Palm Sugar (Gula Melaka) Chicken

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Palm sugar chicken

Palm sugar chicken

Looking for a quick recipe? I am always one for a quick home-cooked dish….simple, healthy and delicious. This Palm Sugar Chicken is one of them. It’s my first time trying it. I just thought kids would love this dish. My family loves it. This is one dish that you may want to cook ahead or cook more because it tastes even better the next day.

Palm sugar, cloves, star anise and cinnamon

Palm sugar, cloves, star anise and cinnamon

Palm sugar is widely available in Malaysia. Back home it’s called ‘gula Melaka‘. It gives beautiful flavour and colour. It is usually used in making desserts. You can get this in Asian supermarkets if you are living overseas. Get those that come in small logs in plastic bags. They usually come in 2 bigger logs in a bag or 9 small logs in a bag. I found that there are lots of this palm sugar overseas which are light in colour. I doubt their quality. I used once and they don’t taste that good.

I love to use star anise and cinnamon in cooking, too. They give a beautiful flavour when combined.

Here is my simple, quick and easy Palm Sugar Chicken recipe:


7 pieces chicken drumsticks
2 big onions (peeled and cut into pieces)
slices of ginger
2 small pieces of palm sugar
2 star anise
4 cloves
1 cinnamon stick
light soya sauce to season

Fry ginger and onions

Fry ginger and onions

Fry the big onions and ginger until fragrant in a frying pan. I used a wide based frying pan.

Add chicken, sugar and spices

Add chicken, sugar and spices

Add the chicken, spices and palm sugar with a cup of water. Cover and leave to boil under medium heat. Turn over the chicken half way through cooking. Add some soya sauce to season. Add more water if needed.

Golden palm sugar chicken

Golden palm sugar chicken

Test for doneness. It should take about 30 minutes or so. Taste and adjust seasoning by adding more soya sauce if you don’t like it so sweet. Try to get a balance of sweetness and saltiness. Kikkoman soya sauce is one of the best for seasoning.

This dish tastes even better the next day when the flavour develops. You can add tofu to cook together with the chicken if you like. I’m sure the tofu will taste just as delicious.

Have you ever tried cooking a meat dish with palm sugar? Please share, add and comment in the comment box below.

Other chicken recipes that you may be interested in:
Delicious Malaysian Fried Chicken (Part 1)
Fast And Easy Malaysian Chicken Curry
Baked Chicken Curry
Cashew Nuts Chicken
Super Fast Chinese Roasted Chicken
Fried Korean Kimchi Chicken
Sour Plum Sauce Chicken
Quick Sour Plum Sauce Chicken

There are more chicken recipes at

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Pepy @Indonesia-Eats  on December 7th, 2010

I like chicken with gula aren too! That is what we call for palm sugar.

lequan  on December 7th, 2010

Hi Mary,

I’ve never tried cooking a meat dish with palm sugar before. My grandma used to cook something like this as well and it was amazing. I wish I picked up a few of mu grandma’s recipes but I was still very young back then, what a shame. Like I said, my grandma used to make so
Ethnic like this so I know how amazing this dish is. The palm sugar slowly infuses into the meat and gives wonderful flavors pair with cinnamon and cloves. Another great dish, Mary!

Katerina  on December 7th, 2010

I love new quick recipes. They make my life so much easier.

Jess @ Bakericious  on December 7th, 2010

this dish looks delicious and easy to prepare too.

Little Inbox  on December 7th, 2010

This seems new to me. :)

somewhere in singapore  on December 7th, 2010

Something new to me…

Jeannie  on December 7th, 2010

I didnt know u can use palm sugar to cook chicken! Looks delicious!

claire  on December 7th, 2010

Hey, i love the way you use the palm sugar… i will try this out next week… my sons will love this!!

lena  on December 7th, 2010

where did you get this idea from? sounds so special cooking the palm sugar with chicken.does this comes out very sweet?

anncoo  on December 7th, 2010

This is new to me. I never thought of using gula melaka in cooking only on desserts. Looks good, must give a try someday.

busygran  on December 7th, 2010

I do use palm sugar in some of my dishes, especially in dishes that require sugar. I’m sure your chicken dish tasted heavenly and it would taste better the next day! Yum!

