White sugar is the most commonly used sweetener in the west. It is used to sweeten everything from coffee to pastries. If a recipe calls for sugar and doesn’t specify the type, it’s safe to assume that you are meant to use white sugar. Raw sugar is a little harder to find and you won’t find a lot of recipes that require this type of sugar specifically. In the SPICEography Showdown below, we will compare these two sugars to see what makes each of them special.
How does white sugar differ from raw sugar?
White sugar is different from raw sugar in appearance, consistency, and flavor. The reason for the difference is that white sugar has been heavily processed to remove all traces of molasses and other impurities while raw sugar has not been extensively processed. The minimal processing is why it is considered raw. Raw sugar still has some of its molasses.
White sugar has a brilliant white appearance and is completely clear when dissolved in water. As a result, it is neutral in terms of its color when added to baked goods and other foods. It will not alter the color of a beverage or baked goods on its own.
Because of raw sugar’s molasses content, it has a golden brown color. The color will be visible in pale foods and beverages. Darker raw sugars like muscovado sugar may give pale dishes a noticeably brown color.
Because white sugar has no molasses and little moisture of any kind, its grains are dry and free-flowing. They are not quite as loose as table salt but are loose compared to raw sugar, which is moist and sticky.
The lack of molasses means that white sugar is simply sweet with no other flavor notes. It is a neutral sweetener that you can count on to provide a sweet taste without adding anything else to the flavor profile. The molasses gives raw sugar a subtle butterscotch flavor that might disappear among stronger flavors but that will be noticeable among mild ones.
If your recipe calls for one, can you use the other?
White sugar provides roughly the same amount of sweetness as raw sugar so it can work as a substitute if all you want is a sweetener. If you need the brown color from molasses, you can add a little molasses to your white sugar to make it a better raw sugar substitute.
Raw sugar can work as a white sugar substitute in some cases. Use it at the table as a sweetener for coffee, tea, and cereal. Alternatively, you can use it as a white sugar substitute in baked goods as long as you take the fact that anything you bake will be darker than normal into account.
Raw sugar grains are larger than those of white sugar, so you may need to grind them to ensure that they don’t ruin recipes for baked goods. Large sugar crystals may not dissolve completely in dry doughs, which might make the texture of the finished item grainy. Use a blender or food processor to get smaller grains.
When should you use white sugar and when should you use raw sugar?
Use white sugar for general sweetening needs. It works best when you need a neutral sweetener that won’t interfere with your main flavors or affect color.
Use raw sugar if you want a sweetener that adds depth and rich brown color along with sweetness.