All types of the sugar come in blocks or pastes of solidified concentrated sugar syrup heated to 200°C. Traditionally, the syrup is made by boiling raw sugarcane juice or palm sap in a large shallow round-bottom vessel as shown here.
Jaggery is considered by some to be a particularly wholesome sugar and, unlike refined sugar, it retains more mineral salts. Moreover, the process does not involve chemical agents. Indian Ayurvedic medicine considers jaggery to be beneficial in treating throat and lung infections; Sahu and Saxena found that in rats jaggery can prevent lung damage from particulate matter such as coal and silica dust. Gandhi felt that jaggery was healthier than refined sugar, as it was not introduced into the blood as rapidly.. As such, he used it in his own personal diet and recommended it to use in his invented goat-milk diet (and all other diets/eating styles) as well.
Jaggery is used as an ingredient in both sweet and savory dishes across India and Sri Lanka. For example, a pinch of jaggery is sometimes added to sambar, rasam and other gravies which are staples in India. Jaggery is also added to lentil soups (dal) to add sweetness to balance the spicy, salty and sour components, particularly in Gujarati called (gaur) add in cooking. Jaggery is also molded into novelty shapes as a type of candy. Other uses include jaggery toffees and jaggery cake made with pumpkin preserve, cashew nuts and spices. Jaggery may also be used in the creation of alcoholic beverages.
Jaggery is also considered auspicious in many parts of India, and is eaten raw before commencement of good work or any important new venture.
Muzaffarnagar District in Uttar Pradesh has the largest jaggery market in India, followed by Anakapalli of Visakhapatnam District in Andhra Pradesh. These are the biggest and second biggest in the entire world.
In Myanmar, jaggery, known as htanyet, is harvested from toddy palm syrup. In central Myanmar and around Bagan (Pagan), toddy syrup is collected solely for the purpose of making jaggery. The translucent white syrup is boiled until it becomes golden brown, and then made into bite-sized pieces. Htanyet, which means "toddy lick", is considered a sweet, and is eaten by children and adults alike, usually in the afternoon along with a pot of green tea. It has been referred to locally as Burmese chocolate. Toddy palm jaggery is also sometimes mixed with coconut shreddings, plum puree or sesame, depending on the area. This type of jaggery is also used in Burmese cooking, usually to add color and enrich the food.
It is a rich source of iron due to the process involved, using iron utensils.
Besides its uses as a food, jaggery may also be used to season the inside of tandoor ovens.