dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until combined. Do not overmix.
- Cover the bowl and chill the dough for at least 4-5 hours, preferably overnight.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C or 350°F.
- Scoop balls of cookie dough about 2 tablespoons in size and place on a lined baking sheet about 10 cm or 2 inches apart. Depending on the size of your oven, you may need multiple cooking sheets. Spacing is essential as the cookies will spread! Keep any remaining dough chilled if you are not immediately baking.
- If desired, sprinkle flaky sea salt on the top of each cookie.
- Bake the cookies for 10-12 minutes, or until golden brown. Cookies should have crispy edges and chewy centers.
- Let cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.
- Store leftovers in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for approximately 5 days.
Recipe available in our Baking: "Amai" Care Package
About the recipe creator and photographer: Yaz Gentry is a freelance recipe developer and food-lover based in Tokyo, Japan. Half-Japanese and half-American, she enjoys fusing together seasonal ingredients and dishes from both cultures as a reflection of her mixed heritage. You can follow her culinary adventures at www.meshibliss.com and @