Lucuma powder is a dried, milled version of lucuma fruit. Cultivated in the Andean region of South America, the fresh fruit is a nutritional powerhouse and commonly used in the foods of Chile, Ecuador, and Peru. The light brown powder has become a preferred alternative sweetener worldwide. Touted as a "superfood," the plant-based sweetener with a maple-like flavor can be added as-is to beverages, smoothies, desserts, and some soups.
What Is Lucuma Powder?
The lucuma fruit (also called lucmo or eggfruit) grows on the lucumo tree, which is native to South America. Known as the "gold of the Incas," the fruit is cultivated in Chile, Ecuador, and Peru. It has soft yellow pulp, a dry texture, and hard green outer shell with an appearance somewhere between an avocado and a mango.
While lucuma fruit is widely available in South America, it can also be found in fresh, frozen, or pulp form in Latin food markets. Elsewhere, lucuma powder (or flour) is commonly sold at health food stores, but can be expensive. The powder is made by dehydrating the fruit, then milling it into a fine powder, a process designed to retain the fruit's high nutritional value. It can be used right out of the package and stirred into food and drinks.
How to Use Lucuma Powder
Lucuma powder is a low-sugar sweetener and can be used as a substitute for sugar. It pairs well with caramel, chocolate, and most kinds of fruit. It can be used in dessert and other baked goods, and in Chile, lucuma is the most popular flavor of ice cream.
Many people use lucuma powder as a sweetener in beverages, and it's a common sweetener in commercial nut milks. It's also used to sweeten smoothies — add two tablespoons to green or fruit smoothie recipes. It also works well in hot drinks, such as coffee, tea, and hot chocolate. Use it to top yogurt or cereal, or add to overnight oatmeal or chia pudding.
When using lucuma powder as a substitute for the fresh fruit, use about 1/4 cup of powder to replace 1 cup of lucuma pulp or purée.
Using lucuma powder as a substitute for sugar in baked goods can be tricky. The texture is comparable to white granulated sugar, though the taste is closer to brown sugar (use a 2:1 ratio to substitute for brown sugar). If possible, find a recipe that already uses it. To maintain the recipe's intended consistency is to replace a few tablespoons of flour with lucuma powder, then cut the sugar by the same amount.
Lucuma powder doesn't hold water like sugar. For some recipes, add more of a liquid ingredient (1 tablespoon at a time) if the batter seems dry until it reaches the desired consistency.
What Does It Taste Like?
Naturally creamy and sweet, lucuma has more of a subtle sweetness than sugar. The taste is often compared to maple, butterscotch, or brown sugar, and some brands have a nutty flavor.
Lucuma Powder Recipes
Most lucuma powder recipes are smoothies, puddings, and sweets. If you can't find a specific recipe that calls for it, use it as a substitute for honey, sugar, and other sweeteners.
Where to Buy Lucuma Powder
Latin food markets may stock fresh or frozen lucuma or lucuma powder. The powder is readily available online, and many natural and health food stores carry it. Generally sold in 1/2-pound or 1-pound bags, it is not inexpensive, but comparable to other health food supplements. It's also common to find organic lucuma powder.
Lucuma powder does not require refrigeration. After opening, keep unused product sealed in a zip-top storage bag or airtight container in a cool, dry, dark place. Many brands include an expiration date on the package. Most lucuma powder has a shelf-life of two to three years when stored at or below room temperature.
Nutrition and Benefits
Lucuma is a good source of beta-carotene, calcium, iron, magnesium, vitamin B3, and zinc. In addition, it contains protein, a variety of antioxidants, and dietary fiber. One tablespoon contains 1 1/2 grams of sugar, 2 grams of fat, 6 grams of carbohydrate, and 30 calories.
Though research is limited, it's believed that lucuma can boost the immune system, reduce inflammation and blood pressure, and promote healthy digestion, skin, and aging. Though not sugar-free, when used as a sugar substitute lucuma powder does have a lower glycemic index than traditional sweeteners.
Lucuma Powder vs. Stevia
The stevia herb is one of the best-known alternative sweeteners, available in liquid and powder forms. Unlike lucuma powder, stevia has no glycemic impact and is free from calories and carbohydrates. Stevia's taste can be off-putting to some because, while it is sweet, some stevia leaves a bitter or metallic aftertaste. Lucuma powder generally doesn't have that bitterness. Though it's not as sweet, its maple-like flavor may be more appealing to some people.
Shaw J, Villacorta M. Peruvian Power Foods. Simon and Schuster. 2013.