Sugar is so much part of our everyday lives that we take it for granted and most of us don’t even consider where it comes from.
But there are many types of sugar including brown sugar. So what is brown sugar, and where does it come from?
Where Does Brown Sugar Come From?
Brown and white sugar come from either sugar cane or sugar beet. Both are natural plants that grow in different areas of the world.
Sugar beet plants grow in several US states including Wyoming, Colorado, and Montana and are used for sucrose production.
Meanwhile sugar cane is grown in Florida, Louisiana, and Texas among other places and is also used to make sugar crystals.
Is Brown Sugar Natural?
The crystallized sugar crystals from sugar cane juice is natural brown sugar. This brown sugar has not undergone any refining.
Other brown sugar is made by using molasses syrup to coat white granulated sugar crystals or by adding molasses syrup to boiling sugar crystals.
White sugar can be made from either sugar beets or sugar cane, but only sugar cane molasses is used to make brown sugar.
Organic brown sugar is simply organic white sugar with organic molasses added.
Commercial brown sugar is made by coating white granulated sugar with molasses. Natural brown sugar or unrefined brown sugar undergoes no processing.
Natural Brown Sugar
Muscovado, Demerara and Turbinado are all types of natural brown sugar.
They differ from one another in the amount of molasses in each one. Natural brown sugar can be light brown and dark brown.
Turbinado is an unrefined sugar and is the product of the first pressing of the sugar cane. It contains natural molasses and has a caramel flavor.
It is sometimes known as raw sugar and has a larger grain and drier texture than refined sugars.
Demerara has a larger and drier grain than turbinado and has a sweet toffee flavor.
It is more amber in color and less refined than the sugar used to create light and dark brown sugar.
Muscovado sugar has a strong molasses flavor and a moist texture. It is often used in savory dishes for marinades and barbecue flavoring.
Refined Brown Sugar
This is a brown sugar that is made from adding molasses to refined white sugar, and it differs from natural brown sugar.
Store bought brown sugar is more likely to be this type of brown sugar.
Partially refined brown sugar is sugar that still retains some molasses from the refining process.
Dark brown sugar and light brown sugar are both refined brown sugars and are made by adding molasses to white sugar.
Dark Brown Sugar
Dark brown sugar has a higher molasses content. This is what gives it its darker brown color and its rich deep flavor.
It is often used in rich fruit cakes and contains almost double the amount of molasses as light brown sugar.
It is also used in recipes that call for a caramel flavor.
Light Brown Sugar
Light brown sugar contains less molasses and this is where it gets its lighter color and flavor.
It is made from white granulated sugar which is coated in molasses usually at about 3%. Like dark brown sugar it has a moist texture.
This is the most commonly associated sugar when referring to brown sugar as it is used in such a wide variety of ways.
What Is Brown Sugar Used For?
Brown sugar adds a sweet, rich and nutty flavor to desserts and baked goods such as gingerbread or banana bread.
It is often added to savory dishes too as a glaze or to make a marinade.
Dark brown sugar is used in spice cakes or where a deep molasses flavor is needed.
Light brown sugar is used in most recipes that call for brown sugar as it is the most commonly used brown sugar.
Turbinado or raw sugar can be used to sweeten hot beverages or to mix into a dry spice rub for meat as it has a drier texture than refined sugars.
Muscovado sugar is used for recipes that call for a rich, roasted flavor and is used in savory food such as barbecue marinades.
Demerara sugar can be used in baking, as a sweetener or as the topping for a crème brûlée.
Is Brown Sugar Better Than White Sugar?
Granulated white sugar is widely used as a sweetener for baking and in hot beverages due to its neutral flavor.
It is sweeter than brown sugar as it has undergone a greater refining process and has smaller grains making it useful as a table sugar.
Both brown sugar and white sugar come from sugar beet or sugar cane which is processed to produce sugar crystals.
Granulated brown sugar has a distinctive brown color and is simply granulated white sugar with molasses added.
White sugar is put through a filtration system that removes any excess molasses. This process uses crushed animal bones to filter the cane liquor.
If you are a vegan or vegetarian this may be something that you want to bear in mind.
Whether you choose to use brown or white sugar the calories will be practically the same.
Brown sugar has minimally fewer calories than white sugar, but it will not drastically add to your weight loss.
Can You Make Brown Sugar?
It is possible to make your own brown sugar at home. You need to add a tablespoon of molasses to every cup of granulated white sugar.
Then stir them together until the color is even, and it has a good texture. This is a good substitute if you have no brown sugar to hand and your recipe calls for it.
Homemade brown sugar will retain a recipe’s flavor and moisture better than substituting white or raw sugar.
As we have seen the term brown sugar covers quite a multitude of products and doesn’t refer to a single product.
There are different varieties of brown sugar for different uses and recipes.