Demarara sugar is popular with bakers because of its crunchy texture, which makes it a great topping for desserts. As a lightly processed brown sugar, it has many other uses; however, you may have a hard time finding it in the US. When you do find it, it may come at a higher price. There are several Demerara sugar substitutes that you can use to get a similar flavor profile and appearance.
Your best bet: Light brown sugar
Light brown sugar consists of sugar that has been processed to have its natural molasses removed and added back to it. The processing ensures purity and consistency. Light brown sugar has less molasses than dark brown sugar, which means that it is lighter in color and has a milder taste. The lighter color and subtler flavor make it an excellent stand-in for Demerara sugar’s beige color and subtle caramel/butterscotch notes. Light brown sugar is also a great alternative simply because you may already have it; it is much easier to find than most other Demerara sugar alternatives.
You can use light brown sugar as a 1:1 substitute in most applications that would require Demerara sugar.
A decent second choice: Turbinado sugar
Like Demerara sugar, turbinado consists of sugar that has been spun in a centrifuge to remove most of its natural molasses. As a minimally processed sugar, it has many of the same qualities that you may want from Demerara sugar including the same subtle molasses flavor and light color. The big difference between the two will be the size of the crystals. Demerara sugar has larger crystals than turbinado sugar, which means that turbinado sugar will dissolve more quickly.
On the other hand, turbinado sugar’s smaller crystals mean that it will not provide the same type of crunchy texture that you can expect from Demerara sugar. A somewhat less significant difference is that turbinado sugar is a little darker in color, indicating a slightly higher molasses content. Those differences are relatively minor and you should be able to use turbinado sugar in place of Demerara in most applications. Turbinado sugar may be easier to find in the US than other Demerara sugar substitutes; it is widely sold under the brand name Sugar in the Raw.
Use turbinado sugar as a 1:1 demerara sugar substitute.
In a pinch: Coconut sugar
Coconut sugar is made from the sap of coconut trees and is processed in a similar manner as the juice from the sugarcane, which is used to make Demerara sugar. It does not taste like coconuts, but instead has a similar flavor profile to light brown sugars like Demerara sugar. Like Demerara sugar, coconut sugar is minimally refined. It also has a golden brown color, which means that it might be slightly darker than Demerara sugar. It is not dark enough to make a significant difference in the outcome for most recipes.
Use coconut sugar as a 1:1 demerara sugar substitute.
Maple syrup may be an effective Demerara sugar alternative in some recipes. It is easy to find and its flavor can be a good stand-in for the caramel notes of Demerara sugar; however, adjustments will have to be made to your recipe to compensate for the extra liquid.
Refined white sugar is not brown like the substitutes above, but it is easy to find and will provide the same sweetness that you would get from Demerara sugar. Contrary to what many think, it is not significantly less healthy than Demerara sugar. Both consist mostly of sucrose and will pose the same health risks when consumed in excess.