Raw sugar refers to sugar that has undergone only minimal processing, which means that it still has some of its natural molasses. Raw sugar can refer to different sugar types including muscovado sugar, but most often used to refer to the golden brown product sometimes sold under the brand name Sugar in the Raw. The best substitute for it will differ depending on the application. Here are some raw sugar substitutes that are suitable for a variety of different uses.
Your best bet: Light brown sugar
While raw sugar is minimally processed sugar that still has some of its molasses, brown sugar is highly processed sugar that has molasses returned to it. By adding the molasses to refined sugar, producers can ensure that their product is consistent in color and moisture level.
Light brown sugar is a more affordable alternative to raw sugar. It is also easier to find.
The main characteristics that set raw sugar apart are its color and texture. Its flavor is also distinctive, but less so than its other qualities. Brown sugar has a similar general flavor profile and a moist, sticky texture. As a result, you can replace raw sugar with brown sugar in many applications. Brown sugar is great in baked goods where it will provide an even deeper brown color and a more intense butterscotch flavor than you would get from raw sugar.
A decent second choice: Refined white sugar + molasses
White sugar is the easiest of all sweeteners to find if you live in the West. It is also very affordable, which makes it the most widely used of all the raw sugar substitutes. If what you primarily want is sweetness, white sugar will do the job. While raw sugar is marketed as being a healthier option than white sugar, there is really very little difference between the two. White sugar will work in most baked goods and as a table sweetener.
What it won’t do is give a light brown color or molasses flavor, which is why a small amount of molasses may make it a decent substitute. Keep in mind that you will need only a tiny amount of molasses or you risk overpowering delicate flavors and discoloring your dish.
In a pinch: Cane sugar
White sugar may be made from sugar cane or beets; cane sugar is made exclusively from sugar cane. Like raw sugar, it has undergone minimal processing and still retains a little of its molasses.
Cane sugar is also a good substitute because has larger grains, much like raw sugar. It has a darker color than white sugar though not quite the same golden brown that you would get from the most popular type of raw sugar.
Maple sugar is made from crystallized maple syrup rather than crystallized sugar cane juice, but it can play a very similar role. Note that it will give you a maple flavor rather than toffee one, but is very similar to raw sugar otherwise.
Honey provides the sweetness that you would get from raw sugar and can help provide a similar color as well. You can use it as a table sweetener in many of the same ways that you might use raw sugar. Downsides include the fact that it adds extra moisture to baked goods and causes them to brown more quickly.