4 Of The Best Sanding Sugar Substitutes

If you’re an avid baker, then you’ll already know that sanding sugar is one of the best items in your toolbelt when it comes to finishing off certain recipes.

Not all sugar is made equal, and there are a wide variety of different sugars out there, all of which serve a specific purpose. 

Sanding sugar is popular when it comes to finishing off baked goods. Many people will sprinkle a little bit of sanding sugar on top of cakes and cupcakes, in order to give the top a granulated effect.

This is because sanding sugar is far thicker in terms of grain size than other varieties out there. 

Therefore, replacing it with regular caster sugar just won’t have the same effect. You might therefore be at a little bit of a loss when it comes to finding some good alternatives. Thankfully, that’s where we come in. 

Below, we’ve compiled a list of some of the very best sanding sugar substitutes out there, to help you along with your baking journey. 

To find out more, simply keep reading below. 

4 Of The Best Sanding Sugar Substitutes

What Is Sanding Sugar? 

Now, before we jump straight in, it’s good to take a look at what sanding sugar really is. Sanding sugar is typically made of refined sugar, and as we mentioned before, is typically used to decorate baked goods. 

Sanding sugar has a far thicker grain than other sugars, and this prevents it from dissolving easily when it’s placed on surfaces such as buttercream icing.

Because it is used mainly for decorative purposes, it usually can be found in a number of different colors that have been created using food coloring. 

Because it’s slightly reflective, it can also make certain baked goods appear glittery, and create a super pretty visual appeal. 

Below, we’re going to be taking a closer look at some substitutes you can use when you just don’t have any at hand. 

1. Demerara Sugar 

When it comes to sanding sugar substitutes, we think that demerara sugar is one of the very best.

It has super large grains that produce a similar effect to sanding sugar, with the key difference being that the former is made up of brown sugar grains instead of white. 

This might not create the same visual appearance in certain baked goods, but works well as a topping for darker cakes and bakes. 

It doesn’t taste all too similar to sanding sugar, purely because it’s dark in nature, and has a strong molasses-like flavor.

If you’re creating delicate dishes, like vanilla cupcakes, then this sugar could be a little bit overpowering if you put too much on top. 

But, we do like the fact that this sugar packs a similar crunch to sanding sugar. 

2. Pearl Sugar 

As you will have already noticed, pearl sugar is far thicker than sanding sugar, and comes in large, pear-like clumps, hence the name.

One of the good things about using pearl sugar as a replacement for sanding sugar is that it doesn’t dissolve when it’s exposed to water.

So, if you’re planning on placing it on top of buttercream, or any liquid based icings, it won’t suffer. You can even use pearl sugar within pastries and doughs, and it will maintain its thick appearance. 

As you will have already ascertained however, pearl sugar will give your decorations a different appearance, as instead of being grainy, pearl sugar is more clumped. It will, however, give you a similar clumpy texture. 

3. Sprinkles 

Depending on the dish that you’re decorating, you could use something as simple as sprinkles as a substitute for your sanding sugar.

The good news is that just like sanding sugar, you can purchase sprinkles in a wide range of different colors, depending on what you’re planning to make. 

Another great thing about sprinkles is that they’re roughly the same size as sanding sugar. You can even purchase sprinkles with a glittery outer surface, so that you can create a similar visual appearance to sanding sugar. 

Another great thing about sprinkles is that they can be found in a wide variety of different flavors, so that you can even choose one that matches the particular dish that you’re making. 

4. Granulated Sugar 

This wouldn’t be our first choice when it comes to finding sanding sugar substitutes, but it is good as a last resort. If you don’t have any sanding sugar at hand, then you can simply use some granulated sugar instead. 

It will dissolve faster than sanding sugar, so this is the only real drawback when it comes to using regular granulated sugar. But despite this, it creates a similar visual appearance to sanding sugar, because it has a white, shiny surface. 

It’s also made from the same variety of sugar, and so has the exact same flavor, you might just be missing out on a little bit of the crunch. 

If you want to, you can essentially create more of a similar visual appeal to sanding sugar, by simply mixing your granulated sugar with drops of food coloring. Simply mix it all up, and then use it to decorate your baked goods. 

Final Thoughts 

To sum up, there are a host of different items that you can use as a replacement for sanding sugar. The one that you choose will depend on the look and taste that you’re trying to achieve.

From our list above, we’d say that demerara sugar is the most similar in terms of texture and size, whereas granulated sugar presents the same flavor. 

If you want an alternative that’s as visually appealing as sanding sugar, then we’d recommend that you consider using sprinkles as a substitute, as these come in a wide variety of different colors, as well as flavors.

You can also purchase sparkly ones so that you can create a similar visual effect to sanding sugar. We hope that this article has been helpful, and we wish you the best of luck on your baking journey. 

4 Of The Best Sanding Sugar Substitutes

Recipe by AubreyCourse: Substitutes


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In this article below, we’re going to be taking a look at some of the very best substitutes for sanding sugar, providing you with alternatives.


  • Demerara Sugar 

  • Pearl Sugar 

  • Sprinkles 

  • Granulated Sugar 


  • Decide on what substitute you need
  • Pick a substitute from the list above
  • Read what you need to substitute with
  • Create the recipe and enjoy
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