Belinda @zomppa  on December 7th, 2010

Wonderful! I’m always looking for easy quick weeknight meals - thanks!

Drick  on December 7th, 2010

this sounds and looks so delicious Mary and I love the ease of it - I have never used palm sugar and I wonder if dark brown sugar would work

Mary  on December 7th, 2010

@Pepy @Indonesia-Eats - It’s my first time trying it…really delicious. Glad you like it too :D

@lequan - Your grandma was such an awesome cook. Just like my mom…she cooks well but I was too young to learn anything ….hmmm. Maybe you can try this one. Bet it’s not anyway closer to what your grandma cooked but it’s quite delicious :D

@Katerina - Me, too. I will dive for anything simple and easy :D

@Jess @ Bakericious - Yes, perfect for someone like me…haha :D

@Little Inbox - It was new to me too. Glad that my attempt came out well :D

@somewhere in singapore - Fun to try out something new :D Maybe you can give a try.

@Jeannie - It was just an experiment that came out right :D

@claire - Hope your sons like it.Have fun cooking :D

@lena - A sudden brain wave…haha :D It’s sweet if you don’t add soya sauce. With the right balance of sweet and salty (from soya sauce) it’s very delicious.

@anncoo - That’s what I though, too…only in desserts. But it worked! :D

@busygran - I’m catching up on you :P I will try it out in more dishes. Great idea, replace sugar with palm sugar…thanks! :D

@Belinda @zomppa - You are welcome! Have fun cooking :D

@Drick - Thanks very much, Drick! :D I think dark brown sugar taste different. I haven’t tried that. I should try one day. Palm sugar has a nicer flavour and give a thick glossy sauce. Hope you can find in your place.

divya  on December 7th, 2010

Wow looks awesome and delicious..

Sushma Mallya  on December 7th, 2010

quiet a unique dish with chicken but seems worth trying and very yum

Priya  on December 7th, 2010

Totally a new dish for me, very tempting..

Swathi  on December 7th, 2010

Looks delicious. I love palm sugar taste.

Faith  on December 7th, 2010

That chicken is such a lovely golden color! I’m going to have to look for palm sugar…I know I would love this dish!

teresa  on December 7th, 2010

oh yum! i have never prepared chicken like this, but it looks awesome!

Ananda Rajashekar  on December 7th, 2010

Oh love the colour the palm sugar gave..this is very new recipe …would love to try soon :)

jen cheung  on December 7th, 2010

yummm this looks really tasty! I’m so hungry now. wating for dinner at the moment :) Thanks for sharing lovely!

have a lovely day!
jen @

5 Star Foodie  on December 7th, 2010

Wow, the chicken sounds so good with palm sugar and I love all the other aromatic spices you use here too! Excellent!

Reeni  on December 7th, 2010

I have used palm sugar in my pad thai Mary, but never knew what else to do with it! Until now. How insanely good this looks with the warm spices. Delicious!

penny aka jeroxie  on December 7th, 2010

Good idea. Will try adding gula next time.

tasteofbeirut  on December 7th, 2010

Since i am fascinated by different types of sugar, this palm sugar chicken is one that I am planning to try; in Texas, one can easily find piloncillo, which is made in Mexico and resembles the shape of palm sugar (maybe it is the same thing?)
anyway, your dish is scrumptious and I am bookmarking it!

Cheah  on December 7th, 2010

Gosh, never tried cooking gula melaka this way, Mary. Only used for desserts and tong sui. You can create too! Looks yummy!

Carolyn Jung  on December 8th, 2010

Good tips on choosing palm sugar. I bet it’s great in many Asian sauces to give more complex sweetness.

Nammi  on December 8th, 2010

wow, thats a ncie way to cook chicken

Mary  on December 8th, 2010

@divya - Thanks very much, Divya! :D

@Sushma Mallya - Give a try, Sushma. I like it. Hope you like it, too :D

@Priya - It was new to me, too. Glad it turned out well :D

@Swathi - Thanks very much, Swathi! :D

@Faith - Yes, I was really happy when I saw the golden, glossy colour and the thick sauce. Have fun cooking :D

@teresa - It’s really simple and easy to cook this. Give a try, Teresa :D

@Ananda Rajashekar - A new recipe to me, too :D Have fun cooking!

