Muscovado Sugar: A Sweet Alternative

Written by Luisa Davis on . Posted in food

Why not use a better brown sugar? I am an enthusiast when it comes to making unique dishes that have little extra vitamins and minerals. These types of dishes help to ensure that my family stays well enriched, and in many situations, protein and vitamin-rich foods also tend to taste better. 

For this reason, I’ve become quite a fan of muscovado, which is something like a more wholesome and nutrient-rich variation of traditional brown sugar.

As a result of my newfound interest, I’ve learned to use this unique sweetener as something of a sugar substitute, and as a result, it’s found its way into a wide variety of dishes that range from cookies to my favorite Asian dishes. For this reason, I created this guide to show you why this unrefined raw sugar sweetener is becoming so popular around the world, so let’s take a look at what it is.

What is Muscovado Sugar?

When you think about traditional brown sugar, you might just think of the molasses-infused flavor that is its hallmark, but believe it or not, this brown sugar isn’t the first sweetener with this type of flavor. In fact, typical brown sugar is white sugar that’s been soaked in molasses and is fairly thoroughly refined.

Muscovado, on the other hand, is completely unrefined and is derived from cane sugar. With this type of sugar, the molasses isn’t removed during any sort of process, which means that you end up with a fairly unique flavor.

When it comes to texture, muscovado sugar has a more sandy consistency that ends up feeling a little moister than refined brown sugar, and it ends up tasting significantly less sweet as well. When it comes to the process of making this sugar, it’s very simple: the sugar cane is squeezed, heated, and then crystallized into its powdery form. This is effectively the end of the process, which means that this sugar is more natural than many of the processed sugars and sugar substitutes on the market today.

Muscovado Sugar Substitute

When you’re using muscovado, you end up with a few distinct varieties. For example, you’ll notice that the store might carry a few options that have very different colorations.

The lightest variety, which is just typically referred to as “light,” is a variation that has some of the molasses removed during the process. Compared to other types of sugar, this is still relatively unrefined and tastes very good. This variety is actually the most similar to brown sugar, so if you’re aiming for this flavor, go with this one.

Do you like very pronounced flavors? If you’re like me and like a lot of flavor levels, then you should try dark brown muscovado sugar since it has a much more pronounced flavor. Additionally, a good dark brown muscovado is loaded with molasses, which means that it will feel much wetter than standard sugars. The best comparison that I can think of is dark brown muscovado kind of has a texture that’s reminiscent of the sand that you find closest to the water on the beach.

So, why use this particular sugar substitute?

Well, in my estimation, this sugar is for those that want a little more flavor in their confections, drinks, and meals. Consider this, many people love to put honey in their tea rather than sugar cubes – they are both sweet, but the honey has a distinct flavor that you wouldn’t say was similar to regular sugar. This is why you might want to try this unrefined sugar – it really adds an interesting flavor to your meals.

Additionally, the molasses part of the sugar cane is often regarded as the impurity that must be removed during the processing. When you leave in the molasses component, you end up keeping what is arguably the most nutrition component of the plant.

Dark Muscovado Sugar

As I mentioned, the darkest form of muscovado has the most molasses content. For this reason, this is by far the most flavorful variety. If you’re thinking about “taking a step on the dark side“, I suggest incorporating dark muscovado sugar into your diet gradually.

For instance, I feel that this sugar is amazing in certain teas, and if you like to have a chai from time to time, muscovado is a great accompaniment; just throw in some cinnamon, and you’ll have a truly flavorful drink.

Additionally, foods and desserts that have a spiced flavor are exceptional with a muscovado substitute. For example, who doesn’t love carrot cake? Instead of using standard or brown sugar, toss in a bit of muscovado, and you’ll love the results. In fact, I just love the extra richness that the muscovado provides. Additionally, if you like bread pudding like me, muscovado really adds an extra layer of complexity to this traditional flavor, and if you throw in some raisins, you might just fall in love!

