What Is Demerara Sugar and How Do You Use It?

Last Updated on May 16, 2024 | 0 Comments
Demerara sugar in a spoon next to a bowl of sugar

You may have come across Demerara sugar many times in your culinary ventures. It’s a common sugar that's used in numerous recipes and products sold at bakeries, cafés and even the grocery store. But what is Demerara sugar exactly? And how can you use it in your cooking creations?

This informative article seeks to provide you with an array of information about Demerara sugar so you can use it more confidently in your cooking and baking. From learning how it compares to other sugars to discovering how to use and store it, this comprehensive guide has everything you need to know.


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What is Demerara Sugar?

Demerara sugar is a type of raw sugar, which is one of multiple types of sugar. It undergoes minimal processing, which is why it has a coarse and crunchy texture. The term ‘raw’ means that it’s only been crystalized once, rather than twice, like granulated sugar. 

Demerara sugar is made by extracting the juice from the sugar cane and boiling it down to a dark syrup similar to molasses. It’s then spun in a centrifuge to separate the crystals from the molasses. The finished result is light brown crystals that are about 0.5 and 0.3 mm in diameter with a slightly coarse texture. 

Demerara sugar and a spoon
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Where Is Demerara Sugar From?

Demerara sugar is named after its place of origin: Demerara in what is now Guyana in South America. These days, it’s produced in many places and is popular across the globe for use in baked goods, as a coffee sweetener and more. 

Demerara sugar cubes next to jars of sugar
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What Does Demerara Sugar Taste Like?

Demerara sugar has a mild caramel or toffee flavor. You can compare the flavor to brown sugar due to its molasses-like qualities. There is a slight difference, though between brown sugar vs. Demerara sugar, including a difference in crystal size as well as flavor.  

A small spoon of Demerara sugar
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Demerara Sugar vs. Brown Sugar

Is demerara sugar the same as brown sugar? As mentioned, there are a few differences between brown sugar vs. Demerara but they are very similar. One of the primary differences between the two is the crystal size. Demerara sugar has larger crystals than regular brown sugar, with a coarse and crunchy texture. Brown sugar, on the other hand, has smaller crystals and a soft texture. 

Brown sugar can be a little sweeter than Demerara as well but that varies based on the exact type of brown sugar. For example, light brown sugar will be a little sweeter than Demerara while dark brown sugar will have a richer, molasses flavor. Despite the differences between the two, you can generally use demerara as a brown sugar substitute and vice versa. However, there are a few things to note when substituting the sugars.

Brown sugar is more processed than Demerara and some kinds also have molasses added. If substituting brown sugar for Demerara, going with light brown sugar over dark is recommended. Using Demerara in place of brown sugar will also be dependent on your recipe. For example, Demerara could be a substitute ingredient for brown sugar in a mixture that is boiled down or a cookie recipe but generally won’t work as a substitute in a cake recipe, which needs fine-grain sugar. 

Brown sugar, brown sugar cubes and sugar sticks
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Demerara Sugar vs. Raw Sugar

As mentioned, Demerara sugar is a type of minimally processed raw sugar. However, it has some differences from other kinds of raw sugar. Demerara has a lighter color and finer grain than a lot of other raw sugars that have a richer, molasses taste and, often, a coarser texture. However, any sugar labeled as ‘raw sugar’ should work as a substitute for Demerara. 

Different kinds of sugar
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Demerara Sugar vs. Turbinado Sugar

Both Demerara sugar and turbinado sugar are raw sugars that have more sophisticated flavor profiles as opposed to white sugar. Turbinado sugar is made from the first pressing of the sugar cane so it retains a greater amount of molasses than many other types of sugar, including Demerara. The crystals are smaller also, but turbinado would be the closest substitute for Demerara sugar.  

Brown sugar and a spoon
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How to Cook With Demerara Sugar

Demerara sugar is typically used as an ingredient in baked goods but may also be added to savory dishes, such as brown sugar sweet potatoes, or used as a sweetener for tea and coffee. Since the crystals are not as fine as granulated sugar, this type of sugar doesn’t work for recipes that require fine-grained soft sugar like most cake recipes. However, it is a good sugar to use in muffin recipes, from chocolate chip muffins to gluten-free blueberry muffins.

You can also use Demerara sugar as a topping on baked goods to add a sweet and crunchy texture. Sprinkling it on top of muffins, banana bread or other loaf and coffee cakes is an excellent idea. Demerara can additionally be used on top of crème brûlée and will provide a perfect crack once heated, melted and cooled. 

If you already bake a lot, you should have no trouble incorporating Demerara sugar into your recipes. However, if you’re still perfecting your baking skills, taking a few cooking classes near you is a great idea to better understand how to work with this type of sugar. You could also opt for some online cooking classes to learn new baking recipes and techniques in your own kitchen. 

Creme brulee and fruit
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Where To Buy Demerara Sugar

Conveniently, you’ll be able to find Demerara sugar at local grocery stores and some markets. It’s typically found in the baked goods aisle, alongside the white and brown sugars. Demerara sugar can also usually be found at health food stores. It tends to contain more naturally occurring nutrients found in the sugarcane, such as vitamin B3, potassium, calcium and magnesium, so is a popular alternative for those looking for a sugar that’s healthier than processed white sugar.

Brown sugar cubes
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How To Store Demerara Sugar

As with all sugars, Demerara doesn’t necessarily expire, but it does have a shelf life of about two years and you can keep it as fresh as possible by storing it correctly. This includes keeping the container it’s in well-sealed to prevent moisture from getting in and storing it in a cool place like the pantry.  

Additionally, because of the molasses, it has a slightly sticky texture and can clump together over time. Following the above storage tips should help to prevent this from happening. Using it before the best-by date also minimizes the risk of the sugar clumping together. If the sugar happens to clump together, it won't impact the quality of the foods you’re crafting with it. You can simply break the clumps apart and use it as normal. 

Demerara sugar in a jar with a wooden spoon
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Demerara sugar is a sweetener that's widely available and used for many different sweet and savory dishes around the world. It’s a wonderful addition to your pantry and you can add a unique flavor profile to your cooking creations. Whether you try Demerara in your coffee or use it to master the art of a fancy crème brûlée, this ingredient is likely to become your new kitchen staple!

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