It’s no secret that excess consumption of sugar is the top culprit behind unhealthy lifestyles and compromised diets. For people with a sweet tooth aiming to achieve a healthier way of living, this poses a slight dilemma: can you satisfy your cravings for all things sweet and be healthy at the same time?
This is where muscovado sugar comes in.
Muscovado sugar is a staple for healthier eating. Before, you can only find this healthier alternative to unrefined sugar in organic food shops and health stores. Now, major grocery stores and food shops include muscovado in their selection of sugars and sweeteners — which is good news for people with a sweet tooth. They can easily indulge their sweet cravings without worrying about the consequences of eating too much refined or unrefined sugar.
But is muscovado sugar truly the saving grace for people with a sweet tooth? Is it a healthier form of dark brown sugar? What are the recipes you can do with muscovado?
Before you indulge in all of your sweet cravings, here’s what you need to know about muscovado sugar.
First Things First: What is Muscovado Sugar?
Muscovado sugar is made from evaporated and crystallized sugar cane juice, which produces unrefined cane sugars. The result is a rich and dark-colored sugar crystal with heaps of molasses and sticky consistency. It also has a moist texture and a toffee-like taste. In terms of texture, muscovado sugar is granular and coarse, similar to damp sand. Its abrasive texture gives cookies and candies the “crunch” factor, which complements the sugar’s deeper flavor.
Muscovado sugar’s burnt undertones and rich toffee-like flavor pair well with savory dishes and darker baked goods.
Some popular uses for muscovado sugar include the following:
- Coffee. Stir muscovado into hot coffee for a complex type of sweetness, which pairs well with coffee’s trademark bitterness.
- Glazes. If you’re looking for a different kind of toffee flavor for your meat, swap brown sugar for muscovado.
- Chocolate baked goods. Muscovado adds more flavor to chocolate cookies or brownies.
- Chutney. Cook chunks of pineapple, apple or mango with raisins and spices (like salt, allspice and cardamom). Add a heft spoonful of muscovado and a splash of apple cider vinegar for the acidity.
- Barbecue sauce. Muscovado sugar enhances the smoky flavor of barbecue sauces.
- Oatmeal. Sprinkle this healthy sugar alternative on warm oatmeal with fruit and nuts for a richer breakfast.
- Caramel sauce. Muscovado sugar is also ideal for caramel sauces due to its toffee-like taste. While caramel sauces are not exactly healthy, you can still avoid the thickeners and preservatives found in grocery brands by making homemade caramel sauce.
- Gingerbread. Create a stronger molasses flavor by using mucovado sugar instead of brown sugar.
- Salad dressing. Add a caramel-like sweetness to your dressings.
- Popcorn. Toss warm corn kernels with coconut oil or butter and muscovado for a salty and smoky-sweet treat.
- Yogurt parfaits. In a wide mouth glass or jar, layer plain Greek yogurt with chopped nuts and fruit. Add sweetness to your yogurt parfait by dusting off the top with muscovado sugar.
- Marinades. A few sprinkles of muscovado sugar to wet marinades and dry rubs for lamb, beef and vegetables (like bell peppers, potatoes and eggplants) is enough for a delicious marinade. Combine dark or light muscovado with vinegar, dried spices and oil.
What is the Difference Between Muscovado Sugar and Brown Sugar (and Other Sugar Types)?
Although muscovado sugar does resemble brown sugar, its production process is different compared to the latter — and other types of sugar, for that matter.
Here’s how muscovado compares to other types of sugars found in groceries.
Brown sugar is white sugar infused with molasses during the after-processing stage. Dark brown sugar contains more molasses compared to light brown sugar (which contains only a small amount of molasses). Still, the amount of molasses of black sugar is usually less than that of muscovado sugar. One similarity shared by muscovado sugar and brown sugar is the texture of moist sand, except the latter has a milder caramel-like taste.
Also known as white or table sugar, granulated sugar is the type of sugar commonly used in baking, as well as found in sugar packets. White sugar undergoes the same production process as muscovado sugar. But with white sugar, the molasses is completely removed and machines are used to speed up production. The result of the process is a clump-resistant white sugar with the texture of dry sand.
Because white sugar has no molasses, it has no color and a neutral sweet taste. Unlike muscovado sugar, it doesn’t have minerals. It can’t be made from either sugar beets or sugar cane, too.
Demerara Sugar and Turbinado
Demerara sugar and turbinado are made from evaporated cane sugar juice but spun for a shorter period, which does not remove all of their molasses. Both sugar types have a dryer texture and larger, lighter brown crystals compared to muscovado sugar. These coarse sugars are often sprinkled on top of baked goods for extra sweetness and texture or used to sweeten warm beverages, like tea or coffee.
Rapadura, Kokuto, Panela, Rapadur, Jaggery and Sucanat
Rapadura, Kokuto, Panela, Rapadur, Jaggery and Sucanat are all unrefined cane sugars that contain molasses. They are quite similar to muscovado sugar but the production methods set them apart. Each sugar’s production methods vary between manufacturers. For example, rapadura is sifted through a sieve for looser grains whereas panela is often sold in blocks.
Muscovado Sugar’s Impact on Your Health and Nutrition
As a sugar type, muscovado sugar qualifies as unrefined and natural since it is evaporated cane juice that has been clarified and crystallized. Each granule still holds molasses, which sets it apart from other sugar types. But while muscovado sugar contains a few vitamins and minerals, the individual serving levels are not high enough to benefit your body.
In terms of nutrition, each teaspoon of muscovado sugar contains 15 calories and four grams of carbohydrates per teaspoon. Muscovado is nutritionally comparable to refined brown and white sugar. This artisanal sugar type doesn’t have dietary fiber either so your body absorbs it in the same way it absorbs refined sugar products. If you want to get significant amounts of magnesium, iron and potassium — which are the primary nutrients you get from molasses — you’d have to eat unhealthy quantities of muscovado sugar.
To answer the question “Is muscovado sugar healthier than brown sugar, white sugar and other sugar types?” the answer is: sugar is still sugar. Although muscovado sugar is a natural sugar alternative that has minerals and antioxidants, eating too much of it can still increase your risk of becoming overweight or obese or developing heart disease or Type 2 diabetes.
Treat muscovado sugar as you would any sugar type: consume in moderation. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), men should only consume no more than 150 calories of sugar per day (36 grams or nine teaspoons of sugar) while women can only consume 100 calories per day (24 grams or six teaspoons of sugar).
Some researchers argue that since many people consume white sugar in large amounts, making the switch to natural alternatives like muscovado sugar can improve their diets. Still, too much sugar — whether natural or not — is bad for your health. Instead of indulging in spoonfuls of muscovado sugar, keep the limitations set by the AHA in mind. Pair that with a healthy, whole-food and low-calorie-dense-diet to prevent diseases and promote weight loss.
The Bottom Line About Muscovado Sugar
Muscovado sugar — also known as khand, Barbados sugar or kahndsari—is unrefined cane sugar that still contains molasses, which gives it the trademark dark brown color and wet sand texture. Muscovado adds a dark caramel flavor to your favorite glazes, marinades and baked goods, as well as warm beverages like tea and coffee.
Muscovado sugar is less refined compared to table sugar, but it should be consumed in moderation to minimize your sugar intake levels.