Often compared to brown sugar, but where brown sugar is refined white sugar that has molasses added back to it to achieve its darker color, piloncillo (or panela) is unrefined. It is made by boiling cane sugar juice and then pouring it into pylon shaped molds where it cools and hardens. Hence it's name 'piloncillo' meaning little pylons.
Being a pure unrefined product, piloncillo is far better for you than regular sugar. It is mostly fructose (more useful to the body than sucrose), is much higher in vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals than unrefined sugar because it isn't chemically processed.
Panela is popular as both a sweetener and a spice. Since it melts very easily when heated, it is easy to incorporate into beverages, baking and cooking. Replace white or brown sugar in baking, desserts and ice creams. Many Mexican recipes call for it, including beverages.