Recipes

Thus far, I’ve mentioned a few confections and drinks as being perfect for muscovado, but did you know that you can include organic muscovado sugar in your main courses as well? Just like the fact that some main dishes require a little bit of standard sugar, some dishes can call for a few tablespoons of muscovado as well. In this part of the guide about dark and light muscovado sugar, I’m going to show you some of my favorite dishes that incorporate this sweetener.

Be mindful: these dishes are guaranteed to wow your family and guests!

Whole Duck with Muscovado Pineapple Salsa

Instead of beating around the bush, let’s just go in full throttle. This dish is absolutely a winner, and it can serve as a perfect recipe when you’re looking to wow a dinner party guest. To start, you’re going to need a whole duck, which can be hard to come by, but I typically find them in Asian food markets throughout my area. This recipe also incorporates pineapple, which is a very untraditional pairing with waterfowl-based poultry.

What you’ll need:

  • One full-sized duck that has its innards removed
  • One full-sized pineapple that’s been diced so that you have wedges
  • Two finely sliced oranges
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Four Shallots
  • One teaspoon of chili flakes
  • One tablespoon of muscovado sugar
  • One baby fennel
  • One bunch of coriander
  • Four banana peppers

As you might expect, duck doesn’t quite equate to chicken when you’re preparing it, which is why this recipe requires a few extra steps when it comes to cooking this type of poultry. First, I always remove my duck from the packaging and place it in a tin foil pan in my fridge. I do this without any sort of covering and I let it sit in the fridge for at least four hours to ensure that the meat doesn’t have excess moisture. When the duck has been dried out significantly, you’ll have a much crispier skin when you make the dish.

Once the duck has been dried significantly (you can also dab the bird with a paper towel), preheat your oven to about 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Take the dried duck and place your favorite herbs inside of its body cavity – for me orange zest is a perfect accompaniment and flavor infuser for this type of bird.

Whatever you do, don’t overstuff the duck because it can make the roasting uneven.

Once you have put in a few different flavors, rub salt and pepper into the skin of the bird and place the duck in a relatively shallow baking pan. Next, place the bird in the oven for about an hour or until the skin has browned deeply.

As the duck is cooking, now is a good time to prepare the muscavado-sweetened salsa. The pineapple should be cut into wedges or cubes. Next, pull the oranges apart until they are in segments. Grab the fennel and slice it finely and mix these two ingredients in a bowl, juice and all. Slice the coriander finely and set aside. In a large pot, melt the muscovado sugar and add in the sliced pineapple and cook for about two minutes. Next, throw in the coriander and stir the mixture until all of the components have begun to brown.

Set this mixture aside to cool, which should take about five minutes. Next, throw the fennel, muscavado, and coriander into the bowl where you’re keeping the orange and fennel combination. Stir this mixture well, and you should start to see the beginnings of a pineapple salsa. Finally, throw in the shallots and mix well. Serve this salsa on top of the roasted duck.

Beef Japchae

For the uninitiated, japchae is a Korean dish that uses stir-fried components for some truly delicious flavor. The japchae noodles are the star of the dish and their sweet and flavorful taste is a perfect accompaniment for muscovado sugar. For this recipe, you’re going to have to boil the noodles and stir-fry the remaining ingredients, but fortunately, japchae can be very versatile, so feel free to toss in your favorite stir-fry friendly veggie if you’re looking to improvise.

What you’ll need:

  • One pound of sliced beef (any cut will do)
  • Two tablespoons of muscovado sugar
  • Four teaspoons of light soy sauce
  • Half of a chopped onion
  • Two minced cloves of garlic
  • Japchae noodles
  • Four dried or fresh shiitake mushrooms
  • Five teaspoons of sesame oil
  • One stalk of bok choi that’s been slivered
  • One teaspoon of sesame seeds

When you’re preparing japchae, you’ll have to boil the dried noodles for about 10 minutes so that they can become nice and springy. Cooked japchae has the consistency of vermicelli and many people compare the texture to Asian-style glass noodles. In any situation, once the noodles are boiling, preheat a large wok and add in one teaspoon of sesame oil.

