The Different Types of Sugar Explained

When it comes to sugar, there are a few varieties that are more well-known than others. Although white and brown sugar are the types that most of us know, there are lots of other varieties available, all of which can be used in baking recipes.

different types of sugar displayed

Sugar is the name given to a sweet-tasting carbohydrate that breaks down into glucose when digested.

As we have mentioned, there are many different types of sugar. The calorie content and sweetness of the sugar are going to differ depending on the variety that you use.  

Types of Sugar

In our guide below, we have covered everything that you need to know about all of the most commonly used types of sugar.

Granulated Sugar

Granulated sugar also goes by the name of white sugar or table sugar.

It is the most common type as it tends to be used on a daily basis.

Granulated sugar can either be made from sugarcane or sugar beets that has gone through the refining process. Unlike many other types of sugar, granulated sugar does not tend to clump together.

As a multi-purpose sugar, it can be used in baking recipes or added to your tea or coffee.

Powdered Sugar

Powdered sugar is also referred to as icing sugar or confectioners sugar. It is a type of finely ground white sugar that has been made by grinding down granulated sugar.

powdered sugar in sifter

Typically it is mixed with cornstarch because there is otherwise a risk of it caking together, but organic powdered sugar is usually without additives.

Because it dissolves very easily, powdered sugar is often used in the form of frosting or icing to decorate baked goods.

Brown Sugar

Brown sugar is made from granulated sugar that has molasses added to it.

There are two types of brown sugar: light brown sugar and dark brown sugar.

Light brown sugar only has a small presence of molasses. It has a very similar taste to that of caramel and a wet texture. Dark brown sugar has more molasses added to it, so it has a stronger flavor.

The most noticeable difference between this type of brown sugar and light brown sugar can be identified in the taste as dark brown sugar is more intense.

Despite this, both types can be used interchangeably although it will depend on the recipe that you are following and how powerful you want the flavor to be.

Although brown granulated sugar contains a few more minerals than white sugar, they both have a similar nutritional value. 

Superfine Sugar

This is a type of sugar that is also known as caster sugar or bar sugar.

superfine sugar on muffins

As implied, superfine sugar is made up of very fine granules. It dissolves pretty quickly and is often used in desserts such as puddings and meringues.

Superfine sugar is also used to create cocktail syrups. Superfine sugar is not as fine as confectioners sugar, but it’s not a coarse sugar like granulated sugar.

Pearl Sugar

Pearl sugar and Nib sugar are two terms that are used interchangeably to describe the same product.

It has a coarse sugar texture and refrains from melting, even in high temperatures. Despite this, it is still used in several Scandinavian recipes for decorative purposes.

This sugar is easy to make as the process involves crushing larger cubes of white sugar before sifting them until smaller, hard fragments remain.

Cane Sugar

Whilst granulated sugar can come from sugar cane or sugar beets, cane sugar is specifically made from sugar cane.

cane sugar and sugarcane

It does not endure a lot of processing as it is only crystalized once. The granules are slightly larger than granulated sugar although it can still be used in the same way. 

Sanding Sugar

Sanding sugar has large coarse granules and just like pearl sugar, it will not dissolve when exposed to heat.

brown sanding sugar in bowl

Because of this, sanding sugar is usually used to decorate baked goods instead of being mixed into a recipe.

The granules have a sparkly shine and look rather polished. Sanding sugar also comes in an array of colors so you can choose sugar crystals colors according to what you are decorating. 

Muscovado Sugar

Muscovado sugar is a variety of unrefined cane sugar and it is also known as Barbados sugar.

It contains natural molasses and is brown in color, though it does come in dark and light varieties. It has a moist texture that some would describe as being quite sticky.

Moreover, this type of sugar has a strong toffee taste. Although most varieties of sugar are used in baking recipes, muscovado sugar works well in savory dishes too. 

Demerara Sugar

Produced from sugar cranes, demerara sugar has large, coarse grains. It is also called raw cane sugar or just raw sugar.

It endures minimal processing and is typically amber-colored. It has a natural molasses flavor and a crunchy texture which makes it a popular choice for baking.

It also makes a great substitute for brown sugar, so you needn’t worry if you do not have any on hand. 

Turbinado Sugar

Turbinado sugar is made from raw cane sugar that is minimally refined.

The granules look like large sugar crystals and this sugar is often mistaken for brown sugar because it looks quite similar, however, the most prominent difference is that Turbinado sugar doesn’t have molasses added to it.

In regards to flavor, Turbinado Sugar tastes quite similar to caramel. Not only can it be used in baking recipes, but it can also be added to hot beverages to enhance the sweetness. 

Coarse Sugar

As implied by the name of this sugar, it has coarse crystals that are considerably larger than those of white sugar.

coarse white sugar in bowl and spoons

The size of the crystals enhances the intensity of the flavor and it also has a greater resistance to heat. Coarse sugar is often used to decorate the tops of baked items because it adds some texture.

Liquid Sugar

Liquid sugar is also called simple syrup. It is a 1:1 ratio of sugar to water.

simple syrup in bottle with cocktail shaker

I typically make simple syrup with white granulated sugar, but you can use any type on this list to make liquid sugars with slightly different flavors.

Simple syrup is often used to sweeten cocktails.

Sugar FAQs

Is all sugar bad for you?

Contrary to belief, sugar itself is not unhealthy. Natural sugar is found in a range of fruits as fructose and many dairy products as lactose and natural sugars are said to provide the body with essential nutrients.

Added sugars refer to sugar carbohydrates that are added in the processing of foods and drinks to change the texture and enhance the flavor. Consuming too many added sugars can harm your health.

Added sugars should not make up any more than 5% of the energy that we get from drinks and food that we consume every day.

Is there a variety of healthy sugar?

As we have mentioned previously, natural sugars are better than added sugars.

There are some suggestions that brown sugar is healthier than white sugar but this is not necessarily true because they are both quite balanced when it comes to nutritional value. There are certain sugars that can trigger issues with blood sugar management. 

Fruit sugar is the healthiest sugar for you, as it occurs naturally in fruit and is paired with fiber and other nutrients in the fruit.

Does it matter what type of sugar you use?

You will find many recipes that call for the use of a specific type of sugar. When possible you should try to use the types of sugar that the recipe requests, but if you don’t have any in your cupboards, you may be wondering whether different types can be used interchangeably.

In most cases, brown and white sugar can be used interchangeably, although you may notice a slight difference in the taste and the texture of your baked creation. In some cases, like when making Worcestershire sauce, it’s crucial to use the right kind of sugar or you risk altering the flavor.

Types of Sugar

  1. Granulated sugar
  2. Powdered sugar
  3. Brown sugar
  4. Superfine sugar
  5. Pearl sugar
  6. Cane sugar
  7. Sanding sugar
  8. Muscovado sugar
  9. Demerara sugar
  10. Turbinado sugar
  11. Coarse sugar
  12. Liquid sugar

Final Thoughts

Do you have a favorite sugar to use for baking or cooking? Let us know in the comments below!

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Written by Ryan F.

Ryan is a local foodie who enjoys checking out the area's restaurant scene every chance he can. Ryan also enjoys traveling and checking out local eateries in every city he visits.