Botanical Information

Scientific Name: Cycas revoluta

Common Name: Sago palm

Genus: Cycas

Family: Cycadaceae

Order: Cycadales

Sago is derived from the starch of the sago palm tree, specifically from the pith of the stem. The sago palm is a type of cycad, a primitive group of seed plants that have been around for millions of years.

Nutritional Information 

Sago is primarily composed of carbohydrates in the form of starch. It is low in protein and fat. The nutritional composition of sago can vary depending on the processing method and any added ingredients. Here are some general nutritional values for sago:

Calories: Approximately 355 calories per 100 grams

Carbohydrates: Around 94 grams per 100 grams

Protein: Negligible amount (less than 1 gram per 100 grams)

Fat: Almost negligible (less than 1 gram per 100 grams)

Fiber: Very low amount (around 0.6 grams per 100 grams)

Sago is primarily consumed as a source of energy due to its high carbohydrate content. It is gluten-free and can be used as an alternative to wheat flour in specific recipes. However, it is important to note that sago lacks many essential nutrients found in other staple foods, such as vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber. Therefore, it is usually not considered a nutritionally complete food and is often consumed with other ingredients to provide a balanced diet.


The term “sago” is derived from the Malay word “sagu.” It is believed to have been adopted into English from the Indonesian language. The Indonesian word “sagu” refers specifically to the powdered starch derived from the pith of the sago palm.

Sago, derived from the starch of the sago palm tree (Cycas revoluta), has a rich origin and history. The sago palm is believed to have originated in the region extending from the Moluccas of Indonesia to New Guinea. It is a genus within the family Palmae, also known as Arecaceae or the palm family. This versatile plant thrives in Southeast Asia and Oceania, with its natural habitat ranging from low-lying wetlands to dry lands in tropical regions.

The sago palm is renowned for its ability to accumulate a significant amount of starch in its stem, often exceeding 100 kilograms per plant. This starch-rich characteristic has made it a valuable resource for various purposes. Throughout history, sago has been extensively utilized across Southeast Asia and Oceania. Its applications encompass staple food, noodle-making, confectionery production, and even fuel alcohol production.

Turning to the history of sago, we find that it held significant economic importance in certain regions. For instance, Mukah, a place known for its sago production, used to export its sago to Brunei. However, in 1861, Mukah became part of Sarawak when Sultan Abdul Momin ceded the territory to James Brooke. From that point onward, sago production became a vital trading export for Sarawak, particularly during the Brooke government.

Traditionally, sago has served as a staple food for the Melanau people in Sarawak. They have skillfully crafted various dishes and delicacies from sago, including sago pearls, sago crackers, and nutritious sago worms. The consumption of sago-based foods has been deeply rooted in their culinary traditions.

Nevertheless, as time progressed, the agricultural landscape changed, and the cultivation of sago palms gradually declined. In Mukah, for example, the prominence of sago palm cultivation has been overtaken by the expansion of oil palm plantations, which have become the primary agricultural crop in the area.

While sago is primarily a source of energy and lacks many essential nutrients, it does offer a few potential health benefits:

  • Provides Quick Energy: Sago is rich in carbohydrates, which are the body’s primary source of energy. Consuming sago can provide a quick boost of energy, making it beneficial for individuals who need instant fuel, such as athletes or those recovering from illness.
  • Gluten-Free Alternative: Sago is naturally gluten-free, which makes it suitable for individuals with gluten intolerance or celiac disease. It can be used as a substitute for wheat-based flour in cooking and baking.
  • Easy to Digest: Sago is easily digestible due to its high starch content. This can be beneficial for individuals with digestive issues or those recovering from gastrointestinal illnesses, as it puts less strain on the digestive system.
  • Calming and Soothing Properties: In traditional medicine, sago has been used for its soothing properties. It is believed to have a calming effect on the digestive system and can be used to alleviate symptoms of stomach discomfort, bloating, and indigestion.
  • Hydration and Electrolyte Balance: Sago pearls are commonly used in desserts and beverages, often in combination with liquids. When cooked and consumed with fluids, sago can contribute to hydration and help maintain electrolyte balance due to its water-retaining properties.
  • Quality: Choose a sago that appears clean, white, and free from impurities or discoloration.
  • Texture: Opt for sago with uniform granules or pearls without any clumps or lumps.
  • Packaging: Ensure that the packaging is intact and airtight to maintain freshness.
    • Dry Storage: Sago should be stored in a cool, dry place away from moisture, sunlight, and heat sources. Exposure to these elements can cause sago to spoil or become moldy.
    • Airtight Container: Transfer sago to an airtight container or resealable bag to protect it from moisture and humidity. This will help to maintain its texture and prevent clumping.
    • Shelf Life: Sago has a long shelf life if stored properly. It can typically be stored for several months to a year, depending on the packaging and storage conditions.
    • Avoid Contamination: Keep sago away from strong-smelling substances as it can absorb odors easily. Store it separately from spices, strong herbs, or other strong-smelling food items.
    • Check for Spoilage: Before using sago, inspect it for any signs of spoilage such as discoloration, foul odor, or the presence of mold. If you notice any of these signs, discard the sago as it may not be safe for consumption.

Sago Recipes


1/2 cup sago pearls

3 cups milk (or coconut milk for a dairy-free version)

1/4 cup sugar (adjust to taste)

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Optional toppings: fresh fruits, nuts, or a sprinkle of cinnamon


  • Rinse the sago pearls under cold water to remove any excess starch.
  • Bring the milk to a gentle boil over medium heat in a saucepan.
  • Add the rinsed sago pearls to the boiling milk, reduce the heat to low, and simmer gently for about 20-25 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking.
  • As the sago pearls cook, they will turn translucent and become soft and tender.
  • Add sugar and vanilla extract to the mixture, stirring until the sugar dissolves completely. Taste and adjust the sweetness as desired.
  • Remove the saucepan from the heat and let the pudding cool to room temperature. It will thicken further as it cools.
  • Once cooled, transfer the sago pudding to serving bowls or glasses. You can refrigerate it for a few hours if you prefer a chilled dessert.
  • Before serving, you can add your choice of toppings such as fresh fruits, nuts, or a sprinkle of cinnamon for added flavor and texture. Enjoy!


1/2 cup sago pearls

4 cups vegetable broth or water

1 cup mixed vegetables (carrots, peas, corn, beans, etc.), chopped

1 small onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Salt and pepper to taste Fresh herbs (such as parsley or cilantro), for garnish (optional)


  • Rinse the sago pearls under cold water to remove any excess starch.
  • In a large pot, heat the vegetable oil over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and minced garlic and sauté until the onion becomes translucent.
  • Add the mixed vegetables to the pot and sauté for a few minutes until they start to soften.
  • Pour in the vegetable broth or water and bring it to a boil.
  • Reduce the heat to low and add the rinsed sago pearls to the soup. Simmer for about 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sago pearls are cooked and translucent.
  • Season the soup with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Remove from heat and let it cool slightly before serving.
  • Ladle the sago soup into bowls and garnish with fresh herbs if desired.
  • Serve the sago soup as a comforting and nutritious meal.

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