@jen cheung - Thanks very much, Jen! Hope you had a great dinner. I think mine is getting simpler and simpler…haha

@5 Star Foodie - Thanks very much, Natasha! :D

@Reeni - Now you can venture out :D I was just like you…hehe

@penny aka jeroxie - Have fun cooking, Penny :D

@tasteofbeirut - I’m sure using piloncillo with chicken will come out very delicious, too. It’s the balance of sweetness and saltiness that makes it very delicious though the flavour of the palm sugar helps to enhance that. Give a try. I would love to know :D

@Cheah - Haha…it was an experiment that turned out well! :D

@Carolyn Jung - Yes, palm sugar is used in many ways in Asian countries but I think I have been slow in learning :P Picking up now…hehe

@Nammi - Thanks very much Nammi! :D

Sharon  on December 8th, 2010

Looks delicious!

arthur  on December 8th, 2010

Wonderful chicken recipe! I make this a lot too! My favorite actually. Love the fragrance of star anise. Thanks for sharing!

Stella  on December 8th, 2010

Hey Mary, this sounds delicious! I love sweet and savory meats, even though I’m a vegetarian (smile). I remember them…
Ooh, and the palm sugar sounds so nice. I’ll keep my eye open for that at the market.

Nadji  on December 8th, 2010

Une recette que je note. Cela doit être délicieux.
A bientôt.
See soon.

rebecca  on December 8th, 2010

wow love this recipe easy and looks super tasty

momgateway  on December 8th, 2010

Mary, this reminds me so much of home.

Joanne  on December 8th, 2010

Hmmm. I’ve never had palm sugar before but I’m intrigued. Sounds like a delicious dish!

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kitchen flavours  on December 8th, 2010

This looks delicious! We use palm sugar to cook our very own Nyonya Pongteh Chicken with potatoes. The family loves it! Thanks for sharing your recipe!

tigerfish  on December 8th, 2010

I usually associate gula with sweet and desserts. First time I see a savory dish being done with gula melaka!

The Kitchen Masochist  on December 8th, 2010

Oh I’d love to try this. The Thais use Gula Melaka often in their savory dishes. I noticed here in the PH, in S’pore and Malaysia it’s used mostly in desserts.

I’m not an expert on Gula Melaka but I think the darker ones taste better. It’s richer and has more of caramel-like flavor, but not in a cloying way.

noobcook  on December 9th, 2010

wah I only know abt using gula melaka for desserts but didn’t know they can be used for cooking. I heart this recipe! bookmarking and hope to try it out soon! thanks :D~

Raymund  on December 9th, 2010

I agree with you this dish tastes great on the next day, I tried this when I lived in Malaysia before and its so good


Olive  on December 9th, 2010

I’ve never heard of this before but I can just imagine how it taste..definitely delicious! I’ll look for palm sugar next time so I can give this a try..but if I can’t find palm sugar, which do you think is a better sub - dark brown sugar or molasses?

Ivy @ My Simple Food  on December 9th, 2010

I need to get some gula melaka when I am back to Malaysia next time…

Ellie (Almost Bourdain)  on December 9th, 2010

I have never thought of using palm sugar for a savoury chicken dish. Very interesting.

Karolina  on December 10th, 2010

I absolutely love this recipe. :) I have ordered some palm sugar some time ago but have not been using it very often. This is a prefect recipe for me! No fuss, and I can imagine this flavour and aroma. Love it!

Dimah  on December 11th, 2010

This really looks and sounds fantastic

pierre  on December 12th, 2010

i always look for quick recipes !!
Pierre de paris

Kristi Rimkus  on December 12th, 2010

I’ve never seen Palm sugar. I’ll have to shop our local market and see if I can find it. My husband loves chicken legs, this would be a hit with him!

grace  on December 13th, 2010

combining chicken with those spices and the palm sugar is a really excellent plan of attack–this is one incredible recipe!

Blackswan  on December 16th, 2010

Hi Mary, haven’t seen u for a loooooooong time! Hope things are well with u.

I haven’t tried cooking chicken with Gula Melaka. It’s really interesting to see as I usually use it for desserts. Another wonderful recipe!

Happy holidays to u, Mary!

With love from Singapore, Shirley

Matt  on February 20th, 2011

Thank you. Great recipe.
Here in Texas, I can only find the light palm sugar. Anyone know where to find Gula Melaka in US?

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