Demerara Sugar: What It Is and How to Use It

I’m diving into the world of demerara sugar – a specialty cane sugar with a unique origin in Mauritius and distinct characteristics. This brown sugar, also known as sucrose, is perfect for adding a rich flavor to cakes.

Originating from Guyana, this sucrose-rich sugar boasts a raw texture and rich flavor, setting it apart from regular processed sugars. With large grains, this sugar from Mauritius is a flavorful and calorie-dense alternative. We’ll touch on the place of sugar cane, raw sugar, turbinado sugar, and brown sugars in specialty products like toffee and their impact on health.

demerara sugar
Demerara sugar

Join me as we unravel the origin and effect of demerara sugar, and discover how it can elevate your culinary creations while keeping a check on blood sugars and calories.

Defining Demerara Sugar

Extracting Sugarcane Juice

Demerara sugar production begins with extracting juice from sugarcane. This process involves crushing the sugarcane to extract its natural juices, which are rich in minerals, vitamins, and calories. The extracted liquid contains sucrose, a type of sugar found in various plants, and is rich in vitamins, minerals, and calories.

The juice is then filtered to remove any impurities and solid particles, such as raw sugar and turbinado sugar, while retaining the vitamins and minerals. Once filtered, the clear sugarcane juice, rich in vitamins, is ready for the next stage of the production process.

Evaporating to Form Crystals

After filtering, the clear sugarcane juice undergoes an evaporation process to retain its vitamins. This involves heating the juice in large vats or pans to evaporate the water content, leaving behind crystallized sugar.

During this evaporation process, some molasses remains within the crystals, giving Demerara sugar its distinctive flavor and golden-brown color. Unlike highly refined sugars that have all their molasses removed during processing, Demerara sugar retains a small amount of it.

I find it fascinating that despite being minimally processed, Demerara sugar offers a unique taste profile and texture due to its retention of molasses content. It’s interesting how each step in the production process contributes to creating these large golden-brown turbinado sugar crystals that add delightful crunchiness to baked goods.

Demerara Versus White Sugar

demerara sugar vs white sugar
Demerara Sugar vs White Sugar

Nutritional Differences between Demerara Sugar and White Sugar

Demerara sugar undergoes less refining, retaining more natural minerals compared to white sugar. It contains small amounts of calcium, potassium, and magnesium. These minerals are beneficial for our bodies.

Demerara’s higher mineral content gives it a slight nutritional edge over white sugar. The molasses retained during the refining process contributes to the golden color and slightly caramel-like flavor of turbinado sugar.

Culinary Uses

In baking, demerara’s larger crystals, like turbinado sugar, add texture and crunch to desserts like cookies or crumbles. When sprinkled on top of muffins or bread before baking, it creates a delightful crunchy topping that elevates the overall taste.

The caramel notes in demerara enhance the flavor profile of beverages like coffee or tea when used as a sweetener. Its slow-dissolving nature makes it perfect for adding depth and complexity to hot drinks without overly sweetening them.

Characteristics of Demerara Sugar

Unique Taste

Demerara sugar offers a unique taste that blends sweetness with subtle hints of toffee or caramel. This distinctive flavor adds depth to various dishes, making it a popular choice for both sweet and savory recipes. The hint of toffee or caramel can elevate the taste of baked goods, hot beverages, and even savory sauces.

I find that the unique taste of demerara sugar enhances my homemade oatmeal cookies by giving them a rich, caramelized flavor. It’s also perfect for adding depth to my morning coffee or enhancing the sweetness in fruit-based desserts.

demerara sugar caramelized
Demerara Sugar Caramelized in a pan

Coarse Texture

With its coarse texture, demerara sugar is ideal for creating crunchy toppings or crusts in baking. Its larger crystals add a delightful crunch and texture to baked goods like crumbles, pies, and tarts. The coarse texture also makes it an excellent choice for sprinkling over muffins and scones before baking.

