What Are the Most Common Types of Sugar for Baking and Cooking?

types of sugar

Did you know that Americans consume more than 11 metric tons of sugar every year? That works out to be right around 126 grams of sugar per person per day on average. But it’s worth noting that Americans aren’t always consuming the same types of sugar each day. There are quite a few different types of sugar they’ll take in depending on what exactly they’re eating and drinking.

There are various types of sugar for baking and sugar for cooking. If you like to bake and/or cook to any degree, you should familiarize yourself with each type of sugar that’s out there. It’ll ensure that you’re using the right types of sugar at all times.

Today, we’re going to run through some of the different types of sugar and give you a brief breakdown of each option. It’ll give you a better idea of when you’ll need to use these kinds of sugar while baking or cooking.

Granulated Sugar

If you only have one type of sugar in your house right now, there’s a good chance that it’s granulated sugar. This is the kind of sugar that most people think of when they hear the word “sugar” get brought up.

Granulated sugar is crystallized sucrose that comes from either cane or beets in most cases. All of the different impurities and byproducts in it are stripped out during a refining process that leaves only granulated sugar behind.

From there, granulated sugar can be used for any number of things. It’s often put into flavored drinks and coffees to make them taste sweeter. It’s also used when baking things like cookies and cakes to add sweetness to them.

Although granulated sugar is sweet, it’s actually not as flavorful as some might people think. Instead, it takes a step back and lets other flavors that exist in foods and beverages shine. This is another reason why it’s become the most commonly used sugar in the U.S.

Brown Sugar

There are two different types of brown sugar that can be used during baking and cooking. They each bring a little something different to the table.

The first type of brown sugar we’re going to discuss is light brown sugar. Light brown sugar is either cane or beet sugar that has been boiled and crystallized or white sugar that has molasses added to it during the production process.

Light brown sugar is known for having caramel undertones and more richness than granulated sugar. It can, therefore, be used to add both sweetness and moisture to baked goods like cookies and cakes. It can also be used as a base for sauces or as a dry rub for meats when cooking.

The second type of brown sugar is dark brown sugar. It’s made using the same process as light brown sugar but it contains additional molasses in it, which gives it even more caramel flavor and richness.

Dark brown sugar is typically used by bakers who are making decadent desserts, like pies with rich fillings. It’s also often used by those creating very flavorful sauces and dry rubs for grilling purposes.

Fruit Sugar

Because of its name, you might expect that fruit sugar would be sugar that has been extracted from fruits. But this isn’t the case. It’s actually white cane or beet sugar that has been ground up to make it very fine.

Fruit sugar has the same flavor profile as granulated sugar. But since its crystals are so tiny, it’s often mixed into things like puddings and gelatins to make them sweeter. It’s also sprinkled over the top of fruit that is used to create preserves, which is where its name originates from.

Bakers Sugar

Bakers sugar is similar to fruit sugar in that it’s essentially just granulated sugar made from white cane or beet sugar that has been broken down into very small crystals. It has the same flavor as granulated sugar, but its crystals are very small and therefore used in different ways.

Bakers sugar earned its name because of how easy it makes it for bakers to dissolve it in egg whites. They’ll typically turn to it when they’re making lighter desserts such as lemon meringue pie or even Angel food cake.

You might sometimes see bakers sugar referred to as superfine sugar. It doesn’t have a ton of practical purposes in the cooking world, but it’s a must-have for those who enjoy baking.

Powdered Sugar

Powdered sugar is a kind of sugar that is made by taking white cane or beet sugar and grinding it up into a very fine powder. Corn starch is also added to it to stop it from clumping, but you will still need to use a special sifter to spread it since it’ll have a tendency to clump up otherwise.

Powdered sugar is very sweet, but it’s also very light so you’ll need to use your fair share of it to tickle your taste buds. It’s why it’s often sprinkled over the top of treats like donuts and cakes that already have sugar in them.

Powdered sugar is also the preferred choice of bakers who are making icing or frosting for their baking creations. Powdered sugar dissolves very easily, and that makes it an excellent choice for icings and frostings of all kinds.

Turbinado Sugar

Many of the types of sugar that we’ve talked about thus far are very refined. They go through lengthy production processes to break them down so that you can’t even see them when they’re used for baking and cooking.