Once the oil is nice and hot, take the garlic and onions and stir-fry them in the wok until they start to become translucent. Once this happens, throw in the sliced beef and cook this in the wok until it is just starting to brown. Next, pour in one teaspoon of the soy sauce and stir-fry for another three minutes or so. Next, add in the sliced bok choi and shiitake and let this mixture stir-fry for about another minute, and then add it to a separate bowl.

Strain out the boiled noodles and place them in a large bowl. At this point, you’ll want to add in the two more tablespoons of the sesame oil, which is great for keeping the noodles from sticking together. Stir fry the japchae noodles for about four minutes – it’s essential that you keep stirring the noodles so that they don’t stick to the bottom of the wok. This should change the consistency of the noodles significantly until they are somewhat sticky.

Next, combine the stir-fried ingredients and the noodles into a large bowl. In a separate small bowl, take the remaining soy sauce and combine it with two tablespoons of muscovado sugar. Add in the remainder of the sesame oil, two tablespoons of minced garlic, and the sesame seeds and mix this sauce combination until the sugar is dissolved. Pour this sauce over the stir-fried japchae, meat, and veggies, and toss so that everything is well-mixed. Serve immediately hot or cold.

My Favorite Muscovado Dessert: Muscovado Brownies

If you’re going to be cooking with a sugar, then it behooves you to consider making a delicious dessert!

What you’ll need:

  • One cup of dark muscovado sugar
  • ¾ cups of butter
  • Three medium-sized eggs
  • 1/3 cups of flour (use self-raising)
  • 1 ½ cups of dark or semi-dark chocolate chunks that have been cut into small pieces

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. In a bowl that’s heatproof, place the chocolate chunks and the butter. Next, boil about three cups of water in a wide saucepan and reduce to a simmer. Next, carefully melt the chocolate and the butter by lowering the heatproof bowl into the hot water – with fairly hot water, you can expect this to take less than five minutes. Once both ingredients have thoroughly melted, whisk together the eggs until they have lightened and are very fluffy. Add in the muscovado sugar and continue to whisk until the sweetened egg mixture has thickened significantly.

Next, fold in the melted chocolate and butter and stir continuously until it has become smooth. In a baking dish that has been oiled lightly, pour in the chocolate mixture and bake in the preheated oven for about a half an hour. You’ll be able to tell that the brownies are gaining a crust. Finally, remove the brownies from the oven, slice them into squares, and serve.

Muscovado Syrup

If you’re like me, you like to explore your “potent potables,” and many of the best alcoholic drinks use simple syrup to sweeten things up a bit. Fortunately, muscovado sugar can make a great simple syrup that really has some delicious floral accents.

Unfortunately, if you’re a purist, then this might not work well for you since I do add in a bit of granulated sugar to turn up the sweetness a bit, but the muscovado will really brings a welcome spiced flavor to your favorite drinks.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • One cup dark muscovado sugar
  • ½ cup standard granulated sugar
  • One cup water

It’s very simple to make this muscovado simple syrup.

To start, simply combine all three ingredients and place them in a medium pot. Ensuring the pot doesn’t exceed medium heat, gently cook the mixture until both the muscovado and the granulated sugar have thoroughly dissolved. Remember, medium heat is important because boiling this mixture will cause problems with the syrup’s consistency.

Once the sugars have dissolved, transfer the syrup mixture into a stoppered bottle and place in the fridge. With this simple syrup, you can make unique-tasting vodka mojitos, lemon drops, or a plethora of other sophisticated drinks.

Final Thoughts

As you can see by the guide, muscovado sugar is one of the most versatile sweeteners that you can use for your meals and desserts. If you’re adventurous, this natural brown sugar is really a great choice for adding a little extra flavor to your dishes, so give it a try today!

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Luisa Davis

Luisa Davis

Luisa Davis is a frelance writer and foodie based in Portland, California. Though raised on her mother's homestyle Italian cooking, she has spent most of the last five years traveling and immersing herself in other countries' cuisines. Her work have been published in various publications, both online and offline.

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