When I use demerara sugar as a topping on my apple pie, it creates a crispy layer that contrasts beautifully with the tender filling underneath. I love using it as a finishing touch on banana bread for added texture and visual appeal.

Longer Shelf Life

Due to its low moisture content, demerara has a longer shelf life than other sugars. This means that it can be stored for extended periods without clumping or hardening. Its long shelf life makes it convenient for occasional bakers who may not use large quantities frequently.

I’ve found demerara sugar particularly useful because I don’t bake often; knowing that it won’t spoil quickly gives me peace of mind when stocking up on baking supplies.

Cooking with Demerara Sugar

Sweetening Beverages

It’s perfect for sweetening beverages like coffee, tea, or cocktails. The molasses flavor of demerara adds a rich and deep taste to your favorite drinks. Whether it’s a morning cup of coffee or an evening cocktail, demerara sugar can elevate the flavors and provide a delightful sweetness that regular white sugar cannot match.

Demerara’s toffee flavor pairs exceptionally well with fruit-based desserts such as pies and cobblers. Its distinctive taste complements the natural sweetness of fruits, creating a delicious harmony of flavors. For example, when making an apple pie or peach cobbler, using demerara sugar in the filling and sprinkled on top can add both sweetness and texture to the dessert.

Enhancing Meat Dishes

Incorporating demerara into marinades or glazes for meats is an excellent way to create a unique caramelized coating. The caramel notes from the sugar enhance the savory elements of meat dishes while adding depth and complexity to the overall flavor profile. For instance, when preparing grilled chicken or roasted pork, including demerara sugar in the marinade can result in beautifully glazed and flavorful meat that will impress your family and friends.

Personal note: I often use demerara sugar when making my special iced tea recipe. It gives the tea a wonderful depth of flavor that regular white sugar just can’t achieve.

Demerara vs. Turbinado and Other Raw Sugars

Turbinado Sugar

Turbinado sugar, similar to demerara sugar, has larger grains and a natural brown color due to its molasses content. However, turbinado is slightly lighter in color with smaller crystals compared to demerara. It offers a subtle caramel flavor, making it a great choice for sweetening beverages like coffee or tea.

I find that using turbinado sugar in my morning coffee adds a delightful hint of sweetness without overpowering the rich coffee flavor. Its coarse texture also gives an extra crunch when sprinkled on top of baked goods like muffins or scones.

Muscovado Sugar

Muscovado sugar boasts an even higher molasses content than demerara, resulting in a more intense and robust flavor profile. This raw sugar variety has a dark brown color and sticky texture, making it ideal for recipes where a deep caramel taste is desired.

When baking gingerbread cookies, I often substitute muscovado for demerara to achieve a bolder molasses flavor that complements the warm spices perfectly. Its distinct taste adds depth to marinades and sauces as well.

Substitutes for Demerara

Both turbinado and muscovado sugars can serve as excellent substitutes for demerara in various recipes due to their similar characteristics. Whether you’re preparing homemade BBQ sauce or crafting delectable desserts, these raw sugars offer unique flavors while providing the same textural qualities as demerara.

Incorporating different types of raw sugars into your cooking allows you to experiment with diverse tastes and textures, elevating your culinary creations with nuanced sweetness.

Substitutes for Demerara Sugar

Light Brown Sugar

Light brown sugar is a suitable substitute for demerara when its texture is not crucial. It provides a similar flavor profile and can be used in equal amounts in most recipes that call for demerara sugar. The slightly higher molasses content in light brown sugar gives it a comparable taste to demerara.

Unrefined brown sugar offers bright, clear color and rich taste with delicious underlying spice, butter, and caramel flavor.

For example, if a recipe calls for demerara sugar to sweeten a fruit compote or to add depth of flavor to baked goods, light brown sugar can be used instead without significantly altering the end result. Its fine crystals and rich taste make it an excellent alternative.

