Demerara sugar and turbinado sugars are very similar. They are raw sugars, which means that the processing that they have undergone is minimal. Despite their similarities, these sugars are not the same and their differences should be considered when deciding between them. In this SPICEography Showdown, we take a look at how demerara sugar and turbinado sugar compare to each other.
How does Demerara sugar differ from turbinado sugar?
Demerara and turbinado sugar have different origin stories. Demerara sugar’s beginnings lie in Dutch Guiana. Its name comes from the Dutch colony there but the name no longer refers to sugar specifically from Demerara. Instead, it refers to a type of sugar that some refer to as demerara-style sugar. Turbinado sugar’s name has a Portuguese origin. It comes from the fact that the sugar is spun in turbines as it is being processed.
Demerara and turbinado sugar differ in appearance. The crystal size is an important difference. Demerara sugar is a light brown sugar with large crystals while turbinado sugar crystals are usually noticeably finer.
Demerara sugar and turbinado sugar have slightly different consistencies. Demerara sugar is slightly sticky which indicates that it has moisture similar to the moistness of brown sugar. Turbinado sugar is not sticky, which means it is not moist at all so it flows freely like refined white sugar.
Flavor is another key area where demerara and turbinado sugar differ. Demerara sugar has a stronger natural molasses flavor than turbinado sugar.
Can you use demerara sugar as a substitute for turbinado sugar and vice versa?
Demerara sugar can work as a substitute for turbinado sugar but how well it works depends a lot on how you plan on using it. For example, it may not be as easy to sprinkle Demerara sugar because of its sticky consistency.
If your recipe requires you to sprinkle on turbinado sugar, using demerara sugar in its place may be slightly more difficult because it tends to clump. Both sugars have a little natural molasses, but the flavor is slightly more noticeable from demerara sugar than it is from turbinado sugar. If this is a problem in your recipe, you may need to use less of it.
Turbinado sugar can work as a substitute for Demerara sugar but keep in mind that it has small crystals. Because it is finer, turbinado sugar will dissolve faster. Because turbinado sugar does not have the strong flavor that you would get from demerara sugar, you may need to use slightly more of it.
When should you use Demerara sugar, and when should you use turbinado sugar?
Demerara sugar’s color and consistency make it an ideal alternative to light brown sugar in recipes where you want a milder version of light brown sugar’s flavor profile. It is a raw sugar so you can use it as a table sweetener replacing raw sugar for sweetening coffee, tea, and other beverages. It can work as a topping on desserts because of its large crystals that can help to provide a crunchy texture, but it may not always be ideal because of how sticky it is.
Turbinado sugar can provide a similar flavor profile and appearance but without the stickiness that you would get from demerara sugar. You can use it for sprinkling onto desserts like cakes and cookies to make an attractive and tasty topping.