Sugar 101

Types of Sugar

A Crash Course on the Many Types of Sugar

All sugar is made by first extracting sugar juice from sugar beet or sugar cane plants, and from there, many types of sugar can be produced. Through slight adjustments in the process of cleaning, crystallizing and drying the sugar and varying the level of molasses, different sugar varieties are possible.
What are the different types of sugar?
Sugars are classified in a number of ways including crystal size (granulated, powdered, or superfine) and color (white or brown). Sugars of various crystal sizes provide unique functional characteristics that make the sugar suitable for different foods and beverages. Sugar color is primarily determined by the amount of molasses remaining on or added to the crystals, giving pleasurable flavors and altering moisture. Heating sugar also changes the color and flavor (yum, caramel!). Some types of sugar are used only by the food industry and are not available in the supermarket.

Here are a few facts about some of the various types of sugar. Print Page

White Sugars

  • “Regular” or White Granulated Sugar

    • This is what you typically find in your sugar bowl.
    • Granulated sugar is the most common sugar called for in recipes when cooking and baking.
    • “Regular” sugar granules are fine because small crystals are ideal for bulk handling and not susceptible to caking.
  • Confectioners’ or Powdered Sugar

    • Powdered sugar is simply granulated sugar ground to a smooth powder and then sifted.
    • Commercially available powdered sugar is mixed with a small amount of cornstarch (3%) to prevent caking.
    • It is often used in icings, confections and whipping cream.
    • You can make it at home: blend 1 cup of white sugar and 1 tablespoon of cornstarch to get 1 cup of powdered sugar.
  • Fruit Sugar

    • Fruit sugar is smaller and more uniform in crystal size than regular sugar.
    • It is used in dry mixes, such as gelatin and pudding desserts or powdered drinks.
    • The uniformity of crystal size prevents settling of the sugar crystals to the bottom of the box, an important quality in dry mixes.
  • Baker’s Special Sugar

    • The crystal size of baker’s special sugar is finer than that of fruit sugar.
    • As its name suggests, it was developed especially for the baking industry.
    • This sugar is used for sugaring donuts and cookies, and it’s used in some cake recipes to create a fine crumb texture.
    • Sample Recipe
  • Superfine Sugar

    • Also known as caster or bar sugar, this sugar has the smallest crystal size of white granulated sugars.
    • It is generally used in making delicate or smooth desserts, such as mousse or puddings.
    • Because the crystals are so fine, they dissolve easily, even in cold drinks.
  • Coarse Sugar

    • Coarse sugar has a larger crystal size than regular sugar.
    • It results from the crystallization of molasses-rich sugar syrups that are high in sucrose.
    • The large crystal size makes it highly resistant to color change or inversion (natural breakdown to fructose and glucose) at cooking and baking temperatures, important characteristics for use in making fondants, confections and liquors.
  • Sanding Sugar

    • Sanding sugar can have large or fine crystals—both types reflect light and give the product a sparkling appearance.
    • It is used mainly in baking and confectionery as a sprinkle on top of baked goods (often in fun colors!).

Brown Sugars

  • Light and Dark Brown Sugars

    • Brown sugars are either made by directly boiling a brown sugar syrup or mixing white sugar with various amounts of molasses.
    • Light brown sugar is often used in sauces and most baked goods.
    • Dark brown sugar has a deeper color and stronger molasses flavor than light brown sugar—the rich, full flavor makes it ideal for gingerbread, baked beans, barbecuing and other full-flavored foods.
    • Brown sugars tend to clump because they contain more moisture than white sugars, allowing baked goods to retain moisture well and stay chewy.
    • Sample Recipe
  • Turbinado Sugar

    • Turbinado sugar is a partially processed sugar which retains more of the naturally present molasses. It is sometimes called Demerara Sugar or Raw Cane Sugar.
    • It has a blond color, mild brown sugar flavor and larger crystals than brown sugars used in baking.
    • Turbinado sugar is the sugar in your packet of “raw cane sugar.” This type of sugar has been processed just enough to make it safe to eat.
  • Muscovado Sugar

    • Also known as Barbados sugar, muscovado sugar is an unrefined cane sugar in which the molasses has not been removed.
    • It is very dark brown and has a particularly strong molasses flavor.
    • The crystals are slightly coarser and stickier than regular brown sugar, giving this sugar a sandy texture.
  • Free-Flowing Brown Sugar

    • Also known as granulated brown sugar, this powder-like brown sugar is less moist than regular brown sugar.
    • Since it is less moist, it does not clump and is free flowing, like white sugar.
    • To get the brown sugar taste in a free flowing product, the sugar undergoes a special process making the sugar very low moisture.
    • As it is so easy to measure and sprinkle, free-flowing brown sugar is great for topping on cereals and oatmeal.

Liquid Sugars

  • Liquid Sugar

    • Liquid sugar is white granulated sugar that has been dissolved in water.
    • Simple syrup is liquid sugar with a 1:1 ratio of sugar and water.
    • Liquid sugar is often used in drinks.
    • Amber liquid sugar is darker in color and can be used when brown color is desired.
  • Invert Sugar

    • Inversion is the process in which sugar is split into its two component sugars, glucose and fructose, and the resulting product is invert sugar, a liquid sugar with equal parts glucose and fructose.
    • Because fructose is sweeter than sucrose or glucose, invert sugar is sweeter than white sugar.
    • 50% invert sugar is ½ sucrose, ¼ glucose and ¼ fructose, because only half of the sucrose has been inverted.
    • The ratio of sucrose to invert sugar in liquid invert sugar depends on which function is required—it is mainly used by food manufacturers to retard crystallization or retain moisture in packaged foods.
    • You can make it at home: when a recipe calls for a sugar to be boiled gently in a mixture of water and lemon juice, the product is invert sugar.
Sugar 101
Sugar 101

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Here are some quick definitions and links to what these terms actually mean.

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