The Ultimate Guide to Buying and Using Sugar

Once upon a time, sugar might have been simple. Now it’s anything but. Sugar isn’t sugar anymore–it’s turbinado sugar, superfine sugar, coconut sugar.

Is it too much? Actually, it’s not enough–this is the best time for sugar fiends, as all of these varities have unique flavors, textures and personalities. You just have to know what those traits are and how to best exploit them. Which is exactly what we break down in this definitive sugar buying guide.

Granulated Sugar

The most refined and common sugar. It’s made from removing the juices of sugar beets or sugar cane, which are then processed to remove the molasses. Superfine sugar is a subset of granulated sugar that’s best used in recipes where sugar needs to dissolve quickly.

Dark Brown Sugar and Light Brown Sugar

Brown sugar is refined white sugar with molasses added back in. Dark brown sugar has more molasses than the light variety, which accounts for the color differences. They can be used interchangeably, though dark brown sugar has a stronger molasses flavor.

Confectioner’s Sugar

More commonly known as powdered sugar, confectioner’s sugar is granulated sugar that’s been ground into a powder. Cornstarch is often added to prevent clumps from forming. Because it dissolves easily, it’s favored for icings, frostings, and whipped cream.

Caster Sugar

Caster sugar is very, very fine and dissolves quickly, which makes it perfect for cocktails, meringues, or frostings.

Turbinado Sugar

Turbinado sugar is slightly refined raw cane sugar. It has a caramel-like flavor, which makes it a good choice for baked goods and beverages. It’s especially great for sprinkling on top of baked goods to get a sugary, crunchy exterior.

Demerara Sugar

Another minimally-refined raw cane sugar that’s usually used to sweeten beverages. The crystals are larger–and lighter in color–than turbinado sugar, which makes demerara a good candidate for sprinkling on baked goods.

Muscovado Sugar

Sticky and sandy, muscavado is similar to brown sugar except it comes from unrefined sugar that hasn’t had the molasses removed. It can be used in place of brown sugar, but be careful–it has a much stronger flavor. Muscavado is perhaps best suited to barbecue and other sauces.


Cane Sugar

As the name suggests, cane sugar comes solely from sugarcane. It is a natural combination of sugar and molasses without any refining or added flavors, so many people prefer it for baking over brown sugar.

Coconut Sugar

Coconut sugar (also called coconut palm sugar) is made from the sap of the coconut plant. It has an earthy flavor and pairs especially well with baked goods containing chocolate.

Palm Sugar

Palm sugar comes from the nectar of the sugar palm tree. It’s flavor is most similar to coconut sugar but with smoky caramel notes.

Date Sugar

Date sugar is made from dehydrated ground dates and can be used as an alternative to brown sugar.

Pearl Sugar

If you’ve ever had a Scandinavian cinnamon roll or other pastry, you may have noticed the large, white sugar crystals on top. This is pearl sugar (also called coarse or decorating sugar) and it’s only used for topping since it doesn’t melt away at high temperatures.

Sanding Sugar

Also moderately heat resistant, sanding sugar is only used for topping baked goods since the crystals are fairly large and often dyed a myriad of colors.

Maple Sugar

Maple sugar is made from the sap of the maple tree and can be used the same way you would use regular sugar. It tastes amazing on buttered toast, in oatmeal, or in shortbread cookies.

The Ultimate Guide to Buying and Using Sugar

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