Cane sugar and brown sugar are two sugar variants. Cane sugar is made entirely from sugar cane — some cane sugars are highly refined, while others are unrefined or raw — and brown sugar is made from refined white sugar crystals and molasses that comes from either sugar cane or sugar beets.

Cane sugar is sweeter, less processed, and has a golden hue, while brown sugar has a darker hue, a more toffee-like flavor, and smaller crystals.

Comparison Chart: Is Cane Sugar the Same as Brown Sugar?

Cane Sugar vs Brown Sugar

Cane SugarBrown Sugar
DefinitionGolden sugar crystals made purely from sugar caneWhite sugar crystals with an added coating of molasses
Derived fromSugar caneSugar cane or sugar beets
ColorGolden yellowBrown
Crystal sizeMediumSmall to medium
FlavorVanillaCaramel (dark brown sugar) or toffee (light brown sugar)
ProcessingPartially to highly refinedHighly refined and processed
Molasses contentNaturally-retained molassesAdded-in molasses
Used forFood additive used in sweet foods like cakes and cookiesAdds extra flavor as a white sugar substitute in baked goods, sauces, and marinades

Cane Sugar Explained

Cane Sugar

Cane sugar is a type of sugar that’s made exclusively from the sugar cane plant, a tall perennial grass with sucrose-rich fibrous stalks that’s native to warm, tropical regions in Southeast Asia, New Guinea, and India.

How Cane Sugar is Made

Cane sugar comes in several forms, including refined, unrefined, or raw.

To make refined cane sugar, sugar cane plants are harvested and sent to factories. The cane juice is extracted from the leaves and purified, filtered, and crystallized to form raw sugar.

Finally, the raw sugar is sent to a refinery to be processed into refined cane sugar.

How Cane Sugar Is Used

In the food industry, cane sugar is used as a sweetener in commercial candy products. This sugar can be used as a white sugar substitute in desserts and drinks, adding a sweet, vanilla-like flavor to recipes like sugar cookies, soft-serve ice cream, simple syrup, and cocktails.

History of Cane Sugar

The use of cane sugar dates back to the medieval period when it was considered a “fine spice” and was expensive to buy. Cane sugar was first used as a medicinal substance to treat “a painful bladder and kidneys.”

Originally, sugar cane was grown using artificial irrigation by Arab entrepreneurs. The cultivation of the plant spread throughout Europe and the Mediterranean in the 9th and 10th centuries.

Cane Sugar Price and Availability

Today, cane sugar is widely available in grocery stores and online. The cost of cane sugar is about $7 per 10-pound bag, depending on the brand. Organic and raw cane sugars are more expensive than refined, inorganic cane sugars.

The bigger the bag of sugar, the lower the cost per pound.

Cane Sugar Nutritional Information

Cane sugar isn’t nutritious and 1 teaspoon of the sugar contains:

  • 16 calories
  • 4 grams of carbohydrates
  • 0 grams of protein
  • 0 grams of fiber
  • 0 milligrams of sodium
  • 0 grams of cholesterol
  • 0 grams of fat

Cane sugar isn’t healthier than regular sugar because both sugars consist solely of simple sugars.

Brown Sugar Explained

brown sugar

Brown sugar is a type of soft, moist sugar in various shades of brown, made by coating white granulated sugar with molasses (which gives the brown color) or adding molasses syrup to refined, boiling sugar crystals.

The browner the sugar, the higher the molasses content.

How Brown Sugar is Made

Brown sugar is derived from either sugar cane or sugar beets and is usually sold without its plant source identified. Brown beet sugar has an earthier, more burnt-sugar taste, while brown cane sugar is fruitier and sweeter.

This sugar should contain at least 88% of sucrose plus invert sugar, according to the Codex Alimentarius. Light brown sugar contains at least 3.5% molasses, and dark brown sugar contains up to 10% molasses.

How Brown Sugar is Used

Brown sugar is a popular ingredient for glazes and sauces because it caramelizes better than white sugar. Brown sugar is also used as a white sugar substitute in bakes and desserts to create a moister, chewier, more flavorful product.

It’s often used as a sugar syrup in beverages or as a base for flavored syrups and fruit sauces.

History of Brown Sugar

Brown sugar was first produced in European sugar plantations in the Caribbean in the 1700s. The sugar was cheap and uniquely flavored, compared to white sugar, and quickly became popular in England and the American colonies.

Historically, brown sugar was used to bake breads and pastries, sweeten drinks, and make sauces and candies.

Brown Sugar Price and Availability

Brown sugar is a popular sugar product and is usually available in light and dark variations in supermarkets and online. The cost of brown sugar is $6—$8 for a 10-pound bag. Organic varieties cost about $10 per 10-pound bag.

Brown Sugar Nutritional Information

Brown sugar is low in nutrients and high in calories. 1 teaspoon of brown sugar contains:

  • 17 calories
  • 5 grams of carbohydrates
  • 0 grams of protein
  • 0 grams of fiber
  • 1 milligram of sodium
  • 0 grams of cholesterol
  • 0 grams of fat

Brown sugar contains slightly more calcium than white sugar but, otherwise, the two sugars are identical in composition.

Choosing Brown Sugar vs Cane Sugar

Choosing Brown Sugar vs Cane Sugar

Cane sugar is a golden-colored sugar made from sugar cane, while brown sugar is refined white sugar derived from sugar cane or sugar beets and coated in molasses.

In any recipe that calls for brown sugar, you can use equal parts cane sugar, and vice versa.

Both sugars have the same sweetening properties, but choose cane sugar if you prefer a vanilla-like flavor, or choose brown sugar if you want to add a toffee or caramel flavor to your recipe.

For a healthier alternative to both of these sugars, use stevia, organic coconut sugar, or fruit purées.

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