Panamanian Lemonade (Limonada)

During citrus season, December to March, you can't give a lemon away in Panama. So when life gives you limones make limonada! The word limon is used for lemons, limes and sour oranges. All of them work for this recipe.

An indigenous Nobe family shares a drink.
The touch that makes this lemonade Panamanian is raspadura instead of white sugar. Raspadura is unrefined pure can sugar that can be purchased directly from sugar cane farmers, or fruit stands and other local food vendors across Panama.
Traditionally sugar can is ground through a trapiche (image right) to extract the sugary juice. Then the juice is boiled down to a thick syrup that is cooled in special forms to make cakes of raspadura (image below left).
Raspadura is used in many Panamanian desserts, candies and drinks. Unlike refined sugar raspadura has nutritional value. High in calcium, potassium, magnesium, and iron. Raspadura contains all the vitamins and minerals of the sugar can, but in a concentrated way. It is a nutritionally rich, natural, sweetener with a nutty flavor.
Substitute dark brown cane sugar or molasses if you can't get a hold of raspadura.


 5 cups water
1 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 cake raspadura (about 1/2 cup)

  1. On the stove heat one cup water until boiling. Meanwhile cut the raspadura cake into small pieces. Remove the water from the heat and mix in the raspadura until dissolved. Substitute dark brown cane sugar or molasses if you can't get a hold of raspadura.
  2. Pour the syrup into your pitcher. Let it cool.
  3. Cut up your lemons and juice them into a bowl. Pick out all the seeds. *If you want to grow a lemon tree, plant the seeds immediately, they are only viable for a day or two.
  4. Add the remaining water and lemon juice to the raspadura. Mix.
  5. Serve as cool as your campo (country) kitchen with out electricity will allow.
I am working on writing up how to cook some of the classic Panamanian dishes. Food is very much a part of culture. If you want your own little slice of Panama try some of the recipes here Recipes from Panama.


  1. Wow that looks delicious!

  2. Very interesting! Congratulations for this post.

  3. Thank you for sharing your great knowledge! Very Interesting, and sweet:)

  4. Anonymous7/24/2010

    love the post.. I am all about learning how to cook the foods from different cultures! Thank you!

  5. Wonderful post, and this looks so refreshing:)

  6. Nice! Love the photo of the family!

  7. Great post. Thanks for the wonderful information.

  8. Anonymous7/25/2010

    great post!!

  9. Looks wonderful. Thanks for such an interesting post!

  10. Does the sugar taste differently?

    Love lemonade in the summer!


  11. I doubt that we can find raspadura here, but I try to use birch sugar where I can. Love lemonade!

  12. How interesting.

    I love lemonade and make an infused one many times during the summer. When I can get Meyer Lemons in the winter, I juice them all and freeze the juice in ice cube trays. When I want a batch of lemonade, I defrost a bag of cubes and go on with the recipe. My recipe has a lot of fans and I am sure yours does too. This sounds so refreshing. Thanks for the Panamian information. Very interesting.