Turbinado sugar is different in that it’s made from sugar cane that is boiled just one time. As a result, the crystals that make up turbinado sugar are on the larger side and still have a good amount of molasses in them, which gives them their brown color.

Unlike other types of sugar, turbinado sugar doesn’t melt easily, so it isn’t used for baking. But it is often put on top of baked goods once they’re finished to add a topping to them that is both sweet and rich. Some people also like to put turbinado sugar into coffee and tea to make them sweeter.

Because turbinado sugar isn’t as refined as other types of sugar, it has earned the nickname “raw sugar.” It’s also believed to be slightly better for you than other sugars, but there isn’t much evidence out there to prove this.

Demerara Sugar

Much like turbinado sugar, Demerara sugar is considered a “raw” sugar because it isn’t as refined as other types of sugar. It’s made from cane sugar and it has more molasses in it than dark brown sugar. It was first produced in Guyana, then known as Demerara, which helps to explain its name.

Of all the brown sugars in the world, Demerara is one of the richest ones around. If you would like to add a rich and deep flavor to something that you’re baking or cooking, Demerara sugar is a type of sugar you may want to consider using.

Demerara is most often utilized when making sauces and rubs for meats. It has also earned a place in the cocktail world, where it’s sometimes used as a rimmer for darker rums.

Muscovado Sugar

Muscovado sugar is a partially refined cane sugar that loses very little of its natural molasses during the production process. This would help to explain why it’s very dark brown in color. As you’ll find out when you work with this type of sugar, it’s also very moist, and it has a tacky texture that is unmistakable.

Often produced in India, muscovado sugar isn’t all that popular in the U.S. just yet. But it’s starting to gain a following because of how rich and decadent it can be. It’s sometimes used to make chocolate baked goods as well as things like glazes and sauces for cooking and grilling.

Muscovado sugar is also beginning to take hold among those who are in search of a healthier form of sugar. It contains nutrients and isn’t as refined as many of the other options that appear on this list.

Sanding Sugar

If you’ve ever taken a bite out of a cookie and tasted sugar crystals coming off the top of it, you were likely eating sanding sugar. This type of sugar comes from either white cane or beet sugar, and it has slightly larger crystals than the ones found in granulated sugar.

Sanding sugar doesn’t dissolve as well as other types of sugar, so it isn’t an ideal choice for baking and cooking. But it’s often used by those who need decorating sugar. It can be sprinkled on top of things like cookies to give them some extra sweetness.

Sanding sugar is available in a wide range of colors. You can also customize your own sanding sugar colors if you’re planning to use them for something like custom cookies that needs to be specific colors.

Coarse Sugar

Coarse sugar, which can be made from either white cane or beet sugar, is essentially the same thing as sanding sugar. The only big difference between the two is that coarse sugar has much larger crystals.

Just like with sanding sugar, coarse sugar doesn’t dissolve or melt quickly, so it isn’t going to be a main ingredient when you’re baking something. But it can be used as a decorating sugar like sanding sugar.

Coarse sugar comes in a variety of colors like sanding sugar does. But sanding sugar is the better option in many cases since coarse sugar can get stuck in a person’s teeth easier.

Which Types of Sugar Should You Always Have?

In a perfect world, you should try to keep each of these types of sugar in your kitchen at all times. They’re all used for different things when it comes to baking and cooking, and they can all add a little something extra to the items you make.

There are, however, a few types of sugar that you’re probably going to use way more than others in your kitchen. You should make sure that you always have them on hand since you’ll put them to work early and often when you’re preparing baked goods or making meals.

White granulated sugar is going to be a no-brainer. You’ll pull it out of your cupboard when you want to sweeten a beverage or create a special sauce for a meal.

Brown sugar, including both light and dark brown sugar, is another type of sugar that you won’t be able to do without when you’re baking and cooking. You should always have a box or bag of it around.

Outside of these types of sugars, bakers sugar and powdered sugar might be the only two other types of sugar that you’re going to use often enough to make them priorities. You can pick up any of the other types of sugar as needed when you know that you’re going to be baking a certain item or cooking a particular dish.

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