Finding the right demerara sugar substitute can be a game-changer in your recipes. If you are looking for a rich caramel flavor with a hint of crunchiness, brown sugar is your go-to option.
Different types of sugar, including muscovado, turbinado, and golden caster sugar, are also great substitutes for demerara sugar.
What is demerara sugar?
Demerara sugar is raw, unrefined cane sugar native to Guyana with large, golden-brown crystals. It is less refined than white sugar and retains some molasses, giving it a slightly caramelized flavor and a satisfying crunch to baked goods.
The sugar's crunchy texture makes it a great choice for sprinkling on desserts, muffins, cereal, or hot drinks like coffee and tea.
I have tried to bake with demerara sugar, making one of my favorite recipes - banana bread. And yes, I liked it because of its natural molasses content and a deeper taste than refined sugars.
Since I am keen on French dessert recipes that sometimes use this type of sugar, finding a fitting substitute is often essential to preserve the intended texture and molasses-like flavor of the finished product.
What is the best demerara sugar substitute?
- Dark brown sugar: Best for cookies and cakes, as it adds moisture and a chewy texture.
- Light brown sugar: Use in sauces and glazes to impart a subtle caramel sweetness.
- Light muscovado sugar: Ideal for rich desserts like sticky toffee pudding with a desired deep molasses flavor.
- Dark muscovado sugar: Best for pastries with a strong molasses flavor.
- Granulated sugar and molasses blend: Use it for marinades and BBQ sauces that require a robust zest.
- Blond or golden caster sugar: Excellent for sponge cakes due to its light texture and hint of caramel.
- Coconut sugar: Perfect in tea or coffee and for baking and cooking.
- Sucanat: Used is pastries, drinks, and jams.
- Turbinado sugar: Sprinkle atop crème brûlée for a crackly caramelized crust.
- Vergeoise sugar: Used for making sugar tart, speculoos, Flemish flan, pancakes, and Belgian waffles.
- Molasses: Perfect for gingerbread baked goods and molasses cakes.
Top demerara sugar substitutes
Dark and light brown sugar
Demerara sugar is known for its large sugar crystals and robust molasses flavor, which is not quite replicated by brown sugar. However, I find that brown sugar, with its soft, fine grains and milder taste, serves as a convenient stand-in.
When I use brown sugar as a replacement, I sometimes slightly increase the quantity to compensate for its subtler sweetness. I use one cup and a tablespoon of brown sugar for every cup of demerara sugar.
This helps to preserve similar moisture levels and sweetness in my recipes, ensuring delectable outcomes even with the substitution.
The amount and type of refiner's syrup (a type of molasses) determines the dark or golden brown color and intensity of taste. Both types of brown sugar can replace demerara sugar, but their small crystals dissolve more quickly.
Light and dark muscovado sugar
Muscovado sugar, like demerara, originates from cane sugar but has a higher molasses content. Also called Barbados sugar, this dark and sticky sugar lends a deep and more pronounced molasses and caramel flavor that enriches recipes with complex sweetness.
Its moist texture also contributes wonderfully to the dense texture of cakes and brownies.
When a recipe requires the richness of demerara but calls for more moisture or a fudgier outcome, muscovado stands out as the perfect substitution. All you need is to choose between light or dark muscovado sugar.
White granulated sugar and molasses
If you need to replace demerara sugar, you can create a simple substitute using white granulated sugar and molasses.
For each cup of demerara sugar needed, take one cup of granulated sugar and blend it with one tablespoon of molasses. Mix them thoroughly until the molasses is evenly distributed through the sugar.
This sugar blend won't completely replicate demerara's larger crystals but will offer a similar caramel note and sweetness to your baking.
Blond or golden caster sugar
It is a fine, mild-flavored sugar made from golden cane syrup. As an unrefined sugar with its natural caramel-like flavor and taste, it replaces demerara well. But its superfine texture is different from demerara.
Coconut sugar is derived from the sap of coconut trees and processed like demerara sugar. Both sugars are unrefined and share a golden color. Coconut sugar serves as a great alternative to demerara.
Sucanat (rapadura) is produced by vacuum dehydration of sugar cane juice. It contains about 15% molasses, which gives it quite a strong flavor, similar to demerara.
Sucanat has a very coarse texture, not crystalline, like demerara sugar. Still, due to its caramelized flavor, you can use it like demerara.
Also known as raw plantation sugar, turbinado sugar is pale and crunchy with a subtle flavor. It has large crystals covered with a thin layer of molasses. This sugar is used to sprinkle on desserts (pies, cookies, and pastries) rather than for cooking.
If you can't find demerara sugar, turbinado is a good choice to substitute demerara in equal amounts.
Vergeoise is produced from sugar beets by prolonged heating of the sweet juice. There are two types of vergeoise: blonde (cooked once) and brown (cooked twice). If you don't have demerara sugar, vergeoise is a good substitute.
It is a specialty sugar mostly used in Belgium and the north of France as a key ingredient in sugar tarts, speculoos, Flemish flan, pancakes, Belgian waffles, etc.
Molasses is a liquid sugar, a byproduct of cane sugar refining. Molasses' flavor is similar to demerara but is much stronger. It is used in gingerbreads and molasses cakes but limits its use in preparations with a more delicate flavor.
To replace demerara with molasses isn't straightforward. You will need to adapt your recipe to compensate for the extra liquid.
How to substitute demerara sugar
The key lies in selecting a substitute resembling demerara sugar's distinctive caramel notes and crystalline texture. Each option provided serves a specific purpose and will ensure your baked goods are not only sweet but structurally right.
Your local grocery store indeed carries one of the best substitutes for demerara sugar. You can replace 1 cup of demerara sugar with:
- 1 cup brown sugar (dark or light)
- 1 cup muscovado sugar (light or dark)
- 1 cup granulated sugar and molasses blend
- 1 cup golden caster sugar
- 1 cup coconut sugar
- 1 cup sucanat
- 1 cup turbinado sugar
- 1 cup vergeoise
- 1 cup molasses. However, either decrease the liquid in the recipe by ¼ cup (60 ml) or increase the amount of flour by ¼ cup (30 g). Additionally, include ¼ teaspoon of baking soda to balance the acidity of the molasses.
Can you replace demerara with granulated sugar?
The answer is yes and no. White granulated sugar is a regular sugar with a white color and finer crystal texture, unlike demerara sugar. It lacks molasses content, so caramelized notes.
You can swap demerara with plain white sugar, giving the same sweetness as demerara.
Muscovado, turbinado, golden caster sugar, and granulated sugar with a touch of molasses can be substituted for demerara sugar in equal proportions. However, demerara sugar crystals are coarser than other types of sugar crystals.