Coconut Sugar

Coconut sugar offers a similar flavor profile to demerara and can be used in equal amounts as well. This natural sweetener has gained popularity due to its lower glycemic index compared to regular sugars, making it an attractive choice for those looking for healthier alternatives.

In my experience, I’ve found that coconut sugar works particularly well in recipes where the caramel-like flavor of demerara is essential, such as in certain types of cookies or homemade granola bars. Its grainy texture may also provide a delightful crunchiness in some dishes.

Granulated White Sugar

If neither light brown nor coconut sugars are available, granulated white sugar can be used as a last resort. However, it’s important to note that the taste will differ slightly from what would be achieved with demerara or its substitutes due to the absence of natural molasses flavors present in other options. Demerara and regular sugar have a similar effect on your blood sugar levels.

Demerara Sugar’s Nutritional Profile

Demerara sugar contains small amounts of minerals like calcium, potassium, and iron. These minerals, while not abundant in demerara sugar, can still contribute to your daily intake when used in moderation. For example, a teaspoon of demerara sugar may provide a tiny amount of these essential minerals.

It has been interesting for me to learn that even though demerara sugar is still considered a type of sweetener, it offers some nutritional value due to these trace minerals. I find it helpful to know that incorporating demerara sugar into my diet in small amounts can potentially contribute to my mineral intake.

Calorie Content

Demerara sugar has a slightly higher calorie content compared to refined white sugar. This means that when using demerara as a sweetener, it’s important to be mindful of portion sizes and overall consumption. While the difference in calories may be minimal per serving, over time, it can add up if not consumed in moderation.

I’ve realized the importance of being mindful about the calorie content when using demerara sugar as an alternative sweetener. By being conscious about portion sizes and moderating its use, I can still enjoy its flavor while managing my overall calorie intake effectively.

Too much added sugar is linked to an increased risk of obesity, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

Purchasing and Storing Demerara Sugar

Demerara sugar can be found in specialty stores or online retailers that offer baking ingredients. Look for it in the baking aisle of a grocery store, especially those with a wide selection of baking supplies. Specialty food stores also commonly carry demerara sugar due to its unique flavor and popularity among bakers. When shopping online, consider exploring websites that specialize in selling various types of sugars and baking products.

I find that local health food stores often have a good selection of demerara sugar, as they tend to stock a variety of natural sweeteners and organic products.

Proper Storage

To maintain the quality of demerara sugar, it is essential to store it properly. Keep it in an airtight container to prevent exposure to air and moisture, which could cause clumping or hardening. A cool, dry place away from direct sunlight is ideal for storing demerara sugar. The pantry or kitchen cupboard works well for this purpose.

Personally, I like using glass jars with tight-fitting lids for storing my demerara sugar because they keep the moisture out effectively.

Unique Uses for Demerara Sugar in Recipes

Sprinkle demerara sugar on top of muffins or scones before baking. The result? An appealing crunchy crust that adds a delightful texture and a hint of caramel flavor to your baked goods. The coarse texture of demerara sugar gives your pastries an extra layer of sweetness and crunch.

I love using demerara sugar to add a delicious twist to my homemade blueberry muffins. It brings out the natural sweetness of the fruit while creating a golden, crispy topping that everyone in my family adores.

Simple Syrup for Cocktails and Iced Tea

Create a simple syrup by dissolving demerara sugar into hot water. This rich, amber-colored syrup is perfect for sweetening cocktails like mojitos or margaritas, as well as refreshing iced teas. The molasses undertones from demerara sugar infuse the drinks with a unique depth of flavor that regular white sugar can’t achieve.

I find that using demerara simple syrup enhances the taste of my homemade lemonade, giving it an irresistible caramelized sweetness without being overly sugary.

Finishing Touch on Caramelized Fruits and Roasted Vegetables

Use demerara sugar as a finishing touch by sprinkling it over caramelized fruits or roasted vegetables just before serving them. The subtle crunch and complex sweetness elevate the flavors and textures of these dishes, adding an elegant touch to your culinary creations.

