What Is Demerara Sugar? Demerara vs. White Sugar Benefits

Demerara sugar is a type of raw sugar that comes from sugarcanes. It originated from a country of South America named ‘Guyana’ that was formerly known as Demerara, which explains the reason behind the name of this certain type of sugar. But it currently comes from a country of East Africa called ‘Mauritius.’ Many people refer to it by the name ‘Turbinado sugar’ because they both undergo a similar process of purification.

What is Demerara sugar?

As mentioned earlier, Demerara is one kind of raw sugar. Since there are approximately 61 names for sugar, categorizing all of them can be tricky. But they are usually classified by a few factors, such as the size and color of their crystals. When classified by these factors, all types of sugar fall into 3 categories:

  1. White sugar
  2. Brown sugar
  3. Liquid sugar

Demerara sugar falls into the 2nd type: Brown sugar. The main thing that differentiates brown sugar from white sugar is the amount of natural molasses. Regarding white sugar, there is none. Because when it goes under the purifying process, all of its natural molasses are removed, which makes the grains look white. 

But when it comes to brown sugar, the purifying process does remove most of its natural molasses but leaves behind approximately 2% percent of it, which gives the sugar a brown or golden brown color. But the other factor that separates those two types of sugar is the size. While brown sugar comes in all shapes and sizes, 

Demerara sugar has slightly larger grains than regular white ones. And its crunchy texture makes it perfect for garnishing purposes. Therefore, one may often see this sugar sprinkled on top of muffins, cookies, and other baked items. The last difference there is between these two is the difference in refining. All types of sugar come from sugarcane plants. 

First, the sugarcane juice is extracted and kept under the process of purification called ‘refining’. After that, the juice gets crystallized and then turned into granulated sugar. While Demerara sugar goes under the crystallization process once, White sugar does twice. To sum it up, Demerara sugar is a lot less refined than White sugar, resulting in the remaining 2% natural molasses. 

But another thing to keep in mind is that, as mentioned above. However, all types of brown sugar do indeed have molasses in them. It can either be the molasses that haven’t been removed during the refining process, or the extra added molasses after turning the sugar grains completely white. Demerara sugar is the first kind where the natural molasses haven’t completely been removed. 

Demerara vs. white sugar for health:

Before discussing the main differences between Demerara and white sugar when it comes to health, let’s start with debunking a commonly believed myth: Brown sugar is healthier than white sugar. While in reality, it is not. All types of sugar are primarily unhealthy and can lead to various heart diseases if consumed too frequently or in large portions. 

For an average adult male, the portion should be under 36 grams (9 teaspoons), and for an average adult female, it’s under 25 grams (6 teaspoons). Keep in mind that no matter what type of sugar it is, the less the consumption, the better. However, when it comes to what they contribute to the human body, Demerara and white sugar do have some slight differences between them:

  1. White sugar contains a higher amount of sucrose than demerara sugar. The amount is 96%-98% for White sugar and 88%-93% for Demerara sugar, making Demerara sugar a slightly better choice.
  2. Demerara sugar contains minerals like zinc, magnesium, manganese, cobalt, etc. But their amount is much too little to be beneficial for the human body in any way. 

Substitutes for Demerara sugar:

Although Demerara sugar should be found in grocery stores pretty effortlessly, if by any chance you have a hard time getting your hands on it, here are some alternatives that you can try:

  1. Turbinado sugar: Turbinado sugar is considered to be the closest alternative to Demerara sugar. They both have the same golden brown color, the same grain size, and caramel-like taste. The only thing you may find a bit different is the lack of crunch in Turbinado sugar. 
  2. When it comes to garnishing your baked items, your best bet will be sand sugar since it doesn’t get dissolved with heat. Due to its texture, it’s often referred to as ‘sanding sugar.’
  3. Whether it’s a baked item or your regular cup of tea or coffee, dark brown sugar is an excellent replacement for Demerara sugar. Just like Turbinado or Demerara sugar, its rich caramel flavor will add to the taste of your item. 

How to store Demerara sugar:

Since we all know that brown sugar tends to become hardened when it’s in prolonged contact with air, it’s no surprise that Demerara sugar will do the same. Since Demerara sugar has large grains, the term ‘hardening’ basically refers to all the sugar grains clumping up and sticking together. To prevent that from happening, the most effective thing one can do is to store the sugar in an airtight container. And it will be a plus point if the container is small in size. Hopefully, just this one small step will prevent the sugar from hardening.