Granulated white sugar comes from one of two sources sugar cane or sugar beets. Beet sugar makes up more than half of the granulated sugar produced in the United States. If a package of sugar does not specify that it came from cane sugar, it is likely from sugar beets. If you need a natural substitute for beet sugar, your reasons for seeking an alternative will help you choose the best option for you to replace beet sugar in your recipes.
Chemically, cane sugar is very similar to beet sugar. These sugar sources are 99.95 percent the same, but trace minerals make up the 0.05 percent difference between them. This small difference makes cane sugar a better choice for caramelizing and for use in candy recipes. For use in recipes, replace the beet sugar with an equal amount of cane sugar. Cane Beet sugar requires less refining than cane sugar. Since some cane sugar refiners use animal bone char in the process, strict vegans will want to avoid using cane sugar as a beet sugar substitute.
Date sugar technically is not a sugar, but it is free of animal products in its manufacture, which consists of grinding dried dates. Date sugar has a concentrated sweetness, so use 3/4 the amount of beet sugar required in recipes. Unlike beet sugar, the date sugar granules will not mix and melt smoothly in baked goods, leaving little chunks of sweetness in the finished product. Date sugar has the added benefit of the vitamins and minerals of dates included in the sugar.
Turbinado sugar, also called raw sugar, skips the step in cane sugar refining that requires bone char. After pressing sugar cane to release the juice, the juice boils down and evaporates. This raw sugar is cleaned with steam before packaging as turbinado. This vegan-friendly option to beet sugar has a molasses flavor, less than light brown sugar. Use it to replace an equal amount of beet sugar in recipes. Sucanat is the brand name for a similar product made from unrefined cane sugar, but Sucanat has a deeper molasses flavor than turbinado and it can replace white beet sugar or brown sugar in recipes.
Barley Malt or Brown Rice Syrup
Barley malt and brown rice syrups are made from sprouted fermented barley or unfermented rice, respectively. These two liquid sweeteners are less sweet than beet sugar, and you will need to use 1 1/4 cup of either barley malt or brown rice syrup to replace 1 cup of beet sugar in your recipe. To compensate for the added liquid, reduce other liquids in the recipe by 1/3 cup. Look for these two syrup sweeteners in health food stores or on the Internet.
- Cook's Thesaurus: Sugars
- SF Gate; Sugar/Sugar Cane and Beet Share the Same Chemistry But Act Differently in the Kitchen; Carolyn Weil, et al.; March 31, 1999
- Vegetarian Times; "The Sweetest Love of All"; Barbara Tunick; Oct. 2004
- "The Joy of Vegan Baking"; Colleen Patrick-Goudreau; 2007
- "Baking in America"; Greg Patent; 2002
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