Skip to Navigation

Brown Sugar Facts

Why Brown Sugar Is Brown

Brown sugar is brown because it contains molasses. Molasses is a byproduct of the sugar refining process, so when sugar is left unrefined, or is only partially refined, it retains some of its molasses content, resulting in the brown colour and also a more intense flavour.

Some Brown Sugars Are Darker Than Others

The higher the molasses content, the darker brown the sugar will be. Light brown sugar is about 3.5% molasses, while dark brown sugar is 6.5% molasses.

The Four Main Types Of Brown Sugar

  1. Dark, golden (yellow) and light: These are the brown sugars most often found in grocery stores and used for everyday consumption. The colour is a reflection of molasses content (3.5% for the lightest up to 6.5% for the darkest). These brown sugars are made by adding molasses to refined white sugar.
     
  2. Demerara: This unrefined medium-brown sugar is named for the Demerera region of Guyana, South America, where it originated. Sugarcane juice is boiled until the water evaporates, leaving behind sugar crystals that contain molasses, which are then spun in a centrifuge to remove more moisture.
     
  3. Muscovado: This is an unrefined, very dark brown sugar with a strong molasses flavour. Sugarcane juice is heated, pan-evaporated and then pounded into the final product. Muscovado brown sugar retains all the natural minerals of sugarcane.
     
  4. Turbinado. A light coloured, crystalline brown sugar, turbinado is made from sugarcane juice that has been heat-evaporated then crystallized. Excess moisture and molasses are removed by spinning the crystals in a centrifuge, resulting in a sugar that is more honey-like than Demerara.

Calorie Comparison Between Brown Sugar And White Sugar

So, does brown sugar have more caloires, or or does white sugar have more calories? Well, it all depends on how you measure it! Brown sugar has higher moisture content and a smaller crystal size than white sugar. The moisture makes it heavier so that, when measured by weight, brown sugar has a lower calorie count. The smaller crystals means more brown sugar can be packed into a cup than white sugar so, measured by volume, brown sugar can actually be higher in calories than white sugar.

Brown Sugar, Molasses, Sugarcane, Refined Sugar

The defining characteristic of brown sugar is the molasses content, and the preferred molasses is from sugarcane rather than sugar beet. Brown sugar can be made two ways:

  • Add sugarcane molasses to refined white sugar.
  • Process sugarcane juice into brown sugar, maintaining the natural molasses.

Substituting Brown Sugar For White Sugar In A Recipe

In most cases, you can replace white sugar with brown sugar on a 1:1 basis. But remember, it’s not so much about sweetness as it is about flavour with brown sugar – just remember that you’ll also be adding the flavour of molasses to whatever you’re making.