Muscovado and brown sugar are two versions of the same thing. Technically, you refer to both as brown sugar based on color alone but there’s more to these two sugars than just their color. While both will provide you with sweetness, they are not exactly the same. Let’s find out about them in the SPICEography Showdown below.
How does muscovado sugar differ from brown sugar?
Muscovado sugar is raw sugar that has not been spun in a centrifuge and therefore has retained much of its natural molasses. The brown sugar you see on store shelves is refined white sugar to which manufacturers have added molasses.
There is no standardized definition of muscovado sugar, so some manufacturers give the muscovado name to any brown sugar with a high molasses content. In comparison, dark brown sugar is typically a third molasses while light brown sugar is about a sixth molasses.
You can make brown sugar at home by combining white sugar with molasses; you cannot make a true muscovado sugar at home. True muscovado sugar can only come from a sugar refinery.
Muscovado is raw sugar and looks a lot like regular brown sugar, but there is a notable difference when it comes to taste. Since the flavor of both comes mainly from the molasses content and muscovado sugar has more molasses, muscovado sugar has a stronger taste. The flavor is rich and intense with strong toffee notes and a hint of smokiness. Brown sugar offers light molasses notes with some toffee notes, but they are muted in comparison to those from muscovado sugar. Muscovado is also wetter and stickier than the relatively dry and loose brown sugar.
Muscovado sugar is harder to find than regular brown sugar, which is available on the shelves of most grocery stores.
Can you use muscovado in place of brown sugar and vice versa?
Muscovado is a good substitute for brown sugar in many if not all applications. The very thing that sets brown sugar apart — its molasses content — is present to a greater degree in muscovado sugar. It will give your dishes a richer flavor and a deeper color. In dishes where you want only a moderate amount of the molasses flavor and color or where you need your sugar to have less moisture, it may be necessary to dilute the muscovado sugar with some white sugar to get the desired color and consistency.
Brown sugar can replace muscovado sugar in many applications but you may find its molasses flavor lacking and it may be too dry. You can get around this by adding extra molasses to it.
When should you use muscovado sugar and when should you use brown sugar?
If you are looking for a sweetener that will also give you a strong molasses taste, then muscovado sugar should be on your shortlist. Use it in any application that calls for both molasses and sugar as well as in dishes where a rich brown color is desirable. It makes a great addition to barbecue sauces and to Irish brown bread.
Use muscovado sugar in a brownie or chocolate cake recipe to deepen the color and make the flavor even deeper. Brown sugar is less divisive due to its mild flavor and pale color. Use it to get a less assertive molasses taste and in dishes where you want to be too dark.