The combination of caramelized pineapple slices topped with demerara sugar makes for an exquisite dessert—sweet, tangy, and perfectly balanced.

Fast Facts


Demerara sugar originates from Guyana, a country in South America. It is named after the Demerara River in Guyana, where it was originally produced. This type of sugar is a light brown, partially refined sugar with large grains and a slightly sticky texture.

Demerara sugar is made from evaporated cane juice and has a natural caramel flavor. It is often used as a sweetener in coffee, tea, and various baked goods. Due to its unique flavor profile and texture, it’s also commonly used as a topping for desserts such as crème brûlée and fruit crisps.

Production Process

The production of demerara sugar involves minimal processing, which helps retain some of the natural molasses content. After the sugarcane is harvested, it undergoes pressing to extract the juice. The juice is then boiled to form crystals, which are then spun in a centrifuge to remove excess moisture.

demerara sugar raw cane
Demerara sugar raw cane

The resulting sugar crystals have a golden color and a slightly sticky texture due to the retained molasses. This makes demerara sugar popular for adding both sweetness and depth of flavor to dishes. Its distinct flavor makes it a favorite among bakers and chefs looking to enhance the taste of their creations.

Culinary Uses

In cooking and baking, demerara sugar adds a subtle caramel flavor and crunchy texture to dishes. It can be used in recipes for cookies, muffins, scones, and even savory dishes like barbecue sauces or marinades. Due to its larger crystal size compared to regular granulated sugar, it also provides an appealing crunch when used as a topping for baked goods or oatmeal.

When using demerara sugar in recipes that call for regular granulated sugar, it’s essential to consider the impact of its unique characteristics on the final texture and flavor of the dish.


Demerara sugar is a versatile ingredient that can enhance the taste and texture of various recipes. Its large, crunchy crystals add a delightful topping to baked goods, such as muffins, cookies, and fruit crisps. The rich molasses flavor of demerara sugar also complements savory dishes like barbecue sauces or marinades for meats.

Experimenting with different sugars can elevate your culinary creations by adding depth of flavor and unique characteristics to your dishes. For example, using demerara sugar instead of regular white sugar in a chocolate chip cookie recipe can result in a richer taste and caramel-like undertones.

In addition to its distinctive taste, demerara sugar’s golden-brown color adds visual appeal to desserts like crème brûlée or homemade caramel sauce. The amount of demerara sugar used in recipes may vary depending on personal preference; however, it typically provides an excellent balance between sweetness and complexity.

Elevating Recipes

When incorporating demerara sugar into your cooking and baking endeavors, consider its effect on the overall dish. While it offers a unique depth of flavor compared to traditional granulated sugars, it may not dissolve as readily due to its larger crystals. This characteristic makes it ideal for creating a crispy topping on baked goods or providing a subtle crunch in certain desserts.

My personal experience with demerara sugar has shown me how this ingredient can transform simple recipes into gourmet delights. I often use it as a finishing touch for oatmeal or yogurt parfaits by sprinkling some over the top for added texture and flavor complexity.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Demerara sugar?

Demerara sugar is a type of minimally processed cane sugar with large, crunchy crystals and a slightly amber color. It has a natural caramel-like flavor due to its molasses content.

How does Demerara sugar differ from white sugar?

Unlike white sugar, which is highly refined and granulated, Demerara sugar retains more of the natural molasses, resulting in its distinct color and flavor profile.

Can I use a substitute for Demerara sugar in recipes?

Yes, you can substitute turbinado or raw sugars for Demerara. However, keep in mind that their flavors may vary slightly from that of Demerara.

Where can I purchase and how should I store Demerara Sugar?

You can find it at most grocery stores or online retailers. Store it in an airtight container in a cool, dry place to prevent clumping.

What are some unique uses for Demerara Sugar in recipes?

Demerara’s robust flavor makes it ideal for topping baked goods like muffins and cookies or adding depth to beverages like coffee or cocktails.

Cristina C. RD LDN

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