Turbinado Sugar: Not Quite A Raw Sugar

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Turbinado sugar is one of the many forms of brown sugar. It is sugar that has been spun in a centrifuge to remove some of its molasses content, but not all of it. As a result, it is considered partially refined. The turbinado name is thought to come from the process of spinning it in the centrifuge, which translates to turbina in Spanish. The name is thought to have a Cuban origin.

Turbinado sugar is one of the early brown sugars and is similar to Demerara sugar, which is the British version that is named after a place in Guyana. Both are partially processed sugars with large crystals. Turbinado sugar comes from the first pressing of the sugar cane and is washed once to remove impurities and much of the molasses content, but not all of it. In comparison, granulated white sugar has undergone both washing and filtering. Turbinado sugar is thought to have originated in the Americas at some point between the 17th and the 19th centuries.

Today, turbinado sugar is sold in the US under the brand name Sugar in the Raw.

Turbinado sugar flavor profile

As with other brown sugars, turbinado sugar has a flavor that is influenced by its molasses content. This molasses content is less than that of other raw and sugars such as muscovado sugar. This means that the honey and toffee notes that it brings are much subtler. The lighter flavor can make it an alternative to brown sugar for those who find the brown sugar flavor overpowering.

Health benefits of turbinado sugar

Many consider turbinado sugar to be a more nutritious alternative to other forms of sugar that undergo more processing. Some of the reasons for turbinado sugar’s reputation as a healthier sugar are due to these properties:

  • It has fewer calories: An ounce of turbinado sugar will have fewer calories when compared to an ounce of refined white sugar. This is because turbinado sugar attracts moisture and that moisture increases its weight without adding calories.
  • Its nutritional profile: Turbinado sugar undergoes less processing when compared to white sugar, which means that it retains some of its natural molasses and thus some of its nutrients. Those nutrients include potassium, calcium, and magnesium.

Even though turbinado sugar is not as highly processed as refined white sugar, it is still sugar. Aside from the fact that your body can easily break it down for energy, it does not provide any other major health benefits. In other words, it is still very similar to white sugar. Turbinado sugar does have minerals that white sugar does not, but only in trace amounts and it comes with the same risks from over-consumption that you face with refined white sugar.

Common uses

The fact that turbinado sugar provides sweetness and is as easy to use as refined white sugar means that you can use it in coffee, tea, and similar applications. You can also use it as a brown sugar alternative to bring the molasses flavor to oatmeal or to muffin recipes. It works well as a slightly less calorie-heavy white sugar substitute. Even though its larger crystals take longer to break down when creamed with butter, turbinado sugar can be used in cakes and other baked goods.