What Is Turbinado Sugar And What Can You Use To Substitute It?

As someone entering the gauntlet of more intermediate baking you can occasionally find yourself miffed by certain artisan ingredients that can seem a little strange and you may have never heard of. 

Turbinado sugar is exactly one of these products, nearly every intermediate baker may have encountered it at some point and either glossed over the recipe as result or has simply wondered what exactly it is.

As you may have already guessed, there are some swaps for this artisan sugar, but we are also here to tell you guys what turbinado sugar is, why it is used over other sugars, and how you can substitute it in recipes.

Keep reading to unlock that annoying recipe that asks for turbinado sugar with one of these simple swaps we have suggested. Find out below what you can substitute turbinado sugar for.

What Is Turbinado Sugar And What Can You Use To Substitute It

What Is Turbinado Sugar?

Turbinado sugar is a type of raw sugar that is darker and less fine than your regular granulated sugar or caster sugar.

It’s the kind of artisan product you might only have noticed in your local hipster coffee shop, but is also commercially available with its own uses and practical features.

The main way it differs from other kinds of sugars is that Turbinado sugar is most commonly derived from the first pressing of sugar cane. Other more refined sugars come from much later pressings that have rid the taste of the sugar cane plant.

That said, turbinado sugar comes from the first pressing of sugar cane As it comes from this first pressing turbinado sugar generally has much more vegetal flavors from the plant, retaining most of the sugar cane’s flavor and natural molasses.

The syrup from the first pressing is boiled and crystallized in order to give us turbinado sugar. As a result it often comes in crystal form that is much larger than your common sugar granules.

As they are less processed they have much more well rounded flavor than other sugars, which can be rich for some. These crystals are often the sugar of choice when sprinkling on top of a baked product as they provide a crunchy texture as well.

As it is processed a lot less, and comes from this first pressing, turbinado sugar is generally a lot more moist than other sugars.

This can be important to take into account with the other sugars we mentioned, while some are drier this can affect the texture of the food product you are making, while more moist sugars can often lead to a similar if not more moist product.

Substitutes For Turbinado Sugar

Here are a few of the ingredients that are easy swaps for turbinado sugar, should you be asked to use the latter in a recipe.

1. Brown Sugar

Brown sugar is basically a combination of both turbinado sugar and white granulated sugar. Brown sugar is actually sugar that has been refined and processed from raw sugar into white sugar by removing all the molasses that come from the raw sugar cane.

When the white, classic, sugar, which we would easily recognize, is processed they then take all the molasses from the sugar cane and then actually add it back into the white sugar.

This is what bring the brown color to the sugar. While small and fine like white sugar, it still has all the flavors you get from the molasses.

It’s worth noting that light brown sugar and dark brown sugar are pretty much the same thing, the main difference between the two is the amount of molasses added into the refined sugar, that is to say that the main difference is the molasses content.

Ironically, even though the molasses is taken out and put back into the brown sugar, the brown sugar will have more molasses content than turbinado sugar and thus a stronger molasses flavor.

Albeit, turbinado does have a stronger vegetal flavor from the organic and natural molasses that are naturally present in it.

The texture of turbinado sugar can be quite different: while brown sugar can add the chewy and deep molasses flavor into a baked good, turbinado is much larger and crystalized which means that it can add a potentially pleasant crunch and crumble to certain baked goods.

2. Golden Granulated Sugar

Granulated sugar is larger in its crystals than superfine sugar or brown sugar but still smaller in its granules than turbinado. Golden granulated sugar is just granulated sugar with molasses added, so basically light brown sugar with larger granules.

Due to these larger granules in granulated golden sugar, it can provide the textural contrast of crumble and crystals that turbinado can. Moreover, golden granulated sugar will have a similar molasses taste to turbinado sugar, albeit not natural or organic.

To put it simply, golden granulated sugar will share a similar, albeit smaller, texture with turbinado as well as having some of the molasses taste that turbinado has as well.

3. Demerara Sugar

Demerara sugar is quite similar to turbinado insofar as it is classed as ‘raw’. Demerara goes through a degree of processing, different to turbinado sugar.

The syrup of the sugar cane is boiled and then spun in a centrifuge. The centrifuge separates the crystals from the molasses, in comparison turbinado will keep this molasses flavor.

Demerara, then, is actually washed off the molasses and doesn’t have the molasses flavor that turbinado sugar will have. 

This said, the crystals of demerara are similar to turbinado albeit much smaller, but still larger than granulated sugar. It has much more of a toffee or caramel flavor but isn’t as richly or darkly flavored as brown sugar or turbinado.

As a raw sugar it is certainly the closest to turbinado but its flavor is much different. But, as it has a similar texture and is similarly ‘raw’, demerara can create a similar texture in baked goods to turbinado, which is also thanks to it being quite a dry sugar.

4. Muscovado Sugar

Muscovado sugar is a moist cane sugar that has a quite large grain, while also having a strong molasses flavor. The artisanal sugar is popularly used in chocolates, baked goods, and even for savory sauces and sweet marinades for meat.

Having described other sugar creation methods, muscovado sugar has absolutely none of its molasses removed. As a result the sugar is very moist, more moist than brown sugar.

Brown sugar is simply muscovado sugar that has had the molasses removed, the sugar refined into a fine powder, and then had the molasses added back in.

So we can assume that dark brown sugar and muscovado sugar are similar if only their texture is different. You can also get light muscovado sugar that has had some of its molasses removed.

By withholding all of its molasses the sugar is very moist to touch and can be quite sticky and will undoubtedly affect the textural results of the baked good.

While turbinado sugar is much drier and larger in its crystals it will create a more brittle texture in your baked goods whereas muscovado sugar will be more sticky and moist in the finished product.

5. Confectioner’s Sugar

Confectioner’s sugar, also called caster sugar or superfine sugar, is a type of refined sugar that is commonly used in sugar work, sweet making, and in certain baking applications.

As a superfine sugar that has been refined it isn’t too comparable to turbinado sugar, but if this is all you had it would bring the sweetness to a baked good that turbinado would.

Moreover, the texture of confectioner’s sugar is very fine which will result in a much different texture in your finished product than turbinado sugar, the latter forming in larger crystals.

Final Thoughts

It can surprise many that there are so many varied ways of changing sugar into different products, even though all sugar comes from the same plant, the sugar cane.

If you want to replace turbinado sugar you want to find a raw sugar, one that hasn’t been messed with too much, in order to resemble the taste of turbinado sugar, such as demerara.

One thing to keep in mind is the texture element that turbinado will bring. It will make cakes have a tighter more crumbly texture that is also a little crunchy.

So ideally, you want to replace turbinado sugar with something that has large grain such as granulated sugar, or demerara sugar.

What Is Turbinado Sugar And What Can You Use To Substitute It?

Recipe by AubreyCourse: Substitutes


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You may have ever heard of turbinado sugar, don’t worry, you can still make that recipe with these easy swaps you can find easily, today!


  • 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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