Turbinado sugar differs from the common white sugar in various ways. It is brown and has larger crystals than white sugar. Processed from sugarcane, turbinado sugar is also known as raw sugar. It is not as refined as other sugars, and it is not raw either because it undergoes refining like other sugars. Raw sugars may also not be safe for consumption because they contain impurities that require further processing to be eliminated.  Perhaps the term raw sugar is used as a marketing strategy for this brand. It is more expensive than the common white sugar. It is mostly packed in a single-serve pack, especially in hotels and coffee shops, but you can buy it in larger quantities in other places like supermarkets. With that in mind, let’s discuss how turbinado sugar is processed, how it differs from normal sugar, its health benefits, uses, and its side effects if any.

How turbinado sugar is processed.

Turbinado sugar is processed from sugarcanes. One of the main differences between this sugar and white sugar is the molasses content. Turbinado is processed by pressing juice from sugarcane into large boilers. The juice is later boiled at high temperatures to evaporate the water, leaving crystals behind. After that, the crystals are placed in turbines to spin off any liquid molasses on the surface. There is no further refining to retain its golden-brown color and molasses inside the crystals. From this point on, other sugars, such as white sugar, undergo further refining to eliminate brown and extra molasses.    

Properties of turbinado sugar.

Turbinado sugar is rich in calories. 10 grams of turbinado sugar contains 40 calories. This sugar contains high carbs as 10 grams of the sugar contains 4 grams of carbs. It also contains calcium and iron in low amounts. One has to take several cups of this sugar to obtain a gram of calcium and iron. Antioxidants are also part of the properties of turbinado sugar. However, they are in small amounts, and one may require to take a lot of sugar to acquire reasonable amounts of antioxidants. It contains other minerals such as magnesium, phosphorous, zinc, sodium, and potassium in negligible amounts. One might require to consume a large amount of this sugar to acquire these nutrients. And like any other sugar, turbinado is not healthy if taken in larger amounts.

Common uses of Turbinado Sugar

Turbinado sugar is mostly used as a sweetener in hot beverages such as coffee and tea. Some skincare products such as face scrub use turbinado crystal sugars to make scrubs more efficient. Due to its large crystals are sprinkled on naked cookies to enhance their taste and look, and baked fruits such as peach halves are dressed using turbinado sugar crystals. Crystals from this sugar can also be sprinkled on baked foods such as bread, muffins, and scones. It is added in dry spices such as cinnamon to grill meat. Its crystals can be used to dress baked potatoes to enhance their taste.

Differences between turbinado sugar and the common white sugar.

Turbinado sugar has a golden-brown color, while white sugar has a clear white color. White sugar undergoes further refining processes to remove any trace of the brown color from it. Turbinado is less refined, giving it its golden-brown color.

Turbinado sugar contains some molasses since the only molasses that are eliminated during refining are on the surface. White sugar eliminates all the molasses both outside and inside the sugar crystals. The crystals of turbinado sugar are large compared to those of white sugar. Turbinado sugar is more moister than white sugar since it contains extra molasses.

Effects of turbinado sugar.

  • Consumption of large amounts of turbinado sugar can lead to weight gain. This sugar contains high calories that can facilitate an increase in weight.
  • The use of processed sugars is linked to loss of memory and poor memory.
  • Tooth decay is promoted by the intake of sugar and sugary foods. Taking turbinado sugar can cause tooth decay in both children and adults.
  • Consumption of processed sugar increases the risk of diabetes. This disease is caused by the accumulation of sugars/blood glucose in the blood due to the ill-functioning of the pancreas. Adding more sugars to the body puts you at more risk.
  • May cause heart attack or heart disease. Sugar consumption increases body weight. It might lead to obesity which later leads to the blocking of arteries. Such condition increases the chances of heart disease.
  • A high intake of processed sugar can also increase the chances of developing fatty liver disease. This disease is chronic and may cause death.

How to substitute turbinado sugar.

You may be preparing a recipe that requires turbinado sugar, but you realize the only available sugar is common white sugar. This should not stop you from preparing your intended recipe. To make a turbinado substitute, you need to know the difference between turbinado and your available white sugar. To make turbinado sugar from white sugar, you need to add more molasses and a half cup of brown sugar for color change. You can replace brown sugar with turbinado by moisturizing turbinado with honey.

The bottom line

Turbinado sugar is less processed compared to other sugars such as white and brown sugar. However, this does not make it any better than other sugars. The calories content in this sugar and other sugars such as white sugar is equal, making it equally harmful. It should be consumed in moderation since a high intake of sugar is unhealthy. It can lead to diseases such as diabetes, obesity, loss of memory, and heart attack. It is more expensive than other sugar brands in the market. One can make substitutes for this sugar rather than incurring extra costs. However, it is a colorful sugar, and it has an outstanding flavor. It should be stored in airtight containers since exposure to moisture makes it form hard lumps that may be hard to soften back to crystals.


We would like to thank the below contributors who have helped us to write this article:


MS, Lund University, Sweden

Nutrition plays an important role in human life. Eating habits are one of the factors that affect our health. There is often a misconception among people that nutritionists force a very restrictive diet, but that is not true. In fact, I don't ban any products, but I point out dietary mistakes and help change them by giving tips and new recipes that I've tried myself. I advise my patients not to resist change and to be purposeful. Only with willpower and determination can a good result be achieved in any area of life, including changing eating habits. When I don't work, I love to go climbing. On a Friday evening, you are most likely to find me on my couch, cuddling with my dog and watching some Netflix.

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