Monday, September 13, 2010

Sugar, Rapadura, Sucanat, Turbinado, Demerara,etc...

Sweeteners! When I started expecting real nourishment from my food, I stopped buying many over-sweetened processed chemically preserved foods and started sweetening my own yogurt, baked goods, and oatmeal, etc. with natural sweeteners. I quickly realized that the possibilities are vast. What are they all? What do they do? How do I substitute for white sugar in recipes? So, I read some books and web articles and made each birthday another baking experiment in the kitchen over the past couple years.

My son just turned 7 last Thursday, so I experimented with 4 kinds of brownies. My older daughter will be 9 tomorrow, so I made an angel food cake today with raw honey. I found a handy substitution guide that's working well for me so far at:

It's great to use local foods as much as possible. For Lancaster, our local natural sweeteners are definitely honey, maple syrup, and local fruits and fruit juices. Of this list, I like raw honey because it is the least processed and contains enzymes that help digest carbohydrates. The substitution guide above says to use 1/2 c. honey wherever a recipe calls for 1 c. sugar, then reduce the liquid content of the recipe by 1/8, reduce oven temp. by 25 degrees, and bake a bit longer. This worked well for my angel food cake today.

Reminder: Don't give raw honey to kids under the age of 2 because their digestive tracts are not mature enough to deactivate the bacteria spores. As for the rest of us - enjoy!

Regarding cane sugar forms, I'll list them in order of least processed (which contain the most nutrients) to most processed (which contain the least nutrients): muscovado, rapadura, sucanat, turbinado, demerara, sugar in the raw, brown sugar, and white sugar. If you see the terminology "evaporated cane juice," this doesn't really tell you anything specific because all of these are some form of that. Muscovado and rapadura are the two forms of evaporated cane juice which do not have the molasses separated out of them. This is good because the molasses contains the trace minerals and nutrients you want like calcium, magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus. It also has a toffee like flavor, which is much deeper than the neutral flavor of white sugar, so you need to be aware of the difference and decide how you like it. (I like the toffee flavor, but not full-strength, so I cut it by using honey or agave nectar with rapadura in many baked goods and homemade icecream.) To see the nutrition info. on rapadura, go to an old post of mine at

Sucanat also has some molasses, and although it contains less than the aforementioned, it still has some worthwhile trace minerals and nutrients while delivering a milder flavor than rapadura.

The rest of the "brown" sugars are turbinado, demerara, sugar in the raw, and brown sugar. Am I missing any? Probably... cuz there are various brand names that are some form of those listed. And in each of these, all the molasses is removed and then a very small amount is put back in. It's such a small amount that it's nutritional content is pretty close to white sugar which is devoid of nutrients altogether. But it can be used as a bridge if you are trying to get used to sucanat or rapadura. Since it has some of the molasses flavor, it will help your taste buds become accustomed to something new.

I was just at Miller's Natural Foods today (on Miller Lane in Bird-in-Hand, PA) and wrote down some prices of sweeteners on their shelves. Everything listed is price per pound unless otherwise specified:

Organic Rapadura $2.65
Sucanat $1.50
Unrefined Demerara $0.79
Organic Evaporated Cane Sugar $0.75
Evaporated Cane Juice (white) $0.67
Fructose $1.35
Maple Sugar $10.00
Stevia powder $54.64
Stevia herb powder $22.00
Date Sugar $5.95/ 11 oz.
Raw honey $9.80/ 2.5 lbs.
Liquid Stevia $18.75/ 4 oz.
Organic Raw Blue Agave Nectar $9.26/44 oz.
Pure Maple Syrup $13.20/32 oz.
Xylitol $12.49/ 2.5 lbs.

Let me know if you have any questions! And thank you Melissa for writing to me about it.


maomao said...

Hi, I came across your post and think it's very useful and informative. Thank you very much for sharing about it. I would like to confirm with you that muscovado has more nutrients than rapadura, right? The link in the other page of yours which brought me to the table of these two seem to indicates lower numbers in muscovado. But I know nothing in spanish so I can be wrong totally! :P I would appreciate if you write me back to confirm this info. Thank you very much!

Katrina said...

This is great information, but I am STILL confused. Many sites describe Sucanat as the one that retains the most molasses (over rapadura and muscovado). Another site said that Sucanat was a BRAND name rather than a product name, which would mean that it is a brand of one of the other kinds, right? Reading the descriptions of how they react in cooking, it sounds like Sucanat might be a name brand of muscovado? Any thoughts?

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Amy said...

You're right that muscovado contains less nutrients than rapadura (except calcium) according to the ministry of Brazil. Sorry for my mistake. Sucanat is not a brand name of muscovado. It's different. Sucanat has the texture of coffee grounds (although it doesn't taste like coffee). Muscovado has the texture of brown sugar, but it is very very dark brown in color. I have thought about including pictures, but I'm not good at technical stuff, so I didn't do it.

Amy said...

Here's some more info on Sucanat (from wikipedia):
Sucanat (a contraction of "Sucre de canne naturel") was introduced by Pronatec in 1978 and is a brand name for a variety of whole cane sugar. Unlike refined and processed white cane sugar and brown cane sugar, but similar to panela and muscovado, Sucanat retains its molasses content. It is essentially pure dried sugar cane juice. The juice is extracted by mechanical processes, heated, and cooled, forming small brown grainy crystals.

Amy said...

Thanks for your encouragement!!!!! I obviously haven't written in my blog for a long time, but I read and enjoy every comment that comes through.