What is turbinado sugar?

So asks reader Rick. Rick, it’s a very similar thing to demerara or muscovado sugar, which is to say it’s a lightly processed brown sugar. However compared to others it’s got a high moisture content, which makes it nice for melting and caramelizing. Some people prefer it for crème brûlée for that very reason. No need to buy it specially to make Pop Tarts though. Many others will do!

13 thoughts on “What is turbinado sugar?”

  1. I thought that turbinado, demerara, and muscovado were different from normal brown sugar in that the molasses contained in the sugar was never fully removed. Whereas normal brown sugar was made by fully removing the molasses yielding white sugar, then adding the molasses back in to produce light or dark brown sugar, according to the amount of molasses added. Is this a tall tale?

    1. Actually that’s right on the money, Faith. You’re correct.

      Thanks for the note,

      – Joe

  2. On the West Coast C&H sugar has a new entry into the mix: washed sugar. It’s fairly coarse and very dry with a hint of the color of natural sugar. Much lighter than turbinado though. I like it for topping things since it’s large enough granules to have a presence and dry enough not to melt and burn.

  3. Hey Joe, thanks so much for this. Great info.

    Listen one day when you are twiddling your thumbs and have nothing to do (!), how about taking some of your classy photos of all the different sugars and putting them up in your reference section. The only reason I ask is that US names for sugar don’t translate well overseas. For example what you call confectioners sugar, I think in Australia we call icing sugar. Similarly “superfine” is “castor”, and “muscovado” is our “brown” of which we have two varieties “light” and “dark”. After 20 years of baking I am still not 100% sure of these translations and Faith’s comment seem only to have complicated the matter. It seems what you call “Brown sugar” we call “raw sugar”.

    A handy reference like your conversion charts would make a wonderful guide for all us Joe Pastry Fans and obsessives who aim for authenticity! When can we buy a T-Shirt?


    1. I can only second to this; in my country we’ve been introduced to various non-white sugar types only recently, and though they have some English names on packages, I’m not sure whether they really are the same sugars mentioned in American recipes. Anyway, thanks for the insights to ingredient types and specifics so far!

      1. Heh, I moved to sweden and the technical translation of “brown sugar” aka the box is NOT what I was expecting. But I buy what I know 😉 And the “muscovado” sugar has the closest texture for me, light or dark. (tho the dark technically tends to have lumps of pure molasses, I don’t mind. I either sift them out with a course sifter or use them in something that will melt anyways.)

        1. Hey Kitty!

          I think Rick is right. I need to do a week on sugar just making all this clear. If I can!

          – Joe

    2. I’ll do that, Rick. Very good idea.

      – Joe

      PS – I’ve been thinking about getting a little merch going. Is now the time?

  4. Now, hold on – if memory serves, the people at C&H claim their brown sugar is superior to the cheaper brands because the molasses has not been removed and then added back.

    Have I fallen prey to false advertising?

    1. Hey Stephanie!

      I don’t think so. I wasn’t speaking for all brown sugars, however adding molasses to white sugar is how some brands are made.

      – Joe

      1. Then what is the difference between turbinado and brown? Is it that in turbinado just some of the molasses has been removed, and in brown none of it has?

        1. Hey Stephanie!

          I’m planning a series on sugar soon that I hope will clear all this up. But in the meantime, the answer is that turbinado has some of the existing molasses still on it. It isn’t added back.


          – Joe

  5. “Hey Joe”

    Whatsmatteryou? Not just “sugar” you should cover “amber” in
    your discussion as it is placed on tables for an alternate sweetner in european climes i.e Bermuda. The chunks are varied in shape and size and appear to being turbinado before being crushed or spun.

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