Different Types of Sugar: Exploring Sweet Varieties

types of sugar
Assorted types of sugar

If you were to send an extra-terrestrial to the grocery store and tell them to bring back sugar, it might not be enough instruction. When you think of sugar you most likely imagine white granulated sugar, but there are a several types of sugar available in most grocery stores. These sugars vary in texture, flavor, and color. Depending on what you’re making, choosing the right sugar can be mission-critical. 

Types of sugar 

Granulated sugar

granulated sugar
Granulated sugar

If you only have one type of sugar in your home, it’s probably white granulated sugar. Granulated sugar can be made from sugar beets or sugar cane. During processing, the natural molasses is refined out of the sugar, leaving a clean sweet flavor. White sugar is often used for baking and sweetening beverages. It adds sweetness without introducing new flavors. 

Brown sugar

Light brown sugar
Light brown sugar

Brown sugar is essentially white sugar with the addition of cane molasses. Compared to white sugar, brown sugar is moister and has a richer flavor. The moisture makes brown sugar prone to caking, drying out, and forming clumps—to avoid this, it’s best to store it in an airtight container. Brown sugar is an excellent addition to rich baked goods with deep flavor, like banana bread. 

What’s the difference between light brown sugar and dark brown sugar?

The terms “light” and “dark” refer to the molasses content of brown sugar. Dark brown sugar has more molasses and will have an even more intense flavor. 

Turbinado sugar

Turbinado sugar
Turbinado sugar

Turbinado is a coarse sugar with large crystals. It’s partially refined and retains some natural molasses, which gives it a light brown color. If you’ve ever used a package of Sugar in the Raw at a coffee shop, that’s turbinado sugar. Turbinado can be used to sweeten drinks, or as a crunchy topping on baked goods. Turbinado can also be used as a substitute for white or brown sugar in baking.

Demerara sugar

Similar to turbinado, demerara is a coarse, partially refined sugar. It retains some natural molasses, which gives it a light brown color and rich flavor. Compared to Turbinado, demerara crystals are slightly smaller, but demerara works in many of the same recipes. This coarse, crunchy sugar is an excellent topping for baked goods.

Powdered sugar

powdered sugar
Powdered sugar

Powdered sugar, also known as confectioners’ sugar, is chemically the same as granulated sugar, but the crystals have been pulverized into a fine, fluffy powder. This fine texture makes it a good choice for creating smooth, silky frosting or for dusting over cakes and doughnuts. Roll cookie dough in powdered sugar to create a crinkle cookie with its own icing baked right on. 

Superfine sugar

Superfine sugar, or caster sugar, is chemically the same as granulated sugar, but the grains are much smaller. If a recipe calls for superfine sugar, you can replicate the effect by whipping granulated sugar in a blender. The crystal size is important for baking, small particles of superfine sugar dissolve quickly in recipes.

Muscovado sugar

Muscovado sugar

Muscovado sugar is a very lightly refined sugar. It may look like brown sugar, but its brown color is natural. Instead of molasses being added back in, muscovado retains its natural molasses.

Now that you’re stocked up on sugar, it’s time to get cooking. Try our recipe for chewy ginger cookies.

What Does ‘Healthy’ Mean to You?

This post was written by Heather Sachs. Heather is a Registered Dietitian with a Masters degree in Clinical Nutrition. She has more than 15 years of experience combining her knowledge in food, nutrition, and regulatory affairs as well as translating science into impactful brand communication. Heather is currently Blue Apron’s Director of Regulatory Affairs. 

In September 2022, Registered Dietitian’s around The United States received a long overdue gift. Following the industry’s 2015 challenge of the definition of the term healthy and subsequent comment period, FDA finally issued its proposed definition of the term Healthy when used as a claim on food packaging.

The goal of this new definition is to better align the term healthy with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, based on current science as well as the updated nutrition facts label.

Under this proposed definition, products may be labeled as “healthy” if they contain meaningful amounts of food from at least one of the food groups or subgroups recommended by the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs). (fruits, vegetables, dairy, whole grains, etc.)

The new proposed definition also aims to limit nutrients in certain food categories which in overabundance can lead to negative health outcomes (saturated fat, sodium, added sugar).

The additional focus on food groups that this expanded proposed definition introduces, rather than solely on a set of nutrients could help consumers more clearly identify food to choose to sustain healthy dietary practices.

FDA is also currently looking into the creation of a symbol to represent the term healthy which could be used on a product to convey the product meets the healthy criteria.

The regulatory definition of the term is complicated, but what does healthy actually mean to you?  

Many people strive to follow a healthy diet. Depending on your lifestyle, healthy eating can look pretty different. You don’t have to follow an entirely organic, plant-based, and local style to feel like you’re making healthy choices. 

Life is crazy, but healthy eating can be fun and enjoyable. Maybe some days you eat locally, while on busier days you rely on pre-prepared foods. Whether it’s takeout, cooking a meal from scratch, or cooking semi-prepped ingredients, the foods that we eat are an essential part of a healthy lifestyle. 

It’s also important to consider mental health. For busy working parents, saving time by having a Blue Apron Wellness box delivered each week can free up time to spend with your family, and will deliver fresh produce straight to your door.

Healthy may have a strict regulatory definition, but that’s not necessarily the way we live our lives. It’s helpful to understand how the term is used in marketing, but it’s equally important to create your own definition of healthy for yourself and your family.