your natural self

Lucuma — The Natural Superfood Sweetener from the Andes

Published on February 23, 2024

By Lisa Stockwell

Lisa Stockwell

Lisa Stockwell has worked as a copywriter, writer, author, and editor for 35 years, specializing in the field of healthcare since 2009. She recognized the need for reliable health information while supporting friends through unique health challenges and refocused her career to bring clarity and compassion to healthcare communications. Lisa is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley and a lifelong Northern Californian.

Craving a touch of sweetness without the guilt? Step aside Stevia and Xylitol; there's a new natural contender in town. 

Lucuma powder is a sweetener you can add to your pantry. It comes from the green-skinned Lucuma fruit and has been cultivated in the valleys of the Peruvian Andes for over 2,000 years. Documented by European colonizers in the 16th century, it took another few hundred years for it to be exported worldwide.

Imagine butterscotch and sweet potato flavors combined, and you'll get a sense of Lucuma's unique, mellow sweetness. But this exotic fruit isn't just about indulging your taste buds – it's also packing a healthy nutritional punch.

If you’ve tried to give up sugar and your sweet tooth won’t let you, this article provides everything you need to know to add Lucuma to your diet.

What is Lucuma?

Lucuma (Pouteria lucuma) is a tree species native to the Andean valleys of Peru, Chile, and Ecuador, thriving at altitudes between 1,000 and 2,400 meters. Reaching heights of up to 20 meters, it produces globe-shaped fruits with a green, shiny exterior and an orange-yellow, dry and fibrous flesh. The fruit possesses a unique, earthy-sweet flavor profile described by some as reminiscent of caramel, butterscotch, and sweet potato and by others as similar to maple syrup.

We know the Lucuma fruit has been cultivated for over 1,500 years because ceramic depictions of the fruit have been found that pre-date Inca culture. Lacuna is known as the “gold of the Incas,” perhaps because of its nutritional value and versatility. Indigenous communities considered it a staple food source, particularly during times of crop scarcity. 

Additionally, it was used traditionally for digestive ailments and to promote overall well-being. Lucuma played a prominent role in religious ceremonies and offerings as well, demonstrating its cultural significance.

Does Lucuma Offer Health Benefits?

Unlike table sugar, which contains only sucrose, Lucuma powder is a source of dietary fiber and contains some B vitamins and essential trace minerals. Its fiber content may help to promote digestive health and satiety — critical for overall wellness. 

Furthermore, its antioxidant activity is noteworthy, with antioxidant compounds, polyphenols and carotenoids, that may help support a healthy inflammatory response.REF#3634 Recent studies show that the total phenolic compound content is higher in fresh and frozen Lucuma pulp than in powders, but the antioxidant activity is similar in all forms.REF#3635 Science has proven that diets high in antioxidants limit oxidative stress and support overall health.

More research needs to be done on Lucuma to confirm its health properties, but its nutrients suggest it is a healthy substitute for table sugar.

Until we have more data, the main benefit of Lucuma is its lower sugar content. Because of its dry texture, Lucuma is often ground into powder. Lucuma powder has around 25 percent of the amount of sucrose as table sugar (processed from sugar cane or sugar beet), making it a potential alternative for individuals seeking natural sweeteners with minimal blood sugar impact. 

2-½ Tablespoons Lucuma




35 grams


11 grams


11 grams


1 gram


0.9 mg


22 mg


360 mg

Lucuma Versus Other Natural Sugar Substitutes

Made from the leaves of the stevia plant, stevia is one of the most popular sugar substitutes for people who need or want to limit their sugar consumption. Despite its intensely sweet flavor, stevia has no sugar content. 

Stevia is calorie-free because you only need to use a tiny bit to sweeten food, and the amount you consume is not absorbed by your digestive system. But although it is a healthy refined sugar substitute, some people find the aftertaste bitter, metallic, and generally unpleasant. 

Another natural sweetener, Xylitol, is made from the natural fibers found in fruits and low on the glycemic index. It is thought to be tooth-friendly and has been used to sweeten chewing gum. The downside of this sugar substitute is that it is extremely toxic to dogs, causing low blood sugar and liver failure. So, if you have a dog in your home, it may be best not to keep Xylitol around.

Because stevia offers nothing in the form of added nutrients and Xylitol can be harmful to your beloved dog, you may prefer using Lucuma if its higher price is not an issue. Note that Lucuma is not easily found in grocery stores currently, and you may need to order it online if you don’t have a natural food store near you that carries it.

How to Use Lucuma in Recipes

Lucuma adds a unique, earthy-sweet character to various dishes that are more similar to brown than white sugar. Given its different characteristics, it helps to know how much to add and what foods will be most enhanced by it. Here's how you can incorporate Lucuma into your recipes:

Substituting Lucuma in Place of Sugar:

  • Sweeteners and baking: Generally, use two parts Lucuma powder for one part sugar. However, lucuma's sweetness varies, so be sure to taste-test as you go.
  • Liquids: Add Lucuma powder directly to smoothies (such as the Gisele Bundchen Giselderberry Boost smoothie), yogurt bowls, or coffee or tea for a subtle sweetness. Start with one to two tablespoons and adjust to your taste.

    Lacuma Recipes and Applications:

    • Baked goods: Add Lucuma powder to muffins, pancakes, cookies, cakes, and breads for a distinctive flavor and added nutrients. Lucuma is drier than sugar, so you may need to adjust liquid amounts slightly to ensure your batter or dough isn’t too dry.
    • Desserts: Lucuma makes a great addition to ice cream, pudding, mousse, and frozen yogurt, contributing a unique caramel-like richness. (In Peru, ice cream made from Lucuma fruit is especially popular.) Blend Lucuma powder with other flavors like chocolate, banana, or coconut.
    • Snacks: Lucuma powder is a great sweetener for energy balls, raw bars, and granola. It adds a satisfying sweetness and earthy undertone without the need for baking.
    • Savory dishes: Lucuma may complement savory dishes that require a small bit of sugar. Try adding it to marinades for chicken or fish, sauces for roasted vegetables, or even vegetable dips.

      Things Lucuma Tastes Best In:

      • Tropical flavors: Pair Lucuma with mango, pineapple, banana, or coconut for a vibrant and harmonious blend.
      • Nut dishes: Lucuma complements nuts like almonds, pecans, and walnuts, creating a rich and sophisticated flavor profile.
      • Chocolate recipes: Lucuma's earthy caramel notes marry beautifully with chocolate, making it a delicious addition to brownies, mousse, or hot chocolate.

        Lucuma Pro Tips:

        • Start with small amounts of Lucuma and adjust to your taste preference.
        • Remember that lucuma adds its own flavor, so you might need to adjust other spices or extracts in your recipe. Don’t be afraid to experiment with it.
        • Lucuma powder can absorb moisture, so keep an eye on the consistency of your baked goods and add extra liquid if needed.
        • Store Lucuma powder in an airtight container in a cool, dark place to preserve its freshness and flavor.

        With its versatility and unique flavor profile, Lucuma offers a healthy and exciting way to satiate your sweet tooth. It is also, incidentally, better for the environment than sugar, since sugar processing involves burning sugarcane, which releases toxins into the air.

        So, get creative and explore how you can introduce this Andean treasure into your diet. Make it a sweet addition to your day.


        • 1. , "Characterization of main primary and secondary metabolites and in vitro antioxidant and antihyperglycemic properties in the mesocarp of three biotypes of Pouteria lucuma", Food Chemistry.
        • 2. , "Compositional analysis of the Andean fruit Pouteria Lucuma", Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, SLU.