Jaggery Vs. Brown Sugar: SPICEography Showdown

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Jaggery and brown sugar both provide a sweet flavor and can have a similar color, but does that mean that they are the same thing or that they are interchangeable? It’s complicated. Let’s look at how they compare in this SPICEography Showdown.

How does jaggery differ from brown sugar?

Manufacturers use a different process for making jaggery than is used for making regular brown sugar. Jaggery is unrefined sugar made without spinning it in a centrifuge. Brown sugar is refined sugar and a part of the refinement process involves centrifuging. Also, jaggery does not get treated with bone charcoal to create a clear solution. The charcoal treatment is a big part of white sugar is refinement, which is why it is not considered a vegan product; jaggery is vegan. 

Some jaggery comes from sugar cane, but you can also get it from palm sap. Outside of a few countries in Europe, both components in brown sugar — the sugar crystals and the molasses — come from sugar cane. 

You will have a hard time finding jaggery outside of the Subcontinent and parts of the Middle East; in comparison, brown sugar is used all over the world. Brown sugar is much more common in the West than jaggery, which can be hard to find. Because jaggery is relatively rare, it will usually be more expensive than brown sugar. 

Jaggery and brown sugar differ in their sweetness. Jaggery is not as sweet as the white sugar used to make brown sugar. 

You will find jaggery in a range of different colors ranging from golden brown to dark molasses brown. Most brown sugar comes in two colors: light brown and dark brown. 

Much of the world’s jaggery comes from small manufacturers and can have different characteristics from manufacturer to manufacturer. Jaggery made from sugar cane and jaggery made from palm sap will also have different properties. In addition, a single maker’s product can vary from batch to batch. Brown sugar is relatively consistent. It is white sugar blended with molasses and consists of 1/3 molasses for dark brown sugar and 1/6 for light brown sugar. 

Can you use jaggery as a substitute for brown sugar and vice versa?

Jaggery has a reputation as healthy sugar, which is why some people use it as a brown sugar substitute. The truth is that all sugar is nutritionally similar and none of it is healthy. If you still want to use jaggery in place of brown sugar, you will need to use more of it to get the same sweetness.

When using brown sugar in place of jaggery, you will use less of it to avoid making a dish too sweet. Note also that jaggery is sold in block form, you will need to grate it to make it usable in most recipes that require regular brown sugar crystals. Increase the sugar in a dish by 1/3 when using jaggery as a brown sugar substitute.  

Because jaggery‘s primary flavor is sweetness with a caramel/toffee undertone, brown sugar can stand in for it effectively. Use 1/3 less brown sugar if you are using it as a jaggery substitute.  

When should you use jaggery and when should you use brown sugar? 

Jaggery is a traditional sweetener in India and nearby countries. In this region, it shows up in savory and sweet dishes and in various confections. Use it for an authentic version of Indian desserts and sweet beverages.

Brown sugar is another all-purpose sweetener that comes as loose crystals that make it perfect for sweetening oatmeal or coffee. Use it for any application that can benefit from its molasses notes.