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Can You Use Beet Sugar for Cooking?

by Carlye Jones

Beet sugar is quickly outpacing cane sugar in popularity because it is less expensive to process. More than half the sugar in the United States now comes from sugar beets. While less expensive sugar is a good thing, beet sugar does not substitute easily for cane sugar in every type of recipe.

Baking

Beet sugar and cane sugar may be used in the same amounts in baking recipes. The resulting texture of the baked goods, such as cakes or cookies, are nearly the same. The flavor is almost identical; while some people are able to tell a difference, many others are unable to tell whether a baked treat has been made with beet or cane sugar. Beet sugar can be substituted straight across in a baking recipe calling for cane sugar without any major difference in the final product.

Caramelized or Blended

Beet sugar does not caramelize at the same temperature as cane sugar. It also does not blend as well with other ingredients such as butter, because it has a different size and shape than cane sugar. The topping on crème brûlée, for example, will have a different texture if made with beet sugar. Meringue may not turn out as fluffy because of the larger sugar grains. The flavor may still be good, and beet sugar can be substituted for cane sugar in these types of recipes, but it should be done with the understanding that the flavor and texture may be different than expected.

Candy

While beet sugar can be used for candy, cooking temperatures must be adjusted. Beet sugar melts at a higher temperature than cane sugar and will not perform the same way if heated to the temperature specified for cane sugar. This can make using beet sugar to make candy difficult and may require some experimentation to determine the best temperature for each type of candy made with beet sugar.

Chemical Differences

Both beet sugar and cane sugar are forms of sucrose. Chemically, they are nearly identical. They also taste nearly identical. This means that for most types of everyday cooking, such as making oatmeal, muffins, sauces or other types of dishes where the melting point of the sugar is not critical, beet sugar can be freely substituted for cane sugar without any noticeable difference. The two are also nearly nutritionally identical, so there is no advantage to using one or the other.

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