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Cane Sugar: Refined vs Raw vs Unrefined (Visual Chart)

Updated: Jul 14, 2022

After I found more than forty types of cane sugar in stores across the United States, I thought it would be interesting to show a comparison chart to help us make sense of their differences. For details on how refined, raw, and unrefined sugars stack up, read my previous blog post Cane Sugar: Unrefined vs Raw vs Refined.

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Cane sugar means any sweetener derived, directly or indirectly, from the sugar cane plant. We may buy them in refined, raw, and unrefined forms. The least refined cane sweeteners are referred to as unrefined. All other cane sugars are highly refined, even the so-called "raw".

Unrefined and raw sugars come straight from the freshly harvested cane. Both are refined in a sugar mill. The difference between them is in the amount of the original cane molasses they retain after the refining process. Unrefined sugars end up with 8 to 14% molasses and raw sugars with 2 to 8%.

On the other hand, refined sugars do not come directly from the freshly harvested cane and are processed in a different facility—a sugar refinery—using crude raw sugar as starting material. Crude raw sugar has a high level of impurities and, because it is unsuitable to human consumption, it is sold only to refineries.

Read the full post here.

The bottom line is one sugar is not necessarily better than another. Each one is good for some applications and not for others. Each and every one has its own distinctive qualities, with essential differences that can make them uniquely useful for particular recipes. We should choose one over the other for reasons relevant to us – be it the unique flavor, the culinary role, or for satisfaction. We should not make our choice based on their nutritional value because one is not much different than the other.

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