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Types of Sweeteners

Sugar is responsible for so much more than providing the sweet flavor that we've come to know it for. It facilitates the caramelization process, balances the acidity in foods, and contributes to the appearance, flavor, and viscosity of glazes, sauces, and marinades. Additionally, in baking applications, sugar seals the deal between a good confectionery creation and an unforgettable one, adding sweetness, retaining moisture, prolonging freshness/shelf life, aiding in the creaming process, and imparting color and flavor to crusts.

Types of Granulated Sugars

Sugars are one of the most popular ways that people sweeten their foods and drinks! Sugar is actually found in most plants, but sugarcane and sugar beets have the most concentrated amounts of sugar, making them ideal for producing the sugar we use in food. However, not all types of sugar are the same! Sugars vary in grain size, taste, texture, usage, and even in their production. Continue reading below to discover the many varieties of sugar that exist.
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Confectioners' sugars are pure, refined sugars that are ground into a fine powder with cornstarch added to prevent clumping

  • Differentiated by firmness from XX to 14X, with 14X sugar being the finest
  • Great For: Use in baking and pastries, as well as for use in icings, confections, beverages, and decorative garnishing
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Granulated sugar is pure, refined cane or beet juice that crystalizes and produces white sugar. It comes in small, white granules. Granulated sugar is one of the best types of sugar for baking.

  • Available in a variety of sizes from coarse (crystal/decorating) to superfine (14X), cubes to tablets
  • Great For: Use in baking, pastry, sauces, and savory applications
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Brown sugar is composed of refined, granulated sugar with some impurities remaining or molasses added. It is a somewhat moist sugar and must be stored properly in an airtight container to keep the moisture inside.

  • Comes in two varieties – light brown sugar and dark brown sugar, which has the more intense flavor of the two
  • Great For: Use in baking, pastry, sauces, and savory applications
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Maple sugar is made of maple sap that is boiled until near evaporation. It is much sweeter than granulated sugar.

  • A great direct substitute for white sugar, so there is no need to reformulate a recipe
  • Available in a variety of sizes from granules that are as large as table sugar to powder that is a flour consistency
  • Great For: Use in baking, cereals, yogurt, coffee, and tea
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Jaggery/Palm Sugar

Jaggery, or palm, sugar is unrefined from palm tree sap or sugarcane. It is a dark, coarse sugar byproduct.

  • It is available in several forms, two of which are most popular – soft/spreadable and solid
  • Most widely used in India, Africa, Asia, and parts of the Americas
  • Great For: Indian cuisine, use as a spread for breads, and a great additive in baking, confections, and sweets
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Piloncillo Sugar

Piloncillo is an unrefined, hard, compressed sugar from Mexico. It is medium to dark brown in color.

  • Comes in .75 oz. to 9 oz. cones.
  • There are two varieties of piloncillo – blanco (lighter) and oscuro (darker)
  • Great For: Use as a substitute for dark brown sugar, pastries, baking, and even savory applications
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Sugarcane is the source of sugar, molasses, and rum. It is a member of the grass family and is available in stalks.

  • Made edible by boiling the stalks
  • Ethanol is a byproduct of sugar production from sugarcane and is used as a biofuel alternative in countries like Brazil
  • Great For: Snacks and garnishes
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Flavored sugar, or rimming sugar, is composed of a sugar with added flavoring. It is most often used to flavor and color the rims of margarita glasses and martini glasses.

  • The flavoring sugar used for drinks can be chosen to complement the flavor of the drink
  • To adhere the sugar, run a lime across the rim of the glass and dip it into the sugar, rotating until the class is evenly coated
  • Great For: Garnishing cocktails
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Raw sugar is purified sugarcane residue, available in several varieties.

  • Demerara is comprised of coarse white sugar crystals with the addition of molasses syrup
  • Barbados/Muscovado features moist, dark, fine-textured grains
  • Turbinado sugar features steam-cleaned, light brown coarse grains
  • Great For: Decorating, use as a sweet additive, or as a substitute for light brown sugar

Common Sugar Substitutes

Sugar alternatives can be a healthier way to achieve that sweet flavor you're craving! These types of sweeteners boast fewer calories and carbs than traditional sugars. Most artificial sweeteners are chemically formed, while Stevia comes from the Stevia plant.
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Artificial Sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners are sugar substitutes with non-nutritive values. Popular types or sugar substitute include: Aspartame, Acesulfame-K, Saccharin, and Sucralose.

  • Apartame is not recommended for baking applications, while both Acesulfame-K and Saccharin are great sugar substitutes for baking and cooking applications
  • Sucralose can be used in baking applications but does not provide the same structural benefits that sugar does and may require the baked good to be refrigerated
  • Great For: Use as a sugar substitute
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Stevia is a South American herb used as a natural sweetener for centuries. The leaves of the Stevia rebaudiana plant have a refreshing taste.

  • Zero glycemic index, zero calories, and zero carbs
  • 25-30 times sweeter than sugar
  • Great For: Use as a sugar substitute

Types of Liquid Sweeteners

Liquid sweeteners are a great alternative to solid sweeteners and can be used in a variety of applications from drinks to baked goods to being used as toppings and spreads. For honey, maple syrup, molasses, agave nectar, and corn syrup, as the color deepens the flavor becomes richer and more intense. These sweeteners pair well with both sweet and savory dishes!
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Flavored syrup is composed of a sugar or other syrup with added flavoring.

  • Flavor varieties include fruit, nut, spice, chocolate, and caramel
  • Great For: Use in bakery, pastry, and savory applications, as well as for use in beverages
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Maple Syrup

Maple syrup is the result of boiled maple tree sap.

  • Golden brown in color and possesses a unique flavor
  • Great For: Accompanying pancakes, waffles, and French toast, as well as for use in bakery, pastry, confections, and savory applications
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Molasses is the liquid byproduct of sugar refining.

  • Three Varieties of Molasses – light (first boil), dark (second boil), and blackstrap (third boil)
  • Great For: Accompanying pancakes, waffles, and French toast, as well as for use in bakery, pastry, and savory applications
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Agave Nectar Syrup

Agave nectar syrup is a fast-dissolving sweetener that is commercially produced from several species of agave.

  • 1.5 times sweeter than sugar and thinner than honey
  • Sold in light, amber, dark, and raw varieties
  • Great For: Sugar/honey substitute, meat applications, to sweeten beverages, and as a breakfast syrup
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Corn syrup is liquefied sugar created by processing cornstarch.

  • Available in three varieties: light corn syrup (clarified to remove color), dark corn syrup (color added, caramel flavor), and high fructose
  • Corn syrup is less sweet than granulated sugar
  • Great For: Use in bakery, pastry, and confections applications, as well as for use in spreads
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Honey is a thick, sweet liquid from nectar.

  • Produced by bees and can vary from pale yellow to dark brown in color
  • There are countless varieties of honey available in comb, chunk-style, liquid, or whipped form
  • Great For: Use in bakery, pastry, and savory applications, as well as for use in beverages and spreads
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