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Navigating Sugars – Refined, Partially Refined, Unrefined…

Navigating your way around all of the types of sugar out there can be a bit of a minefield, so I’ve put together this blog to save you some time and break it down! In essence, try to replace any refined sugars with unrefined sugars – or partially refined.


Refined sugars are sugars that have gone through a chemical process to remove the molasses that are naturally found in it. The molasses contain the sugar cane's vitamins and minerals.


The refining process involves sugar cane juice being heated at high temperatures until crystals form, clarifying and then spinning in a centrifuge so the crystals are separated from the molasses. The crystals are then reunited with some of the molasses in artificial proportions. This step results in the ‘raw’ sugars. To make white sugar, the raw sugar is washed, clarified to remove impurities, bleached, evaporated, re-boiled until crystals form, re-centrifuged to separate and re-dried.


Sugars that are described as organic don't necessarily mean that they are unrefined. An organic sugar means that the cane is grown with organic agricultural methods, and then the sugar is refined / partially refined as above, or unrefined as in the sugars listed below.


Unrefined Sugars


Rapadura Sugar, also known as Panela and Piloncillo, is the only sugar where the sugar stream is not separated from the molasses. The sugar cane is pressed to remove the juice, dehydrated and then ground to produce a grainy sugar. It has a lovely caramel flavour, fine grain texture and golden colour and can be used in place of white, raw or brown sugar in any recipe.


Muscovado Sugar, also known as Barbados sugar or Khand, is generally unrefined (but can sometimes be partially refined). It has a sticky, wet, sandy texture with a fudgy, caramelly taste that works well in cookies, brownies, barbecue sauces, marinades and sweetening tea / coffee. Dark muscovado contains more molasses than the light version.


Partially Refined Sugars


Demerara Sugar is essentially muscovado sugar that has been centrifuged to remove more molasses. It is an amber colour with a subtle flavour and due to the larger size grains, it is often used in crumbles and toppings.


Raw Cane Sugar, also called Turbinado has slightly larger and darker grains than granulated sugar crystals. It can be used in the same way as granulated sugar.

Coconut Palm Sugar is made from the evaporated sap of the coconut palm tree. It has a caramel flavour - slightly milder than rapadura. Note - palm sugar is manufactured and harvested in a completely different way to palm oil and is not linked to deforestation.


Refined Sugars


Granulated sugar, also known as white or regular sugar – contains no molasses.


Caster sugar is finely ground granulated sugar. The tiny size of the sugar crystals enables them to dissolve quickly, making caster sugar a preferred choice for meringues, syrups, cocktails etc.


Icing Sugar is powdered granulated sugar that often has a little cornflour mixed in to prevent it from clumping. Icing sugar dissolves really quickly and is used mainly for icing.


Brown Sugar is essentially refined white sugar with some molasses added back in.



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Disclaimer. The statements contained herein are the author’s own conclusions and have not been evaluated by any Agency or Body. The information above is intended for reading and entertainment purposes only.

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