If you are seeking a healthy alternative to refined white sugar, you may see muscovado recommended as one of your best options. Muscovado is an unrefined sugar that is actually less exotic than it sounds—it is mainly just another brown sugar. It is not much better for you than white sugar and there are quite a few options that can do a decent job of standing in for it. If you cannot find muscovado sugar in a local store and need it right now, you can try a substitute that you already have in your kitchen. Here are some easier-to-find muscovado sugar substitutes.
Your best bet: Rapadura
Rapadura has been a traditional sweetener in many Latin American countries for a long time. It is also sometimes referred to as panela and piloncillo in Mexico. Unlike other forms of unrefined sugars like turbinado sugar, rapadura has not been spun in a centrifuge to remove its natural molasses. A press is used to extract the juice from sugar cane, after which the juice is gently heated so that some of the moisture evaporates. What is left is sold as rapadura. The fact that it retains its natural molasses makes it similar enough to muscovado to be used as a substitute in most applications. It has both the brown color and the intense molasses/caramel flavor profile.
Rapadura can vary considerably in the amount of molasses it contains based on the variety of sugar cane used to make it. Some batches may have a darker color than others, which means that some may be better muscovado sugar substitutes than others.
Use rapadura as a 1:1 substitute for muscovado sugar.
A decent second choice: Jaggery
Jaggery is a sugar from India that can be made from one of two sources: sugarcane or palm trees. The variety that comes from sugarcane is mostly used in India, while the palm tree variety more common in Myanmar. There are slight differences in flavor and color depending on the source of the jaggery. The sugarcane jaggery is a better muscovado substitute in terms of flavor and appearance, but both can work as muscovado substitutes. Its deep brown color signifies its high molasses content.
Like muscovado sugar, jaggery is not spun in a centrifuge. It is different from muscovado in that it is usually formed into cakes or cones before being sold. To use it as you would use muscovado sugar, it is necessary to crumble it. Jaggery is easy to crumble. Once it is crumbled, you can use jaggery in any application that requires muscovado sugar.
Use jaggery as a 1:1 substitute for muscovado sugar.
In a pinch: Dark brown sugar
Dark brown sugar is brown sugar with a higher molasses content. The brown sugars that are identified by shade (light or dark) are made with refined white sugar to which molasses has been added. This is done to ensure a more consistent and cleaner product than would be possible if the natural molasses was left in. The high molasses content gives dark brown sugar a similar flavor, moisture content and color as muscovado sugar. The main difference between them is that with muscovado sugar the molasses is never removed at any point. Dark brown sugar is easier to find and less expensive than muscovado sugar.
Use dark brown sugar as a 1:1 substitute for muscovado sugar.
Make your own muscovado substitute by putting your own dark brown sugar together. Do this by combining molasses with white sugar until the blend reaches your preferred level of molasses concentration.