Kitchen Newbie's Guide to Sugar

Which kind of sugar should you have in your pantry?

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Aside from the usual white and brown varieties, there are other kinds of sugar you can use in your cooking. Here’s a quick guide to the 6 most common ones you’ll find.

White sugar is the type that most households have in their pantry. It’s a refined, medium-grained sugar that’s produced by dissolving, purifying, and granulating raw cane sugar. This is the type of sugar that’s often called for in recipes.

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Brown sugar is a partially refined sugar that retains some of its molasses content. It is produced by adding molasses to refined white sugar, giving it a deeper taste, a darker color, and more moisture. Light brown sugar contains about 3.5% molasses, while dark brown sugar has about 6.5%.

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Confectioners’ sugar, also known as powdered sugar, is refined white sugar that has been pounded into a very fine and silky texture, then sifted. To prevent it from clumping, about 3% cornstarch is added. This sugar is used to make icing and fondant, and is often dusted on baked goods.


Castor or Caster sugar is a finely granulated sugar that dissolves almost instantly when mixed with other ingredients. It is named so because it was usually used with a condiment dispenser known as a caster. When used in baking, its fine sugar crystals incorporate more air and give more volume than other types of sugar, resulting in light, airy cakes.

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Muscovado sugar, which also goes by the name of Barbados sugar, is a brown sugar that’s unrefined. It’s a very dark brown sugar that’s coarse, moist, and has a strong molasses flavor. It’s usually added to coffee and other beverages and can be used in most recipes that call for regular brown sugar, but with a slight adjustment on the recipe’s liquid content.


Coconut sugar or Coco sugar is sugar derived from the sap of cut flower buds of the coconut palm. With a high mineral content and a low glycemic index of 35, it is considered to be healthier than refined white and brown sugar. Coco sugar is a natural sugar substitute that can be used in beverages, cooking, and baking.

Photography by Aldwin Aspillera; original text by Rachelle Santos appeared in the April 2014 issue of Yummy magazine.


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